Last summer my wife and I did two trips that required us to return home from Antonito, CO to where we live in Tijeras, NM, which is pretty much smack dab in the middle of New Mexico. We often end up in Antonito, CO as it is the exit point from the San Juan mountain range and is a good stop for gas. There are a couple of routes that will lead you there. One is via forest service road 103 which crosses the Rio de Los Pinos up high, crosses through the old railroad town of Osier, and then flows east with grand views of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in southern CO and Northern NM. The other route is along forest service road 87A which leaves the Lagunitas camp ground and Cruces Basin Wilderness and eventually runs down along the lower part of the Rio de Los Pinos taking you just south of Antonito. Now there is nothing special about Antonito except that they have gas. We stopped for lunch once. The food we had at some Mexican/American joint was crap. There aren't a lot of choices in Antonito. By slab one can either run south on 285 for an hour+ eventually running through Ojo Caliente and Espanolla, or they can retrace the routes they probably took heading north along the CDT route from El Rito to Hopewell Lakes, crossing highway 64 and continuing north towards Cumbres Pass. We want dirt, at least as far as Taos if possible. Once in Taos one can pick up the High Road which takes you back to Nambe on a superb piece of pavement that I would never hesitate to ride on any bike. To complete our first big trip last summer we looked at the map and decided to head north from Antonito and cut across to highway 522 via Manasa (home of the Jack Dempsey Museum) and then run south through Costillo, Questa, Honda, and eventually Taos. The first 1/4 of the route was OK but the rest was lame. Next we stole a route from Big Dog and cut across from Antonito to Costilla via country road G which crosses the Rio Grande on an old wooden bridge . This route was actually pretty cool but it dumps you really far north, pretty much at the boarder between NM and CO. At the time we were inclined to ride up and across the Via Vidal as we had never been through there. The ride through Via Vidal was nice but once you leave there the land is primarily private and the road is basically boring gravel road for another 30 or so miles and you eventually pop out just north of Cimaron. And from here its another hour or so up to Eagle's Nest and Angel Fire with two or three choices home from there. I wanted to find a better more interesting route so I spent some time playing around with various maps and found that there appeared to be a potential route across the mesa between highway 285 and the Rio Grande river gorge. Saturday morning we decide to go see if it could work. I new it would be a long day since it is a solid 3 hour drive via highway to Antonito from Tijeras. We planned to hit the road at 7:00 a.m. and get to Bode's in Abiquiu for burritos before 9:00. Saturday came and we hit the road at 7:26 a.m. We prepped the bikes and all our gear the night before but this is how it goes when you end up sleeping until 6:36. The morning air was crisp and I had decided against wearing my extra down jacket layer under my shell. Dumb ass move - I was cold and had to pee bad before we were half way to Bode's but I stuck it out. We rolled into Bode's just after 9:00 and scored ourselves 4 burritos and 4 double walled stainless steel espresso cups. They have great stuff at the store and you can never have too many espresso cups! We sat on the bench out front and "hoovered" our burritos We were pretty hungry after 100 miles on the road with nothing but coffee to get us going. The other two were for lunch later on so we didn't have to suffer the cuisine of Antonito on this trip. A guy getting gas chatted us up and we explained our intended route. He was truly surprised we'd be riding dirt on these bikes. I explained that these bikes did great in the dirt so long as they stayed upright. We back tracked a bit and picked up highway 554 through El Rito, the classic CDT route, but we continued on the pavement to the junction with 111 and then headed north up through La Madera, Vallecitos, and Canon Plaza. Our past experience with the dirt section of the CDT we bypassed was that it was marginal and not really worth our time riding it. We were rewarded with super fun twisty backcountry pavement winding along streams and through farming valleys. An excellent choice and I am glad we did it. Eventually the chosen route turned to dirt as we merged with the CDT again following route 42 and then 91B. The going was good most of the way until we got up above ~9500 ft or so where we started to encounter snow drifts. Some creative route finding was in order. There were only two spots that we required we leave the road and we followed previous tracks in both cases. Here's one spot that looked a lot more intimidating that it really was. In hind sight it would probably have been better to stay on FS 42 going east and staying a little lower in elevation, to dump out onto highway 64 this time of year, but we didn't know that at the time. We eventually made it to 64 crossing the last major snow drift only 200 yards south of the highway. We aired back up when we got to the pavement as riding a 500+ lb 135 hp bike with only 25 psi in your tires is not something I'd like to do on purpose. We've been using the Double Tough pumps we picked up at Cycle Gear for 50% off at $19.99 several months back but mine seized up and started to smoke. Get what you pay for. I finished off the job using Kerry's pump. We had 10-15 miles of highway 64 to cruise to get back out to 285 at Tres Piedres and from there is was a run up to the CO boarder and Antonito. Highway 64 is super fun and I'd hit this again. Only other time I'd been on this road I was making a run from Wolf Creek ski area to Taos Ski Valley and we were following a snow plow truck. Wasn't so scenic on that trip as it was dumping heavily at the time. We gassed up in Antonito as we were down to less than half a tank at this point. We headed east out of town on the most southern road in Antonito, even south of the gas station, to the east and across the railroad tracks. It soon headed south, then east again. We were in farm country. After about 10 minutes of marbly gravel road we pulled over to air down and eat the second batch of burritos. It was 1 o'clock already. We continued east a bit more then south once again. Things were looking good and I was beginning to have confidence that my route would work out. We were now out on the Taos Plateau but the only way I knew we had crossed back into NM was because of my GPS. There was no state line that I saw but perhaps one of the many fences marked the boundary. Riding through here felt like I imagine riding through Mongolia to be. High grasslands with hills nearby and high snow capped peaks in the distance. I here that in Mongolia though they don't have any fences. We're training for that "someday trip". Here's a sequence of Kerry taking off: And a couple of shots of me to prove I was actually there. As we approached the end of this particular route we began to see some interesting houses. This ain't no earth ship: Did you see that triple garage?:eek1 Those are like RV height. Someone must have some serious toys parked in there. Upon making it to the top of the river gorge we stopped at the overlook and snapped a couple more shots. The river was a beautiful green color and looked to be running clear, very much unlike how it is running through Albuquerque. Those are my thigh vents that are open, not my drawers hanging out. And here you can see our route down. The switchbacks were fairly tight but manageable, although from my vantage point it sure looked like Kerry was about to fly off the edge exiting one of the turns as I saw rocks shooting out from under her rear wheel as she was directed right towards the edge. My heart skipped several beats watching that one. I think she was too freaked out by the entire series of switchbacks that she wasn't even aware of what I had witnessed. There were lots of cars parked and since this is really the first nice day we've had this Spring loads of people were out fishing, hiking, and enjoying the river. Nice spot I might come back to some day. We rolled up the east bank and picked up the highway into Taos. We stopped for a much needed break and grabbed a good cup of coffee. From there it was the High Road south. There's a tight right hand turn, very much like a switchback, that you make when you join 76 just south of Sipapu. Kerry had zero issues with this and I swear it was much tighter than any of the switchbacks we'd come down to meet the John Dunn bridge just a hour or so earlier. We rode through the early evening light enjoying the crisp mountain air. The descent from Truchas that time of day was fantastic! We eventually got back onto our usual route down north 14 and rolled up our driveway well after dark to an eagerly awaiting dog named Buster who let us know in that howling beagle voice that we were way late for dinner. Here's a map of the route across the Taos Plateau. We successfully achieved our goal of finding an alternate dirt route south from Antonito that would allow us to miss the majority of 522 in northern NM. Total distance: 417 miles; ride time 8:59; travel time 13:01. There appears to be quite a network of roads up there and some appear as if they may make it down to the river. Definitely worth more exploring and an overnight camp trip or two. Anyone know much about the plateau?