Big Lake


Our day started with a walk to breakfast at Alpine Grill, in my opinion, the best restaurant in Alpine. This is apparently a secret to all except the locals. When I see that the locals hang out at a certain place, that is where I go. The other places may be more touristy, but that is definitely not my style.

Then, we had to pack the car to move to HML. I was not happy about that, and I still am not. Oh, well. There are worse things, I guess, like having to go home two days early.

We got on the bikes, and, as I cast a wary eye to the sky, saw that the clouds were gathering in the usual places, but where we were going was reasonably clear.

Where we were going was Big Lake, and the roads beyond it. So, we geared up and got on FR249 out of Alpine, headed west. It didn’t take us long to ride the 17 miles or so to Big Lake, and when we got there, it was predictably crowded. Everyone from the deserts of Arizona must have been there because it is too hot in the Phoenix and Tucson areas.

We stopped for a short time there because the clouds were so spectacular over the lake. Then we’d had enough of the crowd, and took off toward more remote areas.

We took FR24 for a while, and then, as we traveled, we looked far below us to our right. There was a road down there just begging to be explored, so we turned around and went back to where it intersected with FR24. The number of the road was 25J, which to me meant that it came from 25. That would be the only reason that a road that came out on 24 was called “25J.” It would be great to find a route that joined the two together.

We were behind three trucks as we rode toward 25J. They slowly made their way through the dust, which was amazing because it told me that the day before the rain had not made it to this area. Finally, we turned off on 25J.

Hal on 25J:

It was covered with that silty, flour-y fine dark brown dust. It tasted different than the white powdery dust on FR24. The lovely thing about the road was that it was deep in a ravine of burned trees and vivid green grass, and we had never been on this road before. It was a new discovery, something that is a rare gem to us. The surface was a little slippery, with a few rocks thrown in, but became smoother as it went into green, intact forest. We’d seen a sign where 25J took off from 24 that said “Brentwood” with an arrow pointing south, but we didn’t have a clue what Brentwood was. We soon found out. It was a camp of RVs. That meant that we were getting close to 25. We left Brentwood behind, and went back to remote forest, but only for a while. Soon we came out on 25 main.

Where to go next? Hmmm. We thought about one of the roads we’d been on during a previous trip, but we couldn’t remember the number. I thought it might be FR68, but when we came to 68 and rode it for a while, we knew it wasn’t what we’d thought. After a short consultation, we turned around and went back to 25. After a couple of miles, we came to another road, FR72. Well, it kind of looked like the road we’d been on before, but maybe not. At any rate, it looked like a great road to ride because it was narrow two-track, and looked less well traveled than any others in the area.

The great thing about these narrow overgrown roads is that I know they are almost empty. This one was no exception. There was evidence of other vehicles passing, but the tracks were old. We climbed on rocky two-track, and in some places it was a little rough. Trees had fallen close to the road. There were also a few tight switchbacks through very lush green areas. We knew we were climbing back toward Big Lake, and so far our luck staying out of the rain held. The sky was darkening, though, and I knew it was going to be just a matter of time.

Soon we reached FR116. We’d been on 116 once before, a long time ago, and it is one of those elusive roads that I think about, but can’t remember how I got to it or what number it is. But there it was, right in front of me, and we rode onto it. It wound through the trees, descending toward a lush green meadow.

It was at this point that I noticed that the taillight of Hal’s bike was shaking itself loose, and if I didn’t stop him then, it was going to fall off. So, we pulled over and “McGyver-ed” it to hold until we got home.

Meanwhile, the clouds turned dark blue overhead, and as soon as we got underway, big drops of rain came pelting out of the sky. I knew it. I should have put on rain gear while we were stopped, but for some reason I always gamble that I won’t need it. We quickly pulled over, and I got my rain pants on without too much fuss. I thought my coat was waterproof, but as we got going toward Big Lake, I found out differently.

My gloves always get wet immediately, but I can’t stand bulky gloves. The price I pay is freezing hands while riding in the rain, and soon I realized that the jacket was not repelling water either. Fortunately, we were able to out-run that rainstorm. As we took the by-pass route around Big Lake, 249E, I saw what I thought was a white curtain of rain between us and Alpine. Indeed, a few miles up the road, after I had mostly dried off, of course, the rain hit again. Only this time, it wasn’t just a squall, it was the kind of rain that sets in and just hangs right with you, no matter which direction you turn. Note to self: Use Scotchgard on this jacket, and wear the rainproof liner next time!

I could feel a stream of water running from my forearm to my elbow. Not a pleasant sensation. My hands were very cold, too. The good thing was that we can travel very fast on 249 toward Alpine, having ridden it many times, and I counted the miles. We only had about five or six more to go, so I was just going to have to man up and deal with it until we got “home.”

At last we got to Alpine, and the rain slowed to a drizzle. We stopped at the Bait and Tackle shop and fueled up the bikes. Hal had to help me get my credit card out of my pocket because my hands were so frozen! Oh well, it is all part of the adventure of riding. Most of it was my own fault, though, so I couldn’t complain.

Back at the motel, we had already checked out, so we loaded the bikes on the trailer. The rain started back up, and since we were starving, we went back to Alpine Grill for a sandwich. It was great, as usual.

We stopped at the market and got a few things to take with us, and we also got ice cream bars! Klondike bars, to be exact. It was the coolest thing, sitting in the car, listening to the rain drumming on the roof, and eating Klondike bars. I was reasonably dry by then, and mostly warm. It was awesome.

Then we left Alpine behind as we went south on 191. We even saw a herd of elk not far from the road, and they didn’t even take off and run away. I got a couple of lame photos with my little camera, but it was just great to see that herd again.

It was pouring when we reached HML, and we went inside to say hello to everyone. It was cozy and warm in the lodge, and nice to see everyone. Even though it is crowded, like everywhere else this weekend, it is our base camp for the next two days. Tomorrow, guess what, it’s more riding in the forest.

I am so glad.

Sadly, I may have to wait until I get home to post the rest of my stories from this trip. The internet connection where I am is abysmally slow. Please forgive me!


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