A snowy riding day

Clouds and road 170325 small

Was I just writing the other day about the heat while on a ride? I was! And now here I am with a story from the other end of the weather spectrum – cold and snow!

A few weeks before this, we rode in Death Valley where it was almost 100° F., and then we roasted in the unseasonable heat here at home. This time I put my jacket liner and pants liner back in. The forecast said highs in the 40°s F. for Flagstaff, with a small chance of rain. Oh gosh I hope so, I thought.

Hal and I headed out of town and soon got on the Beeline Hwy. Just past Fountain Hills after our first fuel stop, we were attempting to get back on the Beeline when we saw that a big plastic cooler had fallen out of a pickup truck into the roadway. The man who had dropped it was trying to pick up the mess before traffic smashed it. All the stuff that was in the cooler fell out, too, and the guy was trying to pick that up as well. He was blocking the left lane, and his vehicle was parked on the right side shoulder. Then an SUV stopped in the left lane to keep traffic from the hitting the first man. Everyone slowed down.

Hal and I were waiting at the light to turn right. Hal started to go, but still being very “gun shy,” I thought to myself, I am not getting into that mess. Our intercom system was still not working, so I wasn’t able to tell Hal to wait. He pulled out, and just then a young woman driving a silver car came barreling through the scene, not paying any attention. I don’t know how she managed not to hit anyone. If she’d hit that SUV from behind, she could have killed the people on the roadway in front it.

As it was, she came very close to Hal as she slithered through the small space between him and the right shoulder. I don’t know how she didn’t hit him. She was completely oblivious to the whole thing until she got past the scene. Then, as realization washed over her, she slowed way down, like maybe she figured out what just almost happened and actually cared about the people she might have hit. It made me freak out again about what happened to me.

When we got to Payson, we pulled in at a Circle K so Hal could put on more clothing layers since he was already getting cool. I asked Hal if he knew how dangerously close that woman in the silver car had come to him. “Yep,” he said in a flat voice, “about four inches.” I shuddered.

We left Payson behind and climbed up on the Mogollon Rim. It was in the 50°s F., not too cool yet. We pulled over again at Clint’s Well to turn on the video cameras. I thought again about how I should always have a video camera on while in the car (if I ever drive again) or on a bike in case an accident happens. Today I could have caught that “almost accident” in Fountain Hills.

Lake Mary Rd., when we got to it, was as pleasant as it always is. It is one of my favorite roads. There were many piles of snow on the sides of the road, evidence of last week’s storm. The snow was melting, the water running merrily from the snow banks, racing along the sides of the road. Before I knew it, we had reached the east end of Mormon Lake – a beautiful sight on any day, but today especially so. I saw that it was wet and marshy, not dry like it usually is. There were clouds building to the west, over the mountains and Flagstaff. I had hoped to get into some rain, and the presence of clouds made me happy (or as happy as I get these days).

Vegetation 3302 small

By this time we’d ridden 170+ miles, and we stopped at the usual place to fuel up before riding into Flagstaff. I found that my F800ST got 67.7 mpg, which isn’t unusual for that bike. Then we rode into Flagstaff, to the Indian restaurant that we like. Yes, we rode all those miles just to have lunch at that particular restaurant (and enjoy our bikes, of course). As we pulled in to park, clouds blocked out the sun and it started to rain, and with the rain there were a few flurries of snow.

Hal and I had a nice leisurely lunch at the Indian buffet.

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Foods like Chicken Tikka Masala, naan bread, and then to finish it off, the coffee was excellent, too. We took our time, talking and planning future road trips. Soon the restaurant emptied, and we knew it was time to leave.

Outside, it had been sun and clouds while we ate, but now a dark squall line advanced on us from the south. We saw it as we walked out to the bikes. We’d better gear up and get out of here, I thought, even though I secretly wanted to be IN it.

Just then, a young guy got out of the pickup truck that was parked right next to us. “Hey, that’s the exact bike I’m interested in!” he exclaimed to Hal, looking at his F800GS. The two guys got into a big conversation about the GS while the rain got heavier and heavier, and soon turned to snow. The sky was getting darker by the minute. I was getting wet because I couldn’t put my helmet on. I ride with earplugs and it is difficult to hear people talking with them in, unless it is Hal on the intercom. While I was standing there, I put my rain gear on so the rest of me wouldn’t get wet. I couldn’t believe that the guy was making us stand there talking to him while we got wet. Obviously he was not a rider!

DSC08239 snow small

The snow was getting heavy, and piling up on the seat of my bike. It was also starting to stick to the ground, and I began to think about riding on ice. Finally, the conversation ended, I was able to get my helmet on over my now-wet hair, and we got on the bikes. I carefully negotiated the parking lot maze, but by the time we got to Lake Mary Rd. again it wasn’t snowing so much. Then it re-intensified as we rode past Lake Mary, which was very full.

The storm was hot on our heels, as they say, coming up behind us. But we had planned to stop at the overlook to take pictures, so we did. Especially since the sky, the colors, and the rain were so beautiful.

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My dashboard temperature readout was flashing, warning me that the temperature was 37° F., close to freezing. The storm was catching up, so after we finished taking photos, we got back on the bikes and rode out of the storm.

Soon we were in sun and clouds again, but the temperature stayed low. I was not cold or uncomfortable at all, surprisingly. My hands/gloves had gotten wet while the big conversation in the parking lot was going on, but I’d found a pair of old gloves in the bottom of my travel bag and put them on, replacing my wet pair. With the heated grips turned up, I was comfortable.

It was a lovely ride back through Clint’s well, then Strawberry, then Pine, then Payson, where we stopped for coffee again. My hair was still wet in back where it was pulled into a ponytail! I sipped my coffee slowly and sadly, knowing I would soon be riding back into the heat.

Me at Chevron 8266 smallI was a little tired, mostly from all the stress in my life lately.

The sun was sinking by then, we’d gotten kind of a late start on the day, but the clouds were golden at the horizon. We rode together from Payson, winding down the Beeline into the hot city, then Hal left me and we each rode home in the dark. Our total mileage was about 350+ miles, and about 80 miles more for Hal.

It was a wonderful day, and I’d enjoyed the crazy weather. Now all we have to do is figure out the intercom issue that we are having. It is so difficult riding without communication now that we’ve gotten used to it. I don’t know how Hal and I rode together all those years that we weren’t able to talk to each other whenever we felt like it!

Some of the finest riding on Earth

October, 2016

On the last weekend in October, Hal and I enjoyed a ride on Hwy. 191, “some of the finest riding on Earth,” in eastern Arizona, USA.

We left home Saturday morning at 7:30 and rode east on US 60 toward Superior, Arizona. It was a pleasant ride, with temperatures in the 70s F. We had originally planned to go to Buckboard, a restaurant we visit often, for breakfast, but once we got on the bikes, we just wanted to ride! We fueled up at Goldfield Chevron, got a couple of Clif bars, and that was breakfast.

I’d been looking forward to this – a nice “juicy” riding day! I had chosen my 2008 F800ST for this trip, a bike that was surely made for the 191. Pearl hadn’t been on a real road trip for over two years, and I think she was feeling thrilled at this opportunity.

Hal and I were especially appreciating every moment of being on the road after several weeks of stress at our separate workplaces. We rode east through Superior, Globe, and then continued east on Hwy. 70. We went through Bylas, which is unchanged (I hadn’t seen it in a couple of years), and still wrenchingly poor. Next is Pima (lots of cotton!), then Thatcher (“Taylor Freeze, 2 miles ahead!”), and then Safford.

We stopped at the edge of Safford because Hal was uncertain if his K75s, with a smaller gas tank than his R1100RS, would make it all the way to Clifton-Morenci. Fueling done, we turned north on 191 outside of Safford, and I felt the joy of anticipation for the best part soon to come.

Next were the two towns of Clifton and Morenci, so close together they blend into one. They are old mining towns, and very interesting to look at. Clifton has a railroad track running parallel to the 191 that goes literally right in front of people’s houses. Like, 20 feet away. I get that it’s because of the mine, but I don’t think even I would like a train right at my doorstep even though I love trains. We had to cross and re-cross the train tracks at weird angles as we made our way through town, and then we climbed up toward the actual mine in Morenci, and the gas station.

We always fuel up here before we get into the twisty section of 191. There is no fuel between here and Alpine, and we know better than to pass up a gas station in these circumstances. We took a break, ate a Snickers bar, then turned on our video cameras to record the amazing, sinuous, legendary Hwy. 191 formerly known as Hwy. 666.

I don’t know why I was apprehensive about the first turns out of Morenci, but I was. They are very tight, climb steeply, and can be technical. When I got there, though, I thought, these aren’t any worse than anything else I’ve ridden lately. The turns are tight, but the F800ST went smoothly through them. Up and up we went in elevation until we were “in” the actual mine, the road runs through it, and in a few miles rode through the blasting zone where we’d had to stop and wait last year. There was no one in the guardhouse this time.

Then we were free of the mine, and into the beauty of the mountains! We found the condition of Hwy. 191 to be absolutely perfect. I have often said that October is the best month to ride this road. The summer storms have washed it clean of any remaining winter debris, and the road surface is dry and fast. The golden autumn light highlights the color of the aspens along with the bronze and wheat-colored vegetation that grows on the forest floor. It is so beautiful in the season that I love.

Pearl flowed through the turns, and I re-discovered how much I love riding this bike. The F800ST was absolutely made for Hwy. 191, and I did not feel uncomfortable for one second. The riding position was great, my new helmet worked great, and above all, the bike handled perfectly. Since we were riding this part earlier in the day than we had last year, the sun was not too low and not directly in our eyes as we climbed.

We came to the part that I call “halftime,” the long grassy plain where the road is flat and straight. We let the motorcycles stretch their legs there as we flew along, but then after a few miles we brought the speed back down as we were back into more turns. It was pure fun and technical riding. We came to places where last year we had seen deer. It was too early in the day for them to be out this time, but we kept a wary eye out for them anyway. You never know!

Time passed so quickly and I was enjoying myself so thoroughly that before I knew it we were at Strayhorse work camp; we started to go up through the turns to Blue Point Vista. There were some black areas in the middle of the road, they looked like melted tar, that were a little “slippy” so as I rode, I tried to stay away from them.

It felt like home after that because we were on the part of the 191 that we know so well. It was cool, and all the vents in my jacket were still open (since Morenci), but I didn’t care. It felt so nice to be cool. We went faster on some of these parts since we are so familiar with them, and it was so different to be riding them on a quick road bike instead of a dirt bike. We loved every moment of going through the turns, enjoying the road. I think this is the best experience we’ve ever had on 191! Two and a half hours after leaving Morenci, we rolled into Alpine. It was about 94 miles since we’d left the gas station.

After we unpacked the bikes, we had time to enjoy a cup of coffee while sitting in the sun and waiting for a herd of elk that was supposed to show up later (they had the two nights before), but didn’t when we were there. We barely even heard an elk bugling, maybe once the whole night, much less see any. The hunt was on, so the elk were probably smart enough to stay away.

Around 6:00, Hal and I walked to our last dinner of the season at Foxfire, joining the locals to shut it down until next May. We sat in our favorite area near the bar, splurged a bit on wine and dinner, enjoyed the live music, and said our goodbyes (for now) to everyone there. The stars were sparkling in the sky as we walked back to the lodge, and the air was crisp and cool. What a wonderful day, the best ever, I think!

On Sunday morning, we ate corned beef hash at Alpine Grill, the best corned beef hash in the world, in my opinion, and said goodbye (temporarily) to all our friends there. Then we had to go home, but it was at least going to be another wonderful long riding day. We were still in the “non-stop” groove, so we only stopped for gas in Springerville, and then at Payson Chevron. It is our habit to have a cup of their wonderful coffee there no matter from where we are returning. We even got back to Phoenix in time to watch some of the football games on TV.

I don’t think I have enjoyed a trip or a ride so much as I have this one, for a long time. I loved the ride, loved being on my F800ST, loved riding the 191 in autumn, loved being in Alpine, loved the last night of the season at Foxfire on a magical pre-Halloween Saturday, and I even loved the nice long relaxing nearly non-stop ride on the way home.

It was the best riding day/weekend ride ever.

What a great bike looks like

I had to post this because yesterday, my beautiful blue F800ST turned over 71,000 miles on the odometer! It’s taken me a while to get there because I have other bikes as well, most obviously my GS bikes, for whom this blog is named. My 2008 ST is the only bike I’ve ever bought new, and I think she is just as beautiful as when I rode her away from the dealership.

I toured on the ST (“Pearl”) for many years, and all these years have been absolutely trouble-free. She’s been well taken care of, always properly maintained at the called-for intervals. I almost sold her last year, but came to my senses. I would have regretted that decision forever if I’d gone through with it.

So, here I am, still enjoying every mile. 🙂

Pearl, and ‘moto therapy’

Above: Pearl, a couple of weeks ago in Globe, Arizona

The “Happy Hour” ride. My riding partner and I hadn’t done it in its original form for years, but just before Thanksgiving seemed the right time to reinstate it.

Several years ago, we dreamed up this ride. It was meant to escape work, enjoy Friday night, and just ride. At the end of it, we’d usually stop for coffee. But, as with everything, the “HH” ride evolved, or devolved, into only going for coffee, and driving. For a while, Hal and I were just too tired to plan far enough in advance to take the bikes in the morning, and too tired to ride after work (dangerous).

Lately, though, I found I missed HH, and since my decision to keep Pearl after I had thought I’d sell her, I needed a weekly ride again to keep her happy. It had been a stupid decision to sell her. I had her on consignment at my mechanic’s shop, but no one bought her. I shudder when I think how close I came to losing her. It was when Hal got his K75s that I came to my senses. I realized that I would never be able to replace Pearl because BMW does not make the F800ST anymore, and its replacement, the F800GT, is a completely different bike. I sat on one, and it felt absolutely massive, and not what I would be comfortable riding.

My Pearl is a 2008 F800ST, the beautiful blue one. BMW didn’t make that color very long, and it is the prettiest one. It is a small bike, which is why BMW changed everything to make the GT big (for big people, apparently) but BMW couldn’t have made the F800ST more custom fit to me if they’d tried. I bought the bike in October, 2008, and have ridden it just over 70,000 miles.

It was cool and damp last Wednesday evening as I set out, and the traffic was heavy because it was Thanksgiving Eve. I worked my way through it all, out onto Hwy. 87, toward Fountain Hills, where I met up with Hal at the usual fuel station. The temperature wasn’t that cold, around 60° F., but the dampness in the air made it feel colder. I laughed at myself because it wasn’t too many months ago that I was riding while wearing a mesh jacket and a thin t-shirt in Heber where it was 59°. I was perfectly comfortable then, and happy to be out of the 100°+ heat in the desert.

We rode into the dusk, and I felt great, happy to be riding Pearl, who probably despaired of ever seeing Zahra in front of her as she headed up the 87 toward the Sunflower turns. On the way, I was treated to the sight of Four Peak, spectacular in the light.

Hal and I wound our way through holiday traffic as we made our way north, climbing in elevation as we went. The temperature dropped, and an amazing late autumn sunset painted the darkening sky all shades of pink that reflected everywhere and flooded everything with a pink glow. I felt Pearl purring with happiness, back where she belonged. She was happy underneath me, I could feel it, her engine humming a warm throaty contented sound. If ever there was a bike that has a personality, it is Pearl. I think that about my other “F” series bike, my 2009 F650GS, Katarina Maria. They both have the 800 engine (despite the GS being called a “650”), and perhaps that is the heart and soul of them both.

We turned around in Sunflower after sitting for a few moments in the pullout, looking at the pink sky arcing above us. The moment hung in time, the earth seeming to stand still for a moment on its axis. We exhaled, then twisted the throttles, and headed back through the perfect curves on the way down. Soon we were in Fountain Hills, making the turn into the parking lot where there were restaurants, and warmth. It was dark and cold by then, and I couldn’t seem to shake the chill in the air. Hal and I got a coffee and a snack, and settled into the relaxation process after a stressful three days at work. It was a perfect beginning to the long enjoyable Thanksgiving weekend.

“Is that a streetlight or the moon?” P.S. we didn’t go to Subway …

 

Castle Hot Springs Rd.

On Saturday, Hal and I started late in the day, but still managed to get in an interesting ride and visit a place we hadn’t been to before – Castle Hot Springs Road.

We started late that day because of Hal having to wait for “the cable guy.” True to form, they didn’t show up when they were supposed to, and were going to make him wait all day. He rescheduled instead of using up a perfectly good Saturday to wait, maybe fruitlessly, for the cable guy. (“Thanks,” Cox Cable.)

We were both mounted on our Suzuki DR650s, and we left the west side of Phoenix around 12:30 p.m. after I rode through the heart of the city in horrendous traffic. After fueling up at 7th Ave. and the 101 Loop, we headed for I-17, and then the Lake Pleasant exit, Hwy. 74. After a few miles on the 74, I saw a sign at the Lake Pleasant turnoff that said “Castle Hot Springs Rd.” I wondered why we weren’t turning there, but Hal had explained to me that we had to ride almost to where 74 intersected with the 60 just east of Wickenburg. Hmmmm, I thought, maybe it’s a loop. That would be cool!

The terrain:

We passed the Boulders, another great place for off-road fun, and soon we were at Castle Hot Springs Rd. We turned north, and found a mile or so of paved road, and then we were on a wide, graded road for a few miles. Then, the road narrowed after a sign that bore the message “Primitive road …” in other words, not regularly graded, and maybe a little rough.

As is usual when we get up into mountainous terrain, the road narrowed, there were a few rough spots, there were ledges to traverse, and the road rose and descended, in some places rather steeply. As I was unfamiliar with the road, I went fairly slowly, mapping it in my head. Then, we came to what we would think of as the highlight of the ride.

We descended to what I think was Castle Creek, and soon found ourselves in a narrow canyon with towering walls on both sides. We were riding through shallow but flowing water, and there were a few potholes to negotiate. I flipped my dark-tinted visor open because it was so dark in the shadows that I needed to see better to choose a good line. It was a short stretch, and over too quickly, and the enjoyment of it was fleeting because I was paying attention to my riding, not as much to the beauty surrounding me. The high stone walls were red-brown with areas of the black “varnish” that is prevalent on rocks of this type. The riverbed was gravelly, but the rocks weren’t very big. If this had been a wet year, I am sure we would not have been able to travel through this stretch of the road at all.

Leaving that section behind, we ascended and descended a few more times, then we stopped at the entrance to a ranch perched on one of the higher sections. From there we could see the road winding down again, and we consulted our maps. We do not use GPS, and judging from the map, we were about halfway through the loop.

“Want to just keep going?” Hal asked.

“Yes! Why not? We’re here!” I said enthusiastically. Lately, we don’t seem have too many opportunities to ride, and who knew when we’d be back here again? One thing I did regret is that I hadn’t brought the GoPro camera to record our passage through the high-walled canyon.

We got back on the bikes, wound down the descent we’d seen from the top, and soon we were at the intersection of two roads, Castle Hot Springs and the road that goes to Crown King. That road is notoriously rough and farther up, is supposed to be washed out from last spring’s rains. We took a break and shed a few layers of clothing as it was in the high 70s F., and riding in the dirt is always warmer than on the street. A mile farther on the road there was a great place for photos. A few abandoned buildings huddled on the side of the road, and we stopped again, but this time to take photos.

I thought the group of buildings was part of the Castle Hot Springs resort, and later I found out that they were. We spent a few minutes taking photographs, and then we got back on the bikes. After another mile of riding up the road, we found the main part of the resort:

We found it much different from what I had seen on the internet. I was a little bit disappointed because I thought it would be more interesting, and that we would have access to it, or at least be able to go a little closer. It was a famous resort in the 1920s, and many famous people from the time period visited there. It has been steadily declining since the 1970s.

Outbuildings and palms. The concrete wall in the foreground is a tall barrier between the resort and the river:

Here is a sample of what I saw when I researched the resort before we went on the ride:

http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/az/castlehotsprings.html

The rest of the ride followed Castle Creek, the road graded and easy all the way back to Lake Pleasant.

We followed what became the park road back to Hwy. 74, and soon we were on the interstate headed back into Phoenix. You just gotta love a bike that can go through rocks and water, then an hour later be doing 80 mph to keep up with the traffic on the interstate! No wonder the DR650 is so popular as an around-the-world bike.

We finished the afternoon with a late lunch at Deer Valley Airport, a favorite, and then after taking a few photos of planes at sunset, we headed home.

**

All photos are the property of Hal Korff and Jodi Koller-Smee. They may not be reproduced or copied in any form without express written permission.

 

Bike anniversary

Above: A week before I officially bought my bike

**

Six years ago I rode my 2008 BMW F800ST out of the showroom and into a life of adventure. It was October 11, 2008, and I’ve never looked back.

The process of acquiring it had started the previous January when I happened to sit on the “new” 2008 F800ST at a BMW dealer in Tucson, AZ. It fit me perfectly, and I knew it was the bike for me. I never had another sport touring bike fit me so well, and if I’d had the money, I would have bought it then and there.

It was the blue one I wanted, and I had to plan for it. Luckily, I was able the buy it by October, and it was the last blue one Victory BMW had. It happened that it was Oct. 11th, my mother’s birthday. I didn’t really say anything to her, though, because I knew she wouldn’t approve. There were a lot of things I should have done in my life that she wouldn’t have approved of, and I should have done every one of them, but that is another story. Fortunately, I made the choice to buy this wonderful bike, ignoring the fear of pursed lips and stinging, judgmental comments from my mother.

From the moment I rode my new bike out onto the street, I wanted to ride it everywhere. That first day, I rode it about 200 miles, and before the weekend was over, I’d ridden more than 600. Before I’d left the dealership, I’d made an appointment for the following Tuesday for the 600-mile service. The service department guys scoffed. She’ll never put 600 miles on that bike by Tuesday, they thought. That was before they knew me.

The rest, as they say, is history. The F800ST, named Pearl, now has just shy of 70,000 miles. For a while, I was putting 20,000 on each year, but since I got “real” dual sport bikes, I’ve been putting miles on those, too. I still put on many miles each year, but the miles are divided between the three bikes that I own. The latest trip the F800ST has been on is the one to Taos, NM, about a month ago.

I will never replace Pearl; the newer version of the F800ST (called F800GT) does not feel good to me at all, and so I plan on riding my F800ST for a very long time. I have had no major problems with it, and the only times it has been in the shop is for scheduled maintenance intervals.

Here are some of the photos I have chosen to represent the six years I’ve had with this great bike. It has been wonderful for me.

First ride:

Getting creative:

20,000 miles, Oct. 16, 2009:

LaSal Mountains, near Moab, UT, 2010:

Independence Pass, CO, August, 2010:

On the road to Mogollon, NM, Oct. 2010:

December, 2010, on the Mogollon Rim, AZ:

Flagstaff Rain, August, 2011:

50,000 miles, October, 2011:

Strawberry, AZ Schoolhouse, November, 2011:

At Mesa Verde National Park, near Durango, CO, July 2012:

Taos, NM, September, 2014:

This is not the end of the story of this bike. We have many more miles to ride together.

 

 

 

I was never here – Epilogue

NM 434 as it snakes its narrow way toward Mora Valley:

**

Taos, 2014

Epilogue

Musings from the road, to New Mexico and then back home:

When I left town on the Wednesday night before the rally, it was 108° F. I was wearing a textile jacket, not a mesh one, and I was comfortable. The heat doesn’t usually get to me unless I am fed up with it, but this time I suppose my mind was already on the road, and I don’t complain about too many things when I am on the road since it is my paradise. Soon, I was out of town, up in elevation, and before you know it, I was riding in temperatures in the 60s F. I was still comfortable, and I was so happy to be on the trip.

I was surprised how long it took me this year to physically get back into riding the long day (day 2)  to Taos. My shoulders hurt really badly when I got off the bike the second day. I wish we’d done some long road trips over the summer instead of just jumping on the bikes for this trip and expecting to do 400+ mile days. I still felt tight in my shoulders through the whole trip and I wondered if I was losing my ability to ride for long distances. But, by the time the trip was over I was back to being “in shape” for riding long distances. Darn, I’ll just have to go again.

I also watched Hal ride my 2006 F650GS, and was thinking long and hard about if I really want to sell it. I probably don’t need four bikes (when I get the DR that I want) but the GS is almost new mechanically now. I think I will be less assertive about selling it, and see what happens.

I wish I had been “in the moment” more on this trip. I kept thinking of other things, like work. Every year it gets more and more difficult. Teaching is an impossible job in the current political climate. Am I making a difference? I don’t know anymore. It has become more and more like trying to roll a boulder uphill in the mud. Working with kids all day is very tiring, despite what people outside education think, and I never, ever get a break during any day. It wears on me after a while.

When we got to Farmington, after the dullness of Gallup, and the 491 to Shiprock, I was pleasantly surprised how the town center of Farmington was actually quite charming. I loved riding NM64 to Dulce, and after that, the twisties. The closer we got to Taos, the happier I was.

I wanted to enjoy NM 64 between Tierra Amarilla and Tres Piedras because it is twisty, and deserted. However, since we had seen a buck (deer) standing at the very edge of the road before we even started the turns, we had to be completely on alert the whole time. It was good that we’d slowed down because another deer leaped right across the road in front of Hal. I so wanted to go faster and ride with abandon on that stretch of road, but I couldn’t, for safety reasons. Plus, by that time on Thursday I was tired and wanted to already be in Taos. I did enjoy it, though, I couldn’t help it. There is a long right hander on the way down the mountain that is so fun to just set the bike into it, leave it alone, and lean it all the way around. Wonderful!

One of the most magical things of the trip was the storm that blew into Taos just as we were returning there on Saturday night. After stopping to shoot photos of the amazing sunset, we realized that we were also looking at an advancing wall of rain. The wind got very wild for a few minutes and we just barely got to the hotel, got the bikes covered, and then the rain began to fall heavily. That is one of those memories that we’ll think of later, things that on future trips we’ll say “remember that time we came into Taos and arrived at the same time as a storm?” Of course we will remember! It was an exciting moment.

One thing I will say for myself is that no matter how tired I am, I can always ride. I am always able to be alert, keep my eyes moving, and not do anything stupid. I am able to handle my bike. On the first day that we were in Taos, for example, we rode NM434, a very narrow road with many hazards (but lots of fun!). Also, on the way home, it was a challenge to get through the heavy surface street traffic of Albuquerque (due to the closure of part of I-25 through town). A woman in an SUV almost cut me off, almost turned right into my motorcycle. I am always able to see things like that before they become a problem. As is usual with these drivers, she acted like it was my fault, she was so annoyed that I was “there.” Nice.

In the blink of an eye, the weekend was gone, as I knew it would be. As we walked to dinner at Red Onion in Heber on the last night, I closed my eyes briefly, and thought, I must remember this moment. This is our trip we look forward to all year, and it’s already almost gone.

The drama wasn’t over yet, though, because the last morning of the trip, the extra day off that I had so looked forward to, was not what I had envisioned. It started out with text messages advising us to “be safe” on the way home, and when we turned on the news, we found out why: Phoenix had been hit with heavy rain, a record amount, and it had nearly brought the city to a standstill. My husband texted me that Hal and I should wait a little longer to come home, have an extra cup of coffee, and maybe the rain would be over. It was, in Phoenix, but then it started where we were. That was okay, it was a pleasant cool ride home in the rain for at least part of the way. I actually love riding in the rain, and I wish it had lasted longer, if not all the way home.

Another year is over, another trip to Taos over too quickly. Even though we keep saying we want to come back and stay longer at another time during the year, as Hal said, “If we came (to Taos) at any other time of year, I expect the trip would have a whole different feel.” The solution will be when we finally get to retire, soon, we hope, and get to stay for maybe a week or so on either side of the rally, so we can take our time and fully enjoy it. I would really like to be lucky enough to be there when the trees are in their full autumn glory. I absolutely love autumn!

Hal and I consider this the “end” of our riding year, and now a new one is beginning. There is a trip north to see fall color, a group ride, a dual sport ride to Young, and other rides being planned. It’s going to be a great fall and winter season, our best, I hope. We have so many miles yet to ride.