I awoke in Taos – Taos! There aren’t many days in the year, two to be exact, that I see Taos in the early morning light. However, I woke to an overcast sky punctuated by patches of blue. The clouds would soon burn off, at least some of them would. The eyes looking back at me from the mirror were almost completely red from moving constantly the day before. A 400+ mile ride will do that for me sometimes. I had to resort to the “forbidden fruit” of Opcon-A eye drops, the best thing for making your eyes feel better and for removing red, except it’s supposed to be bad for your eyes. Of course it would be, it works, right? Whatever.
After I dressed and went to breakfast with Hal, we saw that the clouds toward the rally site seemed to be breaking up. But, we were not going that way. We fueled up the bikes at the usual Phillips 66 station, and I discovered that my bike, the F800ST, got about 80 mpg on the last leg of the trip to Taos! My F650GS, ridden by Hal, got about 70 mpg. That is what traveling at 60-70 mph on back roads, and being lightly packed, does for the gas mileage of these motorbikes.
Friday morning, we took the “escape route” from south Taos to NM 64, bound for the Angelfire loop. We’d been on part of it last year when we rode the Enchanted Circle ride, and we really loved that ride. We’d actually been on all of the Angelfire loop as well, but it’s so scenic and nice that we wanted to do it again.
We were out of Taos quickly, and soon we were snaking through the mountains, looking at all the amazing homes along the route, all with unique, interesting designs. The funny thing is that they all “fit,” there is nothing pretentious or out of place about them. Not like Phoenix with its ugly, hot, jammed neighborhoods of thousands of homes that look exactly alike.
Angelfire ski resort was not far away from Taos, only about 20 miles or so. Above and to my left, hovering over the mountains, was a big black rain cloud. There were several black rain clouds, but that one was the biggest. Once again I thought we were going to get into some heavy rain, but we managed to skirt it. The road got very tight with switchbacks, and when we were almost down the mountain, there was a section of “loose gravel” according to a sign on the road. In one place, another rider came around the corner from the opposite way too quickly and was over the center line, and if I hadn’t been paying attention, I might have run into him. That’s why I have to be “on alert” all the time with my eyes constantly moving.
We rode past Angelfire, and climbed up into spectacular green meadows punctuated by the white dots of Queen Anne’s lace. Behind us were the rain clouds, ahead of us was blue sky and fluffy clouds, a symbol of a bright day ahead. We turned onto NM434, a lovely, narrow, twisty road. It is a tiny road, one on which you can’t ride fast. It keeps getting narrower and narrower, until the centerline disappears and the road is only a lane and a half wide. It twists and rolls, a fun roller coaster. It is another place to pay attention to the road surface. In some places, the edges seemed to be crumbling and the surface frequently gave way to deep holes. We had the additional challenge of a slow car in front of us. The hazard to that, for us, is that we never know what they are going to do, if they are going to stop suddenly in the middle of the road since there is no available shoulder. We gave them lots of room, but it was irritating to have to follow them. When the road eventually widened, they were courteous enough to pull over and let us go by.
As we passed through Guadalupita, I saw all the amazing buildings and places that I always see there, places that I want to shoot with my camera. But there was no safe place to pull over. It was sad because there are so many old, deteriorating buildings, and interesting churches and shrines. I saw unique wood patterns in the weathered wood on the sides of buildings that had lasted through many years of four seasons. There was also a quaint little cemetery with charming icons and headstones within. Soon, we were riding into Mora valley, and the rain clouds were thick and dark again.
We rolled past an alpaca ranch, something we’d seen many times, but this time I really looked at it. I saw a sign that said, “Tours! Feed the alpacas!” It sounded fun! Maybe we could come back tomorrow.
Mora, Cleveland, and Holman are a long line of small towns, and again I saw many unique buildings that I wanted to shoot. The only place we stopped, though, was Family Dollar so I could attempt to find some sunglasses to replace the ones I was wearing. They had become so scratched over the years that now it was almost impossible to see out of them very well. I found a replacement pair for $6.00 that actually fit!
When we got back out to the bikes, we had the usual dilemma of “should we put on rain gear, or not?” While we were standing there deciding, a man drove up in a pickup truck. When he opened the driver’s side door, the stench of heavy cigarette smoke rolled out with him. His movements and demeanor made me see that he was in a very angry mood, and I thought, let’s get out of here before he starts shooting. We had decided not to put rain gear on, and I was trying to hurry up. Then, before I finished getting my gear on, the guy came back out of the store, and he was carrying … a candy bar! He was moving like a child having a tantrum, and he slammed the door of the truck closed as he got in it. He sat there and sulked, eating his candy bar. I hope it eventually improved his mood! We didn’t wait around to find out.
The clouds were dark all around us, but Hal had said, “It’s clearing over where the rally is.” I cast a doubtful eye at him, however, I was still in the “I’d rather be wet and cold than hot” mode, and I went along with his decision. It proved to be a good one, because we rode up and out of Mora valley, swooping around the turns at speed. The clouds remained dark and we rode through patches of wet road where the rain had been , but we saw blue sky ahead and never got into the rain. When we got to the resort, it was clear above it, as if the clouds had been diverted around it by some invisible dome of protection.
The creek is still beautiful:
We arrived at the rally site, checked in, got t-shirts, said hello to a few favorite people. We also looked at the damage from the fire at the lodge that had happened only two weeks earlier. It only affected part of the lodge, and we were told if the whole lodge had gone up, there wouldn’t have been enough time to make other arrangements for the rally, and it would have been canceled.
The burned part:
Surviving beams with the nails sticking out of the charred wood:
I thought about that, and thought that we would probably have come anyway, just to get to be in Taos for a few days. After we’d walked around the rally site for a while, we got back on the bikes and returned to Taos.
That evening was our traditional “big dinner” night and it was wonderful. We even had some red wine to go with it, and soon we settled into our accommodations for a good night’s rest. The next day would be the main rally day, and I was ready to enjoy it.