Taos 2014, Day 5
An overcast sky and cool temperatures were what greeted me on the morning of our last full day of this trip. Hal and I went to breakfast with friends and fellow riders Al and Sheila, our last breakfast here in Taos this year. An hour later, the sky was showing signs of clearing as the four of us geared up and got on our motorcycles for the journey home.
As I told Hal later, it’s almost too hard to look at the beauty of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the early morning light, because if I did, I really wouldn’t want to leave. I stole a glance at them as we traveled to the gas station for the first fuel-up of the day. I saw purple mountains shrouded by low cottony clouds, the golden sunlight breaking through the gray clouds higher in the sky. I wished I could be sitting on a deck on the top floor of an interesting house, taking in the sight of those mountains, bundled up against the cold of the morning, drinking a hot cup of coffee, knowing that I didn’t have to ever leave this lovely place.
It was cold enough then to turn on my heated jacket liner for a few minutes, but by the time we rode through the Rio Grande gorge, it was warm enough to turn off the jacket and the heated grips.
Soon we went through Española, and a half hour later, got onto I-25. At our next stop in Bernalillo, at the outskirts of Albuquerque, we learned that I-25 was closed for some construction project. It was going to put us in a huge traffic jam, so we checked the map for an alternate route. We ended up on surface streets that weren’t too bad at first, but the congestion seemed to build and get worse the farther into Albuquerque we got.
Hal made a wrong turn, but Al (with Sheila on the back of his bike) and I finagled our way to the correct street, then we had to wait for Hal to go through the traffic light and rejoin us. By the time we finally got onto I-40 headed toward Gallup, we had wasted a good hour or more screwing around in heavy traffic and more (unrelated) construction zones. A place that normally takes 25 minutes at most to go through cost us over an hour of travel time.
Still looking reasonably clean after four sloppy days on the road:
That made our next stop at the Pilot truck stop three hours of riding away from Bernalillo instead of two. I was very fatigued by the time we got there, and so was everyone else. We took a break there for an hour, drinking coffee and eating snacks. Al and Sheila were going to stop in Gallup for the day, only about 20 miles farther west on I-40. They geared up first and took off, then, Hal and I got back on the road, too.
Avoiding “helmet head”:
You know you’ve done something many times before when you don’t even notice its details until some time and miles have passed. I realized that the wind was blowing hard again, and I’d hardly noticed. It is so common on I-40 that I can hardly tell anymore. Also, the storm cell that had passed over us at the Pilot stop had apparently dissipated while we were inside. Almost all chance of rain disappeared with it, and sure enough, the minute we crossed the Arizona state line, it grew sunny and hot. Our brief three-day respite from the heat and sun was over.
At the Holbrook exit, we took another break because we were tired, and also because we knew that tank of fuel would get us home. Then, after we turned onto 377 toward Heber, we followed a long line of traffic behind a big truck as we made our way to Heber. I kept watching the last 43 miles click by, and finally we were there. We were within about 110 miles of home, but those last 110 miles are killer. We stopped for the night at one of our favorite clean hotels. It was a relief to be off the road, to be honest. Both bikes did a great job, flying along between 70-75 mph all day.
We watched Sunday Night Football as we ate at the Red Onion, and had our usual discussion about how this is the fastest weekend of the year; it is over so quickly, at least that is our perception. It’s not that I don’t want to go home, it’s that it is so hard to leave the beauty of Taos and come back to ugly old Arizona. It is “culture shock,” for sure.