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postheadericon A Ride to Roswell & back Part II (To Tucson via the Scenic Route)

In Part  I, we took the most expeditious route between Tucson and Roswell. I have been back and forth to Roswell many times over the years (I have family in Roswell.) but have only travelled on the routes described in Part I. I decided that it was high time for me to try something a bit different. A friend had told me about NM Route 152 and how amazing it was (Thanks, Sean) so I plotted a route that would get there.  Route 152 intersects I-25 at least 60 miles north of Las Cruces, so it made no sense to go that far south, then back back to the north, so I began looking for roads north of Alamogordo and Ruidoso. That was when I discovered NM-380.

NM-380 actually goes through Roswell and I remember seeing the junction for it along US-70 and had always wondered where it went. Let’s find out. It required almost 50 miles of backtracking along US-70 to get to the 380 junction. This was awesome because it involved going back along the Hondo River Valley. I did this early in the morning and it was absolutely gorgeous. Again I got to pass through the tiny little hamlets along the valley floor.

At the junction of US-70 and NM-380 is this informational sign about the Hondo area as well as Lincoln

As soon as you merge on to NM-380, there is a historical monument. There is an informational sign there telling about the Hondo River Valley, on one side, and Lincoln County and the connection between the Lincoln Country War and Billy the Kid, on the other. This was a great stop for me, because I have a lot of family history in Lincoln County.

This is Lincoln’s torreon. It is where the men-folk would take fighting positions to defend the town.

This tells you about the torreon

NM-380 tracks mostly northwest and along the Bonito River Vally. It is almost as pretty as the Hondo. 10 beautiful miles later, you arrive in the historic town of Lincoln. Lincoln is the old stomping grounds of Billy the Kid. Lincoln is where Billy escaped from jail, then shot and killed a deputy and Marshall Bob Ollinger. There are quite a few historic structures here including the torreon as well as the Wortley Hotel (Please click the link and read their homepage. It is hysterical.)

There is a small fee to walk around the park.

About 12 miles further along NM-380 is the little town of Capitan, best known as the home and final resting place of Smokey Bear. (See you learned something here, today.) Capitan is about 70 miles from Roswell and is a great stopping place. The Smokey Bear Park is very pretty and I couldn’t resist stopping in at the Smokey Bear Restaurant for breakfast. With a population of only about 1500, it doesn’t take too long to look around town.

I didn’t try the food, but I don’t know if there is another restaurant in Carrizozo, but bikers are welcome here.

Continuing west on NM-380 takes you down out of the mountains to the high desert of the Tularosa Basin. 20 miles down the road brings you to the tiny crossroads village of Carrizoza (pop 1000). This where NM-380 intersects with US-54. A left turn here will take you back to Alamogordo. There is food and fuel available here, including a drive-in that welcomes bikers.

This is a close up of some of the former lava.

Just after leaving Carrizozo, you will begin seeing signs for a state park called Valley of Fires. I was thinking it had something to do with large gatherings of native Americans or some such thing and was quite astonished when we came over a little hill and saw the black, formerly molten lava flow that extends for 45 miles down this valley. I did not stop at the park, but hope to the next time I pass this way.

The staff at the San Antonio general Store were very nice. They make fudge and other candy there, too.

The next 65 miles take up, down and through rolling hills and small valleys, skirting the northern border of the White Sands Missile Range. As you  reach the end of this section of NM-380, you, again, cross the Rio Grande (as we did in Las Cruces) and into San Antonio, NM. There isn’t much change that you will mistake this San Antonio for the one in Texas, but there is one tiny Fina gas station, aka the San Antonio General Store, a pretty church and at least one bar.

My route turned south from here, but if you have any needs that cannot be met in San Antonio, Socorro is less than 10 miles north, along I-25. With a population of almost 10k, there are several hotels, quite a few restaurants and other retail establishments to meet your needs. Socorro, is also where you can find the junction with US-60. It also home to the NM Institute of Mining & Technology, best know for one of the places where the “Myth Busters” love to go to blow stuff up.

This shows that quality of NM Highway #1. It’s is good shape. You can also see the northern end of Elephant Butte Lake in the distance.

Back to San Antonio. I-25 is the fastest way to our next stop, but that is way too easy and way too bland for me. NM Highway #1 (aka old US-85) runs parallel to the interstate. It is about 65 very scenic miles to Truth or Consequences on Hwy 1. There are no towns, but there is a wildlife refuge, a slower pace, no traffic and some great views of Elephant Butte Lake. I was surprised, but road quality of Hwy 1 is very good. Another advantage over I-25, especially if you are on 2 wheels, is that there no “High Wind Advisory” bridge crossings. Hwy 1 crosses the washes and valley much nearer the bottom than I-25 so you don’t get the high winds.

You do, eventually have to join I-25, but it is only 8 miles until you can exit on Rt 181 and go into Truth or Consequences (aka TorC.) TorC was called Hot Springs until 1950, when the city fathers took up a TV hosts wagers to rename a city after his game show. With a population of about 7000, you should have no problems finding food, fuel, lodging or services. If you like water-related activities, Elephant Butte State Park is next door and has plenty to offer. there is also a very nice veteran’s memorial park with a museum.

The signs remind you that CR152 is a “road less traveled.”

If you are thinking of making this ride back to Tucson a 2-day trip, Truth or Consequence with the lake and hot springs nearby, is a good choice. You are about 220 miles into the trip. If it’s a little too soon to stop, Silver City, NM, another 90 miles, is your other best option. After some of the most amazing road I’ve ever ridden, Silver City is our next stop, but first County Rd 152.

A friend had told me about this amazing road out east of Silver City. After scanning through Google Maps, I found County Rd 152 (hereafter referred to as CR152.) Again, the quickest way to CR152 from TorC is 17.5 miles south on I-25, but why do that when you can take County Road 187 out of Tor C. It is less than 2 miles longer and certainly a prettier drive.

Hillsboro is just a mile or two up that canyon.

The first 13 miles or so of CR152 are mostly flat with mountains visible on every horizon, especially in front of you as you’re headed east. This is also open range for cattle, a concept which was pressed home when i popped over a hill and the was a large heifer standing in my half of the road. Around the 13 or 14 mile point, you  drop into a lovely little canyon, then start to climb the mountains known as the Black Range or the Devil’s Mountains.

I love the architecture of churches.

A mile or two after dropping into the canyon, you pass through the village of Hillsboro, which is listed as a “semi-ghost town.” There is no fuel here, but there is at least one little cafe’ a church and a hotel. I didn’t get the chance to spend anytime here, but I will next time.

I caught site of this sign and barely had time to get the camera up and snap the pic. Pardon the quality.

9 miles later, you pass by Kingston, NM. Take a bit and visit. There is a beautiful lodge here, called the Black Range Lodge. I’ve never been there, but after doing the research for this post, I am seriously considering it. Kingston is also home to the Spit & Whittle Club. (What a great name for a social club.)

Final resting place of James McNally, winner of the MOH. I hope you can read the plaque.

A mile or so east of Kingston, on CR152, is their cemetery. I love visiting old cemeteries and this one did not disappoint. It is where I got to “meet” my first Medal of honor winner. You’ll see it on the north side of the road outside of Kingston.

Even 15mph is a little much on a few of these turns. God help you if you’re towing a trailer.

CR152 road quality is good, as you can see here. Beware of the 90 degree turns without guardrails.

It is soon after passing Kingston, that you begin my favorite part of this trip; the climb to Emory Pass. In just 8 miles, the road climbs from 6000 feet elevation at Kingston, to 8900 feet at Emory Pass. This 8 miles is amazing. You climb from a pinion/juniper forest at Kingston, to Ponderosa pines as you near the top of the pass. There are numerous switchbacks and tight S-curves. The speed limit is 25mph and this is too fast at times.

Taken near Emery Pass, this pics shows a few of the twists and turns that CR152 makes.

ADVISORY: CR152 can be exceedingly dangerous in the winter. It routinely gets snow and regular signs will tell you that it is NOT plowed at night or on weekends. Please plan your trip accordingly. Also, watch for debris in the roads. I came across numerous areas of sand and rocks in the road.

This is a small part of the El Chino open pit mine near Silver City.

There is a nice little rest stop at the top of the pass with great photo opportunities. The road down the other side is more of those fun switch backs and S-curves. About 18 miles later, now out of the twisty parts, you meet the junction with CR61 at San Lorenzo. Going south here would take you to Deming. Continue on CR152 toward Silver City. 10 miles later, you’ll come to the El Chino aka Santa Rita copper mine, once the largest open pit mine in the world. There is a nice viewing area with a lot of informational/historical signs and pictures on the south side of the road.

The incredibly scenic CR152 ends 6 miles later when you merge with NM-180 at the town of Santa Clara, which actually known as Central, until 1996 when they changed their name. (What is it with towns in NM changing their names?) The thing I most remember about riding through Santa Clara was their sign for the “Bataan Death March Recreational Park.” That name struck me as a bit, uh, odd, macabre and slightly disturbing, but memorable. Too bad, I didn’t get a pic.

A guy in TorC said that one can see Elephant Butte from Emery Pass. Well, it’s out there somewhere.

from here, it is only 8 miles to downtown Silver City. There is a wonderful main street area which makes you feel like you’re in an old movie. At this point you have travelled about 300 miles from Roswell. If you did not spend the night in TorC, you might want to consider staying in Silver City. With a population of 10k, and a great mountain location, there is plenty to see and do here.

From Silver City, there are 2 primary ways to get back to Tucson. the one I most recommend is taking NM-180 to CR-78. This, too, is another amazing road. I wrote about this in September, 2011 (SIR’s to NM and Back Again.) The other way is to take CR-90 out of the south side of town. This takes you through some beautiful pinyon forest, across the Burro Mountains and through the Gila National Forest.

There is some much history out here and many never get to see it because so much of New Mexico is fairly remote.

Approximately 45 miles, you’ll reach the junction with US-70 then you come in to the north side of Lordsburg. Since I already covered I-10 from Tucson to Lordsburg, I will end this lengthy post here. Although, I did not spend a lot of space writing about it, CR152, is one of the most beautiful and exciting roads on which I have ever ridden. I hope you get a chance to go there in one kind of vehicle or another.

I am hoping to put together a two or even three day ride to this area in the spring of next year. I hope some of my scooter brethren will be able to accompany me.

 

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5 Responses to “A Ride to Roswell & back Part II (To Tucson via the Scenic Route)”

  • johnkiniston:

    That sounds like a great ride.

  • Jim Kenney:

    Excellent article. The photographs were wonderful. I’ve made this ride many times and always considerate one of my favorites. Your writing is wonderful and entertaining and you should consider submitting your article to one of the national motorcycle publications for publication nationally. Wonderful job. Thank you for sharing!

  • Jim Parkhurst:

    Let me know when you are planning your spring adventure. I would like to be considered for the trip. It will be a first for me. After looking at your pics, it looks like a bucket list inclusion. Jim.

  • I’m having technical difficulties, but I have made a video to go with this post. I will add it once the editing issue is fixed. In the meantime, I will post a link to in here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjmjQ4ONSsY

  • Jim:

    Stunning scenery – I’ll have to make the trip sometime.

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