We’ve got a week off from work and we’re going on a ride. Being late February it seems prudent to head south looking for warmer weather. For this trip we’re heading to Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas. According to Google maps it will be at least a 7 hour drive to get there if we take the super slab so I suppose it will take a whole lot longer than that taking the back roads.
We don’t actually plan our trips. Rather we prefer to just have a general idea of where we’re headed and figure it out as we go. This is supposed to be a vacation so no sense in stressing out trying to stick to a bunch of plans made beforehand. You never know what sorta crazy stuff’s gonna happen on a bike trip. The dog was sent to the ranch, the thermostat was set to 50 F, the bikes are loaded, and we’re off.
A shot of Kerry and her fancy new Tiger 800XC all farkled and loaded up for the trip.
And a peek at my rig.
A shot of the temps at home. Yup, 35 degrees out. And did you notice the snow at the side of our driveway in the first shot?
Here’s hoping for warmer temps in the days to follow. We climb up another 1500-2000 feet leaving our place heading south through the Manzano mountains. I recall it getting down to 27 F at one point. A few more shots of our ride south towards Mountainair, NM.
The goal for the day is to get to Pecos, TX. The planned route is to head south through Carrizozo, or Cherryzozo as I like to call it as that is where they make the best cherry cider ever, and then head up through Ruidoso and Cloudcroft if the weather cooperates.
As we ride south from Mountainair the winds pick up and it stays cold despite losing just a hair over 1000 feet of elevation. The roads were mostly straight with grand vistas off in the distance. It is the grand views of endless sight that I really enjoy most about New Mexico. They always seem to draw me in, making me wonder what view lies over the next rise in the landscape.
Some perceive this place as burnt, brown, nothingness but I derive great solace from these horizons that are ever so far away.
We’d gassed up in Mountainair so we were plenty good on fuel for another couple of hours. We rolled through Carrizozo and quickly approach the turn off to climb up to Ruidoso via route 37. I clicked on the Sena SR10 communicators we’d recently picked up and we discussed the options. We agreed we were “adventuring” so we’d better take the high road. So off we went up into the mountains.
Fortunately the weather in the mountains was fabulous. We stopped at the Log Cabin restaurant for a break and some lunch. The food was acceptable but can’t say that I would recommend going out of your way to eat at this place. Leaving Ruidoso we turned off on to a much smaller road, 244, that would take us to Cloudcroft. I spied a potential dirt route cutting through the Mescalero Apache reservation that appeared to cut out a significant portion of highway according to the NM High Roads map. Here’s a couple of shots of us traveling down our first segment of dirt. Woohoo!
After about 9 miles we ran into a local resident, an Apache fellow who was working on some sort of irrigation system when we rolled up. We chatted a bit and he told us that a local land owner down the road a bit further had recently put up gates and locked them to keep out the hunters. He doubted we could get through but he urged us to try. Alas we soon came to a locked gate forcing us to turn around. On the way out he laughed at us as his half a dozen or so horses were either spooked or just being territorial and they swooped in around us as we rode slowly back passed his place. Fun times indeed. This was a memorable detour despite it not working out. On the Benchmark maps this road is shown as 2 down Elk Creek and is indeed blocked by a gate.
We were soon back on the paved road 244 and the remainder up to Cloudcroft was a fantastic bit of twisty goodness. At Cloudcroft we picked up route 82 and headed down and east towards Artesia. The first 30 or 40 miles of this road was super fun. The turns were effortless as we flowed down alongside of river or stream for quite a while. Nice road I’d definitely do again some day.
Eventually the road flattened and straightened out, and the winds picked up. We fought a strong cross wind for the last 30 miles into Artesia. It was strong enough that our necks were quite sore by the time we headed south again. The hour was getting late as we rolled through town. Artesia looks like it might be a decent place to grab a steak for dinner and crash for the night. Perhaps on another trip.
We hit 285 and rolled on south to Carlsbad. By now it was way past dark but we still had 80 or so miles to go to get to Pecos, TX. As we gassed up I ran into the store and scored us a couple of energy drinks – Starbuck’s Mocha Frappucino’s from the refrigerator case – to get us through the final leg of riding for the day. The road to Pecos was dark, straight, and boring as hell, but fortunately the speed limit was 75 mph so we knocked this out in about an hour. We had booked a room at the local prefered camp site known as Hampton Inn, and didn’t even need to bring our own tent. We were knackered and after inhaling a quick dinner of chicken fried steak (when in Texas…) we had a good solid snooze.