Dr. Greg & Wotan take a 4-day "Tour of Southern New Mexico"
Dr. Greg & Wotan Take a 4-Day Trip Through Southern New Mexico...
All winter, Mrs. Greg had been suggesting that I take a "motel" trip down thru southern New Mexico. So I finally did. BTW, I took a lot of pictures...just skim thru them if you get bored.
My plan was to leave Albuquerque and take a "clockwise" route around the lower part of New Mexico. Some of these roads I've ridden before, others were new.
Wotan?! What happened to Milledue?
Well, Milledue (my 2010 Ducati Multistrada 1200S) is now residing near Kalamazoo, Michigan. After putting 50,000 miles on the MTS1200 (well, two of them, you recall the first one got TOTALLED on hoarfrost), I decided to test-ride the new R1200GSW. In the first 20 miles I knew it was the bike I needed for the rest of my life. Hence I'm now riding Wotan (surely you guys know your Wagner operas, don't you?)
If anyone would be interested in my thoughts on Multistrada vs. GSW, I'll have a link to a writeup at the end of this ride report. I'd do it now, but I wanna start the ride report first.
Figure 1. Dr. Greg and Wotan. What a great bike!
Figure 1 shows me and the new GSW. The one bike the dealer had was "grey" in color---a perfect match for my beard (and hair) color. "Old man grey" was the color I would have chosen anyway...so it was all perfect. I've got exactly 11,683 miles on Wotan so far, and I absolutely LOVE this bike. Like I said, my "epilogue" will have a link to an essay more fully describing my thoughts. So onward to the ride report...
Day 1---After 40 Miles the good Dr. Heads Back Home...WHUPPED!
Leaving Albuquerque on I-40 Eastbound, after about 15 miles I headed South on NM 14 (now named 337, but we locals always call it "south 14"). It's a little twisty---a nice road. About 15 miles down 14, there's a summit that I love---there's a long view down to the seemingly endless plains of SE New Mexico and Texas beyond. Figure 2 shows that view:
Figure 2. A view toward the plains of SE New Mexico and Texas. Note the barely-visible cloudbank.
That seemingly innocuous cloudbank spelled trouble, because---in my experience in this area---those clouds indicate cold, clammy fog down on the plains. And after 40 miles, I had to cry "UNCLE" because of the temperature. See my dashboard thermometer at lower right of Figure 3:
Figure 3. Temperature down on the high plains...too cold for Dr. Greg!
A moment after snapping Figure 3, the temp actually dropped to 22 degrees. That was it---I turned around and headed home. I was reminded of the quote from Sinclair Lewis' The Jungle: "being defeated is one thing, admitting you're defeated is something else." I was both. With my tail 'twixt my legs, I turned around.
Day 1a---Let's Start this Ride Over Again...WHUPPED!
As I sat reading in my easy chair that evening, Mrs. Greg appealed to me to try again the next morning (I guess she really wanted me out of the house :wave). So I did. Since I had ridden 80 miles the previous day, and it was 150 miles to the first gas stop at Carrizozo, I had to stop and refuel on the way out the next morning...that's something I never like to do. But here we are doing so in Figure 4.
Figure 4. Refueling for a second attempt at this boondoggle ride.
The weather heading East on I-40 actually looked worse than the day before (Figure 5.)
Figure 5. Heading east on I-40 a second time; weather actually looks worse.
Shortly after turning on "South 14" I snapped Figure 6 just to show you there is at least one corner in this road. It's actually fairly enjoyable.
Figure 6. Riding south on NM 14 (337) a second time; this is actually a somewhat fun road. More clouds than yesterday.
After 10 more miles, the infamous "view" to the south came up again---Figure 7 shows the same view as Figure 2 earlier. YAY!! No "cloudbank" down near the horizon. There's hope!
Figure 7. No cloudbank down near the horizon!! (compare w/Figure 2).
And when I got near the "turnaround" spot from the day before, just look at the temperature in Figure 8:
Figure 8. No cloudbank down near the horizon!! (compare w/Figure 2).
OK, ok, so you can't actually SEE the temperature cuz of the glare, but it starts with a "5"...so that means it's fifty-something degrees. THIRTY degrees warmer than the day before. Excellent. I might actually complete this ride. Little did I know...
A few miles further along I noticed this cool-looking "lenticular" (lens-shaped) cloud off to the southeast.
Figure 9. A "lenticular" (lens-shaped) cloud. Indicates WIND.
Figure 9 is by no means the best example of a lenticular cloud I've ever seen, but hey, it's something. And being late winter (early spring?) in New Mexico, one thing that's sure is---WIND.
Finally got to the junction with NM 55. This is the spot where I turned around yesterday. Being a full THIRTY degrees warmer today, things were lookin' good.
Figure 10. At the junction of NM 14 and NM 55 somewhat SE of ABQ.
A much warmer day, expectation of a fun multi-day trip, and a great-running motorcycle underneath me combined to put Dr. Greg in a very positive state of mind---something he doesn't achieve very often.
After about 70 miles one comes to the small town of Mountainair, New Mexico. Figure 11 shows the historic "Shaffer Hotel." Back when I rode with the HSTA we used to ride here for lunch a lot. I think the food's gone downhill since then (based on my one stop here a coupla years ago).
Figure 11. The "historic" Shaffer Hotel in Mountainair, New Mexico.
If you have sharp eyes you can read the mileage sign in Figure 11: "Gran Quivira 25" and "Claunch 39"---I will be stopping at both (and taking fotos, naturally).
Salinas Pueblo Missions---Gran Quivira Ruins
25 miles SE of Mountainair one finds the Gran Quivira Ruins of the Salinas Pueblo Missions. There are actually two other sites: the Abo and Quarai Ruins.
Figure 12. Gran Quivira Ruins.
In the words of the National Park Service,
"In the stones of the Salinas Valley pueblo ruins are faint echoes of the communities that lived there 300 years ago. Before they left the area in the 1670s, Pueblo Indians forget a stable agricultural society whose members lived in apartment-like complexes and participated, through rule and ritual, in the cycles of nature."
These people had roots as far back as 7,000 years ago, and were themselves preceded by nomadic Indians who may have arrived as early as 20,000 years ago.
So have a little respect...:nod
Figure 13. Here's a view up the hill at some of the ruins.
They planted corn eight inches deep?! I'm not a "corn" guy but that seems pretty deep...
Figure 14. Seems like that's mighty deep for planting corn.
Figures 15, 16, and 17 show some more views of the ruins...
Figure 15. Almost looks like some kind of kiva.
Figure 16. Was this the church?
Figure 17. Many rooms.
In Figure 18, Dr. Greg reads about the Salinas Pueblo Indians.
Figure 18. They "had their day, and ceased to be..." Us, too?
Claunch, New Mexico---Pinto Bean Capital of the...well, the Region. Well, it used to be...
The Salinas Pueblo ruins always make me reflect, like the caption of Figure 18. Those people could live out there on basically nothing. Pretty impressive. Here in Albuquerque, the electricity went off for about 30 minutes this morning, and we were all paralyzed. Buncha wimps. Actually not really; wait a couple more riding days...
Anyway, continuing SE for another dozen miles...as is shown in Figure 19...
Figure 19. Riding S on NM 55; Sierra Blanca (12,003 ft) in the distance.
...one first encounters the "Claunch Cemetery." I've never stopped here, but sometimes these old cemeteries are fascinating. Prolly quite a few pioneers interred here.
Figure 20. Claunch Cemetery.
At Claunch, New Mexico, there is (1) a church, and (2) a Post Office. Oh yeah, and (3) the defunct pinto bean elevator. All displayed below for your viewing pleasure:
Figure 21. The Claunch Community Church.
Figure 22. The Claunch Pinto Bean Elevator. Out of business.
And Figure 23 shows the Post Office. It has TWO couches inside, a library, and always good company...
Figure 23. The Claunch Post Office (ZIP 87011). Very much IN business...
Inside the cozy Claunch Post Office I greeted Postmistress Shelly, and one of the elder statesmen of Claunch; both shown in Figure 24.
Figure 24. Postmistress Shelly (L) and one of Claunch's elder citizens (R).
Shelly showed me that the P.O. now has TWO couches! Here's a photo of one, with a bunch of Dr. Greg's gear strewn on it. Now that's what I call a nice Post Office: good company, two couches, a bunch of books, and a warm stove!
Figure 25. The Claunch P.O. now has TWO couches!
After exchanging pleasantries for a while, the elderly gentleman brought out this copy of an old U.S. Gov't. Executive Order---his pride and joy:
Figure 26. Beginning of the end for the U.S. Government...
We all agreed that if the U.S.A. doesn't do something pretty soon, it's curtains! Of course, I'm sure we'd all have somewhat different preferred strategies, but I didn't want to get into that. I grew up in a small village where I could go hunting right out my back door; shooting everything in sight, riding (motor) bikes (no dirt bikes back then; just put a big sprocket on the back for dirt riding), making bombs with the crazy chemicals my dad got for me (like potassium perchlorate and picric acid...I'm sure the ATF guys would be on me now). But things have changed. Sigh. Every time I go thru Claunch I think "I could live here." But I'm not sure; I need too much STUFF...
I reluctantly took my leave of Claunch, New Mexico, and headed (yet again) Southeast for Carrizozo. Sierra Blanca (12,003 ft) was getting closer...
Figure 27. On NM 55 between Claunch & Carrizozo, NM. Sierra Blanca (12,003 ft) getting ever closer.
Carrizozo, New Mexico---Lunch at the "4 Winds Restaurant."
Another 30 miles brought me to the "Crossroads of New Mexico" (self-proclaimed)...Carrizozo! The "4 Winds" restaurant to be found there is one of my favorite lunch stops. Also there's (finally) a gas station. Hah, looks the "IRAN" in the sign. Not even close.
Figure 28. My favorite restaurant in Carrizozo, New Mexico.
My absolute favorite waitress of all time (don't know her name) seems to always be on duty here. You know the kind: always cheerful, joking with everybody, ruthlessly efficient, etc. I snapped a blurry image of her...she was movin' fast:
Figure 29. My favorite waitress of all time at the "4 Winds" restaurant.
She always makes me feel good. Anyway, I got to feelin' so good that I forgot to take a picture of my burger till it was almost finished...mmm good!
Figure 30. No ADV Ride Report would be complete w/o some "food" pics.
BTW, I'm currently reading the book American Nations by Colin Woodard. It was recommended by someone during my "Civil War" ride report a couple years ago. Excellent book. The iPad sure makes taking reading material along on trips a lot easier...
Since Carrizozo is the "crossroads of New Mexico" I have a choice of routes. I planned on heading East from here on US 380 to go through the historic town of Lincoln, New Mexico (scene of the "Lincoln County War" in the 1880s). On the way to Lincoln I passed thru the little town of Capitan. I have to pay homage to "Chuck's Tire Shop" in Capitan, since they fixed a TKC-80 for me on my very first ride with those tires on the GS. Also "Henry" at H&H Towing in Capitan...all good folks. Lotta good folks around here.
Figure 31. Chuck's Tire Shop in Capitan, NM---highly recommended!
Just before getting to Lincoln, this notch in the hills ahead holds the Rio Bonito, the river than runs through Lincoln.
Figure 32. That gap ahead cradles the Rio Bonito near Lincoln, New Mexico.
Oops! One more pic before we get to Lincoln---that's "Capitan Gap" in the mountains to the north---that's the place the REAL Smokey Bear was found as a cub during a forest fire. Looks like the "Smokey" sign has acquired a few bullet holes over the years. Well, this is New Mexico.
Figure 33. Capitan Gap in the distance---home of "Smokey the Bear."
Lincoln, New Mexico. "Billy the Kid" Country and the Lincoln County War.
That building in the background of Figure 34 is a replica of the old Lincoln County Courthouse. That's where Billy the Kid made his notorious escape in April, 1881.
Figure 34. The old Lincoln County courthouse.
The courthouse is full of historical artifacts and pictures. I didn't have time to spend much time there today, but I've stopped there many times in the past. I'll post a few pictures I've taken on past trips.
Figure 35. Lincoln, New Mexico was quite a place.
Figure 36. The Lincoln County War.
Figure 37. Enter Billy the Kid.
Figure 38. The Kid's notorious escape.
Figure 39. Bob Olinger was reputedly a real bully---good riddance!
Figure 40. J.W. Bell was apparently a good guy who was in the "wrong place."
Figure 41. Sheriff Pat Garrett---a Steely-Eyed Lawman if I ever saw one.
There are MANY books about Billy the Kid, the Lincoln County War, and the general region. I find them VERY interesting. After doing tech stuff for 40 years, it's nice to learn about the rest of the world...
Done for the day!
Well, fellas, I'm just about typed out for the day. I wanted to finish up this day of riding, but I've got too much other stuff to do. Tomorrow is my "consulting" day (I work one day a week for a medical robotics company) so I don't know how much I'll write tomorrow. But I promise to finish the whole trip this week.
I gave up writing "live" ride reports---I just don't have the stamina at my advanced age :lol3
Thanks for the RR Dr Greg, you are looking good on your GS, ride safe, keep the history lessons coming.
You can't go wrong with gray and the Beamer fits you well. We look forward to the rest of your ride report and you can't post too many pics of one of our favorite places on earth. KC is diggin' the beard by the way!:lol3
"The Ride Is Never Long Enough!"
GRAY!:D '07 wee-strom
Very excited about another Dr G ride report.:clap
Congrats on the new bike - looks sweet! Well kitted too...:deal
Sweeeeeeeeet looking bike! Congrats on that!
Looking forward to reading the rest of your report!
Love this stuff!!! Thanks Dr. Greg
Day 1 (con't)---Let's get you guys a little further down the road...
Leaving Lincoln, NM it was a scant 10 miles to the junction of US 70, which makes a sharp turn to the SW as it climbs up into the towns of Ruidoso Downs & Ruidoso. But before the turnoff I snapped one last pic along the Rio Bonito ("beautiful river") in "Billy the Kid" country. Yeah, the dry country of Figure 42 may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I love the desert country. And there's a heck of a lot more to come!
Figure 42. A final view from "Billy the Kid" country along the Rio Bonito, just east of Lincoln, New Mexico.
Ruidoso Downs & Ruidoso, New Mexico
As I said, I turned SW on US 70 and climbed into the Lincoln National Forest, approaching the "communities" of Ruidoso Downs and Ruidoso. BTW, at this point I was ESE of the aforementioned 12,003-foot Sierra Blanca, which dominates the Sacramento mountains (and is visible a long ways away).
Most of US 70 along this region is 4-lane, cuz the raison d'etre for Ruidoso Downs is the big horse racing track there, and the raison d'etre (I had French in high school :ymca) for Ruidoso is the big hotel/casino there. Neither of which are of much interest to me. But to each his own, I guess...
BTW, lotta Texans recreate in these parts, and they pronounce it "RIA-DOSA"... No offense to any Texans out there; I've received copious amounts of hospitality in Texas, and they are fine and honorable people. I just get a kick out of how they talk...
Looking for NM 244...
If you stay on US 70, you drop out of the mountains into Tularosa. Such was not my intent. My map showed a little gray highway labeled "NM 244" which cut to the SE and appeared to be a shortcut to Cloudcroft (from near which, it was a straight shot to my day's final destination of Artesia, Nuevo Mexico).
So I finally cleared all the horsetracks, and casinos, and hotels, and traffic, and...where the heck was NM 244? I started to descend pretty decisively, and I was beginning to make alternate route plans, when finally the turnoff to the left onto NM 244 appeared. Excellent! :thumb
A pickup truck (they comprise about 95% of the vehicles in these here parts...) turned in front of me, but I gassed the GSW on the short straight and got by him. It's OK...I waved after I passed. Now let's find out what this NM 244 road is like...
...well, it was pretty da*n nice! No traffic, lotsa curves, not a bad surface (that doesn't matter much to a GS(W) rider, right?) And on UP it went. And up. And up. And UP. There were so many curves I didn't have much opportunity to snap a pic (honest, Mrs. Greg, I'm bein' careful). Finally, I clicked the foto you see in Figure 43.
Figure 43. A view along NM 244. Little bit of snow...there'd be more!:eek1
NM 244 FINALLY levelled off. It was a lot higher than I thought...barely had time to snap the GPS in Figure 44. There was a LOT of snow on both sides of the road---luckily the road was pretty much dry. Hey, 8,750 feet is not bad---I recall when in South Carolina on my Civil War trip I was in the single digits on elevation).
Figure 44. The high point along NM 244---a very fun road!
BTW, the GPS in Figure 44 is guiding me to Cloudcroft, New Mexico, hence the "Right on US 82" message. Actually I planned to turn LEFT on US 82 and head directly for Artesia. But ya gotta play games with the stupid GPS's to get them to do what you want...what's the saying, "to REALLY get lost ya need a GPS." And sometimes it's the awful truth :confused.
Before I leave the unexpectedly fun (and pretty) high country of NM 244 (I'll definitely be back), here's a pic of pretty little high valley up there. There was no traffic (I actually met a rider on a V-Strom :thumb), no people...just the way we like it! Won't this valley be pretty come summer? You betcha :thumb. I'll be there.
Figure 45. A pretty little mountain valley along NM 244.
Onward to Artesia, and my Fleabag Motel.
Finally had to leave the mountains (BTW, had the Gerbing jacket liner cranked up to a reasonably high % during the NM 244 episode) and slowly drop down into the infamous high plains of Southeast New Mexico.
Once I started descending, the road dropped pretty quickly until there I was---the junction of US 82 a few miles east of Cloudcroft, New Mexico. I snapped Figure 46 as a last view of the mountain ambiance for the day...
Figure 46. Here is Wotan at the junction of NM 244 & US 82 (directly behind us).
A few of you have commented on the appearance of the GSW---I know I'm biased, but I think the GSW (and all R1xx0 GS's, for that matter) are BEAUTIFUL bikes. I'm a mechanical engineer, and I LOVE to have a vehicle with a MECHANICAL PRESENCE. My '92 Ducati 900SS has it, my 2010 Ducati Multi 1200S's had some of it, but the GSW definitely has it. I really, really, REALLY like the appearance of the GS(W). The only thing I like better is riding it. After almost 12K miles it's just getting better. After 50K miles on the MTS1200, I've had more compliments (and people wanting to discuss the bike) in 12K miles with the GSW. Something about it just attracts interest. Sometimes I enjoy that, other times I just wanna be on my way. Either way, I'm SOOOO glad I took that test ride...OK, ok, enough bike worship :dhorse
PS. I can hear you scoffing at those TKC-80s, but---trust me---they'll come in handy in a coupla days :eek1
In Praise of FOOTHILLS.
Although I love the mountains, I almost love the FOOTHILLS more. Either coming or going, they're like the appetizer before the hors d'oeuvre (did I spell that right?). Something about foothills always gets me. And for some reason I kinda like the foto I took in Figure 47. The composition---I've got (1) the dry plains scenery of eastern New Mexico, (2) the edge of the mountains (the odd pinon tree) in the rearview mirror, and (3) my shadow while taking the photo down on the tarmac. I just liked it! So you should, too...:D
Figure 47. Dr. Greg's "artfully-composed" pic exiting the New Mexico mountains onto the Eastern high plains.
Well, once you're really and truly down onto the Eastern plains of New Mexico...there's really not too much there. Some folks call this part of the USA "flyover" country, but in my opinion there ain't no such thing. Flyover country gives your mind a chance to relax, and reflect...my oh my...I badly needed this trip. Thank you, Mrs. Greg, for kicking me out of the house. Y'know...you guys have heard it..."I used to ride till I got married, the wife said it's me or the bike..." Just breaks my heart. I did it right---I courted Mrs. Greg on my '73 RD350, so she knew what she was gettin' into. What a woman :sweeti Oops, better stop now before this gets R-rated (or worse). Figure 48 shows the "flyover" country. Humph. Would you rather be here or stuck in traffic in the middle of some city...
Figure 48. The expansive ("flyover") New Mexico Eastern plains. One's mind expands...
Artesia, New Mexico, and the END of Day 1a.
It was just DELIGHTFUL dropping down US 82 thru Mayhill, Elk, and Hope, New Mexico (all tiny little villages). Nice tailwind, lowering sun...a fine-runnin' machine...you know the drill. Once I arrived in Artesia, I turned South on US 285, and picked the first "fleabag" motel I could find. After that fine lunch repast in Carrizozo, I had a scant snack for dinner, and enjoyed reading outside my room as the evening drew to a close. Yeah, the traffic noise on US 285 was a little intrusive, but Mrs. Greg had given me these cool Bose "sound-cancelling" headphones, so I didn't hear a thing, except the music I was listenin' to---Sibelius' Tone Poems, IIRC.
Figure 49. The good Dr. chillin' outside his fleabag motel room in Artesia, New Mexico, USA. The planet Earth.
What a WONDERFUL day. I'm SO glad I waited a day (actually, "tried again") to start this ride. BTW, when I had left the day before, within 500 yds of my home the left case fell off (gotta make sure those Rapid-Trap latches "ping" when you push them on). Sure glad that didn't happen on I-40 :eek1 !
I needed this trip. Getting away by myself definitely keeps me sane. I respect folks that like traveling in groups, but this old reprobate needs to be by himself. Especially when I can camp. Anyway, I'm off to a good start.
The plan for tomorrow is to take US 285 for about 30 miles south, then turn off on NM 137 to "Sitting Bull Falls." I've wonderful memories of family vacations in the 80s, stopping (and camping) by Sitting Bull Falls. Gotta see if it's still there...
So that's it for today, fellas. I've got more time tomorrow to work on the RR, so we oughta be able to cover some more ground. I'm sure enjoying writing this up---seems like trips these days come in two parts: (1) the enjoyment of the trip itself, and (2) the enjoyment of writing it up to share with everyone (mainly myself---I LOVE reading my old Ride Reports :thumb).
Thanks for sharing your ride and pics. Looking for a link to your Multi vs. GSW comparison.
My pleasure Sir!!! I sent you a PM.
Hmmm, well then I guess I have to really write that comparison. I was kinda hoping nobody was interested so that would get me off the hook. But I'll do my best to be objective; it may take me a few days but I'll get 'er done.
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