9.19.2006,9:43 PM
Day Two: The Road to Taos
Clovis to Taos, NM
Miles: 255
Time: 9 am to 4 pm
Weather: chilly but sunny with blue skies

Sunshine, YES!!!!

Loaded the bike and off I went, continuing on Hwy 84 all the way to Las Vegas (NM, that is). The high plains were lovely, accentuated by the mesas on the horizon. I have not ridden amongst the southwest plains since driving from Oregon to Texas eight years ago. That old thrill came back; the vastness and wonderment of mesas breaking the horizon and the plains dotted by low-growing sage. Black Angus were scattered on the plains like black spatterings of paint. The road opened wide and long, a ribbon of tarmac calling to the wheels underneath me and the wanderlust inside. I caught myself grinning occasionally, soaking in the vast openness. Some people are bored with the high plains, but not me. I love them.

The wind turbines on top of the tabletop mesas reminded me of vast sunflower fields in Montana: sunflowers as far as one can see. Here, the tall white slender posts were stems supporting the turning turbine blades like flower petals blowing in the wind. They may be manmade, but their majestic presence imparted a sense of belonging there. More than the other manmade obtrusions that appeared every hundred miles or so.

Slowly climbing in altitude and gently rolling down into the valleys the passes opened up to small towns smattering the landscape along rivers or interstates. Two short runs on interstates and I exited onto 518 in Las Vegas, riding north. Passing through Mora, the ride slowed to a crawl in one-lane traffic. One half of the road was dug up with backhoes playing chicken with the passing vehicles.

After filling up at the gas station in Mora, I used the toilet and refilled my camelbac. I had no idea how long the ride was to Taos and did not want to be doing a peepee dance on the seat of the bike. Asking the clerk, I learned Taos was 45 miles north.
Cool. No time at all.


Riding north put me in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range and the Carson National Forest. The steady gentle climb in elevation passed through pine forests that reminded me both of Maine and Oregon. Grinning widely, I felt like I was transported back and ‘home’. The smell of the litter duff was heavenly perfume even through my plugged nose. A short descent into a valley followed a river lined with yellow-leaved cottonwoods. The fall color against the background of green pines was a feast for the eyes. I searched for a pulloff but never found one. The shoulders were either non-existent or hidden beneath inches of pea gravel.

That old dormant wanderlust was sparked and fueled again on that ride to Taos but this time so different, riding on a bike. A few times I wanted to share the marvels with someone. That intense feeling of wonder or discovery that nearly bursts your own seams to get out and be shared. So I shared it with myself, the road and the wind.

Several times I saw moments that should have been captured by a camera or appreciated for their beauty. Then other times seeing things but not wanting to stop, just seize the moment, the second, absorb it and ready yourself for the next one,

Twenty-five Miles of Adrenaline

Riding in the mountains and trying to pop my ears, the road began twisting, climbing and falling. We came upon newly resurfaced road and a sign that read:
Warning: Loose Gravel
30 mph
Next 25 miles

Oh crap!

The surface was that mixture of black tar and gravel laid down and rolled. No shoulder but about six inches deep of pea gravel. No center line. No lane lines at all. And ahead were passes and passes of twisting mayhem.
Going down.
Going up.
Twist this way and that way.
Shift down and steady as she goes.
Screw the two cars behind me.

I rode most of that in fifth gear, using the engine to control my speed and tug the many hundred pounds of human flesh, machine and gear up the winding road. After what seemed like a hundred miles, I saw gray road ahead. Oh good! Normal road surface.

Hah again!

Signs cautioning loose gravel again, 30 mph.
But this time, it WAS loose gravel. That loose gravel that is dribbled onto sprayed tar and left for car and truck tires to embed in the undersurface.

And we were going down, down, down, with tight twisties this time.
Shift down into fourth gear, sometimes in fifth. Adrenaline fueling my cardiac muscle and pumping blood into all my extremities and drying my mouth like cotton. And still trying to pop my plugged ears.

The vistas were breathtaking, the views awesome. The elevation high in the mountains was chocking Whee’s engine, but we pushed through. I spotted a pulloff on the other side of the road looking relatively free of deep gravel, carefully navigated onto it and parked. Pulling my leg over the saddle, I walked around to loosen my tight spine and took some pictures overlooking the mountains and passes. Then magically uprighted the bike (dang, this bike’s heavy!) and somehow pulled forward out from the incline and canting left. I’m glad I had that throttle play fixed.

What seemed like more hours and hundreds of miles on loose gravel, wobblies and constant shifting, and almost popped ears, we rode down into a valley and I spied normal pavement. With a sigh of relief, I leaned forward resting my upper torso on the tankbag, planted the balls of my feet on the pegs, relaxed and opened the throttle in welcomed sixth gear.
Zooom....relaxed leans into the curves left me smiling again instead of gritting my teeth.

The last 25 miles rated an 8-10 on my Holy Shit! Meter.

The ride into Taos was easy despite the congested traffic. I found the Inn and checked in. I was able to pull the bike into the grassed and quiet courtyard to park it under a willow tree in the shade and 12 feet in front of my room.

All was well, and the hot shower was wonderful.
posted by Macrobe
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