All good things (weekends) must come to an end

The White Mountains of Arizona, 10-6-2013

The Bear Wallow Café in Alpine is an interesting place. Bits and pieces of conversations seem to swirl in the air in random patterns, waiting for writers to hear them, pull them out of the air, and rearrange them into stories to pique readers’ interest. Last time I was in here in July it was the story about the 9,000 tons of dynamite, but this time it was the relatively benign conversation about all the forest roads in the area. Since I know all of those roads like the back of my hand, I was fact-checking the speaker as she talked. The biggest part of the conversation was about how a part of FS24 was closed since “the Fire,” which she was correct about. It is annoying to have that short stretch of 24 closed. It is only a couple of miles, but makes necessary many miles of detour. I still have not heard or seen a reasonable or logical explanation of why it continues to be closed.

As I sat in the restaurant, I perused the menu carefully, looking for something other than too many eggs, pieces of toast, and hash browns. Notice how I didn’t complain about large portions of bacon. Whatever amount they’d serve me, I’d eat. No kidding. Finally, I settled on something called the “breakfast sandwich.” I even asked what it was and was told it was “one egg, two pieces of bacon on toast made into a sandwich.” Ohhhh-kayyyyyyy.  Fine, right? I am not a big eater and did not want a plate literally mounded with way too much food, which I had witnessed being served at another table the night before. So, I ordered the sandwich. When it came, it was the sandwich alright, but it was served with tomato, pickle (yuck! for breakfast?), a squeeze package of mayonnaise, and a bag of potato chips! Again I ask, “for breakfast?” I could see serving a piece of orange or something else one would think of as breakfast food, but potato chips? I guess anything else wouldn’t have enough fat, cholesterol or calories in it for this place. I ate my sandwich and didn’t complain, but left all the other stuff. Except for the bag of chips, which I threw in my purse/backpack. I’ll eat them later for a snack, I thought.

Hal and I finished, then went back to the lodge, loaded our baggage into the car so we wouldn’t have to do it later, then geared up for our last dirt bike ride of this trip. Our first destination was Hannagan Meadow Lodge where we’d spent so many happy hours during our past few visits. We wanted to say hello to the people there, and make sure everything was on track for next summer. One of the people I most wanted to see was Wild Bill, the horse wrangler, who allowed me to accompany him on the spectacular ride last July through the Blue Wilderness. He usually leaves in October sometime, and it was fortunate that he was still there, but only just. He is due to leave next week, and we were lucky to find him still at HML. We had coffee while he ate a late breakfast, but then we had to say our good-byes. It was drifting toward mid-day, and Hal and I wanted to get in some good miles before we loaded up the bikes for the final time.

As it turned out, it really was some good riding , 70 miles worth. We did a tour of our old favorites, simply because we wanted to see it all in autumn. We also knew that the next time our tires touched those roads might not be until next summer. There was “the world’s funnest road,” as I called it last summer, FS37. Still loved it, and that was about the sixth or seventh time we’d ridden it. This time, though, we shared it with a few pickup trucks carrying hunters searching for the perfect spot. We smiled and waved, and went on our way. We took 37 to FS405 (rough, as always), then 276 along the Black River. Unlike last summer, the river was not roiling with mud from the turbulence caused by heavy rainstorms, and was a deep, cool teal color as it flowed merrily along, sparkling in the sun. I found some ducks playing in one of the small waterfalls and shot photos of them. FS276 follows the river for quite a few miles, and I kept wanting to stop and shoot photos. I resisted the impulse to do that, though, because I know from experience that it is very hard to capture the beauty and tranquility of it, and especially difficult to compose a photograph that gives me the feeling of happiness and well-being that the White Mountains/Rim area gives me when I am there. I watched the water scintillating as it flowed happily along in the sun, and tried to keep my eyes on the road at the same time.

Ducks (can you see the group behind the one on the rock?):

Black River:

Next we came to the intersection with the other end of FS37, but continued past it, and then rode it along as it intersected with FS403, where we were Saturday. We by-passed that road this time as well, and before we knew it, we were back on FS249, which we took back to Hwy. 191. In a few miles, we closed the circle of the ride at the lodge, and sadly, it was time to load the bikes on the trailer and start the journey home. As I was de-gearing and re-arranging all my bags and gear in the car, I remembered the bag of potato chips in the backpack. Those frickin chips! I kept saying. It seemed like every time I needed something inside the backpack, I had to move that bag of chips! I was trying to be careful, but I could hear them scrunching inside.

On the way home, we stopped on Hwy. 60 to take a photo of one of the dormant cinder cone volcanoes. This is the one I photographed last year as a snowstorm moved in, and later, that photo was chosen to be in the Art Intersection gallery as part of a show. It didn’t look like that last Sunday, though, under sunny skies and dried grasses. However, as we were stopped, the car’s coolant recovery tank boiled over!

Adding water:

It turned out the cap was cracked, as we’d found out Saturday at the Springerville Subway. It wasn’t a concern, though, until now, and we had to limp the car into Show Low. Luckily, we found an Auto Zone that had the proper cap, which totally surprised me because the car is an old Volvo, but after replacing the cap, everything was fine. So, we drove on to Heber, and decided to continue our tradition of stopping at The Red Onion for a late lunch/dinner. The day was becoming a “Tour de Eat,” but I justified it by telling myself I wasn’t going to eat any more when I got home. Meanwhile, I got out of the car and had to, once again, move the bag of potato chips! Those frickin chips! I said again.

After splitting a sandwich and salad at Red Onion, Hal and I got back on the road. The sun was setting directly in line with the road ahead, and it was hard to see through the glare. It seems I can’t escape the sun’s nastiness, and hoped it would be below the horizon very soon. It glared like an angry eyeball all the way to Payson, where it didn’t matter anymore because we turned south. At last, it sunk behind the Mazatzal Mountains, and the anger and turmoil of that boiling orb transformed into calm dusk. One moment it was orange, red and hellish, the next it was calm blue-purple twilight. The tension went out of my body, and I started to relax. Until my foot hit that bag of chips on the floor!

I don’t think I crushed any more unsuspecting chips, but I started laughing uncontrollably. Then Hal started in, too, and we were making up stories about getting it home with the chips reasonably intact, accidentally dropping it on the floor, and stepping right on it with a resounding crunch. I figured they were going to be ground to dust by the time I got home anyway. I was laughing so hard that my eyes scrunched shut and squeezed out tears. Those frickin chips! I said again, laughing even harder.

After I stopped laughing and recovered myself, I noticed the moon, a thin fingernail of light, was reclining above the horizon. Kindly, Hal pulled over to the side of the road and I was able to take a series of photos. We were back in the warmth by now, and the sky was beautiful behind the mountains. And even the higher temperatures weren’t too bad. There was even the hint of coolness in the air when I opened the car window.

Sliver of moon:

At last, we arrived home. I was tired after a busy two days, and was moving slowly as I unloaded the car. When I finally put the garage door down and walked inside, I heard a familiar crunching sound as I threw my backpack onto the chair where it “lives” when I am at home.

Darn it. Those frickin chips!

Weekly photo challenge: “Good morning”

This was me, happy and content, drinking a cup of coffee in the morning before we went riding in the White Mountains of Arizona. It was a quick trip, just overnight, but we made the most of our time there. We saw some beautiful autumn color. It was also so nice to feel cold! It was in the 20s F. overnight, and in the 40-50s F. during the day.

An autumn trip to Alpine, AZ

Autumn is my favorite season. One of the joys of my life is to be able to ride one of my dirt bikes in the high country where there are four seasons. There is nothing more joyous and spectacular to me than the beautiful colors of autumn. Yesterday, the opportunity arose to go up and ride in the Rim country and stay for more than a couple of hours!

At first I could hardly believe it: I was going back to Alpine! It was going to be a fast trip, only a day and a half, basically, but it was going to happen.

My motorbike riding partner, Hal, and I decided at the last minute to trailer the dirt bikes, and go back and ride some of our beloved roads from last summer. Friday night was an evening of somewhat feverish packing for me, but I thought, throw something in a bag, so what? But then I realized I had to be mindful of packing ALL my gear this time, given what happened last July when I forgot all my motocross pants.

We left this morning, and the sun was glaring down in the Phoenix area, as usual. I did notice, however, that the sky was more blue, not the blasted-out white color of summer. It is a welcome change!

By the time we got to Sunflower, the temperature had dropped into the 60s F., and when we got to the Mogollon Rim, it was in the 50s F. We stopped for lunch at the Subway in Springerville, one of our favorite places, and that’s when I knew it was time to change out of my shorts! I put on my camouflage pants that I bought last time I was here, and I fit right in with the locals.

Soon we were on the road, then we stopped briefly at Nelson Reservoir for a few photos of the waterfowl in the reeds. It was a beautiful fall day, and all the colors of the landscape were brown, auburn, tan, and gold. I felt the brief sting of tears starting in my eyes as I thought of my mother and how she loved this time of year. Perhaps that is why I do as well, because it was such an important, beautiful season for her. I wish she were still here to enjoy it.

The next thing I knew, we were in Alpine at the little lodge where we usually stay. We unloaded the bikes, geared up, and … Hal’s bike wouldn’t start. This is such a usual occurrence that I don’t worry too much. He had to get the jumper cables out of the car again to get the bike to start, but at least it did. I was starting to see my riding day disappearing as I listened to the bike grinding away trying to start. I gazed up into the mountains where the gold of baby aspens was spilling over the top. I had hoped to be on the way up there by now. Finally, the bike surged to life, and then we took off.

Baby aspens at the side of the road:

On the road, the cold air really hit me. I thought I was being dumb by bringing my big heavy riding jacket with the quilted liner, but as soon as we started riding, I was glad I had. I wasn’t super-warm, but I wasn’t cold, either. I also figured that once we got off the pavement and onto the forest roads, it would feel warmer.

The minute we got on FS403, I remembered how different it is to ride in the forest in autumn. “The darkness is upon us,” as one of my friends said last week, and here it really applies. The shadows were long and deep, making holes in the road almost invisible. The road was in fair shape, only a few places where logging equipment had gouged it. This is prime wood-gathering season for those who live up here. The difference between those visiting for a short time (us) and residents of the area is in how we use our weekend time. They have no time to go out and play as we do. They are out in the forest with their pickup trucks, getting enough wood to stoke the fires through the winter. We are playing, they are working. There are large sections of trees set aside and clearly marked for them as “wood gathering areas.”

On 403, my eyes were flicking in amazement over the beauty of the landscape. The baby aspens we’d seen last summer were now in the process of turning gold, or were already gold. Strangely, though, there wasn’t the ocean of sparkling leaves as I’d thought; some sections looked as though they’d been frosted a little too soon. Overnight, the temperatures here are in the 20° F. range. The frost-bitten trees were dressed in duller shades of gold, and the tips of their leaves were brown and curled.

Hal rides through the mature aspens:

All the things I love about autumn:

Then, we rode into the part of the forest untouched by the Wallow fire. The mature aspens were brilliantly golden, reaching toward the intense blue sky. We rode through a tunnel of trees, and on the ground were the coin-shaped leaves that make you know you have discovered riches beyond your wildest imagination. Mile after mile, we enjoyed the autumn spectacle until we finally came out on a naked hillside near the intersection with FS267. We took it down a mile or two to where it joined FS249, the road to Big Lake. However, we turned east because we wanted to ride FS81 again.

Last summer when we’d ridden FS81 we were trying to outrun a storm. This time, we simply enjoyed it. The day was growing later, and as we dove into the shadow of the mountain above it, the cold was starting to become more insistent. We met a white pickup with two hunters in it, and I pulled over to the right. I waved and gestured that I had one more rider behind me. Then, as we continued to descend, we found two more pickup trucks, this time off to the side of the road, their occupants gathering firewood. At this point, the road was narrow and rough in spots. I don’t remember this roughness, I thought. I also saw places where the road was clay, and I don’t remember it being slimy or difficult to get through even though it was starting to rain that day we’d come through here last summer. The tire tracks of larger vehicles told a different story.

At last we finished our descent off the mountain, and were on 2269, a county road. I was confused last time we’d come out here because I thought we’d be on 2108. I found out the answer to the mystery as we reached Hwy. 191 – there are two different counties involved at that intersection, and the road is called both numbers, one for each county. No wonder I was mystified. I was wondering how two roads with different numbers could look exactly the same at their entrance/exit.

By the time we got to the 191 intersection, I could not feel my fingers anymore. I had only one layer of gloves on, and it was time to get back to the lodge – already. I feel so lucky that I got to ride those 30 miles today, and I was so happy to be in the cool weather at last!

Quick turnaround tomorrow – a short ride in the morning, and then on the way home by the afternoon. I hate that this trip is so short, but at least I got to ride here at all.

The road home from Taos, 2013

Wasn’t I just here?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A black cat walks into a bar …

… and saunters through, looking neither left nor right, and in no particular hurry.

So was my last evening in Taos. While sitting in our familiar spot in a dark corner of the hotel bar, we watched incredulously as the black cat passed through, nearly unnoticed and un-remarked upon. Hal and I furtively checked e-mail as we sat there, and I blogged. It was the only place where the internet was reliable, plus we wanted to talk about our day, and relax. That was the scenario that led up to the last day of the trip …

My last morning in Taos started early, about 5 o’clock. That was 6 o’clock local time, so I thought of it as 6. Not being a morning person, this is the kind of trickery I must engage in to get up early. We wanted to be on the road by 8 local time, 7 o’clock Arizona time. Hal and I had an early breakfast followed by the frenetic packing of the bikes. After a few tears as I thought my good-byes to the places in Taos that we love, Hal and I met the other riders at the gas station down the road. We were soon on the road in the cool morning, however, the temperature was one of the warmest I’ve ever experienced leaving Taos. The sky was clear except for a few puffy clouds, and the mountains were anonymous and nearly invisible in the distance. They are usually prominent and incredibly beautiful, making them almost impossible to leave.

Before I knew it, we were through Española, then we were getting on NM 599, the “relief route” around Santa Fe. I saw the Sandia Crest in distant Albuquerque, and knew I had officially left Taos behind for another year.

Next was I-25 to Bernalillo, our first fuel stop. It was still quite early, and we were through Albuquerque by 9:30. I thought about the first time I’d visited Albuquerque in 1975; I would have been amazed to know how many times I would pass through it in my future, especially finding out it would be on a motorbike.

In Albuquerque, we picked up I-40, and then we were in it for the long haul. This is the longest, and worst, stretch of the trip. It was nothing but fighting it out with the trucks all the long way from Albuquerque to Holbrook, Arizona. It took about four hours with stops for fuel. I hate sharing the road with trucks, whose drivers are mostly inconsiderate despite the myth that they are the gallant knights of the open road. I think that was an unfounded tale from the 1970s because it certainly isn’t true anymore, if it ever was.

As we drew closer to Holbrook, the temperature began to drop, we rode into some dark clouds, and about 30 miles out, the rain began to fall. It was a cold rain, but not very hard. I shivered nonetheless because I had begun to get cold even before the rain started, and turned on my heated grips. I was very cold, but there wasn’t any safe place to pull off, and anyway, I was going to be in Holbrook very soon. As we came over a rise in the road, I saw that the clouds were more broken and the sun was out where we were headed, so I gritted my teeth and rode on.

I was glad when we drove onto the Holbrook exit, glad for so many reasons. I was done with the buffeting wind, the countless trucks, and the constant pounding high speed. When I pulled into the gas station behind Hal, I felt elated and relieved that I was off the interstate, and nearly home. I treated myself to a cup of coffee, and put on a couple of layers. Our riding companion, Bill, layered up as well, and when I saw that he was doing it, I knew it was a good choice for me too.

A few miles down the road, I was glad I’d made that choice because the temperature dropped a few more degrees. It was ironic how I’d ridden all those miles the past few days, but it took getting back in Arizona, near home, for me to feel cold. We didn’t run into any more rain, but it was cloudy and overcast. We rode back to Heber, and the Red Onion restaurant, for a well-earned break and, of course, a late lunch. It was nice to hang out with the other riders, Bill, and Brian. It was also nice to be part of a larger group for a change.

Then we got back on the road, traveling west on Hwy. 260, one of my favorite stretches of road anywhere, then we were through Payson, and down the Beeline. I don’t know what got into me there, but I think I was tired of aggressive car drivers. Some guy was tailgating me and I refused to give over, so I went faster. I was having a fine old time until I realized what I was doing, and that I had been on the road all day. So, I reined in the F800 and settled back down.

We stopped for one more fuel up in Fountain Hills, and then at Gilbert Rd. where Hal and I parted, the trip was officially over. It was a sad moment, but then I turned my attention to getting home. Work loomed on Monday morning, and I still had to unpack and do laundry. All good things must come to an end, as they say.

So, now I am home, back to the daily work grind, and I wish I were leaving on another trip very soon. I was so “checked out” last week at work it was unbelievable. It is hard to stay focused when the longing is so strong to be out in the world and riding in it, discovering new places and having new adventures.

Until next time, I am counting the days.

A river runs through it

At the rally site, Taos, 2013

After breakfast this morning, Hal and I got on the bikes and headed east on NM 518 to Sipapu ski area for the rally. Our plan was to go there, walk around a bit, maybe have some coffee, look at the vendors’ wares, and then talk to whoever we ran into. When we got to the rally site, I said to Hal, “hey, I have an idea. Would you like to take my bike and run back to Taos, then come back?” I knew he wanted to ride my bike, I could see the longing in his eyes.

“Okay,” he said. (wow, he didn’t need much persuading!) So, I handed him my keys, and off he went.

I de-geared in the parking lot and put my stuff on his bike. Then, I ran into two or three people that I knew and ended up standing there talking the whole time he was gone. He rolled back into the parking lot in what seemed like a short time later.

“I didn’t get very far, did I?” I said, laughing. “Did you like riding my bike?” Dumb question, his joyful grin said it all.

Then we went into the lodge, I grabbed a cup of coffee from the big urn, and we walked around the lovely rally site. I stood on the bridge and listened to the silvery musical sound of the creek that runs through it. I closed my eyes, wanting to remember it so I could think of it when things get stressful at work, as they always do.

Sights at the rally

First, another bike that I want:

Funny side-stand stabilizer:

First stop was the vendors’ area. I was lucky – I found what I was looking for. I have been searching for a small waterproof bag with the loops so I can secure it to the top of the other small bags I am using for this trip. Having a few smaller bags is better for me on this bike because the super-big one hangs over the top of my side cases and I can’t get to the lock to open them. It was a reasonable price, too, and I am always glad to support the vendors at my favorite events.

Our next plan was to go two-up on my bike so I could shoot photos of the alpacas, the amazing little road that we were on yesterday, and some of the cool buildings along the route. I found myself sitting behind Hal on the back of my own bike, seeing it and riding it from a new perspective. It is surprisingly comfortable and secure, and we rode to Mora, through Guadalupita, and onto the narrow road that I wanted to shoot yesterday.

Amazing little road:

This time I was on the back and armed with not one, but two cameras. The great thing about my bike from a passenger’s perspective is that it is comfortable and secure, and I did not have any trouble leaning around Hal shooting video and photographs. I got almost everything I wanted, but I only had point and shoot cameras to work with. Oh well, it’s the photographer, not the camera, right? A good shot is a good shot.

Alpacas in a field:

Close-ups of the cool little guys. See how they are shorn?:

In Mora, NM 518 turnoff:

When we came back through Mora, we stopped at the Family Dollar store so I could get some ibuprofen. I’ve been having trouble with muscles that didn’t relax right away and now are sore from being so tense (thanks to my job). I will be okay on the return trip tomorrow if I have something to relax them. I also found some tank tops on sale for $2, and since the weather is so uncharacteristically hot, I had to get them. More souvenirs from the rally, and cheap ones at that!

We made our way back to the rally and hung out some more. That’s what we do at the rally, just hang out, walk around, and talk to people. Oh, and eat, because soon it was dinnertime. They changed the menu this year to brisket, and I only had a little bit. Too much beef the last couple of day, even though what I consider “too much” is nothing compared to some people’s idea of eating meat. Enough is enough, and for me, enough was too much already. No more heavy meat for a while for me.

After dinner, the band started to crank up, but the light was fading from the sky. It was growing cooler, too, and we decided to head back to Taos for the night. I wanted to ride the 518 and enjoy it one more time, and I didn’t want it to be dark and have to watch out for elk the whole way back. So, we left.

It’s time now to organize and pack things to be ready to leave Taos early tomorrow morning. We will be riding all the way home, as we did last year. It isn’t fun, but it’s what has to be done.

This year’s rally was great because of having the extra day in Taos. I think we will stick to this plan for a while so we can truly enjoy our stay here. As usual, it went too fast. I can hardly believe we will be home in 24 hours. sigh  Good things always come to an end too quickly.

Riding the Enchanted Circle

9-6-2013

The sun rose high and warm over Taos, NM. As I rode the 518 toward the rally site, I said to myself, Look! Look where I am! I know that sounds so silly, but these are the two days I look forward to all year. It was a shining day, and the road was beautiful, clean and clear of gravel. A few trees along the edges of the turns, the usual ones, were beginning to be tipped with gold, a breathtaking reminder that we are at the edge of autumn. The only thing that spoiled the ride slightly was the presence of cops, who we saw actually had another BMW rider pulled over about six miles out of Taos. I thought they usually left us alone to enjoy the roads, but then again I’ve never been here early on a Friday either.

We got to the rally site quickly despite the threat of LEOs, and checked in. I had to buy my usual souvenirs, and then we wandered around briefly. The vendors weren’t set up yet, so we decided to go and do the ride we had planned for the day.

The plan was to take a series of roads known as the Enchanted Circle. The name, to me, makes the imagination run wild, and I wondered what sights and conditions I would encounter. We’d ridden part of this route three, maybe four years ago, and I think I was on my dual sport bike at the time.

NM 518 past the rally site was the beginning of the loop, and then we continued to Mora Valley. We picked up 434 in Mora, a narrow little turn that threads through the canyon formed by two old buildings in the town. A short way up the road we passed the Alpaca farm, and saw a large herd of the darling Alpacas in the meadow next to the road. They were recently shorn, and probably happy for the warm sunny weather.

We wound through some tiny communities, and the road became narrower and narrower until we were on a road with no center stripe, about the width of a car and a half. It dipped and turned through thick vegetation, and I remembered riding it before. It was a shame there were no pullouts to stop and take pictures because it is an amazing little road.

When the road widened again to two lanes, it came out in a wide windswept alpine meadow. We were at about 8,000 feet in elevation, and I was able to pull over then to take a few photos. The best photos would have been of the part of the road I’d just left, but it was not safe to stop.

On the Enchanted Circle:

Soon we passed Angelfire ski resort, and then picked up NM 64, which was another wonderful road. We took that past Eagle Nest state park where we picked up NM 38 and headed toward Questa, where we picked up NM 522. Soon we were riding high mountain passes with joy, until we got stuck behind a “spoiler,” some stupid big truck that was going way too slowly. I thought he would be courteous and pull over because there were more vehicles than just us behind him, but he didn’t. So much for courtesy. At last we found ourselves in a touristy winter sports town called Red River, which was good because I’d had enough of creeping along in first or second gear on the steep grades. We parked the bikes, got some coffee, and walked around.

First, we went down to the vaunted river, which turned out to be a bit of a disappointment since it was only a few feet wide and about a foot deep. I am sure it runs full and fast at some point, but it wasn’t what I was expecting today.

Smaller than I expected, but still pretty:

We walked around the town for a while looking at souvenirs. Being the big spender that I am, I bought a knotted paracord bracelet for a whopping $4, just so I could say I got something there. Then we got back on the 522, rode a lovely stretch of perfect turns, then the road flattened out as we dropped in elevation. We passed a place that was actually called the Enchanted Forest, but the road that led there was dirt and we are on the road bikes. It would have been fun to explore it if we’d had the dual sport bikes. Maybe next time.

The temperature went up, too, into the high 80s F. I am still disappointed with the heat on this trip. I was trying to get away from it, that and the incessant sun. It was absolutely hot by the time we rejoined a short piece of NM 64 that we took for a couple of hundred feet just outside the north end of Taos.

We turned onto Blueberry Hill Rd., the “relief route,” a secret shortcut that we use to avoid the ever-present traffic backups in Taos proper. Today, though, yet another cop was at the side of the road, and to my horror, pulled out behind us. That meant we had to creep along yet again, this time at 35 mph, and when we got to the 25 mph zone, it was unbearable. I sat there sweating and trying to make the bike go that slowly. It was dreadful. Finally, since we didn’t go over the speed limit (a true test of will) the cop tired of the game and turned the opposite way we did. What a relief, speaking of relief routes. A short while later, we closed the circle and crossed the intersection with 518 where we’d started our day. It was truly an enchanting ride with all the beautiful scenery and fun roads! Even after my long day riding yesterday, I still jumped on the bike today and did 150 miles.

It seems very unreal that we have only one day left before we have to start home. As usual, it is going way too fast. I wish work days would go that fast, but they, of course, drag like forever.

The road to Taos, NM

Taos, 9-5-13

It’s here! I’m here! In Taos, NM, that is, for our annual pilgrimage to the rally near here at the Sipapu ski area. This is the trip that I start counting down for when I get home for the previous year’s trip. “364 … 363 … 362 …” days to the next one.

What I do when I’m on the road and it’s a traveling day (pack the bike in the morning):

Hal and I left home yesterday afternoon and rode 130 miles, just so today wouldn’t be all 550 miles of the total distance. With both bikes in the shop over the summer, we have not had the opportunity to go on any long road trips on the road bikes, and so are a little bit out of long-distance riding shape.

Stopping for fuel, and a break, off the I-40:

I felt it today, for sure. I squirmed and cussed the last 60 miles or so; my shoulders were aching, and so was my back, and, you know how this trip is usually nice and cool? Not this time. It was around 90° F. the whole way across part of Arizona and into New Mexico on I-40. I still hate the interstate, but as I was riding this morning, I asked myself if I’d rather be riding on the interstate or teaching math right then? The answer was not  “teaching math.”

This is one of those trips that I think, “Am I really here?” When I left home yesterday, I was trying to make myself stay in the moment, so I could remember every little detail, like the peaks of the mountains glowing in the evening sunset amid the darkness of the low-lying terrain, and the smell of the coolness when we finally got up on the Rim. We even rode the last few miles to our destination in the dark – through elk country. I kicked up my bright headlights, and kept my eyes moving. Hal said he saw a herd of elk grazing at the side of the road as we climbed up onto the Rim. It worried me that I didn’t even notice. I was super-tired, having been up half the night before, worrying about getting lesson plan instructions written out for my substitute teacher, and worrying that I wouldn’t have even one second for planning during that last day. Which was true, by the way. I slept like the dead when I got to the hotel. I don’t think I moved even once.

This afternoon, as we rode into Taos, I said, “Oh, there’s the road (518 to the ski area), there’s our favorite gas station, there’s the fence!” That fence is kind of a landmark that lets me know I’m inside the city of Taos. Yes, I’m really here! My favorite trip of the whole year. Did I say that about 10 times already? I can’t help it, I am so happy to be here.

“Art” shot of the day:

We got to the hotel, got all the luggage off the bikes, and found a comfortable place to sit and have a cup of coffee. Both of us were SO ready to get off the bikes, and the coffee was especially good. I was road weary, no question about that. The air was that sweet smell and texture of the absolute perfect temperature. Weird. There have been so many times when this trip has been rainy and cold the entire time.

Plans for the next few days? Tomorrow, check in at the rally site, then ride a loop through Mora and up to Angelfire ski area. It’s a loop that we did a long time ago, but I’ve been wanting to go back for a couple of years now and not had time. We will probably spend Saturday hanging out at the rally site talking to friends we only see at this rally. It will be such a luxury to not have to choose between a riding day or a “reconnect” day – we can do both!

On Sunday, we will have to ride all the way home, and I am already dreading that. But I won’t think about that now. Meanwhile, I have 48 hours to enjoy!