Our Roadrunner Rally weekend began Thursday night when Hal and I traveled to the White Mountains of Arizona for our BMW motorcycle get-together to be held at Hannagan Meadow Lodge. We left hot Phoenix on Thursday after Hal was finished at work, with the bikes on the trailer behind his trusty Volvo, and the last 70 miles or so we traveled in the dark. We saw no animals until we almost reached Alpine, when I saw two deer at the very edge of the road. I don’t know how I saw them because they were not moving. I always look for the reflection of their eyes, but that is sometimes difficult because of all the highway markers that reflect as well. Fortunately, they stayed in place and did not leap out in front of us. We were going slowly anyway, and that was why. Finally, we made it to where we were staying in Alpine, one of our favorite places.
Friday morning, we walked over to Bear Wallow Café, where we had been less than a week ago. On the way, I noticed that again there was no gas at Bait and Tackle! I couldn’t believe it because we had specifically asked someone in Alpine before we drove up if it was open, and he had said “yes.” Apparently, the status of gas at Bait and Tackle changes minute to minute, and no one can keep up with it. Seriously. We ate breakfast, and while we were eating, decided that instead of going all the way back to Springerville to fuel up the dirt bikes, we would take a chance that Hannagan had fuel. After all, that was one of the things we had arranged for during our rally, that there would be fuel for the riders to put in their motorcycles if necessary. Hal and I had had the discussion in Show Low on the way the night before if we should fuel up the bikes then, but decided that since there would be gas in Alpine, we wouldn’t. The old motorcycle touring riders’ saying holds true, “never pass up a gas station or a restroom.”
So, after breakfast, we loaded up, and off we went to Hannagan, which is about 22 miles south of Alpine, on Hwy. 191. When we arrived, there was plenty of fuel, as we’d arranged, so another crisis was averted! We fueled up, said “hello” to the people there, checked how things were going, and then we went for a short ride after Hal finished with a work meeting that he was able to do online.
We rode to Aker Lake, a few miles south of HML on Hwy. 191. The road is almost hidden, and when you turn onto it, it says it is a primitive road. Having been on the road many times, I knew it was a good road. All the roads in the area now have those signs that talk about looking up, looking around, and being aware because dead trees are rotting and may fall. I have noticed this year, three years after the fire, that the burned trees are looking very skeletal, and many have now fallen. They look like a pile of matchsticks, usually at the bottom of a hill or mountain.
Hal and I followed the road as it wound its way down to the lake. Our club, being a BMW riding club, was sponsoring a BMW rally, but we had both brought our dirt bikes so we could enjoy the hundreds of dirt roads in the area, roads that we have been exploring for the last three years since the Wallow fire in 2011. I was on my 2009 Kawasaki KLX 250S, and Hal was on his Suzuki DR650.
After a dry winter, the lake was very small, not much water in it. Once we parked, we walked down to the water, which was tangled with vegetation. About a million small blue damselflies hovered and darted everywhere. Hal went to one side of the lake, and I went to another, and we happily shot photographs for a while.
Before we left, Hal asked me if I wanted to stage a photo with me riding his DR650 on the road in front of the lake. “Sure!” I said, wanting every opportunity to ride that bike. (I think I see one in my future!) Hal took the photo, and then we went north on Hwy. 191 to see another little place that is close to the lodge, on the other side of it.
I don’t know what the number of the road is because if it is posted, it is somewhere that I can’t see. We had been on it last summer just as another thunderstorm rolled in; this time, it was brilliantly sunny, as it can only be at 9,000+ feet in elevation. The road winds down through burned forest to a weir. The weir isn’t particularly interesting but the state of the forest is. The tall trees, charred thin by the fire, are deteriorating, and, as I said, many of them have fallen. There are lots of them here, once growing close together. Now they make a spiky stick forest.
The grasses at their roots are bright green in contrast to their blackened, peeling trunks. The bright sun slanted through the trunks making slat-like shadows that fell across the road. We took a few photos, enjoyed the silence for a while, and then headed back to the lodge for the evening.
More and more people were showing up, and checking in. Soon, we all had dinner – grilled hamburgers and French fries served on a picnic-like assembly line. It was a nice change from previous years at the rally when the Friday night “dinner” has been chili. Those of us who don’t eat too much red meat had fish fry, which was fine for a Friday! The best thing about the meal was how everyone sat around and talked afterward, either in the dining room, or on the spacious front porch. There was even a gas fire in a small holder on the porch so people could stay warm (because the forest is so dry, there are absolutely no campfires allowed). In contrast to the Phoenix weather we had left behind, it gets pleasantly cool in the evenings, just enough to wear a jacket, yet nice enough to sit outside.
People kept arriving, checking in, and filling up rooms. It was nice to see everyone arriving, some from New Mexico, and California. After a while it grew later, and then it was time to go to the rooms, or to the cabins. The stars shone in multitudes above the dark outlines of the tall pines, and I fell into bed with the windows open, breathing in the cold, pure air. I burrowed into the nest I had made with the covers, enjoying the cozy feeling, a precious luxury.
It was going to be a great rally!
(Tomorrow: Saturday, the big day for riding at the rally)