Wasn’t I just here?
Sunday, September 8, 2013
A black cat walks into a bar …
… and saunters through, looking neither left nor right, and in no particular hurry.
So was my last evening in Taos. While sitting in our familiar spot in a dark corner of the hotel bar, we watched incredulously as the black cat passed through, nearly unnoticed and un-remarked upon. Hal and I furtively checked e-mail as we sat there, and I blogged. It was the only place where the internet was reliable, plus we wanted to talk about our day, and relax. That was the scenario that led up to the last day of the trip …
My last morning in Taos started early, about 5 o’clock. That was 6 o’clock local time, so I thought of it as 6. Not being a morning person, this is the kind of trickery I must engage in to get up early. We wanted to be on the road by 8 local time, 7 o’clock Arizona time. Hal and I had an early breakfast followed by the frenetic packing of the bikes. After a few tears as I thought my good-byes to the places in Taos that we love, Hal and I met the other riders at the gas station down the road. We were soon on the road in the cool morning, however, the temperature was one of the warmest I’ve ever experienced leaving Taos. The sky was clear except for a few puffy clouds, and the mountains were anonymous and nearly invisible in the distance. They are usually prominent and incredibly beautiful, making them almost impossible to leave.
Before I knew it, we were through Española, then we were getting on NM 599, the “relief route” around Santa Fe. I saw the Sandia Crest in distant Albuquerque, and knew I had officially left Taos behind for another year.
Next was I-25 to Bernalillo, our first fuel stop. It was still quite early, and we were through Albuquerque by 9:30. I thought about the first time I’d visited Albuquerque in 1975; I would have been amazed to know how many times I would pass through it in my future, especially finding out it would be on a motorbike.
In Albuquerque, we picked up I-40, and then we were in it for the long haul. This is the longest, and worst, stretch of the trip. It was nothing but fighting it out with the trucks all the long way from Albuquerque to Holbrook, Arizona. It took about four hours with stops for fuel. I hate sharing the road with trucks, whose drivers are mostly inconsiderate despite the myth that they are the gallant knights of the open road. I think that was an unfounded tale from the 1970s because it certainly isn’t true anymore, if it ever was.
As we drew closer to Holbrook, the temperature began to drop, we rode into some dark clouds, and about 30 miles out, the rain began to fall. It was a cold rain, but not very hard. I shivered nonetheless because I had begun to get cold even before the rain started, and turned on my heated grips. I was very cold, but there wasn’t any safe place to pull off, and anyway, I was going to be in Holbrook very soon. As we came over a rise in the road, I saw that the clouds were more broken and the sun was out where we were headed, so I gritted my teeth and rode on.
I was glad when we drove onto the Holbrook exit, glad for so many reasons. I was done with the buffeting wind, the countless trucks, and the constant pounding high speed. When I pulled into the gas station behind Hal, I felt elated and relieved that I was off the interstate, and nearly home. I treated myself to a cup of coffee, and put on a couple of layers. Our riding companion, Bill, layered up as well, and when I saw that he was doing it, I knew it was a good choice for me too.
A few miles down the road, I was glad I’d made that choice because the temperature dropped a few more degrees. It was ironic how I’d ridden all those miles the past few days, but it took getting back in Arizona, near home, for me to feel cold. We didn’t run into any more rain, but it was cloudy and overcast. We rode back to Heber, and the Red Onion restaurant, for a well-earned break and, of course, a late lunch. It was nice to hang out with the other riders, Bill, and Brian. It was also nice to be part of a larger group for a change.
Then we got back on the road, traveling west on Hwy. 260, one of my favorite stretches of road anywhere, then we were through Payson, and down the Beeline. I don’t know what got into me there, but I think I was tired of aggressive car drivers. Some guy was tailgating me and I refused to give over, so I went faster. I was having a fine old time until I realized what I was doing, and that I had been on the road all day. So, I reined in the F800 and settled back down.
We stopped for one more fuel up in Fountain Hills, and then at Gilbert Rd. where Hal and I parted, the trip was officially over. It was a sad moment, but then I turned my attention to getting home. Work loomed on Monday morning, and I still had to unpack and do laundry. All good things must come to an end, as they say.
So, now I am home, back to the daily work grind, and I wish I were leaving on another trip very soon. I was so “checked out” last week at work it was unbelievable. It is hard to stay focused when the longing is so strong to be out in the world and riding in it, discovering new places and having new adventures.
Until next time, I am counting the days.