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A Little Weekend Ride to Cloudcroft, NM

Joined
Feb 20, 2006
Messages
1,210
Location
Cypress (NW Houston)
"What a beautiful morning for a ride!" I murmured to the wind as I rolled through San Antonio, TX at 9AM on Friday, April 20, 2007. I was on my way to Cloudcroft, NM for a Sport-Touring.Net gathering. Normally I would just be arriving at work at this time. Instead, I had a long 760 miles ahead of me and, just at that moment, each one seemed infinitely better than anything I might have accomplished on any given work day.

I flew across Texas on the wings of my 2005 BMW R1200ST, eating the miles on I10. Most riders would find 500+ miles of straight interstate to be mind-numbing, but I had blue skies, dramatic clouds, and my XM radio to entertain me.

I left the interstate in Ft Stockton, TX and turned toward New Mexico.

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US285 took me north through Pecos, TX and Loving, NM before rolling through the larger town of Carlsbad, NM. The day had warmed up, and it seemed that I hit every single red light in the city. A pair of cruiser riders struck up a conversation that lasted through several traffic lights hit side by side.

I turned west in Artesia, NM and soon passed through the desolate and dejected town of Hope.

Sixty miles from my destination, I entered low rolling foothills. The speed limit was 55 mph, but every single car I saw passed me as though I were parked. I ramped up my speed and watchfully enjoyed myself.

The last 40 miles into Cloudcroft were alone worth the 700+ grueling miles I had ridden that day. The desert fell away into real mountains! I swept and swooped around the curves, pressing hard on the bars and powering out with all the raging grunt of the R1200ST's boxer twin.

With the sun beginning to set, I dared not stop for pictures, wanting to both fully enjoy the turns and reach Cloudcroft before dark.

Finally rolling into town, the GPS directed me to the hotel and I parked at the end of a long row of sport-touring bikes. Rabidsnipe was loitering around the otherwise abandoned motorcycles. While we were exchanging greetings, a fellow rider arrived from the BBQ where the rest of the group was enjoying dinner. It was about to close, so I ordered a plate of take-out and joined the rest of the party back at the bikes.

Cricket from Oklahoma, who I've ridden with in the past, had assumed that I would be grumpy after such a long riding day and thoughtfully procured a six pack of Peach Bacardi for me. Proving him wrong, I met the other riders with all the bubbliness and cheer that I could muster, while drinking the first of the bottles.

We mingled by the bikes for several hours before agreeing to meet for breakfast in the morning.

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__________________
I stepped out of my room at the agreed upon time of 8AM and found the parking lot deserted except for a lone rider cleaning his windshield. He informed me that the others had already walked over to breakfast. It seemed that I had fallen in with a group of "early risers." Ick.

Entering the cafe, I found the others enjoying coffee, but waiting for me to order (or so they claimed). We discussed the day's route over breakfast, agreeing to head north through Ruidoso, ascending NM532 to see the rumored incredible view from the vista point at the top of Sierra Blanca.

We didn't leave Cloudcroft until just after 10AM, giving Rabidsnipe time to get to the hardware store to attempt to fix the mirror on his VFR, which in typical Honda fashion was trying to fall apart.

We rolled out with Rabidsnipe leading the group of six (those who wanted to group ride) and Bikerider sweeping. Cricket, Bikerider, and I were soon leapfrogging each other as we each attempted to capture the road, scenery, and other riders with our cameras.

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Rolling a bonafide Hollywood stop and second to last to pull onto the main road to Ruidoso, I noticed flashing lights in my rearview mirrors. Bikerider and I never even got up to speed by the time the police cruiser passed us. I think we were both certain that it was in hot pursuit of the speeding riders leading the group. Rabidsnipe later said that he almost had a heart attack seeing flashing lights with the speedometer needle conservatively set at least ..uhh.. 15 over. He was certain that he'd gotten each member of the group a ticket.

We all sighed with relief when the police car (and the two following it) passed the leader without pausing. We were on best behavior all the way into Ruidoso, where we found an auto parts store so that Rabidsnipe could repair his broken Honda (mirror bolts had rattled out).

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Next up was the much-anticipated ascent of Sierra Blanca. It was tight, dirty, and wonderful with steep switchbacks and breathtaking vistas.

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Coming down the hill, we found that a tree had fallen across the road! A crew had already removed the trunk as it crossed the road, leaving only barky residue.

We left the mountains at this point, heading northeast on NM246: Endless straights punctuated with swoopy dry creekbeds. It felt reminiscent of California to me, with waving fields of wild grasses.

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The wind began to pick up midway through the scenic loop. I was too worried about getting blown over to stop for many pictures and I think we all needed a break at the end of that road. I arrived at the intersection to find the other riders parked on a gravel turnout and managed to talk them into heading into Roswell. I really wanted to find a tourist trap so I could purchase a little green alien as a souvenir.

Tourist traps we certainly found. Some of the guys joined me in the pursuit of green junk, but the others stood outside in the windstorm and drank green drinks instead (Sprite?).

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With the wind raging, and the afternoon grinding on, it was decided to skip part of the route and just head back to the motel. The bikes must have made a strange sight rolling down US285 leaning hard away from the wind. Some of the riders found that slowing down made the going easier. Others just wanted to get out of the storm as fast as possible. Me? Somewhere in between. I was strongly reminded of that incredibly windy day back in Sept 2004 when a Utah state trooper warned me about motorcycles getting blown off the road as he wrote me a ticket for speeding.

The group spread out when we made the turn onto US82 to Cloudcroft and thus we arrived at wildly varying times. Several riders stopped on the side of the road to change out of the mesh gear that had seemed necessary on the hot desert plains. It was obviously going to be a cold night.

After a break, we all headed over to the Western Bar and Grill to squeeze ten stinky, ornery, hungry motorcycle riders around a table meant for six. The meal was excellent, the conversation outrageous, and the waitress harried.

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It being far too cold to stand outside with the bikes, we all shacked up in the motel corridor to tell fish stories and lies late into the night.

____________________________
Two early mornings in a row had taken their toll. My body just refused to get moving early once again, despite the sure knowledge that I had another long day in front of me. I had previously decided to avoid I10 for the ride home, instead choosing to ride straight across Texas.

When I walked outside, the R1200ST was the only motorcycle in sight. I had missed everyone else. Unperturbed, I walked back over to the Western Bar and Grill for some french toast, caffeine, and a few more precious moments with my book.

It's always daunting to see the clock reading 11AM and your gps's "miles to destination" field reading 720 miles. After having lazed the morning away, I needed to get down to the business of riding. I packed the bike, removed the "do not disturb" sign on my door, and headed east.

It was a beautiful morning, sunny and crisp. I was having a huge amount of fun on that twisty road, with such a long day of straights to look forward to. About 35 miles from Cloudcroft, just as the mountains were transitioning to foothills and I was fully warmed up in the turns, a deer jumped out of the bushes and bounded down the road beside me. It was very surreal. I could see him(?) out of the corner of my eye, but my main thought was "C'mon throttle!". The R1200ST smoothly pulled away and I could once again breathe as the deer crossed the road behind me and disappeared into the brush. It took several minutes for the adrenaline to dissolve from my system but several hours for me to fully relax again.

My resolve to preserve saddle-discipline evaporated when I reached the oil fields east of Artesia on US82. For miles in each direction, oil rigs pumped up and down.

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I continued to see smatterings of oil rigs well past the Texas border, where I decided to stop and finally get a "Welcome Sign" picture for Texas.

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I enjoyed the mild spring temperatures as I rolled through Texas. I had hardly a care in the world, other than the strong desire to avoid the town of Brady.

Brady is a special place for me. Back in September 2004, a teenager in an old muscle car violated my right of way by turning left in front of me. I was unable to scrub enough speed and hit the rear side panel of his car, bending the forks of my Yamaha sportbike, but managing to keep the bike upright. The police officer ruled him at fault, but I was 2000 miles from home with a non-rideable motorcycle, with all the accompanying headaches you can imagine.

Ever since this incident, I have attempted (successfully) to avoid Brady, TX....the town that *bit* me.

I had a clever plan. A small FM road appeared to completely avoid the town of Brady, connecting to the main road a little to the south.

The FM was fun, winding past Lake Brady with scenic vistas of the lake and wildflowers galore. I started getting worried as I approached the main road.... there was too much street activity showing up on the GPS.

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Imagine my chagrin when that little FM dropped me, not just in Brady, TX, but at the very same intersection where I had long ago tangled with the car. It was nostalgic..."Hey, there's that gas station that I parked in afterwards....and there's the hotel I spent the night in.... and the restaurant where I ate dinner!"

Arrgh. So much for my clever plan.

I picked up SH71 at Llano (Ya-No? :P ) where a riot of wildflowers lined the road.

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I hadn't expected much, but the hill country road headed into Austin was really fun! The fast sweepers and even a few tight turns were truly a delight after the drone across west Texas.

A drizzle and overcast skies greeted me in the Austin area. It was getting dark as I made my way through the city's confusing network of highways. There has been a lot of construction there over the last few years, so I basically had to ignore my GPS and rely on road signs directing me back to US290.

I stopped for a much needed break and snack in Giddings, TX where I called Mom to let her know I was safe and would be home soon. The last few hours were tiring, with limited visibility as the road rolled over hilly sections in the dark. I tried to follow cars and use their superior headlights, but many of the drivers seemed just as blind as me, slowing at the crest of each hill.

I rolled into my garage around 11pm, drained after almost 1800 miles in 3 days, but refreshed from the adventure, great company, and time spent blissfully rolling down the highway on the R1200ST.
 
Joined
Mar 1, 2003
Messages
13,438
Location
The end of the road between Sodom and Gomorrah
Pretty country up there, been there a buncha times. It's the closest real mountains to me. Next time, though, on the road between Carlesbad and Artesia, there's a road to the left that leads to the north campground of Guadelupe Nat'l Park. Just past "Queens", there's a limestone road that leads up to five points vista. You gotta do that. It's remote and beautiful. Good mule deer huntin' up in there, too. I have all the USGS maps of that area and have scouted and hunted a lot of it.
 
Joined
Jul 23, 2006
Messages
293
Location
Odessa!
Great report, and in spite of your apprehension about Brady, Mac's barbecue has the world's best brisket, imho. Aspencash rally in ruidoso this weekend will see the roads full of bikes around cloudcroft!:rider:
 
Joined
Mar 9, 2007
Messages
1,499
Location
Yoakum, Texas
Wow! What an excellent write up! :thumb:

Fantastic photos too! I especially like the low angle shot in Roswell. Well Done! Bravo!

You had me feeling VERY guilty there for a minute about buying a trailer for those times when the "group" is meeting up in a distant location. After all, if RocketBunny is having this much fun, then why can't I? But then you saved me with the winds, and the early rise, and the drone of west Texas, and the... ;)

Turns out I like coffee and late mornings just as much as you. GREAT RIDE REPORT! :bigokay:
 
Joined
Mar 2, 2003
Messages
1,156
Location
Austin, TX, USA
great write up and shots RB. I have been out to Carlsbad but not as far as this. Now I will definitely have to make a long weekend of it this year.
 
Joined
Mar 1, 2003
Messages
13,438
Location
The end of the road between Sodom and Gomorrah
Great report, and in spite of your apprehension about Brady, Mac's barbecue has the world's best brisket, imho. Aspencash rally in ruidoso this weekend will see the roads full of bikes around cloudcroft!:rider:
"Aspencash"???? Jeez, is this the same rally as has been in Ruidoso forever? Maybe not since that rally is in September traditionally. It started life as "Aspencade" and was HUGE back in the late 70s and is the rally from whence the GL1100 and GL1200 "Aspencade" gold wings were named. Then, it stopped for a few years and "Aspencade" got picked up by a rally up in New York State somewhere. I went to the Ruidoso rally right after I bought my OldWing Aspencade, towed my little camper up there after a ride out to Tucson for some fun. The rally was my last stop before home. Caught a friggin' cold up there (the rally is in September) and a front was coming in and the TV was talking about the first snow of the season. I was bad sick, packed up, rode home in one day from there in 45 degree weather all they way. THAT was NOT fun, but most of the trip was quite memorable. :mrgreen:

That Ruidoso rally is worth seeing. They had a VDTRA vintage dirt track I missed due to the illness up there that year. Would have liked to have attended that. It was out at Ruidoso downs (the horse track).
 
Joined
Apr 9, 2007
Messages
1,147
Location
Katy
Thanks for the fantastic ride report and photos! Loved the picture of your bike and the wildflowers.
 
Joined
Sep 9, 2005
Messages
2,590
Location
South Texas
:doh: Wish I had known you were coming my way. I would have joined you here in Carlsbad. I was bored this weekend with nothing to do. :doh:

BTW, :thumb: on the report and pics. The road between Artesia and hope is a bad spot for LEOs. Hard to do 55 on a road built for 70.
 
Joined
Jan 13, 2007
Messages
3,389
Location
Gravel Switch, KY
I was over in that area a couple of weeks ago...I stopped and ate at the "cover-up cafe", good eating in there, and super cheap prices for a tourist trap town....
 
Joined
Jul 23, 2006
Messages
293
Location
Odessa!
"Aspencash"???? Jeez, is this the same rally as has been in Ruidoso forever? Maybe not since that rally is in September traditionally. It started life as "Aspencade" and was HUGE back in the late 70s and is the rally from whence the GL1100 and GL1200 "Aspencade" gold wings were named. Then, it stopped for a few years and "Aspencade" got picked up by a rally up in New York State somewhere. I went to the Ruidoso rally right after I bought my OldWing Aspencade, towed my little camper up there after a ride out to Tucson for some fun. The rally was my last stop before home. Caught a friggin' cold up there (the rally is in September) and a front was coming in and the TV was talking about the first snow of the season. I was bad sick, packed up, rode home in one day from there in 45 degree weather all they way. THAT was NOT fun, but most of the trip was quite memorable. :mrgreen:

That Ruidoso rally is worth seeing. They had a VDTRA vintage dirt track I missed due to the illness up there that year. Would have liked to have attended that. It was out at Ruidoso downs (the horse track).
Yep, same one, they have two a year now. I guess Honda took over the Aspencade name, trademarked it...who knows? Spring is called Aspencash, fall is Golden Aspen..info at www.motorcyclerally.com
 
Joined
Mar 21, 2006
Messages
1,900
Location
NW Houston
I loved Cloudcroft, NM when I was there. Nice pics!!! I forgot how nice and curvy those roads are.

Thanks for the report. Great one, as always! :-P
 
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