LoneStar: Texas to Tombstone
I've been waiting for this week forever it seems. Too much work and too little play has made Jack a dull boy indeed!
My vapid plan was to leave early Sunday morning at daylight and make haste to El Paso by way of I-10, with intentions of continuing to Tombstone, Arizona and thereabouts. Having been inspired by Dave 6253's outstanding ride report here on ADVRider, I want to explore the area, including the remote and somewhat dangerous border roads along the Mexican border.
I'd just gotten a new set of panniers for the bike, and was anxious to get them on the road and full of too much gear. Unfortunately, I ran out of time Saturday and wasn't able to get my camping gear packed in time, so it will be rough... a hot shower and hotel bed every night. So sad :(
I woke up at 5:50 am, looked around, and then promptly fell back asleep. It was a rough night of wrestling with some bad fajitas... I eventually did get up, fed the cows, milked the chickens and finally got the last of the gear on board.
The morning was foggy and cool, and by the time the bike was warmed up, the clouds were clearing and the air was brisk. It was gonna be a gorgeous day!
The ride in to Kerrville was chilly, but free of any dangerous encounters with deer or the dreaded BlueHairs. I fear them more than anything and Kerrville is the epicenter of Buicks and bluehairs. Consider it Blue Hair Nation. Trust me.
At any rate, after gassing at the Shell, I was on the road at 9:30 and throttle pegged for El Paso. The rush of excitement hit squarely as the bike hit 80 and the sign for "El Paso 491 miles" flew by. I knew it was gonna be a long day :norton
After settling in for a while at 80, I was passed by a beautiful, black, Aston Martin doing about 110 or so. James Bond musta had a hot date...
There was a strong headwind and the new GSA cases had more noticeable drag than my older system cases, and it took a while getting used to the new sensitivity - the wind definitely moves the bike a bit more.
The great thing about 10 West is that posted speed limit is 80, but by the time I hit Junction, I could tell the bike was sucking gas more than usual. With the head wind, drag and 5000 rpm to maintain 83-ish, I was nearly empty by the time I hit Sonora... yikes! My mileage had dropped to 32 mpg from the usual 42 or so. Isn't this terribly interesting?
Even more excitement - gassing up in Sonora
I filled up the so-called "7/11" there and tho it seems to be an actual 7/11, I'm not so sure it isn't a cheap Chinese knock off... that was the dirtiest version I've ever seen.
At any rate, that didn't stop me from having a classic road trip breakfast. Coffee and hot dog warming on Beemer cylinder heads... yuuuuuumaaay!
From Junction, the terrain slowly changes from the green, cedar covered hills to the larger vistas and plateaus past Sonora. I hear folks complain about the flatness of west Texas, but I'm not sure why. Sure, the highway meanders through the flat valleys, but the hills and plateaus around are beautiful there are great vistas most of the way.
By the time Ozona slid past, the temps were beginning to warm up a bit from the sun, and as I reached the giant windfarms out near Iraan, I could tell it was about time to shed the cold weather gloves and remove the liner from my jacket.
I was eyeing my shrinking fuel supply, and as I neared Ft. Stockton, I knew it would be close... about 18 miles out, the last bar on the display disappeared and the fuel light came on. At 60, I can get about 20 or so miles after the light appears, but I wasn't sure I'd make it. I carry a couple of fuel cells for emergencies, but I didn't want the bike to die on the freeway. Finally, the first exit came up and I pulled into the Exxon. Woohoo! I did my routine of gloves off, helmet off, earplugs out, jacket off so I could take the liner out, unsnap the tankbag and lay it back, unlock the cap, dig out the wallet, slide in the credit card, debit? NO, authorizing..., insert fuel nozzle and select fuel type, premium... SEE ATTENDANT. Aaargh. Go inside to hear that "all the pumps are down and we don't know why". Crapola. Reverse the routine, get the bike back on the highway and hope it doesn't die before the next exit.
After fueling at the next station and people watching for a bit, it was back on 10. It's been a long time since I've been west of Ft. Stockton and the mountains and hills of Balmorrhea looked enticing, but no joy since I still had hours to go. At the merge of I-10 and I-20, the traffic picked up substantially as did the 18 wheelers, and the temperature in the area dropped about 10 degrees. I was wishing I'd left my jacket liner in :D
Settled in to my rythmic boredom of 85, I saw a white car coming up fast behind me. I tried to determine if it was local law enforcement, but in my buzzing mirrors I could only tell it was white. As it went past, at least 10 mph faster than me, I was shocked to see that it was one of those tiny "SMART" cars. I couldn't believe it. I had no idea they could go that fast! I was tempted to stay with it, but chuckled instead... it was funny seeing such a tiny car going that fast.
Here's the screaming little Smart car :lol2:
Strangely enough, not too long after this, I saw both Elvis and Michael Jackson. The rumors are true!!! They're both alive and well, tho Elvis has gained a ton of weight. They both had Big Gulps and were riding in a Kia... probably not to attract attention.
Van Horn was next up, and I swung through the town before gassing up.
The lady clerk at the gas station wished me a Happy Thanksgiving and told me to be "extra careful on that bike". I promised I would and took off yet again, but excited because El Paso was my next stop. It was the nirvana I sought, the unreachable goal, the never-ending journey, the end of a long, windy day. Was it really only 116 miles away????
As I entered the stream of trucks going west, I noticed the bike had more engine vibes than normal. Hmmm. Acceleration was groggy and the power didn't seem to be there like it usually is. I pulled off and checked the vacuum hoses on the injection side but found nothing. Eventually it cleared up and the power came back. Woohoo!
To the south, the mountain ranges in Mexico were visible in the blue haze and the slowly sinking sun. On the eastbound side of I-10, there was a large Border Patrol Checkpoint, and it appeared that all traffic on 10 has to go through. Wild!
As the range of mountains by El Paso began to appear, I could see large fires to the south, the blue smoke drifting eastward across the valley. I couldn't tell if they were on the Mexican side or the U.S. side, but there were several, spaced miles apart along the river valley.
I rolled into El Paso as the sun came close to the horizon, the smoke and pollution dense and blue in Cuidad Juarez, and the familiar smokestacks lit by the setting sun. I had planned on going on to Las Cruces, but after 8 hrs of buffeting on the bike I decided to gas up, buy a map of New Mexico and find a place for the night. As I passed the Best Western, I saw a lone 1200GS in the lot and wondered which way he was headed.
Grabbed a room at the EconoLodge, where the clerk told me I could park the bike next to the office window (cool!)
Finished the day with a great steak at the nearby Texas Roadhouse.
My apologies for the lack of interesting stories and photos, but today was for making miles. We'll see what tomorrow brings!
Great time of year to ride in TX and the southwest. Looking forward to more!
Looks good.. keep it comin' :thumb
Be careful...the edge of the Earth is somewhere on the other side of Van Horn.
:clap I hope that your trip continues to go well, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the story! I'll have to try your coffee/hotdog warming method sometime. :lol3
Nice report. Looks like fun.
Sounds like west texas all right.
80+ MPH, wind, poor fuel mileage.
This is a great time of year for that ride.:thumb
Wow what a great riding day
First off, when they say "EconoLodge", they mean it. My room smelled, well, smelly. It's also the first time I've ever had to put sheets on my own bed, and to top it off, there were only two sheets - no blankie, no disease ridden bedspread, just two flat sheets laying on a mattress. I won't discuss the mattress here, however...
Breakfast consisted of an amazing variety of Honeybuns, imitation Raisin Bran and slightly warmer than room temp coffee. And I was too lazy to warm them on my bike.
As I packed up the bike this morning, one of the guests (whom I'd seen checking in with what appeared to be a mail order bride) came over to talk bikes. He hadn't ridden in years and wanted to know all about the GS's. As much as I wanted to talk, I wanted to hit the road even more. But it goes with the territory so we talked for a while. I sooooooo wanted to ask him how he met his wife but was I was nice and didn't. But I digress.
My stuff on the bike
My stuff on the bike and ready to git
I had decided to take NM Hwy 9 along the border all the way to Arizona, and my cheapo map didn't show where it connected in El Paso. The gal behind the desk told me a series of ways, all of which I immediately forgot, and all I remembered was the road to start on. So I did and when I stopped for gas, the cashier gave me better directions. When I got near to 9, I plugged in the next town - "Columbus" - and punched in "shortest route". It led me through a warehouse district, where I saw a gigantic collection of those huge wind turbine blades. There had to be thousands stored there, and that is not an exaggeration.
The pavement ended shortly after, and after a mile or two on the sandy road, I saw what appeared to be a smoke stack with a pile of cardboard and junk around it. I veered and slowed down, only to realize the "smokestack" was an optical device and the cardboard was actually tan military canvas... It was a military observation spotting post for illegals, and I panicked momentarily, wondering if they'd shoot me for stopping and looking at them. I decided to act like something was wrong with the bike instead and go on rather than risking "an incident".
Another mile or two, I hit Hwy 9 and turned west. The sun was still low behind me and the temp was a bit nippy. The road was long and straight, with sand and cactus as far as you could see. A steady supply of Border Patrol passed me going both ways, and the one thing I'd forgotten about New Mexico was their ridiculous speed limits. 55. For the rest of the day.
At this point, many of you are saying, "55? So what? Ain't no cops out there!" I, however, have vivid memories of getting a ticket for going 70 in a NM 55 in the middle of nowhere, so there. Plus, having outted a military sniper/observation hide, I was sure they'd be watching me live by satellite at the CIA and were looking for an excuse to nuke me... not to mention having notified all law enforcement in seven states that a big guy on a weird bike was running the border alone. Thankfully, I'm not a paranoid person or I'd really be worried.
Hwy 9 stretches before me
I must say, that area is loaded with Border Patrol. On the highway, along the side roads, and further out, the observation balloons floating high in the sky.
I had assumed that Hwy 9 would be a long, flat boring stretch all the way to AZ, and even so, I had no desire to travel I-10. I was wrong. As the miles passed, the vistas were great - much like traveling in west Texas, but I dig that terrain. The road actually turned out to be a great ride. As I got further away from the city, there was no traffic, save for the occasional BP truck.
At points, the road runs fairly close to the border, and as I entered an area of washes and gullies, there appeared another observation camera post. It was in this general area that the observation balloons were watching as well, many miles back from the border. At one point you could see what appeared to be a fence along the border, but it also may have been a train track. Hard to tell.
Another interesting thing I saw were stacks of stones on the side of the road. They were stacked one on top of another as if signs, or on top of fence posts - but only in certain places. Didn't get a pic
I arrived at Columbus, home of the Pancho Villa Park and Museum, at what appeared to be an old fort. I toodled thru the town, had a long chat with 3 guys at the gas station about my bike, then zipped through the Pancho Villa Museum/Park parking lot but decided not to linger. Wish I'd had more time as the museum looked interesting.
The old hotel... Still reminds of that one I stayed in in Cody
Brian H, here's a fixer upper like you wanted me to find
Cool old tank
Roadside memorial on the way. One of many I saw. This one happened to be in a curve, but along barren stretches I saw simple wooden crosses against a fence - almost as if they knew someone had died somewhere on a piece of property. Made me wonder if they were for people who'd died trying to cross the desert.
After Columbus, I reached Hachita, where an old abandoned Catholic church sits in ruins. The old town has a lot of broken down adobe buildings and would be fun to photograph in detail.
Heading on toward Animas, the stretches of road were awesome, with huge areas of land visible between the mountains, and it reminded me of areas in Wyoming. At Vista, I swung off to see a sign informing that this was the continental divide. Vista was appropriately named, as from there you can see great distances. Loved it. I watched hawk after hawk sitting on cacti, watching me back. At one point a lone coyote trotted out in the road and watched me approach, doing a slow loop around me as I passed. To my left I saw a pool of water, which explained his boldness.
Crossing the continental divide
The colors of the rocks and mountains were getting redder as I moved towards AZ
Mountains in the distance - woohoo!
Approaching Animas, I dodged a couple of tumbleweeds as they tumbled straight down the road. Those suckers are big!
At Animas, I eventually gassed up at the "Boot Heel" store, eyed a 10 pack of home-made tortillas (which I didn't buy), and finally found a map of Arizona. I knew staying off I-10 it would be difficult to find maps, but truth be told it's difficult finding ANYTHING :D
A line for gas at the Boot Heel Store
While gearing up to leave, I heard a motorcycle horn and looked up to see a guy on a thumper heading east and giving a thumbs up. I gulped a bottle of water and headed on for Rodeo, New Mexico, or at least that's what I told the GPS. A little before Rodeo, there was the turn off to ride the forest service road over the Coronado Mountains and down to the Chiricahua National Monument area.
Them thar heels must be the Chiricahuas!
Going south on NM 80, I eventually found the Park sign and turned west to Portal, portal for the Chiricahua mountains and Coronado National Forest. The road led up into hills and trees filled with fall colors, and began to twist and turn as it entered the base of the mountains. I stopped at the Portal Store and Lodge to ask final directions before heading up.
This was a cool little place
The road led past fantastic rock formations, and slowly wound it's way up the canyon, the blacktop finally ending and the road becoming rougher as it climbed.
Signs warned of unmaintained roads and smuggling and illegal activity. The loaded GS purred it's way up the twists, getting just squirrelly enough in the gravel and rocks to keep my attention. As the road climbed, the views were fantastic. A large mulie ran down the road in front of me. I really enjoyed this part of the ride, but it was also hard to rubberneck at the scenery as I had to stay focused on the loose stuff. I'm guessing it was about 20 - 25 miles.
After climbing up and over, you drop down slowly on Pinery Road into the valley and eventually connect with the entry road into Chiricahua National Monument. The area was used by Geronimo as a hide, and the ride in brings views of stunning rock formations. I stopped at the main center and paid entry, as well as buying a detailed map of Arizona counties for tomorrow's ride. The lady working there was surprised I'd come over the mountain on the bike, but most folks assume you're on a Harley or such. My plan on leaving the park was to ride the Middlemarch Road over the mountain into Tombstone, but she said by the time I finished in the park and got over there it would be getting pretty late. Gauging time and distance here has been harder, since I'm geared for Texas speed limits, and factoring in 55 mph roads doesn't work for me.
Back in the empty parking lot, I decided to take a few minutes to rest, since I hadn't stopped all day, and while drinking a water, heard a grunt by my leg. I looked down and saw what I first thought to be a very large cat, and then realized it was not. It appeared to be a Coatamundi or ringtail or something, and It scared the heck out of me! He was big, weird looking and not what I'm used to seeing when I look down :D He then looked at my leg, then the back tire of the bike and turned to waddle off. By the time I got the camera out he was across the lot and when I chased after for a pic, he stopped and turned as if to say "Just try it you fool". Too funny...
The ride up into the park is shrouded in trees in a narrow valley, and occasionally you glimpse fantastic rock spires towering above. A road cut into the mountainside leads to the top, and offers fantastic views. At the top, I parked while a guy eyed my GS and poked his wife in the ribs. I walked down the path to a lookout area with an older couple and three other couples. Turns out they have a tradition of coming up to the park every year when they all gather for Thanksgiving. We yakked for a while and the guy who'd been checking out my bike started asking about it. It turns out he and his wife are the editors of a riding magazine called "Full Throttle" and he's been thinking of getting a GS.
The views from up top are great. There are hundreds of massive rocks standing like silent warriors in the trees. My pics are crappy and don't do justice to the scenes. The park is truly a beautiful place and shouldn't be missed if you're in the area. I wanted to stay and hike some, but the sun was beginning to get low and I knew it was a ways to Tombstone yet.
I coasted down the mountain road, alternating from the warm sun to the cold of the blue shadows. Looking at the sun, I knew it was too late to ride Middlemarch Road over to Tombstone, and I was getting tired, so I headed south on 181 to connect with 191 South. One of the maps showed a cut through road from 191 over to Tombstone by way of Gleeson, an old ghost town.
The dirt road was wide and easy, with enough silt and gravel to keep life interesting, but nothing difficult. I rode west into the slowly setting sun, occasionally being engulfed in a cloud of white dust from the pickup or car heading the other way. Suddenly, ahead I saw a cat - either a lynx or bobcat (possibly cougar) run quickly across the road about 150 feet ahead. I suspect it was a lynx, as he was larger than a bobcat and stockier, but with the sun and dust I couldn't see him clearly enough to say which.
A great day of riding was ending, and as I rode for Tombstone with a cloud of dust behind and the sun setting ahead, I couldn't help but think, "How cool is this!"
More manana mi amigos
(The Route and altitude)
Very nice report.....keep up the good work.
Bright blue skies, clean air, mixed road surfaces, wildlife that walks up and grunts at you. Lovin' it.
:thumb Thanks, LoneStar. I enjoyed seeing an area I knew nothing about.
Great Report! Thank you very much for sharing! http://smileyhost.net/61/B/t.gif
Very nice ride report. Some of the links for some of the photos are not coming through, though
I was ticketed for 73 in a 55 outside of Truth Or Consequences, NM at 2 AM years ago. Not one other car on the road, in either direction, during the whole interaction with the Officer, including the time it took him to flip a u-turn and come after me.
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