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Old 05-30-2013, 02:00 PM   #1
Dr. Greg OP
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Dr. Greg & Milledue II Spend 3 Days in the Black Range of New Mexico

Dr. Greg & Milledue II Spend 3 Days in the Black Range of New Mexico...

After my epic 8-day trip to my hometown of Hemet, California, I thought a "weekend-type" camping trip to (nearby) southern New Mexico was required (before it gets too hot down there) to clear my head of all those "California" cobwebs.

So this Ride Report is pretty lame (again); just some riding on the interstate, lotsa pics of too-dry mountain country, a creative way to cool bourbon, and, well, that's about all. Oh yeah, trusty 37,000-mile 2010 Ducati Multistrada ran flawlessly as usual. So if you still wanna read this, that's your choice...but I appreciate it!

Oh yeah, for you newbs, "Milledue" is not "MILDEW," but is pronounced "MEE-lay-DOO-ay" and is Italian "slang" for "twelve hundred"; I've decided it's my bike's name. And Milledue II is the successor to Milledue I, who was totaled in Colorado a couple years ago...that's it for the eDUCATIon. On with the ride report.


Day 1: Albuquerque, New Mexico to Iron Creek Campground

The "Black Range" is a sub-range of mountains within the general range of "Gila" mountains of south-central (and southwest) New Mexico. It is traversed by highway NM 152, which is a delightfully twisty road---legendary in these parts.

I have this big "trip list" and my routine is to gather everything on the nice epoxy floor of my shop (checking it off the list), then load it onto (into?) the bike. Took a self-portrait as I was just about done (meant to take a pic of all the gear on the floor but forgot).


Figure 1. Dr. Greg in his beautiful shop (well, I think so...)

Figure 1 shows me and Milledue. Yeah, those 45L Touratech cases are a bit large, but as you all know I take along a lot of stuff (yes, I was a Boy Scout). Venerable '06 Uly is still the commuter; what a great bike. But so is Milledue.

Leaving Albuquerque, there's nothin' else to do except head 165 miles south on I-25 and turn right on NM 152. The first stop is for fuel at Socorro (home of New Mexico Tech, a competitor but a darn good school). Er, I'm a retired professor at The University of New Mexico; heck, I'm a card-carrying one, see Figure 2 below...luckily those phone numbers are all disconnected.


Figure 2. I'm a card-carrying (retired) member of the UNM Faculty!

Anyway, fuel stop at Socorro; not quite sure why I took this pic, except I still remember that "pics of your bike at a gas station" thread...


Figure 3. Fuel stop in Socorro, New Mexico.

From Socorro to the NM 152 exit (heck, north of Socorro also, for that matter) there's a whole lot of this. Actually I never mind the "flyover" country (and this is a lot more interesting than some country I've ridden through).


Figure 4. Slabbing it southward from Socorro, New Mexico to the NM 152 exit.

Since it was early May, the temps were climbing, although not too bad yet...just wait till July!


Figure 5. Warmish day, but whaddya expect for May in the USA Southwest?

About 15 miles south of the town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico (any of you guys remember Bob Barker?) is the turnoff to NM 152. The "heart" of this road is from Kingston to the Mimbres area. Since it is impossible to take pics while riding this road, and there's nowhere to pull over (except the top, which will be later), this Google Map image gets the point across: Kingston is at the right, and my campground is about at the left of the image.


Figure 6. NM highway 152: what a great ride!

Gotta admit, the Multi 1200S is a lot of fun, even fully loaded. NM 152 is mostly a second-gear road (at my pace, that is). Finally got to the place:


Figure 7. Yup, Iron Creek Campground is the place.

My FAVORITE campsite was available (whew!); in fact, at 4:00 on Wednesday afternoon the campground was deserted---just like we like it!

First order of business is to get camp set up. Look at that DRY grass back in the forest...no need for a rain fly since the three-day forecast was for sun, sun, and more sun.


Figure 8. My camp; look at all that DRY grass---NM is in a DROUGHT!

Gotta fly the state flag on Milledue; looks like it's about ready to fall over, but I'll fix that.


Figure 9. Milledue II and the New Mexico state flag. Whoopee!

BTW, who says the Multistrada 1200 can't do single track! Lookit this:


Figure 10. Arduous stretch of single-track to my campsite---no problem for the mighty Multistrada!

Now, the first order of business is get camp set up. But the second order of business is to figure out a way to cool the plastic bottle of bourbon I brought along. This nearby pool of water didn't look too inviting:


Figure 11. Cooling my booze in this pool might be hazardous to my health!

BTW, when I was around 11 years old, I would've been all over that pool in Figure 11 finding various kinds of single-celled creatures (you know, paramecia, amoebas, etc.) for my microscope. But no more...

This pool looked a little better, and the water was surprisingly COLD...note plastic bottle at right.


Figure 12. Ah...bottle nicely chilling in the murky (but better) water.

Even though there wasn't much current, I wisely tied a cord around the bottle and then to a decent-sized rock. One can never be too sure...


Figure 13. Takes a pair of sharp eyes to spot the "safety cord" leading down the bank.

With that situation safely squared away, I tried (once again) to photograph the sunset. I think I get about one good sunset pic a year. In all fairness, this was not the ideal setting for a good sunset. As you can see...


Figure 14. The sun sets over a ridge in the Black Range of New Mexico.

I finally sat down to read for the night, iPad balanced on my knee...


Figure 15. Reading at the campsite ain't what it used to be...

Since it was Wagner's 200th birthday (the composer Richard Wagner, you uncultured morons), in honor of his mythological operas and such, I decided to read something a little supernatural:


Figure 16. A little H. P. Lovecraft in honor of Wagner's birthday...

Well, I spent an uneventful night, H. P. Lovecraft nightmares notwithstanding. In fact, in honor of that, I think I'll lay down for a nap right now (one of the privileges of retirement). I'll resume writing up some more of this ride report in an hour or so. See ya!

--Doc
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Old 05-30-2013, 02:40 PM   #2
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Old 05-30-2013, 03:54 PM   #3
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Well done, sir! Well done!

Someone give the man an apple!
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Old 05-30-2013, 04:00 PM   #4
Dr. Greg OP
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Dr. Greg & Milledue II Spend 3 Days in the Black Range of New Mexico...(con't.)

As you recall, I was happily ensconced with Wagner, and Lovecraft, and all that. Slept like a baby...actually, slept a lot BETTER than a baby. Having had 4 boys, I can personally attest to the fact that babies don't sleep very well. Enough of that.


Day 2: Dr. Greg Takes a Hike...

When I go camping, just sitting around the campsite gets old pretty fast. I've gotta DO something. And at a primitive campground like Iron Creek, there's really nothing to do.

Luckily about a mile down NM 152, there is a dirt road up "Railroad Canyon," which shortly becomes a hiking trail. That was my occupation for the day: take along a lunch and a couple water bottles and hike all day.

I tried to stay in the sleeping bag as long as possible (within reason)---after all, this is a vacation, right? After prolonging the morning as long as feasible, I loaded up the fanny pack and set off on my "hike."


Wild Animals!

After walking a half mile or so, a slight movement caught my eye: it was a javelina, a small "wild pig." Pretty common in the southwest, and not very good-tempered.



Figure 17. A "javelina"---small wild pig. Sometimes bad-tempered.

Fortunately this javelina---like most wildlife---just wanted to get away from me. Which he did, right up the side of a hill. Those guys can MOVE! It was kinda neat to see him---I suspected the drought had reduced the wildlife population somewhat, although it might also have driven what wildlife there WAS down into civilization in search of food. I always made sure my cases were latched tight at night...

A little while later I spotted some wildlife of a somewhat different type:


Figure 18. Somebody's cows getting fat on National Forest taxpayers' dollars.

I always feel a little "gypped" as a taxpayer when I see ranchers' cows fattening up (that is, denuding the vegetation) on National Forest land. Your tax dollars at work...

Once I got onto the "single-track" portion of the Railroad Canyon trail, I was gratified to at least find a little water. The stream was often underground, but sometimes visible. Being from the arid "US West," any running water is a miracle to me. I know, I should have gone thru the "Mississippi Flood of 1927" if I like running water so much...


Figure 19. At least there was a LITTLE running water in Railroad Canyon.


A little ways further along the trail there's an old corral. I time-lapsed a self-portrait at the corral:


Figure 20. An old corral...wonder how many cows passed thru here?

When I see things like this old corral, I think about what life must have been like back then. How many cows passed thru this corral? When was that? What were the "cowboys" like? And so on... Definitely been a while since this corral was used.

We all know that photographs of hills on roads never do the gradient justice---same thing with trails. This little section of uphill trail just made me groan when I saw it---I remembered it from the last time I hiked thru here. Time for the "rest step" I guess...but I made it.


Figure 21. This hill is worse than it looks (as usual).

And naturally, as soon as I gained the top of the ridge, the trail went right back down to the creek again. And being on foot, I couldn't even use that stored potential energy! Needed a wheel...


A Young Tree Makes this Old Guy Feel Young Again (for a while)

A few hundred yards later I happened upon this nice, green, vigorous-looking young pine tree: couldn't resist taking a pic...


Figure 22. This nice-looking little tree seemed to give me a little hope.

The photo doesn't show it too well, but this little tree just looked so, well, optimistic that it really touched me. Kinda like a new generation that is coming on the scene to take the place of the old, tired-out guys like me. Almost brought a tear to my eye. OK, ok, I'll regain my objectivity...


Finally after about 3 miles I came to the trail junction which was my destination. Time for lunch. Found a nice comfy rock (!) to sit on---man, I miss my folding chair!


Figure 23. Time for lunch. Man, that ROCK ain't all that comfy to sit on!

And I was BEAT! When I camped here 2-3 years ago, I hiked about 12-14 miles on this same trail. But today I was done for. I guess that bout with mycobacterium asiaticum back in Spring 2011 took some starch out of me. Plus, I am getting older. Maybe I can regain a little fitness, but being bushed after only 3 miles of mild uphill was an eye-opener. Sigh. Maybe a couple granola bars will help revive me.

On the way back down the canyon I saw some more "wildlife"...


Figure 24. More wildlife---hope she doesn't attack!

This is the first time I've seen any livestock up this canyon---must be the drought.

At this particular spot on the creek, the water should be over my ankles. Hardly any water this year.


Figure 25. High and dry; water SHOULD be over my ankles...

I've heard that New Mexico is in the worst drought of any of the 50 states. Sure seems like it to me.


Once back at camp, man it felt good to sit down. After a while, I walked down to Iron Creek to go fishin'...look what I caught!


Figure 26. Dr. Greg isn't really a fisherman, but he caught something!

Don't worry, I made sure to clean the grit from around the cap before I poured...


When I sat down to read that evening, I put on my headphones as usual (Wagner, of course...hey, it's the man's birthday, or it was yesterday). My third son Mark (living in Yantai, CHINA with his beautiful wife Zoe) is an expert "knitter," and gave me this amazing knitted "headphone cord cover" for my birthday. Couldn't resist showing you a pic...isn't that a cool knitting project? And extremely useful for keeping the headphone cords from tangling.


Figure 27. Look at that hand-knitted headphone cable-cover!


Well, that's it for "Day 2" of this little trip. Gotta take a "natural break" then do my yoga. I'll finish this ride report up after that. Thanks guys.

--Doc
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Old 05-31-2013, 04:14 PM   #5
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Day 3: Back Home to Albuquerque, New Mexico

Well, two nights were enough for me, so on Friday morning I loaded Milledue and prepared to depart the Black Range of the Gila Mountains:


Figure 28. Milledue prepares to take on the fearsome stretch of single-track...


On the way back out on NM 152, I stopped at the "overlook" at Emory Pass:


Figure 29. At the top of Emory Pass, elevation 8,000 feet.

It was a little hazy, but I've seen it worse. A lot of the haze is blown dust from the drought.

On the way back towards I-25 on NM 152, one can see the closest thing to a real lake in New Mexico: Elephant Butte Lake (actually there are a number of nice lakes). I've heard that on Memorial Day & Labor Day weekends, Elephant Butte Lake turns into the 3rd largest city in New Mexico (behind Albuquerque and Santa Fe). Boy, I wouldn't wanna be there...


Figure 30. Approaching I-25 on NM 152; Elephant Butte Lake in the distance.


The Fort Craig "Boondoggle"...

Fort Craig operated in New Mexico from around 1850 - 1880 or thereabouts. I've enjoyed reading about some history since retirement, and Fort Craig did play a substantial role in New Mexico's small contribution to the U.S. Civil War. On this same camping trip 5 years ago on my '06 Uly, I tried to visit Fort Craig, but the Uly broke down on the way there (the first of FOUR straight breakdowns it sustained). Mrs. Greg brought the pickup to retrieve me (a ways south of Socorro, NM), and we had a little trouble loading it (I had found shade under an overpass):



Figure 31. Some problems loading the broke-down Uly back in '08

But on THIS trip I expected no such problems from Milledue II. Turns out the road to Fort Craig becomes gravel for about five miles; I've done a lot of dirt riding, but I had a HORRIBLE bout with SILT on this very same Multistrada a couple years ago, and ever since I've been a little wary of unpaved surfaces.


Figure 32. Milledue does fine on gravel road; Dr. Greg is still a little wary.

Once I got to "Fort Craig," it was a little, um, UNDERWHELMING...




Figure 33. Here we are at Fort Craig---there ain't much here!

This was also the primary complaint from the soldiers stationed at Fort Craig: "THERE AIN'T NOTHIN' HERE!!!" I can completely understand.

For any history buffs, the "Battle of Valverde" was fought near the mesa in Figure 34.


Figure 34. The Battle of Valverde (Civil War) was fought just to the left of this mesa.

Well, at least the Multistrada didn't break down...thus ends the Fort Craig "Boondoggle"...


The Mighty RIO GRANDE River---almost home...

On the way down to the Black Range, I tried to snap a pic of the Rio Grande River just south of Albuquerque, but my darn camera "jammed"...so I thought I'd try again on the return trip. So here it is:


Figure 35. The mighty Rio Grande just south of Albuquerque

The pic of Figure 35 actually makes it look like a decent-sized river. But looks are deceiving: its depth is probably about one foot. And May-June are the "high-water months" here; by September it'll be down to a trickle. That darned drought! Driest (that word doesn't look right) two-year period in more than a century. "Fire season" is gonna be scary.

Well, that's about it for this trip. Not very exciting, but I felt like writing it up anyway.

I keep waiting for the Multistrada to give me reason to get rid of it (got my eye on the new GS), but the darned thing keeps running beautifully. Can't complaint about that. 37,000+ miles and counting...

Got it in mind to do a trip loosely following the "Oregon Trail" next. Maybe head up to the NE corner of Colorado and head west from there. Maybe get out to the West Coast, maybe not. Whatever I do, I'll certainly write up a Ride Report!

Thanks folks...see you later.

--Doc
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Old 05-31-2013, 05:48 PM   #6
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Nice trip. Thanks.
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Old 06-01-2013, 06:14 AM   #7
oldmanb777
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Nice. I have wanted to explore that area for a long time. I read a great book a few years ago, called "Black Range Tales". It's stories about the 1800's in the area. Well worth the read. It gives real insight into what life was like there in the 1800's.
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