Taos, Gateway and Santa Fe
September 7, 2012
This morning is a radical change from the normal work/home life routine. Deb and I packed the bags on the bike last night for a 7-day ride through New Mexico and Colorado. Today we are on the road heading for Taos, and then heading up to Gateway Canyons in Colorado for a couple of days. We’ll make our way back through Santa Fe on the way home next week.
We escaped the metromess traffic madness between Denton and Decatur. The temperature continued to rise on the ride towards Amarillo. And the wind was hot and brisk from the south, until 60 miles or so southeast of Amarillo. I noticed the dramatic wind change within just a couple of miles. And with that northwest wind came cooler temperatures. The brisk wind started turning into a direct north side wind of 30 to 40 miles per hour. I had to watch my line carefully as I passed the big trucks, as the wind subsided and then returned with a vengeance. We saw dust crossing the highway miles ahead of us. As we approached it, I had to scrub speed off quickly as the visibility dropped to hundreds of feet or less.
We had decided to split the ride to Taos in half with a stop at Amarillo anticipating heat. As we neared Amarillo, instead of escaping the heat, we were looking forward to getting out of the wind. Deb and I relaxed in the room, and went out for a great meal later in the evening. Tomorrow morning, the temperatures are supposed to start in the 50’s, but the wind should not be a major factor.
September 8, 2012
We woke to no wind this morning, and a cool 59 degrees for the ride into New Mexico. It did not warm up at all, and the combination of the previous night’s rain and morning cloud cover made for a chilly ride.
As we approached the mountains and gained altitude, we rode into the clouds and mist crossing over the pass south of Sipapu. The temperature dropped to 45 at the pass, and more and more motos appeared. As we neared Sipapu, the clouds thinned and the temperature rose.
The first order of business was to warm up by the fire in the lodge, and immediately afterwards grab a Sipapu burger with green chiles and bacon. It was awesome!
We ran into Jerry, who had opted out of distance riding with the rest of the boys from Texas. I searched for Al Schibi and finally found him so he could redo my ear plugs after 4 years of hearing protection and effective communication.
Deb and I made our way down the mountain into Taos for our stay at El Pueblo Lodge.
Met some boys from Albuquerque on an off-road adventure for the weekend through the fire roads.
We walked the plaza in the warm sunny afternoon, and listened to a talented dobrough player singing to the crowd. Here’s a link to a video for you to get a taste of this eclectic music.
We met the rest of the LSBMWR boys at Eske’s for dinner and a bit of folk music. We tried to make an inventory of what all was going on around us – Outdoor brewpup, great food, green chilis, a band with an accordion, a dog under the table, a dude with dreadlocks, a menacing thunderstorm, adobe all around us, granola waitress, Indian with a backpack, dude with Bono sunglasses, everyone in sandals, redhead mommy with a fresh baby, and a few moto riders from Texas. The menacing thunderstorm did not let us down. It poured, and everyone outside huddled under the porch of Eske’s. We talked briefly with a young couple that had just moved to Sante Fe from New York. He was in the service industry working with Four Seasons. Nice couple. Interesting how being in this country can open up conversations with total strangers.
September 9, 2012
We had a rough night of sleep awakened by calls in the middle of the morning from the home front dealing with my mom. She had to be taken to the hospital to be checked out after a fall, but all turned out OK. So we got on with the ride, with a bit later departure than planned after we slept into the morning.
The morning was beautiful. We rode north of Taos after a crossing over the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. There was hardly any wind, and plenty of bright morning sunshine as we headed for Colorado. The North Cochetopa Pass via Hwy 114 was a blast, with tight turns, good pavement and hardly any traffic.
We stopped for fuel in Gunnison, and gabbed a sandwich to eat on down the road. Blue Mesa Reservoir was a nice spot for lunch. The water must be 40 feet down right now.
The ride through Hwy 141 to Gateway was a blast as always. The roads were dry and traffic light. I got a few screams from Debbie on the turns, but told her “Wait until we head south of Gateway, that will be a real thrill”.
We checked in to the room and immediately enjoyed the view that we will see the next couple of days.
We spent some time sitting by the ponds near the Entrada restaurant. It is very peaceful here.
After a dinner of pasta and salad, Deb and I had an enjoyable walk around the resort grounds. The temperature was perfect, and the surrounding vistas incredible. The bats were swooping all around us as we explored in the waning light of the evening.
The morning light revealed the beauty of both what John Hendricks has put together in this amazing country. We had a great breakfast, and proceeded to wander through the collection of autos that he has arranged. It’s almost unbelievable all of this exists in this remote section of Colorado.
We put on hiking gear and headed up the canyon on trails that took us into quiet back country. After a couple of miles of hiking up the canyon, we were in places where we looked around and saw no evidence of man’s development. It was quite satisfying.
I joined Deb at the grill for some afternoon brews and wind therapy rushing through the trees from the approaching storm. Even though I got very wet on the descent down John Brown Canyon Road, the rain never made it into the low lands of the resort. We enjoyed the sun again later in the afternoon by the salt water pool, and met and talked with an interesting couple from Chicago. They have been mountain biking hut to hut in the back country.
Dinner was at Entrada. A very pleasing Salmon with a chocolate cake for desert. The walk back to the room was nice in the very comfortable weather. Tomorrow morning, we head to Santa Fe via Red Mountain Pass.
September 11, 2012
A quick breakfast was had at the Kiva Cafe, and Deb and I were ready for a long day of technical riding over several mountain passes. We met a local couple in the cafe that were the owners of Billy, the Aussie that took a keen interest in all that I was carrying out to the bike as I was packing for the ride.
The morning was a bit damp, but the roads were dry as we headed south from Gateway. This is a very twisty road through tall red rock walls that offer a dramatic backdrop to the ride.
The route dropped into an interesting canyon on Hwy 145.
After a wrong turn in a construction zone directed by a highway worker towards Telluride, we continued through Ridgway and Ouray.
The climb out of Ouray immediately becomes technical with 10 mph corners, and steep drops down the mountain.
Kips Grill in Pagosa Springs was the lunch stop. We had a green chile smothered open hamburger. It was a mess to look at, but oh very tasty.
Heading south through the Chama Valley is always a treat.
We arrived at El Farolito in Santa Fe for another of many stays here.
The flags were at half staff in remembrance of 9/11.
Deb walked around studying southwest stuff for purchase while I studied the fine art of southwest craft brewing at the Marble Brewery on the square.
The Coyote Cafe seems to be a regular spot for us in Santa Fe. Our waitress suggested that we drop one dish since the brisket nachos were so big. She was right!
We went by Cafe Pascal’s to pick up a couple of mugs and did a bit of window shopping on the walk back.
September 12, 2012
Leaving Santa Fe was hard. We should have stayed a bit longer, but really needed to start heading home. We started in the rain, and rode out of it as soon as we left the Sangre de Cristo foothills. The route back kept us off of the hectic interstates, and on the back roads where there is very little traffic and very big skies. We rode through the ghost town of Yeso, where I spent time years ago shooting black-and-white infrared film.
Big storms rolled all around us, but we avoided having to ride through heavy rain.
Lubbock was the stop for the night. Checking in and shedding the wet riding gear was nice. We ordered in food, and had a great meal on the bed.
September 13, 2012
The thunder rolled through Lubbock all through the night as the cold front pushed in. We grabbed breakfast and packed up for the last push home through Texas. At each fuel stop, I checked the radar and paced our return back to avoid punching through the strong line of storms that were moving east in front of us. It rained for 300 miles. By the time we had started entering the big city, the roads had dried, thankfully, and we made our way home.
Deb did a great job handling the long miles of this trip, and she was a joy to have along on the ride. She experienced a lot of dynamic weather and riding conditions. I’m ready to head back.