In aspens on FR403:
Once again, this “good thing” had to come to an end. I hate when I have to leave Alpine, every single time I have to leave.
We walked over to the Bear Wallow Café, the place with the best “vibe,” for a final breakfast. I didn’t want a giant plate of food, so I ordered my favorite “awesome” breakfast – a piece of pie (strawberry this time), and an egg, poached hard. I covered all the food groups without eating too much; however, I thought the pie was over-the-top sweet. I’m not complaining; it was good. I didn’t hear any outrageous stories being told in the restaurant this time, but maybe I wasn’t sitting in the best room for that, plus, for once the place wasn’t very crowded.
As we walked back to where we were staying, we noticed that at the Bait and Tackle store the gas pumps had yellow hoods over them, the ones that say “no gas.” Great. The day before, motorcyclists had been coming through Alpine in waves, drawn by Hwy. 191, an iconic road for motorcycle travel because of its curves and elevation changes. I couldn’t believe they’d run out of gasoline on a Sunday during perfect riding weather!
At first, we were worried that we didn’t have enough gas for even the short ride we had planned to take before we left, but then Hal and I remembered that we’d filled up a couple of the fuel bottles we always carry, and the Rotopax fuel pack on Hal’s bike. Between those things, we easily had a couple of gallons, plus there had been fuel left in both bikes. That was lucky for us, but what about riders coming through, riders who had counted on fueling up in Alpine? Without the Alpine stop, there is no gas from Morenci to Springerville, a distance of about 120 miles. Not that long of a distance, really, but long if you hadn’t planned it, or if you have a small fuel tank. We dumped all of our extra fuel into the fuel tanks on the bikes, and then we started out on our short ride of the day.
First, we went back to mile marker 250 so I could shoot the photos with my big DSLR. I hadn’t wanted to take it the day before, since I think the DSLR that I used before this one might have gotten ruined by having it on my road bike during a previous trip. I now always carry this DSLR in my backpack, and it makes the backpack super heavy. I don’t use it while riding the motorbikes unless there is a specific reason to shoot with it. Since I was once again shooting the photos for the progression, I used the DSLR, also knowing it wouldn’t be a full riding day for that heavy backpack to be on my back. That done, we moved on.
We rode back to FR403 again just because we like it a lot, and shot a few photos in the aspen corridor.
At FR276, we turned north again onto the 249. So far, this seems like a repeat of part of yesterday’s ride, however, when we’d gone a mile or so on 249, we took 81, a steep narrow road that we’ve ridden before. Almost no one uses this road except for forest service personnel, and hunters, when it’s hunting season. It was deserted today, and to our joy, we saw two separate groups of elk. They always run when they hear the dirt bikes, which is a good instinct, but bad for us because we want to see them. The first group was of two or three animals. I am not sure because I know I saw two, and the third was just a shadow that may or may not have actually been another elk. They ran down into a deep ravine, among burned trees, and out of sight of the road.
I turned my head toward the northeast and noticed a tall rock formation. On top, there was a small area of vivid green vegetation surrounded by gray, dead vegetation. It was such a surprising sight, and I wished there had a been a place to stop safely and take a photo. We were precariously descending on narrow two-track that was easy, but we had to pay attention to what we were doing. There was no margin for error off to the right, and I was afraid to do more than glance that way. You know that old saying, “look there, and you’ll go there.”
Farther up the road, we saw another group of elk, just three or four in this group, too, not enough to call them a “herd.” Hal said he saw a young bull with a nice rack (antlers), but I didn’t see that. Most animals out in the wild are gone like smoke on the wind if humans come anywhere near them.
We continued to wind down the descent, and then the road flattened out. It turned into a wide unpaved road that looked like a super highway after what we’d just come down. Hal pulled over and asked me, “are we on the right road?”
“Yes,” I replied, wondering why he was asking me. Maybe it just looked strange to him. We’d been on this road at least two other times that I remember. We were coming into a residential area, and the road showed an actual speed limit, 25 mph. Every time I ride this road, I am amazed at the contrast: one minute I am riding in an almost deserted area, and then next I am in a neighborhood. The road number changes to 2269, and then close to Hwy. 191, it changes to a different number. Too soon, we were at Hwy. 191, and then we rode it the five or six miles back to where the car and trailer were parked. Sadly, this time when we returned, we had to load up the bikes, organize the car, de-gear, and get in the car to drive home. Yes, already. It sucked.
So, we were back in the car, less than 48 hours later than when we’d left town on Friday. The ride home was anti climactic, with a few stops for fuel and then for food. But, the good thing is we will be back in the White Mountains next weekend, for our rally, riding the same roads!