The road not traveled, part 2

The lovely road, FR88:

(continued from yesterday)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

FR88 is a single lane road that starts out with a surface of the black volcanic cinders, then abruptly changes to bright red dirt. It feels like velvet when your tires roll soundlessly over it. The red dirt makes an amazing contrast with the brilliant green grass, and as we got farther along on the road, the elevation changes. First we went up gradually, then began to drop down into the area where water could become a problem. There was a pond, and a small dam. Evidently, run-off makes the road impassable at certain times of the year. I did wonder how, though. I thought, how could water be a problem? We are way up here! We were quite high in elevation. But, the rainy season is just beginning, and I am glad we had the opportunity to ride this road now. It was in great shape.

Soon after that, we came to a turn and the breathtaking sight of the valley far below. Nutrioso is down there. A sign said, “steep, narrow road.” Awesome. It was steep and narrow, but not like some roads we’ve been on where it is downright scary. I thought, this is mild “steep and narrow.” The curves were well-engineered, and there was plenty of room. The grade was manageable, and I never felt like I had to panic-brake because I was coming into a curve too hot. It was very pleasant. When we got to the bottom, we once again found ourselves in a residential area where the speed limit was 25 mph. As we went toward Hwy. 191, we came upon two people on horseback, and we slowed way down to a crawl so we wouldn’t spook the horses, but they were not bothered by our motorbikes. Then, we were at Hwy. 191.

“Do you want to put on rain gear now?” I asked Hal. We had seen the dark clouds from up on top before we’d started our descent, and it looked like the rain was advancing.

“No, I think we’ll be fine,” he answered. I doubted it, judging from past experience, but I followed him onto the pavement of Hwy. 191 anyway. There was rain in the wind, and I was increasingly on alert because I was determined not to get wet and cold as I had yesterday. A few miles south on the road I felt the first raindrops, and I pulled over immediately. Hal followed suit, and we both put all our rain gear on. I didn’t think I would regret it. Sure enough, approaching Alpine, the rain began to fall heavily. I was immediately glad I’d taken the time while I was still dry to put my rain jacket and pants on. The rain didn’t last long, but I knew we hadn’t seen the last of it.

Alpine was crowded with tourists, and also sheriff’s cars and trucks. We stopped to fuel up anyway, and then made our way south back to Hannagan on the 191. We went through a couple of rain squalls, and one of them pelted us with small hail. Hail makes a very distinctive sound on my helmet, and I always know immediately what it is! When we got back to the lodge, it was remarkably dry, and we were able to take our time and de-gear, then put the bikes away properly, covered and locked.

What now? Well, we were both starving since we’d only had a light breakfast, and hadn’t stopped riding all day. We’d done 110 miles. We looked at each other and realized that we probably should have stopped and eaten in Alpine. “It’s okay, let’s just take the car back to town and have lunch,” Hal suggested.

Low white cloud sneaking into Alpine behind one of the mountains:

So, after getting dirty gear off and making an attempt to look halfway respectable, we hopped in the car and drove back to Alpine. On the way, we got into more rain, and saw a low cloud hanging over the mountain near Alpine. Soon we parked at our favorite place, Alpine Grill, and had a fabulous, tasty lunch. The dining area was almost empty except for us and two other groups, but the ice cream counter was packed. The employees could hardly keep up with serving the ice cream, and I was glad not to be part of that crowd.

After phoning home, we headed south on 191 again. We stopped several times to shoot some photos with the big cameras, the ones I don’t like taking on the motorbikes. The forest was truly spectacular, and it was difficult not to spend the rest of the day out there.

Geology is cool:

We ended up shooting more photos at Blue Vista viewpoint, watching spectacular rainclouds dump rain far in the distance.

Blue Vista:

We heard the distant thunder and saw the flashes of lightning from several storms around the area. Then we headed down the other side to shoot the “arrow tree” again, as we had last year this time, and at last we drove back to the lodge.

Arrow tree on the left. People have shot hundreds of arrows into this tree. I am not sure why. Arrows are expensive:

Sunday, we must head home, but not before we get in one last ride. We hope.


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