July 7, 2016, Day 9
It was our last morning in Taos for this trip. Hal and I had free breakfast at the hotel, packed up, got on the road. We took NM 518 south past Sipapu ski area, and as we passed, we saw people working on the roof of the part of the ski lodge that burned almost two years ago. Maybe, we thought, it will all be fixed by the time we are there for our BMW rally in September.
The little creek was joyfully running, sparkling in the sun. We kept it with us on the right until it disappeared from the roadside. We said “goodbye, see you soon!” thinking of the rally. Could it be only two months away already? We rode through Mora Valley (thought of Willie and his lemonade stand), then continued on NM 518.
Outside of Mora, the scenery changes, and it isn’t as beautiful as near Sipapu. We rode through dry rolling terrain, junky desert – ugly. Maybe I am just sick of the desert from living in one for way too long. We fueled up in Las Vegas, NM, got on I-25 for a brief time, then took a new (to us), interesting road, Hwy. 3.
At first, Hwy. 3 was twisty and narrow, had a few technical curves, and then squeezed through a tunnel of some amazingly beautiful red rocks. After 10 miles or so, the road rose and I rode up into a golden boundless sphere of blue sky and sunlight. Along the road, the land belonged to big ranches in the high plains, like the Eby Ranch near Silverton, a place I’d visited several times in a book, and once in person. Here on Hwy. 3, the golden grass bent, quivering in the strong wind, and the purple mountains lurked in the background through a haze of distance. It made me feel small but content to be out here in a world where there was only the road.
We reached Hwy. 60, finally, then fueled up in Mountainair. The town wasn’t as charming and orderly as I’d thought it was, my impression from the last time we’d passed through here.
Hal said, “this is a town where the men have all been used up by hard work.” They looked that way, all bent over or limping, yet worthy of earned respect. The gas station was rough, too, with broken, uneven concrete and limited pumps. We took a break for a few minutes in the shade of a scraggly tree, drank a cold drink and ate a granola bar. Then we got back on the bikes and hit the road.
We rode through more open land and big sky. In the distance, I saw clouds and hoped we’d get into some rain after Socorro. Meanwhile, it was getting hotter as we dropped in elevation. We rode for some time, and then rejoined the interstate, a contrast after the nearly deserted loneliness of Hwy. 3.
The brief time on I-25 gave us a short sprinkling of rain as the sky darkened and the temperature plummeted. It went from 96° F. to 76° F. in two minutes. Soon we exited the interstate at Socorro, got through that town as quickly as possible, and immediately started to go up into the cool, rainy mountains. As the sky grew darker, we pulled over to put on rain gear. We didn’t get into a lot of rain, but it stayed very cool.
Between Socorro and Datil, in the wide open space of the plain between two mountain ranges, we stopped at the VLA (Very Large Array) rest stop to shoot photos of the giant satellite dishes.
They were stark white against the dark clouds of the summer storm clouds that surrounded us. We watched lightning flash in the distance. Then we continued to Datil, our last gas stop. After we gassed up again, we turned south onto Hwy. 12.
On Hwy. 12 to Reserve, we were amazed at the terrain – dark brown mountains in the background and in the foreground, a caldera lit by the orange rays of the sun through a break in the clouds. I’d been on this road before, but I didn’t remember the beauty or how unique it is. Farther on, a herd of elk grazed placidly in a field by the road. We slowed down, watching for more elk. We soon saw another herd moving through the forest.
We finally made it to Reserve, NM, and turned onto Hwy. 180, the last 34 miles to Alpine. The roadway was wet and steaming because it was hot, and the rain was cold. Above the road, towering over it, the rocks were steaming, too – an otherworldly sight. We were just behind the rain.
Finally, we made it to Alpine at about 6:30, after nine hours on the road, with stops. We had a nice dinner at Foxfire restaurant, relaxed, and later fell into a deep sleep.
Next: How could it be over so soon?