I got on my bike this morning, my blue BMW F800ST, and rode into the sun, beginning my annual trip to Taos, NM and the BMW rally. The feeling of joy and freedom as I rode north out of town was unbelievable. I felt such relief to be away from my job and all my frustrations. I knew it was going to be a great day because the bike felt fine underneath me, I made all the traffic lights, and arrived at our meetup place early. Hal wasn’t far behind, and we left reasonably on time.
The first leg to Heber was cool and beautiful. There is a hint of autumn in the air, and that alone fills me with joy. At the Young Rd. turnoff, I saw the aspens sparkling in the sun. I know they will be golden in another month or so.
We stopped for gas in Heber, then headed to Holbrook where we picked up I-40. There wasn’t too much traffic there today. I guess traveling on a Thursday after Labor Day avoids the crowds of people who are now home from summer vacations.
Next, we went through Gallup, one of my least favorite places, followed by the endless 90 miles from Gallup to Shiprock. Flat and boring are the only words to describe it. I felt pretty good on the bike, though, considering we haven’t done our usual day-after-day-of-long-miles trips this summer. Last year it got to the point that 500-mile days were very easy, but that was because we were used to it. Anyway, today I didn’t feel stiff and achy. Maybe the mountain bike workouts have helped with that.
In Farmington, we turned onto NM160, the magic road. Once we turned there, I could feel the hint of cool breath from Colorado, which we would soon be entering. We stopped at the side of the road near La Plata to get photos of a field of goats and llamas! We saw them last July on the way in to Durango, but didn’t stop then. This was our photo op.
Llamas in La Plata:
(photos by Hal Korff)
In La Plata, I think, when I get here, I know I’m almost there! We fueled up at the Phillips 66 as we always do. When we cross into Colorado it becomes Colorado 140, and we see the sign that says, “Welcome to Colorful Colorado.” The magic of this road is that I immediately feel the change in the air, the cool freshness that tells me I am in Colorado! It is an amazing phenomenon that I’m sure has nothing to do with the fact that we are climbing in elevation and at that point reach the flat openness that is Red Mesa! 😉
The wind was blowing hard up on the mesa, but I was still sending the bike spiritedly into the turns. The speed limit is an amazing 65 mph, amazing because it is a small, narrow road with almost no room for error, which makes it really fun! I was enjoying my brand new tires! The old front tire was “cupping” and I could feel that when I leaned into the turns. The new ones feel so much better.
Soon we were in Hesperus where it is usually much colder, but this time the temperature only went down to the high 70s F. Last July when we came through here it was rainy and almost cold, the temperatures in the 6os F. Today when we got to Durango 20 miles later, I thought it was the hottest we’ve ever experienced in September, about 85° F! We checked into the hotel, then went to get some food because we were starving!
After eating, we heard the plaintive whistle of an incoming steam locomotive, and ran to meet the train. We were a little late for that one, but learned that the last train was still out, and due to return in about 30 minutes. So, we wandered around the train station, said hello to a few of the workers there, got a cup of coffee in the little store, and then we heard the dusky wail of the last locomotive to come in.
At first I could only see the headlight coming slowly toward me, then I was able to make out the number – it was the 480!! This beautiful little locomotive is our favorite because it was the one we rode behind five years ago on my birthday when I was lucky enough to get to ride to Silverton and back.
I stood there as the train came in, doing my unofficial job of waving at all the passengers. I always get smiles and waves in return, and nothing but pleasant comments when I ask, “did you have a great day?”
When the train stopped and all the passengers had disembarked, I walked up to the engine. I love hearing the locomotives breathe and I love looking at all the interesting mechanical parts. Soon, the engineer blew the whistle and the 480 started to move slowly toward the roundhouse to be put up for the night, leaving only a puddle of oily water to mark where she had been only moments before.
Shooting the Roundhouse:
Tonight we are in Durango, tomorrow we ride to Taos. I wish this trip could last much longer than through the weekend.