leftBupt  Return   29 The Road Ahead 30

   Had a most awesome ride yesterday with Claire.  Our two, yellow, `80, 650 Yamaha's performed flawlessly, even if we tried to run them out of gas in an area that you could nap in the highway with little concern for traffic (no cars).  We drug our 1,000 pounds of 650s out here to New Mexico for just such a ride.
   We are staying at our cabin in the north central mountains.  From there we took a ride through and past where everyone wants to be, to a piece of NM where no one wants to be because hardly anyone knows about it. Scattered throughout the state are these gems of area, not located in the hearts of mountains with ski areas and suburban transplants like Angel Fire.  This state is SO big, being the 5th largest in the union. Our 200-mile ride covered an area, compared to the whole area of the state, of one small finger print on a standard mailing envelope.
   This particular gem ride took in, mainly, the Canyon Largo / Canadian River Escarpment, 100 miles east of Las Vegas, NM.  Here we go.
   We started at the cabin about 1100 a.m. Late, for sure, but we had to get ready and see to it the kids didn't trash the place in our absence. We grabbed a state map and some film at the Trading Post in Eagle Nest and set out south on 434, through Angel Fire (suburbia wanna be -land). Continuing south, we pass Black Lake, then it was on to Mora. This area is really cool. Medium high mountains with streams, small lakes, and mountain meadows.  What a ride!  It's paved all right, but we're talking narrow and very squiggly.  There's a section of no-center -stripe that's little more than a 4 WD road with some asphalt pressed on.  From Black Lake south, things get remote and old world.  we stay on 434 to Guadalupita, Turquillo, and on to Mora.  These are decidedly old Spanish areas, where more often than not, Spanish is the first language.  The country is beautiful, rolling low mountains with views of the higher mountains east of Santa Fe in the distance.  We could not see the higher mountains this day as some really big thunder boomers were building.  We actually made it 200 miles with no more than 2 slight sprinkles.  Man were these storms big and active yesterday!  Some of them bloomed and sped out about 20 miles wide!  We waltzed between them on our purring mounts.
   As we pulled into the almost-Elsewhere looking town of Mora, we rode right past an old mill, which looked to be at least 150 years old. Very cool.  This is a 2-story building made from rock, whereas the vast majority of buildings that are old in this region are adobe brick with standard V-roofs and no stucco exterior.  From La Corazon de Mora (the heart of Mora), we took the little road, 94, south on to Las Vegas.  This is also a scenic little wonder, with a continuance of the low mountain scenery.  We then caught the more populated 518 to Las Vegas, where we ate lunch in the old town near the square.  Las Vegas has quite a few older buildings and homes worth looking at, it feels a mix of old western and Spanish.
   We exited the restaurant to intense sunlight, but looked back the way we came.  That monster thunder boomer that built off the Truchas peak area NE of Santa Fe had stomped the entire route we came like some big, fuzzy foot.  Well, that left one reasonable route for a continuance of our one-day ride east to the Canadian River escarpment and Canyon Largo. Boy, am I glad we did.  Food for the soul.
   We gassed up in Las Vegas and started east on 104 to Trujillo.  As is usual for the east slope of the Rockies, the high plains actually rise higher than the area at the base of the mountains.  Up, up we went in this treeless, incredibly vast region with smooth hills and no people and few scars of civilization (besides the road).  It's just SO BIG you can't take it all in.  While this is true for much of the east slope in NM, it's particularly stunning when you have between your legs, a motorcycle. Claire was right beside me.  Our motors were running in sync.  We luxuriate in the visibility, for one.  In Michigan, one must remain ever paranoid of "exploding" deer.  Darn things pop out everywhere and scare you to death, some time literally.  We personally know three people who have been hit by them.  But in the wide open West, no worries mate. Visibility?  20 to 100 miles!
   We reached the soft summit of the high plains and then started back down, gently, encountering the beginnings of the canyons of the Canadian River basin.  Still no people. Very few cars. Only the occasional gate marking some ranch that stretches for miles and miles.  It's really cool to zoom down into these little valleys with their juniper trees and rocks to make a trials rider salivate.

   About 30 miles out we hit Trujillo and its flagstone buildings with no mortar, we pass an ugly RV park wanna be, then swing sharply south to a big surprise, the Canadian River escarpment, a roughly 1,000 ft. drop opening to a vista of conical mountains mixed with mesas that rivals any scene from Africa.  The escarpment is a rock drop that takes the breath away.  We count the cars 4 in 40 miles.  I stop to take a photo and get attacked by mosquitos.  Surprise!  It has been wet here during this August monsoon, but this is unusual and reminds me of the Michigan state bird, the mosquito.
   We follow the escarpment for another 70 miles, winding through small canyons.  Its all beautiful rock, colorful soils, pungent juniper, and stunning views.  We see ranch buildings and many abandoned buildings from an age when the population, though much lower than now, was more dispersed in the land.  Many crumbling flagstone and adobe buildings. When I say many, I mean one every ten miles or so.
   Near Trementina (was that a town we just passed?), we jump onto 419 to continue east.  Now there is one car in 30 miles.  The highway has no shoulder.  Twice we stop to remove or add clothing and don't bother to pull over.  We just sit in the middle of the highway and take our time. No worries again, we can see up the road a few miles either way.  We pass Sanchez (was that cluster of buildings a town, really?) and are now pinched between two huge T-storms.  We keep a move on it, expecting to slip between these two monsters.  Lightning dances across the sky before our eyes, with the escarpment as a back drop.  I feel we have left the US - with its frenetic over development and have entered another country. We see what used to be a grade school with playground.  Now it lies desolate.  The kids must be bussed to Las Vegas.  With lonely dirt road heading off into the distance with sign "Gonzales Ranch, 12 miles", I wonder if the kids even bother with a 2 -hour, one-way commute to school?  We want to stop and ask a local "what is it really like to live here?"
   I start to worry about fuel.  I didn't realize it was so far, can we make it to Roy?  Is the gas station in Roy open?  It is now 500.  We slowly climb out of the drainage basin, through beautiful rocks, mesas (I really can't describe it), and pass the Harding county line.  I look over at Claire.  Tuff and stringy woman.  I admire her Swiss and personal disposition to not prefer shopping over riding her own mount in desolate regions.  The odometers say 98 miles.  We were hauling coming up the slop in the high plains.  Now we back off to a more conservative throttle setting, short shifting along.  Can we make it another 20 miles to Roy? Is fuel economy better or worse in altitude?  What would it be like to spend the night out here under the stars?  We break out onto the high plains again.  No trees and no rocks.  Just miles and miles of grass and occasional sage.  Cows dot the landscape like fleas on a huge, undulating carpet.
   Our odd gearing on the 650s, 18T front and 30T rear is proving out nicely.  First is very high, requiring a lengthily slip up to
 about 20 mph to get rolling, but on the road, the high gearing is a real plus.  Still, I'd like another gear on occasion, too bad the designers put a close-ratio box in these bikes for the hot rods and forgot about the majority of us.  The tall gearing makes up for it some but my bike is a little doggy going uphill in 5th at this altitude, but I can always catch 4th for quick acceleration to pass.  Stock, the bikes run out of gears fast and force the low-to-mid-rpm loving motors to buzz their cute little heads off.  I can now run 65 mph at about 3,200 rpm, nice.
   We make the turn to Roy onto 39.  The sign says 14 miles to go.  We still have not hit reserve.  We land in Roy at about 600 and pull into a station with 3 pumps - all regular unleaded.  The weathered gentleman states he was about to close up and go home.  We happily fill up with $1.38 regular unleaded and catch 120 back west to Wagon Mound on I-25. We once again cross the Canadian River and get another view of the canyon.  Stunning again! Beautiful, rocky cliffs studded with ponderosa pine and juniper.  A lone ranch sits in the canyon,  Lucky them.  I wonder how lonely they get.  I suppose managing tens of thousands of acres could keep one busy.... The view again is stunning.  We see the Sangre de Christ (blood of Christ) range in the backdrop, socked in with thunderstorms.  I pray they un out of heat before we get there.  The view right-to-left is of small canyons, volcanic mountains, and the broad plains complete with those fleas (cows).  We don't see prong horn (antelope).  Perhaps those are only farther north between Clayton and Raton and Springer?
   We drop into Wagon Mound, get more gas - premium this time - just in case, take a glancing look at I-25 (oh ye suckers!) and continue on 120 toward Ocate.  The first 20 miles again have no houses.  Nothing, except the road, to break the land as it always was.  We descend into Ocate, a cluster of a few new adobes nestled among the decaying buildings of more prosperous times.  A building across from where we stop looks as though it may have been the local saloon.  Bare adobe walls with V-roof and western fascade now in need of a face life.  The walls dissolve where the roof has been let go... A shriveled old Spanish man walks out of his home to wave and view these yellow apparitions. We feel he would like to talk, but it is getting dark.
   We continue on for another two miles as the sun descends, to gasp!  I forgot.  Ocate to Black Lake is not paved!  Oh well.  I ask Claire how she is doing and she says in the radio she is tired, but she can handle the next 12 miles of dirt, rocks, and narrowness. My faring protests like a flapping fish in death throes as we hit the rocks.  It is not paved because it winds into the mountains and would be a major endeavor to do so.  I wish for my old KTM so I could fly these roads instead of tip toe through them.  But the 650s are pigs in comparison to the off-roaders.
   We use our former cross country racing experience to muscle these heavy beasts between rocks.  I am numb, but am enjoying finding the relatively smooth lines.  Just another game.   We make it to the beautiful, high aspen meadows, pushing cows out of the road.  A sunset like I haven't seen in years bursts in all its glory at the opposite end of the meadow. We stop to take pictures and ooh and ahh.  Now we thread down into the valley south of Black Lake. We finally make it to pavement.  Claire says in the Chatter Box radio that it must have been more than 12 miles!  We pass the turnoff to Guadalupita and close our loop.  We motor back towards Angel Fire, pass an intriguing "Poor Man's Country Club Bar" with its enticing lights.  Sure could use a Micro Brew right now...
   Angel Fire and its many insecurity lights greets us. We stop at the Coyote Creek Cafe to phone the kids and eat.  Alec asks us to stay away longer because "it's much more fun without grown-ups".  We eat green chili soup and blue corn stacked enchiladas, and rest our vibrated brains.  We calculate the miles about 230!  Wow.  It has been so nice, I haven't paid attention to my Monkey Butt.  We ride the remaining 12 miles back through the darkness and road construction to the cabin.  We pass in 15 minutes more cars than we saw all day out there where nobody goes. Claire is so jazzed by what she saw she says "maybe we can buy land out there..."  I ask her if, being a people person, she would go nuts where nobody goes. She is silent.  "I think it's prettier than the mountains", she finally says.
  We pull into the gravel driveway to a happy dog Kira, who runs at us and bounces off us. We are still alive.  I remove my clothes and pop open a beer.  I fumble about, noticing my proprioception (sense of where your body is in space) is off.  I drop things and bump into things.  I think I am tired, but am too numb from the ride to know it.  The 650 is quite a vibrator...
   This morning I am looking at my state relief map and I realize we saw really so little. I reflect on how BIG God is.  To think of all those years I ran in the same groove, took the same roads, was always in a hurry to get to the cabin....  So much missed.  So many places no one goes.  I vow to break out of the groove and take the roads less travelled.  They are valuable precisely because the majority is too busy being in a frenzy to go there.  Odd that we hurry up to get old and die.  By writing this, perhaps a few more of you will takes these roads and make them more travelled.  Dern.

   It is nice to know that places remain in the US where you must worry about running out of gas and where you can rest and take a leak in the middle of the highway, where a half hour later Ben Trujillo will come rolling by with a wave....

Chris Johnson
On vacation in the NM Mountains (and nowheres)

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