Kermit sandhills is transformed. There are now picnic tables with covers, full RV hook-ups, and a number of buildings. Flags are required for ATV riders! They've even planted some trees. Weekends, the lot is attended by a guard. Entrance fee is $10/person. The most up-to-date info seems to be Kermit dunes Facebook page: www.facebook.com/kermitdunes. Or call Jimmy's Liquor, they are still the owner/operators (number below).
Notice Kermit Sandhills / Dunes riders: ownership has changed hands once again, as of 2/11/2012. The nice website from the previous owners, at http://www.kermitsandinc.com/, lists a couple of phone numbers but one is disconnected and the other goes straight to voicemail. Try Jimmy's Liquor on 302 on the way out of town toward Odessa. (432) 586-9282. Tony or Steven.
Photo from Duneguide.com
Yesterday morning in the frigid east wind and 25F cold, I set off to Odessa with my two Hondas in the back of the pickup. Gathered Josh at his apartment and we set off, wind at our backs, down Kermit Highway to Kermit, TX. After a quick stop at Lowe's (the food store, not the hardware big-box) we continued 10 miles NE to reach the entrance to the sandhills. Regular readers know I've been riding here several times before, and I always find the gate open or unlocked, especially on weekends. But not this time! The gate was really and truly locked. I called the two numbers listed on the website with no luck. So we drove back to town, looking for a motorcycle shop. No such place in Kermit, so I pulled into the local auto parts store and explained our situation to the clerk.
"The sandhills?" said the clerk. "Nobody rides out there after the shooting incident." "Ah..." I said, a bit taken aback. I didn't know about the shooting incident. "Know where I can find the owner?" I asked. "Oh," replied the clerk. "He's in jail. Isn't he still in jail?" the clerk queried a customer who had just entered the store. "I reckon he is" replied the customer.
So the owner(s) were in jail. I asked the clerk if he knew where we could get more information, if there was anyone who could help us get access to the Sandhills. "Oh, [the owner's] sister works over at McCoy's..." and he explained how to find McCoy's, which turned out to be an upscale furniture/furnishings store on the main square in Kermit, right across from the county courthouse.
McCoy's was closed. The sign said it would open at 10 am, and it was 9:58 am. The thick chain wrapped around the door handles, and the absolute lack of any activity in the area made us very much doubt this opening time. I fired up the Tacoma and put it in reverse just as a small pickup pulled up next to us. An older lady got out, walked slowly to the entrance of McCoy's and began unlocking the chain on the door. I got out and asked her if the Sandhills owner's sister worked there. It took a few attempts (because I was saying his name incorrectly), but she finally said "Oh, I'm his mother!". She didn't mention that her son was in jail, but she did inform me that he had sold the Sandhills. Sold them to "Tony", the owner of the liquor store "down on 302"...
Down to 302 we went, and we found the liquor store, "Jimmy's". Walking in, we were greeted by a rather large guy. I told him we were looking for Tony. "I'm Steven, Tony's brother. Can I help y'all?" was his response. I asked about the Sandhills and Steven suddenly lit up. "Heck ya, go out there and ride!" he said. "We're fixing the place up, adding electric and sewer and cleaning it up". He gave us the 4-digit passcode and off we went, back to the Sandhills to ride.
The dunes are different every time I ride them. This time was no exception. Recent rain and snow had soaked into the dunes, creating a moist sand layer. Then strong West Texas winds had dried the surface sand and blown it around, creating the dreaded "puffed sand" areas where it's easy to get stuck (typically on lee slopes, but not always!). On the windward (east) side of the dunes, in many places the bare moist sand was exposed, making for decent traction -- but not as good as I expected. On the crests of many dunes were wind-scalloped troughs and mounds of dry sand, making for bumpy and sometimes treacherous riding.
It was not a "fast" day. We kept getting stuck, bogged down in the soft sand piles right next to the firm, moist sand. The sand conditions changed every 10 feet and it was never clear what was over the next hill. The riding was difficult. I rarely got out of 2nd gear for more than a few seconds. Josh didn't have goggles and sand in his eyes took its toll. After about 1.5 hours of riding Josh had had enough.
We did a few more loops then picked our way pack to the truck, loaded up and headed home.
The temperature was just below freezing, with a 20 kt east wind. We both agreed that from now on we're fair-weather dune riders. Minimums of: light wind and 50+ degrees.
It looks like in the future Kermit Sandhills will be a nicer, cleaner place with better camping spots and bathrooms. I look forward to many more riding trips to the dunes... on warm, calm days. With the new camping facilities, it might make sense to pull the pop-up camper out and spend the weekend.
For those of you looking for the new owners, try Jimmy's Liquor on 302 on the way out of town toward Odessa. 406 E State Highway 302, (432) 586-9282. Ask for Tony or Steven.