We left Durango, CO this morning under an overcast sky, 58° F. temperature. It rained briefly as we were gearing up to go, so I opted to put on all my rain gear before we even left. At first when we got going, I thought why did I put all this stuff on?? Then I thought I might get down the road and be glad of it. I was.
We took the 550 south through lovely countryside, then the charming town of Aztec, NM, and came out in Bloomfield, NM. We then took NM 64 south toward Dulce and Chama, as we had last July. This time, however, we were forced to ride more slowly as it started to rain, and it got colder as we rode through Carson National Forest. During most of the day, the temperature hovered on either side of 50° F. I had enough layers on under the waterproof gear that I was comfortable, plus I was plugged in. I didn’t turn on my heated jacket until the temperature went down to 55°.
We came through Dulce, but didn’t stop for gas. Then we took NM 64 toward Chama. I had a feeling about the construction that we would go through just before we reached NM 84, like it wouldn’t be pleasant today. That piece of road, which has been horrible for at least four years, is always under construction, and sometimes it seems that they haven’t figured out what to do about it yet because months and years pass with no discernible progress being made. Today, we found slimy mud with a track about the width of my tire. Uh, not exactly what you want when you are riding a fully-loaded, 400+ lb. touring bike. I didn’t have much choice, so I rode right into it. The only thing I hoped was that the sky, which was darkening and lowering, wouldn’t dump rain on us right then, because I didn’t know if I was going to make it. Fortunately, no rain, but plenty of slippery mud. I actually only felt the bike slip a tiny bit a couple of times, once was my fault when I realized I had gone into the mud in second gear and then I downshifted to first gear. That put too much torque to the rear wheel and it slipped a little. I kept going, trying not to think too much and keep up enough momentum to be just shy of going too fast. Counter-intuitively, momentum is your friend in those situations. Finally, we reached pavement again. It was only about a mile, but it seemed like about 100. We were at the 84 by then and we turned south toward Chama and into a dark sky.
It rained from right after we made that turn all the way in to Chama. I was smiling, though, and loving every moment of my ride. We turned north and I could see the road to Cumbres Pass ahead, also under heavy dark cloud cover. We parked near the train station in Chama, and went into the Boxcar Café for coffee and pie. We had told them last July that we’d be back in September for a piece of blueberry pie, and they actually remembered that! We were grateful for the warmup and the break.
Soon we were ready to get back on the bikes and head out into the rain again. This time, after fueling up at the edge of Chama, we headed toward Tierra Amarilla and the pass that we love to ride. I was afraid that it would rain heavily while we were up there because at first the clouds were almost down to the road. Happily, we found the road dry as we got into the turns, so we put the GoPro cameras on the front of the bikes and enjoyed our ride all the way to Tres Piedras. It was wonderful, as always.
As we rode the last 30 miles toward Taos, we leaned into the wind all the way across the Taos Plateau, a wide, open space with a panoramic view of a crescent of purple-blue mountains, the Cimarron Range, today shrouded in rain that moved down their imposing faces. The adobe homes scattered across the plateau all shared the spectacular wide vista of the mountains. I could live in any one of those houses and be happy, I thought, as long as I could be near Taos. I love this place.
When we reached Taos, the bottom half of our bikes was covered in mud, and we’d had an interesting, adventure-filled ride. As we rode out to the rally site, we enjoyed NM 518. It rained while on that road, too, and once at the ski resort, we met up with some friends, had some coffee, and began our rally experience.