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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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postheadericon A Ride to Roswell & Back (Pt I)

The San Andres Mountains near Las Cruces, NM. (As seen from San Augustine Pass.)

Have you been thinking that you would like to try a bit of a road trip? Whether you are driving, riding a motorcycle or a scooter, I highly recommend a trip to Roswell. I recently rode this and will describe the routes taken, towns passed and sights along the way. Following the route described, it is a trip of approximately 500 miles there and approx 600 miles on the return. I did the trip in two travel days. If you are doing this on 2 wheels and want to take in the incredible scenery, I recommend taking your time and using 4 travel days. Part I will describe the trip from Tucson to Roswell and part II will discuss the return trip.

I-10 eastbound approaching Willcox, AZ.

I know I have disparaged the use of the interstate in the past. I will continue to use it as little as possible. However, when taking long trips out of Tucson, it can cost you a lot of extra miles and even more extra time if you chose not to use interstate at all. For example, compare the shortest route, which is the one I will describe in Part I, to the first route suggested when you use Google’s “Avoid Highways” option. Avoiding highways is 100 miles and 4 hours longer. As you have probably figured out, if you have read many of my posts,  if it means cool roads, I don’t care too much how much further it is, nor how much longer it will take.

On to the journey.  I have written about the Arizona section of I-10 in the past and there are some nice places and some interesting sites along the way.This route is best taken mid-week to avoid the many other travelers who use this road. Road quality is good UNTIL you hit San Simon. Suddenly there are pot holes and sections that are very rough, especially if you are on 2 wheels. Fortunately, the rough section only lasts until you reach the states line (about 12 miles) then it become good again.

As mentioned in Riding SoAZ, Part VIII, you pass the  ghost town of Steins on the north side of I-10 about 3 miles after crossing the state line. If you have a few minutes, I recommend a quick stop there. 25 miles after crossing into New Mexico, you pass the town of Lordsburg. I enjoy getting off the interstate and actually going through town. Lordsburg has less than 5000 residents, but there is enough here to meet most of your needs. There are several hotels and a few restaurants. I ate at Kranberry’s the last 2 times I stopped for food in Lordsburg and found it to be pretty good.

If you’re not in the need of food or rest, you can continue another 60, mostly flat, mostly straight, miles to the town of Deming, which is another great example of small town America. There are 15k or so residents here, so there are more options in the way of food, fuel and services. As with many other towns bypassed because of “progress,” I recommend taking the Business I-10 route through town and checking out the “real Deming” and maybe stopping by a local restaurant of gift shop and helping out their economy. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, take NM Route 549 (Old Las Cruces Highway) going east. It parallels I-10 for about 35 miles before rejoining the interstate about 25 miles outside of downtown Las Cruces. Road conditions of Rt 549 are average to good.

That’s the Picacho Rd bridge crossing the Rio Grande. In the foreground is a beautiful park that runs along side the river.

If you are planning on continuing to Roswell, I suggest taking exit #135, W. Picacho Ave/US-80. Picacho Ave takes across the Rio Grande (There’s a nice little park along the river here as well.) and in to the older downtown area. For those choosing to make this a two-day ride, I would recommend Las Cruces as an excellent stopping point. Las Cruces is the 2nd largest city in NM and has a lot of history and culture. There are numerous hotels and restaurants from which to chose, plus it is a college town, so there is night life to be experienced.

San Augustine Pass is just to the right of the center of this pic.

This is looking east, down toward Ft Bliss Proving Grounds from San Augustine Pass.

When you’re ready to be on your way, turn north on Main St and follow the signs toward Alamogordo. Main St becomes US-70. As you leave Las Cruces, you can see the highway climbing straight up the side of the San Andres Mountain range. You climb approximately 2000 ft until you reach San Augustine Pass. Pull over and enjoy the view down into the valley. Much of what you can see from here is either part of Fort Bliss or part of White Sands Missile Range. US-70 is divided highway all the way to Alamogordo and road quality is good. Alamogordo’s claim to fame is their proximity to the Trinity Site, home of the world’s first nuclear bomb blast.

You can see the white sand peeking outaround the side of this building near the visitors’ center.

It is approximately 35 miles from the top of the pass to the White Sands visitor center. For $3 you drive through this most unique park. If you have a parks pass, it is free, of course. From the park entrance, it is only about 15 miles to Alamogordo.

With a population of almost 40k, Alamogordo is big enough to have a lot going on and plenty of things to see, but still small enough to have a great “small town feel.”The town sits at the foot of the Sacramento Mountains. From here, there are two main routes to cross and get to Roswell on the other side.  As you near the north end of town, turn east on Route 82. Road quality is fair to good, but can be treacherous in winter. This takes you 110 miles on a lovely, two-lane mountain road that takes you through the ski village of Cloudcroft, then down to other side to Artesia. Once there, turn north and follow either Highway 285 or Route 2 and Roswell is only another 40 miles. Be advised, Cloudcroft is over 8000 feet in elevation. Snow is common in winter months and temps, even in summer, are considerably coolers than in the valleys below so dress accordingly.

The more common route to Roswell, from Alamogordo, is via US-70, through Ruidoso. It’s only 40 miles to Ruidoso and the road is 4 lane highway and is in very good condition. Prior to getting to Ruidoso, you enter the Mescalero Apache Reservation and pass through the tiny village of Mescalero. Mescalero is situated at about 6600 feet elevation. You’ll climb just a bit more before gradually starting down and into Ruidoso. Be advised, most of the food lodging and retail in Ruidoso is NOT on US-70. Turn west on Sudderth Dr once in town to find a lot more stuff. Ruidoso’s claim to fame is that their horse racing track is home to the Worlds Richest Quarter Horse Race.

Leaving Ruidoso, it is 70 only miles to Roswell. The road continues to be four lane and is in very good condition. US-70 follows the Hondo River and the scenery through here is nothing short of spectacular. I don’t recall and gas stations but there are several tiny villages (Glencoe, San Patricio, Hondo, Arabella, Tinnie and Picacho) and quite a few little fruit stands (open seasonally) and gift shops along the way. Slow down and enjoy this amazing drive. One of my favorite places to stop along here is the Ruidoso Trading Post, best known and “Fox Cave.”

These are some of the rolling hills west of Roswell.

Once you leave the mountains, you come into some wide-open, rolling ranch land. One can frequently see small herds of antelope along the side of the road. You come into Roswell on 2nd St. Most of the food and lodging is located to the north of 2nd St. When you come to Main St, the “world famous” UFO Museum and Research Center will bbbe on yuuur right. (Sorry, I can’t even type that without laughing.)

This “museum” is located at the corner of Main St and 2nd St.

Roswell is a neat little town, even without all the UFO stuff. It home home to the NM Military Institute with many notable alumni like Dallas CowboyRoger Staubach, actor Owen Wilson and ABC Newsman Sam Donaldson. The Pecos River flows along the east side of town. There are still many family farms in the area and Roswell still has that small town America feel.

According to Google Maps, it is 466 miles between Tucson and Roswell, but if you got off the road at all to sight-see you’re have probably logged in 500 miles. This is a great ride/drive with lots of sights and even more American history. In Part II, I will cover different route back to Tucson.

Sunset over the farm, or is that the Mothership landing to take us away?

 

 

 

 

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