Glenwood, NM, Day 3

Day 3
11-27-11

In the darkness, it was calm, the air barely moving, clear and frigid. The silver light glinted from the stars overhead, their cold hardness rivaled only by diamonds. It was quiet in the dark night as it wheeled toward dawn, and the temperature continued to drop. By morning, a thin skin of frost covered the grass and the leaves of trees, and a rime of ice lined the water that had pooled after the storm two nights previous. Just before dawn, it grew very cold, and for a breathless moment, in the hush before the movement toward light, time stood still.

 

I awoke to steel gray daylight seeping under the blinds. I stirred under the covers. I reached an arm out of the warmth to turn on the small heater next to the bed, and rolled over, entangled, my hair soft and warm, wrapping around my head Medusa-like. It and my skin smelled of vanilla, thanks to lotion made locally and provided by the motel where we were staying. I was half asleep, cradled in the fuzzy consciousness of that shadow and gold moment before wakefulness. I wanted to stay there, as I wanted to stay in Glenwood, forever.

Alas, I had to emerge from the cocoon of warmth, dress, and then have a quick cup of coffee on the porch with my riding partner before we gathered up our things and packed the car and trailer. I sat on the porch for the last time this trip, my breath blowing out in white puffs, and I was glad for my woolly hat. I put my motocross gloves on because I didn’t have anything else, and put on my shades. I wanted to at least look like a real adventure rider.

After we loaded the bikes onto the trailer, we headed north on 180 and found ourselves at Alma Grill once again, same breakfast, different day. I could get used to this really easily.

“Is it just me, or are the kids really well-behaved here?” asked Hal, looking around at the families in the restaurant. I had noticed that as well. No kids were being unruly and loud, nor were they roaming all over the restaurant annoying other people. They were eating quietly with their families, and behaving themselves.

“Well, that’s how it is in a small town,” I said, thinking of Hilary Clinton’s remark about ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ and wondering why she was so vilified for making it.

Our favorite waitress, spunky little Rebecca, waited on us again today and did an excellent job for the second day in a row. We finished our food, paid, and then I went next door to Alma Store so I could buy some Creamy Vanilla lotion to take home, to take with me the scent that always brings me right back to Glenwood, at least in my heart.

Glenwood Elementary school. I am always interested in what other towns' schools look like.

 

Hal walks on the playground at the school

Sadly, we pulled out of Glenwood at about 10:30 for the long car ride home. It was a pleasant, if uneventful, ride home, and I only regret that we didn’t stop just outside St. Thomas so I could take a photograph that I really wanted. It was of an unassuming little farmhouse surrounded by trees with gilded leaves, set back behind a field of unharvested cotton bursting from the plants and making the whole field look white. I had seen it on the way to Glenwood, but didn’t know exactly where it was, and by the time I saw it we were already past it. The sky wasn’t nearly as dramatic as it had been on Friday, so it didn’t quite have the drama it might have under the changeable overcast.

A Native American keeps watch at the road construction on the Rez

We gassed up in Globe, then went all the way home. Hal dropped me off at home at about 3:30, and I had enough time to unpack, do laundry, and clean up the bike before I put it away.

It’s always hard to come back to Earth and blend back in to normal life after such a wonderful time, but that is what I had to do. Work loomed in the morning, and the niceness of the trip seemed to disappear into the mundane with barely a ripple.

All the more reason to make the next adventure come soon.

Glenwood, NM, in autumn, Day 2

Forest in snow

Day 2
11-26-11

All night the stars turned in the cold black sky. The wind picked up, and blew hard throughout the night. It made the wood in the rafters groan and move, it raced over the landscape, bending the dried grasses and pushing through the canyon. It howled through the fittings of the windows, it soughed through the big pine tree outside the door.  Inside, I heard it in my dreams as I lay in the warm bed, piled under the covers, cozy and small, hearing its bigness. In the morning, it was still rushing, the light and sky cold with it, and I was loathe to move out into it. Eventually, I turned on the heater and pulled on my clothes to get ready for a day of adventure.

The day began with breakfast at Alma Grill, our summer favorite that was no different now in late fall. This time our order was taken by a young girl, a 10-year-old, who was very efficient. I think her family owns the Grill, and the food was as excellent as it was the last time we were here, in June. Today we were in full dirt riding gear, and after breakfast, we topped up the gas tanks on both the small dual sport bikes because we were headed up NM 159 toward the ghost/mining town of Mogollon.

Last summer when we were here, we promised ourselves that we would come back with the small dual sport bikes in tow and try to ride the whole road. Today was that day, and as I had not ridden my little Yamaha for at least six months, it was pleasurable to re-discover how much I love to ride it. Once Little Beast was warmed up, she was happy to be out on the road again.

We headed up the twisting road, up and up, into Mogollon. It got colder as we climbed, and I was glad I had put on several layers of clothing, including heavy Danskin tights under my motocross pants. At first, my hands got really cold, but that is because I refuse to wear heavy gloves and only had my usual dirt riding gloves. We rode out of Mogollon where the unpaved part of the road started, and we started up the long climb that would eventually take us to around 9,000 feet, and toward Reserve, NM.

Up and up we climbed, and the grade got steeper. Is that snow? I asked myself incredulously as we went around some of switchbacks. It was. The night before last, about 1 in. of rain had fallen according to the lady where we were staying, and at this elevation, it had manifested itself in what we would soon find out was a fairly heavy snowfall.

We were really climbing now, and the snow was increasingly present, but what was really amazing was that within about a mile of me first noticing the dusting on the side of the road, the snow soon thickly covered the road! It was about 2 in. deep at this point, but the tricky part was that it had melted underneath, then frozen into ice. We stopped on the grade, agreed to go on, and planned to ride in between the tire tracks that had been made by a pickup that passed us. That plan worked okay for a little while, but then I started to slide and fishtail as the tire bit into the snow and hit the ice.

My wheel spun here

I lost momentum, and then all I did was spin my rear tire. The grade was so steep that I couldn’t just let out the clutch and go forward, and if I tried, I just went sideways. Soon I got off and tried to push it, but my boots went through to the ice and I couldn’t get anywhere. I was stuck for the moment.

Snow!

Meanwhile, Hal had gone up a ways, and around a curve, but I figured he would soon find the same thing. He did, and came walking back to see where I was. “Well, the same thing happened to me, and all the bike was doing was sliding around,” he said.

Hal coming back down

So, we agreed that we were probably going to just turn around again and go back down to Mogollon, but he had to walk back up and get his bike first. That took forever, and for a long time as I waited, he didn’t come down. So then I had to start walking to see if he was okay. When I met him, he was pushing his bike. Evidently, it was just too slippery to even attempt to ride. There was no use getting hurt. He did agree to let me shoot video of him coming down the last 100 feet, so I went back down to my bike, got my camera out, and shot video. I also took photos while I waited of snow-covered forest, and the snow packed into the “knobbies” of my bike’s tires.

Amazing. I certainly had not anticipated running into snow today, especially not enough snow to make us have to abandon our idea of going all the way to Reserve on fire roads.

Having fun trying not to slide all the way back down

Our ride down was much quicker, and we did stop to take more photos. Near the bottom I shot photos of two puddles of water that were surrounded by crushed ice, and this was at 2 o’clock in the afternoon!

A rime of ice lined these water puddles

The areas that were in shadow were actually quite cold. I was only warm because I had walked in the snow and had moved the bike around by pushing it a few times, and then we had ridden through one stretch of road that had a southern exposure so the sun was warm there. Near Mogollon, however, it was deep forest and shadows, cold even in the middle of the afternoon. When we finally got back down to where the 159 intersected with the 180, I was kind of glad, but at the same time I was frustrated that we still hadn’t gotten to ride this road all the way north to Reserve.

Looking out from the road west (coming down) from Mogollon

We returned to our “base camp,” had a cup of tea and a snack, then went out again on the bikes.

A hot cup of tea and a snack

This time we found a fire road that turned out to be kind of boring, but some of the scenery was nice. We rode by a deep canyon that was full of trees that had borne golden leaves about a month ago. “See?” I said to Hal. “We are about a month too late.” We took this rocky road, which was NM 4, west to Sunflower Mesa, which was unremarkable except that among the golden stalks of what had been thick grass were the dried stalks of what had probably been sunflowers last summer. It must have been pretty then, a sea of sunflowers.

On Sunflower Mesa

The sun was lowering rapidly as was the temperature, so we turned around and rode out the same way we’d come in. We stopped for a couple of photo opportunities, and as we once again made our way back to 180, we were completely in shadow.  Here are a couple of shots that Hal took, making the most of the unexpected opportunity.

Gold and silver

Gold and jade

 

Night draws down fast here, and we got back “home” just in time for it to be deep twilight. Not without seeing our favorite herd of deer, though, and once again they eluded our attempts to photograph them.

Crescent moon at twilight

We got the bikes put up for the night, shed our gear, and got it organized for the trip home tomorrow. Then we walked back into town for dinner, which we’d been looking forward to all day. The Blue Front was packed, and we got in just in time.  The place was filling up because there was a dance planned for 8 p.m., and you could tell it was going to be the event of the week for young and old alike. All the boys and young men were dressed up, which meant they had on a new pair of jeans and their best cowboy shirt and hat, and the girls had on pretty dresses. The older ranchers were dressed in their Saturday night best as well. We left them all to it and walked back to our rooms to settle in for the night and be warm.

Tomorrow we go home already, and once again our time in Glenwood will have been too short.

Glenwood, NM, in autumn, Day 1

Glenwood, 11-25-11
Day 1

From the break of dawn
Into the starry night,
May many joys
Dance in your heart.

– Unknown

Funny how clouds can change your whole perspective on things.

This morning my riding partner, Hal, and I set out in the car with the dirt bikes on the trailer behind us, on our way toward Glenwood, NM. As we drove east from the Phoenix area, I saw that the Superstition Mountains were almost completely obscured by the dark gray, woolly winter clouds that I love so much. They floated and sped on air currents, tearing apart, then rejoining in different groups. They obscured the tragedy of the plane crash on Thanksgiving Eve two days ago, a terrible loss that I could not help thinking about. The symbolism of how the clouds drew a curtain around it hit me, as if by hiding it everyone could easily put it out of their minds. Here on Earth, people moved about, shopped in Black Friday sales, and lived their lives oblivious to the pain of others. My heart went out to those families changed forever by the crash. The clouds stayed with us all through Superior, where they grew the darkest, and then as we went toward Devil’s Canyon, the sky was again nearly clear with white, puffy benign-looking clouds.

Being in the car and not driving, I was able to look at things other than the road in front of me, so I saw many places and objects that I wanted to shoot with the camera. There were lots of fascinating old buildings, golden trees, and hillsides covered in foliage that was shimmering in the slanted rays of the sun, wet from the recent rain. It wouldn’t have been practical, but I wanted to stop almost every five minutes (or less) to shoot something. Failing that, I did what I could through the windows of Hal’s Volvo as he drove.

The most surprising thing, though, was that my most hated stretch of road, the part between Globe and Safford, actually looked pretty. The clouds made it so, and the shadows they cast on the landscape made it dramatic and changing. The muted light made the colors more vivid, as it always does, but today seemed especially delightful because it was such a contrast to the ugliness of summer. Clouds seem to make everything better for me.

Entering Superior

To the right were the mountains, the one that we first see and always think is Mt. Graham (but it isn’t) was covered in thick white clouds that settled on its shoulders like a mink cape. Farther east, Mt. Graham itself was even more spectacular. The thick white cumulus on its top trilled and tiered in bubbling layers that were so different than anything else I’d ever seen, I couldn’t take my eyes off them. They changed slightly as we drove along, but maintained the same lively woolly character.

Mt. Graham

On NM 78 toward Glenwood

We gassed up in Safford, and then the fun began when we got to 191. The terrain changes almost instantly, and we were in mountainous terrain with a curving road under our wheels. After that, we turned onto 78, which took us up into the mountains and the Apache National Forest on a sinuous narrow road. We stopped once again so I could take a panoramic shot of the canyon below us. Abruptly, we were in the pines of the Gila National Forest as we went toward NM 180. We had done this same route last summer, and the reason we had to do it then was because the Wallow fire was in full fury, and NM 180 toward Luna, NM was closed. The northern route is the preferable route in summer, but it was unavailable at that time.

The 180 is a wonderful road for motorcyclists, and right at that moment, I wished for my ST underneath me. I remembered how as I’d left this area last June I thought it sucked to be leaving Glenwood behind. I wished it hadn’t taken so long, but we were finally on the last few miles approaching Glenwood. When I saw the “welcome to Glenwood” sign, I pinched myself. “Are we really here?” I asked rhetorically. We passed the art galleries, the post office, a trading post, and then we turned down the road toward where we always stay. We found ourselves in our lovely “home,” one of many favorites, homes away from home that we have while on the road. The black and white cat that we love so much came out to greet us, and she paid special attention to me. I petted her for a while, stroking the silky fur on her back and around her ears and face, the way cats like. She was purring like crazy, and stood on her hind legs, so I picked her up. Instead of objecting, she settled down happily, and stayed there for several minutes as I fussed over her. Then, she was done with me, in cat fashion, and sauntered away, tail in the air, flicking it as she walked.

One of the sweet burros there to greet us

After we unloaded our clothes and gear, we drove the few miles to the Catwalk, a place of beauty that we’d found last summer, and I could only imagine what it would look like in autumn. I was not disappointed. The golden late day sun shone through honey-colored and burnished copper-colored leaves. The creek was rushing and talking loudly as it raced over the rocks below the catwalks, and I stopped countless times to take photos. I remembered the last time I had been there and I was hot in shorts as the sun beat down from high overhead. This time, I had on two shirts, a hoody, and a short jacket as well as a watch cap, and I wasn’t overly warm. As the sun sank, the shadows lengthened and I could feel the cold creeping into the canyon. We didn’t go as far as we had last time because our time was much more limited, but we still managed to get what I hope will be some spectacular photographs.

At Catwalk

Hal on the catwalk

Tree roots in stream

Later, we walked into town, a distance of about a mile, during which the local group of deer were out! I don’t know what I was thinking, but I didn’t have my camera ready. Hal suddenly stopped in the middle of the road and whispered “deer!” as he looked to the right. There were two deer, not five feet away, staring at us! When I moved to get the camera out of my bag, they whirled away, their feet thudding on the earth as they panicked. I chased them over to a nearby field and found a total of about six or seven deer, all moving swiftly away from me in a herd. It was almost completely dark by then anyway, so we gave up and continued our walk to eat dinner at one of our favorite places, the Blue Front Café and Bar. It took forever to get dinner, but it definitely was worth the wait, plus, as always, the conversations around us were highly entertaining and interesting.

On the way back, it was cold, and dark as the inside of a mitten, except for overhead where millions of stars sparkled and shone like diamonds. It’s amazing to see them so bright when we are away from the light pollution of the city. The sky was black, the air cold and clear, and it was a breathtaking sight.

We settled down for the night in our warm rooms, thinking and planning for tomorrow. I know I will dream of tomorrow when I will be riding in the dirt!

(Day 2’s adventures to come, tomorrow)

Last video from Taos trip

Here is the last video from the Taos trip, which was my last big road trip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5q-acJADIE

I hope you enjoy it!

Yesterday I rode for some extra mileage, and to start our local club’s Rider’s Cup Challenge. I was too tired last night to think clearly and finish my story, but I hope I can get it done tonight. The pics from the Challenge can be found on http://www.azbeemers.org.