Riding the Enchanted Circle


The sun rose high and warm over Taos, NM. As I rode the 518 toward the rally site, I said to myself, Look! Look where I am! I know that sounds so silly, but these are the two days I look forward to all year. It was a shining day, and the road was beautiful, clean and clear of gravel. A few trees along the edges of the turns, the usual ones, were beginning to be tipped with gold, a breathtaking reminder that we are at the edge of autumn. The only thing that spoiled the ride slightly was the presence of cops, who we saw actually had another BMW rider pulled over about six miles out of Taos. I thought they usually left us alone to enjoy the roads, but then again I’ve never been here early on a Friday either.

We got to the rally site quickly despite the threat of LEOs, and checked in. I had to buy my usual souvenirs, and then we wandered around briefly. The vendors weren’t set up yet, so we decided to go and do the ride we had planned for the day.

The plan was to take a series of roads known as the Enchanted Circle. The name, to me, makes the imagination run wild, and I wondered what sights and conditions I would encounter. We’d ridden part of this route three, maybe four years ago, and I think I was on my dual sport bike at the time.

NM 518 past the rally site was the beginning of the loop, and then we continued to Mora Valley. We picked up 434 in Mora, a narrow little turn that threads through the canyon formed by two old buildings in the town. A short way up the road we passed the Alpaca farm, and saw a large herd of the darling Alpacas in the meadow next to the road. They were recently shorn, and probably happy for the warm sunny weather.

We wound through some tiny communities, and the road became narrower and narrower until we were on a road with no center stripe, about the width of a car and a half. It dipped and turned through thick vegetation, and I remembered riding it before. It was a shame there were no pullouts to stop and take pictures because it is an amazing little road.

When the road widened again to two lanes, it came out in a wide windswept alpine meadow. We were at about 8,000 feet in elevation, and I was able to pull over then to take a few photos. The best photos would have been of the part of the road I’d just left, but it was not safe to stop.

On the Enchanted Circle:

Soon we passed Angelfire ski resort, and then picked up NM 64, which was another wonderful road. We took that past Eagle Nest state park where we picked up NM 38 and headed toward Questa, where we picked up NM 522. Soon we were riding high mountain passes with joy, until we got stuck behind a “spoiler,” some stupid big truck that was going way too slowly. I thought he would be courteous and pull over because there were more vehicles than just us behind him, but he didn’t. So much for courtesy. At last we found ourselves in a touristy winter sports town called Red River, which was good because I’d had enough of creeping along in first or second gear on the steep grades. We parked the bikes, got some coffee, and walked around.

First, we went down to the vaunted river, which turned out to be a bit of a disappointment since it was only a few feet wide and about a foot deep. I am sure it runs full and fast at some point, but it wasn’t what I was expecting today.

Smaller than I expected, but still pretty:

We walked around the town for a while looking at souvenirs. Being the big spender that I am, I bought a knotted paracord bracelet for a whopping $4, just so I could say I got something there. Then we got back on the 522, rode a lovely stretch of perfect turns, then the road flattened out as we dropped in elevation. We passed a place that was actually called the Enchanted Forest, but the road that led there was dirt and we are on the road bikes. It would have been fun to explore it if we’d had the dual sport bikes. Maybe next time.

The temperature went up, too, into the high 80s F. I am still disappointed with the heat on this trip. I was trying to get away from it, that and the incessant sun. It was absolutely hot by the time we rejoined a short piece of NM 64 that we took for a couple of hundred feet just outside the north end of Taos.

We turned onto Blueberry Hill Rd., the “relief route,” a secret shortcut that we use to avoid the ever-present traffic backups in Taos proper. Today, though, yet another cop was at the side of the road, and to my horror, pulled out behind us. That meant we had to creep along yet again, this time at 35 mph, and when we got to the 25 mph zone, it was unbearable. I sat there sweating and trying to make the bike go that slowly. It was dreadful. Finally, since we didn’t go over the speed limit (a true test of will) the cop tired of the game and turned the opposite way we did. What a relief, speaking of relief routes. A short while later, we closed the circle and crossed the intersection with 518 where we’d started our day. It was truly an enchanting ride with all the beautiful scenery and fun roads! Even after my long day riding yesterday, I still jumped on the bike today and did 150 miles.

It seems very unreal that we have only one day left before we have to start home. As usual, it is going way too fast. I wish work days would go that fast, but they, of course, drag like forever.


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