west TX, north NM, south CO

Discussion in 'Day Trippin'' started by selkins, Sep 3, 2013.

  1. selkins

    selkins No hay banda!

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,495
    Location:
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    A few days spent riding with Darkrider in late August in the high deserts and mountains of west Texas, north New Mexico, and south Colorado. Darkrider has a fancy-ass new camera, and he loves to gloat about the quality of pics relative to mine, so doubtless he'll be chiming in with some shots.

    Let's start with west Texas:

    Davis Mountains north of Fort Davis, off Hwy 17:

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    Summer is the rainy time of year, so things are much more green than they often appear. Couple of action shots of Darkrider:

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    Stayed a couple of nights in Marfa. If you don't know about Marfa, please don't bother going there. It's a dump, and you'll be miserable. It fancies itself an "artsy" town, but really, how "artsy" can it be with displays like this?

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    Here's a photo from when we arrived at El Cosmico, which is a perfectly wretched place to camp at the edge of town. Darkrider is indicating how unhappy he is with the decision to visit Marfa. Really, don't go there...please.

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    Darkrider had to go back to work, so I was on my own for a few days till he could meet me in Colorado that Friday afternoon. Having become sick to death of the entirely uninteresting town of Marfa, I headed out for northern New Mexico via El Paso and Alamogordo.
    #1
  2. selkins

    selkins No hay banda!

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    1,495
    Location:
    The Frozen North
    I had a service appointment at the Santa Fe BMW dealership the next morning, so it was Marfa to Santa Fe in one day. I intended to slab it all the way from Van Horn TX to Santa Fe, but after a tasty lunch (green chili smothered chimichanga) at La Nueva Casita in Las Cruces I got off the interstate, thinking anything would be better than an interstate. Wellll, US-70 through White Sands isn't too bad, but Alamogordo and the first 50+ miles of US-54 heading north made me want to shoot myself in the face. After that things improved a bit as the elevation increased. After a short and nice little jaunt on Hwy 3, I connected with US-285 into Santa Fe, bought a six-pack of local brew and crashed in the La Quinta a few hundred yards from the BMW shop.

    State highway 3 north of Corona NM

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    Scene off US-285 about 35 miles out of Santa Fe

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    Next day the scenery and the riding improved considerably. Tire mounted and oil changed, I rode up to Los Alamos and followed twisty pavement of Hwy 4 into the Santa Fe Nat'l Forest, skirting the gorgeous Valles Caldera National Reserve (worth a leisurely hike some day), and then finally got off pavement taking State Road 126 to Cuba.

    State Road 126

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    Taking Hwy 96 north out of Cuba I was hankering for more dirt and gravel, but the day was going by fast, so I stuck on 96 as it routed east back across the Nat'l Forest and south of Abiquiu Reservoir where I hit US-84 up to Chama.

    Great hand-made road sign south of Tierra Amarilla, radical populist politics for the win!:

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    The sun was near the horizon, but I needed to camp under the stars that night, so I took Hwy 17 north out of town and across the border into Colorado and into the Rio Grande Nat'l Forest, ignoring the ominous clouds and occasional lightning in the mountains ahead of me.

    Nice evening light heading into Colorado:

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    My official BMW promo photo:

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    My goal was the Trujillo Meadows campground, widely acclaimed for it's beauty, located about 4 miles north of the highway off a gravel road. Fortunately, the campground was officially "closed." Which means an intrepid dual-sport rider can skirt the gated barrier and ninja-camp it with ease. They claim the site is being "remodeled," but it looks like what they've done so far is just take out many of the trees. Bark beetle infestation is my bet.

    Ninja-camp!!! :chace

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    A nice, gentle rain through the evening and no nearby lightning strikes. After the sun went down it was dead-silent in the camp, no breeze, no insect or bird noise, nothing at all. So silent I could hear my heartbeat in my ears. And then the coyotes started howling. Fantastic experience.
    #2
  3. selkins

    selkins No hay banda!

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,495
    Location:
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    The birds came out in the morning and woke me up after a great night's rest. Lots of moisture on the tent so I let things dry out for a couple of hours while I walked around the camp and enjoyed the sun and sights.

    Morning at the campsite:

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    Thistles are blooming:

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    Morning mist burning off:

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    Finally off and out of the campground, I continued east on 17 to the bump in the road called Horca, where I turned north on FDR 250 up toward Platoro and the ghost town of Summitville, high in the southeast San Juan Mountains. I spent the next few hours tooling around on back country dirt/gravel roads. Had a cowboy wave me through a herd of cattle on the road, ran into a couple of dead ends, stumbled on a number of fly fishermen at their secret spots, and generally enjoyed the high mountain air.

    FDR 250 heading up to Platoro is an easy ride...:

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    ...except when you run into the cattle. The cowboy in back waved me on, "Just ease your way through, they'll get out of your way most likely."

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    Up past Stunner Pass the air is thin, and treeline inches close. Very nice stuff. I was surprised to see "for sale" signs for residential lots around Summitville Mine. I imagine it's near inaccessible in the winter and the place is, after all, a Superfund site. :eek1 But I guess there's a sucker born every minute.

    A nice meadow south of Summitville Mine, on the other side of Cropsy Mountain:

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    I finally came down from the mountains just south of South Fork on US-160, and buzzed down to Pagosa Springs for a late lunch at Kip's Grill, with it's shady patio seating and ski-bum vibe. Then took the boring ride across to Durango (road construction, traffic, heat) and then back up US-550, and a few miles down the winding, gravel, Hermosa Park Road to the Sig Creek campground for the night. A small (six-site) campground up against its namesake burbling creek, it was happily empty except for myself and a young couple who came in late and out early and kept to themselves.
    #3
  4. DarkRider

    DarkRider Middle-aged Man

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    608
    Location:
    West Texas
    Enjoying the RR thus far (you got much better pics on your leg), but not much to add until we met up...except for some bugs

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    #4
  5. DarkRider

    DarkRider Middle-aged Man

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    608
    Location:
    West Texas
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    #5
  6. selkins

    selkins No hay banda!

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,495
    Location:
    The Frozen North
    The next couple of days are lacking in pics, so I'll kind of blow through them.

    A nice part about camping is how quickly your diurnal rhythms sync up. Night falls and you get tired. Dawn comes and you're awake. Simple as that. So, I was up with the dawn at Sig Creek. More moisture on the tent so I stretched out the rainfly over some wood pole fencing and moved the tent into the sunlight to dry. Standard breakfast of oatmeal and coffee, and just relaxed as morning progressed.

    I don't use a GPS, and I tend to avoid maps, but since I wanted to get off the main roads this trip, I had a Colorado map that shows all of the Forest Service roads, but doesn't label them. My pattern was to look for nice little squiggly lines and wander around on them. This morning I saw a nice one paralleling the US-550 heading north toward Silverton. Turns out it was the Old Lime Creek Road, which provided a couple of hours of riding that was just the right level of technical (i.e. not very) for my tastes on the big GS. Cliffside views, a burbling creek to wade around in, puddles to splash through, and some decent gradients and rocks to navigate. A nice "dual-sport light" kind of road.

    Old Lime Creek Road

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    Twelve miles later I rejoined the Million Dollar Highway into Silverton.

    ...and wow, looks like that's pretty much it for pictures the next day and a half. I wandered down to Ouray after lunch (seriously fun, tight twisties and traffic not too bad) and over to Telluride, which has about the most idyllic setting of any mountain town I've seen.

    Cribbed image of Telluride:

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    It's located in valley surrounded on three sides by steep mountains. Very pretty. As it happened that day riding in coincided with two things: a) an afternoon rainstorm centered perfectly on the town, and b) the first day of the Telluride International Film Festival. Long story short, looking like a half-drowned rat I slouched into the downtown coffee shop and found myself surrounded by Hollywood-types, preening and strutting for one another's benefit. I warmed up with a cuppa joe and enjoyed the show for an hour or so before moving on. Too soaked for pleasant camping, I backtracked, north on Hwy 145 (pleasantly twisty but lots of traffic), east on Hwy 62 (less traffic, nice sweepers on the western 2/3rds) to Ridgeway and north again on US 550 (pretty meh north of Ouray) to Montrose, where I bagged a cheap room at the Days Inn motel. The woman at the front counter and I bonded over some Minnesota anecdotes, and she dropped a hint about all-you-can eat prime rib next door at the Red Barn that night. I went to bed stuffed to the gills with protein. Make a note: Thursday night at the Red Barn in Montrose. Be there if you're not averse to red meat. Darn good salad bar, too (real greens, not iceberg lettuce).

    Next day is less to tell. Did laundry at the motel, rode east on Hwy 50 to Gunnison and then north on 135 to Crested Butte for a great lunch of tamales at Teocalli. Nice town and a lot more low key than Telluride, at least in peacock season. Then back down to Gunnison where I bought a cold twelve pack of New Belgium's Shift lager and checked in to the super Long Holiday Motel (gotta love the New Age-y atmospheric music on the website) on the west edge of town.

    Darkrider rolled up a couple of hours later and we relaxed into an evening of scotch sipping, beer drinking and general male-bonding behavior.

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    #6
  7. selkins

    selkins No hay banda!

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    That first evening at the Long Holiday Motel, Darkrider and I put a good dent into the 12-pack and some healthy swigs from the bottle of Glenmorangie that he brought along. The morning called for a healthy breakfast, which we got in spades at W Cafe in Gunnison, a perfectly good greasy spoon.

    Our plan had long been to do one or two of the less technical passes near Silverton. Unfortunately, the late summer monsoon storms were popping up earlier each day, and by the time we were approaching Ophir Pass around 11am, the clouds were dark and thick at the higher elevations and thunder was sounding regularly. So, the day became just a casual ride down to Dolores, over the Durango, and back up to Silverton, including another jaunt along Old Lime Creek. Not much to write home about. My hand got a bit tired of waving at the Harleys crowding the road for a rally down near Cortez, and a surprising number actually waved back.

    Blah, blah. Another lunch and a beer at Avalanche brewery, and by late afternoon the rain was moving down from the peaks off north into the valleys toward Montrose and Gunnison. A bit of a rainy ride to wash the bugs off and we were back at the Long Holiday (after a detour for a fresh 12-pack).

    More shots along Old Lime Creek:

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    Back at Avalanche:

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    ...and, um...then we drank beer. Yeah. Amazing how hanging out, drinking beer, and talking with a 25+ year friend makes the time pass by so fast. It was a good night.

    The next morning and we're both heading home. <sigh> It felt like way too short of a trip, but c'est la vie. We started the day with a spin up to Crested Butte for breakfast at a more posh, but very tasty diner. Then back down to Almont, where we got on to Hwy 742 - a gorgeous route that follows Taylor Creek through canyons and many twisties up to Taylor Park Reservoir. From there it was up and over Cottonwood Pass, and then down into Buena Vista.

    Alas, our brief time of riding together was over. Darkrider headed back down to Texas, and I got a healthy start on my way back to The Frozen North. The next day and a half of riding was a slog, but it started off well enough as I rode through some pretty intense summer mountain storms. The highlight was probably as I was cruising through about an inch accumulation of hail along US 285, somewhere between Fairplay and Bailey, when I passed by two Mongol members in their biker-gang colors waiting out the storm on the side of the road. At times like that, it's gratifying to ride a dual-sport.

    Cottonwood Pass Photos:

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    Darkrider rides off into the sunset...

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    Bye, Darkrider! See ya next time!

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    #7
  8. LosAlrider

    LosAlrider Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2008
    Oddometer:
    41
    Location:
    SoCal, AZ
    Nice ride report and the photos were excellent.:thumbup
    #8
  9. Mudclod

    Mudclod Mojo Moto

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    1,579
    Location:
    Killeen, TX.
    Excellent!
    #9
  10. selkins

    selkins No hay banda!

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
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    Location:
    The Frozen North
    Aw, shucks. Thanks for the kind words. I like to get trips posted up on advrider since I've found it's an easy way to share with friends, remind myself of some past high points, or just to reminisce. Always nice to hear other folks appreciate them.
    #10
  11. AZ Mark

    AZ Mark Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2011
    Oddometer:
    894
    Location:
    Wickenburg AZ
    Awesome report and photo's. Looks like a good time! :D
    #11
  12. DarkRider

    DarkRider Middle-aged Man

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    608
    Location:
    West Texas
    You know selkins, these rides seem to go faster and faster as the years pass...guess it's true of many things in life, but as I've watched the topics of our evening post-ride solving of life's problems, the topics have shifted from "isn't she'd hot...I'd do her" to "wow, my marriage is so fo0kin miserable" to "so how does the vesting work on your 401k"...guess the next phase will be "so how do you ride so hard after bladder issues leave you shatting yourself in the twisties?".

    But enough reflection, since i lack your sense of prose and also memory or roads, I'll just add my 2 cents and some pics.

    My route was fairly simple...left west Texas, spent the first night in Roswell, NM, then the next morning it was a quick run from there to Santa Fe, up to Alamosa, CO, on to Saguache, CO, and cutting across 114 to Gunnison. After a decent 500 mile day on the 800XC, I realized that 1) I need a stiffer saddle for distance, and 2) booze is a salve on a sore ass when taken internally (the booze that is).

    As selkins said, the next day we hit storms approaching Ophir pass, so we took some dirt/rocky road that selkins had already ridden. That was important because the last time I took his advice on a rocky road, I ended up in the Helena, MT ER with a fractured tibia. No such (bad) luck this time, but the road was sufficiently challenging and I got some good pictures.

    Here's the glamor shot of selkins:

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    He's like a fo0kin spokesperson for BMW attire/bikes:

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    And off he goes:

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    #12
  13. DarkRider

    DarkRider Middle-aged Man

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    608
    Location:
    West Texas
    Bike pr0n time:

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    So I had the rest of this post done and lost 1/2 of it...so you get to deal with multiple parts. Stay tuned though, it's going to get really intense and involve pictures of nekid girls on my bike...honest :huh
    #13
  14. McRuss

    McRuss Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2008
    Oddometer:
    246
    Location:
    Texas Hill Country
    Nice RR and great photos. I was surprised that you didn't continue on out of Hermosa Park to Ophir/Telluride and then Lost Dollar to Ridgeway. Missed a couple good dirts there.

    As a Durango native, I've ridden Old Lime Creek more than a few times, got a little rocky over the years as maintenance declined but a great 'light ds' road. And having lived in Gunnison (know to the locals as Gunnyville) for many years, I know Longs Holiday and the W-Cafe, they date back to the late 60s and beyond. I'll still take the W over most of the new places too. CB is SO MUCH more hospitable than Telluride (To Hell You Ride)!

    Thanks for the memories!
    #14
  15. DarkRider

    DarkRider Middle-aged Man

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    608
    Location:
    West Texas
    It was a fairly easy "decision tree" for me McRuss. I heard thunder coming out from a fuel stop outside Telluride...last time I took a "oh, let's just go for it...it'll be fine" dirt track with selkins, I ended up on the CDT with my right tibia in pieces. Combine mountain pass top lightening storms, my anti-broken-bone syndrome, and need to get back to TX on Monday, and I wasn't much good for more than easy blues on the slopes this trip.

    And having spent my youth in CO and visiting Telluride before it "went Aspen", I applaud your name edit. Place disgusts me nowadays - I'll take Gunnyville over most of the towns in that part of CO...easy access, cheaper booze/food, and great fly fishing!



    #15
  16. DarkRider

    DarkRider Middle-aged Man

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    608
    Location:
    West Texas
    I'm going to see if I can finish my contribution to this report...but just noticed that while I was posting medium-sized pics, selkins was linking poster-sized. You know, I can see where a person with camera envy would post the biggest possible pics to emphasize the size of his...err...sensor...but I digress.

    So after riding some dirt and selkins showing his Glen-like riding skills, we stopped in Silverton for some lunch. selkins showed excellent form in repositioning his food-baby prior to our return to Gunnyville:

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    We had rain on the return trip, and as I recall, selkins did an excellent job of summarizing the rest of the days activities, so I'll skip to the next day.

    Sunday, it was time to head to Buena Vista where we'd split up and I'd be heading back to west TX. On our way out from breakfast in CB, we took a quick break and watched some kayakers. But I think this photo really captures the purpose of the stop, and tends to be an increasing theme of our rides:

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    When these adventures with selkins started, I was thinking of nothing but clicking off back-to-back 700 mile days and following carefully crafted GPS-routed trip plans. As I've aged, it's become more laid back, much more focused on just enjoying the scenery and company, and as a result, become a lot more fun. It could be a function of middle-aged bladders, but I think part of it is just a recognition, at least on my part, that the harder I ride, the less I see. selkins - thanks for keeping up while I figured it out.

    Now, here are a few more pics of our admittedly brief excursion.

    selkins reflecting on the question...can I hold it until we get over Cottonwood Pass:

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    Heading up:

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    selkins riding the "dangerously gnarly" road up:

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    Top of the pass:

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    Notice the heavy bike on the left...:D

    And view from the top looking east (nice weather to come):

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    We split up in Buena Vista and I routed home. Enjoyed a hail storm and pounding rain on 50 east from Salida and cut down through Westcliffe to revisit some old haunts. I made it as far as Raton, riding in rain most of the time, and stopped when I saw this ahead:

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    Finished the last of the scotch holed up in a motel 6 and finished the ride to west TX the next day.

    As always selkins, regardless of time, miles, or breakdowns/broken bones, these trips are the best medicine for my increasingly middle-aged body/mind, and I appreciate every time we get to share them together.

    Oh, and for the finale, given that this report lacks foreign countries, guns, boobs, or any of the other keys to successful read-counts on advrider these days (oh for the good old days :rofl), I'll make my last pic some food porn, because we all know that before starting your day riding across Mongolia on your sponsored tricked out GS800, and after spending the prior night being sexually satisfied by the tribal leaders daughter, you need a hearty breakfast:

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    Carry on.
    #16
  17. selkins

    selkins No hay banda!

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,495
    Location:
    The Frozen North
    Funny thing about this dog. We met it at Long Holiday Motel. Hardly recognizable as a canine, all scraggly hair, six inches tall, and heroin-addict-twitchy. Best part was its visceral hatred of rocks.

    It would locate a likely rock, start bouncing around it and barking like it was some sort of bad-ass pit bull scaring off an intruder. Once it got really worked up it would grab the rock in its mouth and toss it around. The only remedy, I discovered, was to pick up the rock and place it on one of the many stacks of rocks around the motel, which until then had proved mysterious in origin and purpose. Once the rock was stacked, the crazy creature would seem momentarily satisfied, and then move on to find the next rock.

    That was one weird dog.

    #17