Color Tour, Day 3


10-17-10

I woke up in Glenwood, NM, a tiny, but pretty, town. A place with no cell phone service, much less internet service. Last night we went to dinner at a funky little restaurant. The food was surprisingly good. We learned the only way to make a phone call in this town was to go to the pay phone across the street. I stood there in the dark, in the glare of the bike’s headlight, and plugged 50¢ into the phone so I could call home. Around me, the darkness was so deep, the stars actually cast a slight glow. It was a quiet, remote place, so different from home.

My riding partner and I got on the road reasonably early Sunday morning. We wanted to do, or I should say Hal wanted to do, a road up through the mountains to a ghost town called Mogollon. It was only nine miles long, so what the heck? How much time could it take, right?

We found it about four miles out of Glenwood. It was a two-lane road surrounded by meadow, but we could see that it went up into the mountains as we’d been told. As it started to go up, it became really steep. We kept winding toward the top, and the road became narrower and narrower until it was only the width of a car wide, no shoulder on either side, and no guardrails. It felt like we were hanging out over the edge of a several hundred foot drop. The grade became steeper as well, about 10% in some places. We wound up and down and traversed several tight switchbacks. To be honest, I was scared to death in some places and tried not to look down.

 

The road actually doesn’t look too bad here

 

When we reached the mining town, it was beautiful, and worth the scary ride. I wish we’d been able to take more photos while riding through Mogollon. I have a picture in my mind of the road through it, the golden sun slanting through dust hanging in the air, and passing like an epiphany through the gold, green and red leaves of trees that lined the narrow pavement. Cozy homes lined the roadway, joyous with flowers in colors of reds, purples, and yellows.

 

The store formerly known as The General Store in Mogollon, NM

 

Then, we had to ride back the way we’d come, which was mostly downhill, and even more scary. The highlight of the return to earth was when we came around a turn and saw a deer in the middle of the road! By the time Hal got his camera out, the deer was gone. We don’t know where she went, it was very steep on the road and off to the side where she disappeared.

At last we reached the bottom and got back onto NM180. It dipped and turned and was fun to ride, a nice reward after the craziness of the mine road. The bike felt great, I became part of it as we took the turns at speed. A few miles outside Luna, NM, we stopped at a little restaurant for late breakfast. It was a quaint little place, and the coffee and breakfast were good.

With our hunger sated, we continued down 180 toward Luna, then back into Arizona. We came out on 191 at Alpine, closing the loop we’d started the day before.

The trip was uneventful as we passed through Eagar, then as we approached Sunrise Junction, the colors of the leaves were again spectacular. I shot more video with my GoPro camera, adding to my fall colors video. We enjoyed the ride on the 260 through Pinetop-Lakeside, then Show Low, then through Heber, and back to Payson for a fuel stop. We took a break because by this time it was mid afternoon and we needed to be off the bikes for a few minutes. We couldn’t stay long, though, because it was another forced march with the pressure of work on Monday morning driving us home.

 

Mountains calicoed with fall colors

All was well until just south of Sunflower when I went to pass a car, changed lanes, and as the bike hit the reflector bump on the center line, the plastic part holding the camera to the bike broke in half! The camera went flying off the bike onto the left edge of the roadway. I was too stunned to do anything, or notice exactly where I was. All I could think of was the loss of all that wonderful video I thought that I’d shot. It was a terrible moment.

Fortunately for me, and unfortunately for those involved, there was a big wreck up ahead, and traffic slowed to a stop so I could communicate what happened to Hal. We inched past the wreckage of an RV (another rollover from someone going too fast again), and then found the nearest turnaround point. We went all the way back north to Sunflower, got turned around heading south again, and then I had to try to find the spot where the camera flew off.

After stopping in the wrong place, then inching down the road on the right hand shoulder, I saw the place farther down the road. We rode south a mile or so again, and pulled over again. All of this was very risky and dangerous, I know, but I wanted that camera back!

After about an hour of searching, and with traffic flying by in excess of 80 mph as it always does, we had found the clear plastic outer case (smashed), the entire camera, intact, even the batteries. However, the most important part, the 8 gig memory card, was missing! It was like looking for a needle in a haystack, but then I reminded myself that we’d found everything else, which was a miracle in itself. We searched until it grew too dark to see, but came up empty. Finally, we got back on the bikes and eased into the fast-moving traffic. At least, I thought, the accident site would be cleared by now, and the traffic jam gone.

I was right about the accident site, but wrong about the traffic jam. It had all moved down into the single lane fiasco, which we will have to put up with, apparently, until next May. So, we rode along, already late to get home, in painfully slow traffic of about 10 mph until we reached the bottom of the last big hill before “Rock Garden” where the jam-up finally broke free and we were nearly up to speed. As we came down into Rock Garden, we were up to the construction zone speed limit of 45 mph, After that we were able to travel at the speed limit of 65 mph all the way in to Fountain Hills, and then to Gilbert Rd. where we turned toward home.

It was a depressing, stressful ending to a trip that should have been wonderful. For some reason, I didn’t appreciate it as I should have. I had been working on a big creative multi-media project, and I think my brain was on “empty.” I was tired and mentally drained to begin with, and with the terrible end to the trip, was completely exhausted. This work week is going to be terrible as well, especially with the knowledge that my long-term goal of being on the road full time is that much farther away with the loss of that video.

I rolled into my garage at 7:13, my lucky time of day, which was about the only thing lucky about the end of the trip, except that I was home safe and the bike unscathed. I was happy to be home in some ways, but as usual, torn between being home and being on the road.

All I can say is what I usually say: I am counting the days until I can get out there again.

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