Above: parked on the street in Silver City, NM
I apologize for not posting too much lately. I have been trying to finish this series for a month now, but sometimes I get so busy with “everything” that I can’t seem to get “anything” done! Here is Day 2 of our fall break trip:
I woke up on the morning of October 11th and remembered that it would have been my mother’s 90th birthday, had she lived. Early in the morning, before the dawn, I was awake for a brief time, dragged myself from the warmth of the bed to look out the window at the view of Alpine, Arizona that I always love. The sky was painted an amazing shade of coral/orange, and the mountains with their profile of trees at the top stood out dark against the brilliance of the brightening sky. I drank in the view for a few moments, then skittered back to bed to get warm. I snuggled in the warmth of the nest, but felt sad that Mother was no longer here to enjoy such beauty as I’d just seen at the window.
I fell asleep again as I’d had a restless night, but got up at a reasonable enough time for a leisurely walk to breakfast with Hal, my riding partner. I was anticipating a day of amazing riding, and soon I was on the bike.
Hal and I left Alpine and took Hwy. 180 though Luna, Reserve, Glenwood (remember when I used to love it there and write so much about it?), Alma, riding the curves on the way toward Silver City. We passed Hwy. 78, and Moon Ranch, the place with the most “dreamy” name on Earth. The bike felt great, flying through the turns. I was glad for the new tires, and knew my day was going to be wonderful, filled with curving roads as I knew it would be!
We rode to Silver City first, parked, and walked around the town.
On the street; I love this town!:
I thought Hal wanted to shoot some photos there, but we only visited some of the antique and knick-knack shops.
The resale shop, Hidden Treasure, was a real find. I wish I’d had more room on the bike because I saw many lovely things that I wanted. The place was huge, interesting things everywhere! Not like the hole-in-the-wall local places at home with ordinary junk.
The buildings in town have the particular charm and southwest beauty that I enjoy, and in Silver City, they keep and respect the older architecture:
As we walked around downtown, we ran into a couple from the car club, talked for a few minutes, but soon Hal and I were both ready to move on. Time to get on the bikes. It’s good that our internal “timers” are on the same page. We had more riding to do, and we were done with walking around. We fueled up in Silver City, and then rode back to Hwy. 78, which we would take up and over the mountains to Clifton-Morenci, Arizona.
Hwy 78 rises up into the Apache National Forest, and curves and twists, sometimes sharply, through its elevation changes. It could be a frightening road, more so than Hwy. 191 because parts of it look like it drops into nothingness. It was a lot of fun, and then we reached the conjoined towns of Clifton and Morenci. It is a strange place, both old mining towns, and nothing but the mine, which is huge, to sustain them. Clifton is a deep canyon through which the railroad runs. There are old homes that line the railroad tracks and are literally feet from the rails. The road snakes through the town, crossing and re-crossing the tracks. Then we began to climb up the grade into Morenci.
(No photos for this part of the trip – too busy riding!)
It is a steep grade, and when we stopped for fuel for both us and the bikes, it felt like we were balanced, teetering uncertainly on the mountainside. Earlier in the day, as we left Silver City, I had started feeling tired, due to the stress from work, I supposed. I’d never felt this way during our summer trip. At least I was starting to relax, but I had a lot of technical riding ahead of me. I changed to the clear visor on my helmet because daylight was starting to drain down toward evening, and we left Morenci behind.
The turns as we continued to climb out of town are tight, and it seemed to take forever to get clear of that big, ugly mine. It has absolutely ruined the beauty of those mountains on the Morenci side. Ugh. Soon we left it behind, though, and I realized we had about 90 miles to ride before we reached Alpine.
It was breathtaking to ride in the beautiful forest as we rode through a deep canyon, then began to climb. The sun was slanting low, so in some of the turns it was difficult to see with sunlight directly in my face. Hal, who was in front, helped me by saying, “Careful! Hard to the right,” or “Decreasing radius!” and even, “Deer!” We saw three sets of deer on the road!
I’ve never enjoyed this road so much as I did this time while riding Kat. The suspension on this bike is superior to any of the bikes I’ve had, and with the brand new tires it was probably the best experience I’ve ever had while riding technical turns.
I kept watching the mile markers to gauge how close I was getting to Hannagan Meadow Lodge. I know which one it is near, and when we arrived there, I would know I had 22 more miles to Alpine. We twisted and turned, then broke out onto the high grassy flat where we allowed the bikes to stretch their legs and fly across. Then, there were more turns, these less technical. Finally, we got to “home turf,” the part of 191 that we know well from our many trips there.
Just north of Blue Point Vista, in the barren remains of the forest left behind by the Wallow fire in 2011, I saw a trio of deer. There, the light painted the clouds with gold as the sun went down. The forest in the autumn light is indescribably beautiful and beyond capturing with any camera.
Hal and I were both getting cold, so we pulled over, ironically at the same pullout we stopped at six years ago when first rode 191 from the south. I had been on my F800ST that day, and it was before the Wallow fire happened. Little did I know how well I would come to know the area from Blue Point Vista to Alpine.
In our favorite pullout, a stop to put on warmer clothing:
We passed HML – no one seemed to be there. We remained on full deer alert as it grew darker, and then near FR 37, one of our favorites, we saw a huge bull elk with a giant rack, about 100 feet off the road! He just stood there, surveying his kingdom, glancing at us as we rode by. I hoped he would survive hunting season, he was so beautiful and he belonged there in the wild.
It was almost complete darkness by the time we made it back to Alpine. The lodge was almost empty, too. We got the bikes put up for the night, and cleaned up for dinner. We had made reservations for dinner at Foxfire, but we needn’t have worried; Alpine had emptied out as well. Long gone were the summer people, and now the weekend people, except for us. The hunters were moving in.
The main part of the restaurant was closed, a sign on the door said to go around back to what looks like an old garage. Outside, a fire was going in a fire pit. Inside, the warm golden glow from the wood paneling on the walls made it seem cozy. Football was on TV, and there were few people having dinner. It was a nice change from the hordes of people that seem to be everywhere these days. We had a wonderful, flavorful dinner accompanied by a perfect glass of wine. After the perfect riding day, and a perfect dinner, I knew I would sleep well. However, tomorrow we would have to go home again, back to reality.
It’s too bad “traveling” days are over much too fast.