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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 SIR’s to NM and Back Again – Route 78 Twisties and Sweepers

Why Ride?

I decided to make the best out of having several days off combined with days that still have quite a few hours of day light. After my enjoyable 550 mile ride the previous week, I was looking at some websites featuring roads for great motorcycle rides.

One site mentioned Route 78 which spans the AZ/NM border, connecting US-180 to US-191. The eastern end starts about 45 miles northwest of Silver City, NM. The western end can be found at Three Way, AZ, which is about 35 north east of Safford. Route 78 is approximately 35 miles in length. So, one week I rode 550 miles in order to ride 30, this particular week, I rode 515 miles, to ride 35. It sounds kind of crazy to me as I write this now, but it made a lot of sense at the time.

Nearing Texas Canyon on I-10

Once I read about this scenic road, I had to find a way to get there. I did my usual Google Map review. I looked for the shortest, but most scenic, loop possible. I came up with this: 463 miles and I figured it could be done in a shade less than 12 hours. That allowed time for food, rest and some photos.

Here’s Lori

This time, I rode with a friend, Lori P, who is another Sky Island Rider. After hearing about my previous 500 miler, she said, I wouldn’t mind doing something like that” and since I already had this ride planned, I invited her and her black RV-250, along for a long ride.

If you looked the link of the ride map above, you may be saying something like. “Hey, I thought Howard didn’t ride on interstate highways.” I mentioned many times, that I don’t care for interstate, however, sometimes it is necessary. I-10, from Vail to Lordsburg, NM, is about 135 miles and a little over two hours. I would have loved to have taken a nice back road to Lordsburg. However, here is what it would have looked like if I would have done so: MAP. Now it’s just over 200 miles and over 4 hours. If I were making this a two day trip, I would have done this, but I wasn’t, so I didn’t. Arizona just doesn’t have that many ways to get from Point A to Point B.

30 Percent Chance of Rain

The weather forecast called for temps around 105 on the desert floor and a 30% chance of rain in the late afternoon. In an effort to avoid possibly getting caught in one of the afternoon rain squalls as well as to get off of I-10 before the traffic picked up, we left early, about 5:30am. It was dark and east bound traffic was very light as we left from our meet-up location at I-10 and Houghton Road.

The worst part of leaving this early were the bugs, mostly gnats. I pulled us off the road at The Thing! for a much needed cleaning of our face shields. We learned another thing (other than the fact that bugs are heavy around dawn) by the time we reached Willcox. I had been keeping our speed around 75mph, indicated, on my speedometer. When we fueled in Willcox, our usual 65mpg mileage, had plummeted to about 45mpg! our range was now closer to 120 miles on a tank, rather than the 200 miles I was accustomed to. Good thing we never had more than about 100 miles between towns.

Be advised, road quality on I-10 is less than ideal. I suppose it is because of the large number of tractor-trailers on it. Whatever the reason, the worst road we traveled on this day was I-10. The section between Willcox and the NM state line was the worst.

A Surprisingly Interesting Place.

To my relief, we reached Lordsburg and were able to leave I-10 until, I thought, the return leg. We grabbed some fuel at the Love’s Travel Stop right off of Exit 20A and B. (For some reason, there are two exits here that both go to the same place: Motel Drive.) We then cruised to Main St then south to Kranberry’s Restaurant for some breakfast. The food and coffee were good and there was a pair of ladies who had a lot of questions about our scooters.

According to My Tracks, we did the following on this first leg:

  • Total Dist –  154 mi
  • Max speed-  74 mph
  • Elev gain-   4528 ft

Unbeknownst to me, I had a phone issue, so I have no My Track data from Lordsburg to Silver City.

Silver City’s downtown area is nostalgia filled

With full tank and full bellies, we turned, made our way to Route 90 toward Silver City. There was very little traffic on 90. We steadily climbed as we left Lordsburg. Route 90 gets a little more than 6000 feet on the way to Silver City. We drove around Silver City a bit and took in some of the sites from the scoots. The old downtown is especially picturesque, however, I didn’t get any pics myself. You should, though.

We had a nice visit with another scooterist in Cliff, NM

After our little tour, we found Route 180 and turned toward the town of Cliff. we hadn’t stopped in Silver City, so we stopped for a butt break and some liquid refreshment in Cliff’s only operating retail establishment that we could see: the “Mini Mart.” While we were there, a scooter pulled up and we talked for a while with a local resident named Walter Roth. It was a great little break. he had bought his scooter at Copper Country ATV & Cycle and was very pleased with the service he got there.

17 miles after leaving the mini-Mart, we reached “The Road,” Route 78. As mentioned on the Motorcycle Roads website, it starts as undulating road through some beautiful grassland, steadily climbing as we headed west. High speed sweepers start about the time we reached the pine forest.

Any Place trucker shouldn’t go sounds like good riding to me!

The Arizona State line is, apparently, the signal to start downhill and into some serious twisties. These went on for 6-8 miles. gradually, we saw amazing views of the desert valley where Three-Way and Clifton are located. About the time I thought the curves were finished, we hit these incredible 180 degree, downhill sweepers! There several in combination and they were an absolute blast to ride.

If you look closely, you can see the line where the pine trees start.

It was a thrilling ride. If we didn’t have so far to go to get home, I would have turned around, gone back to the top, and ridden it again. Route 78 ends at Three Way, AZ. Three Way is so, I suppose, because of it’s four-way intersection of three roads, Route 78, US-191 and Route 75. There is a general store and a gas station at said intersection. I wasn’t sure if I could make it the rest of the way into Safford, so we gassed up in Three Way, got onto US-191 and headed toward Safford.

There is a significant climb as you leave Three Way. The road is in great shape and it is now divided highway. It was in Safford that my internal compass let me down. I hadn’t written down a bunch of directions like I did for the previous long ride. I failed to see the sign indicating the left turn near downtown to stay on 191. I didn’t recall needing to turn and was sure we were heading south. We had an enjoyable lunch at Jerry’s and headed out of town. We did need a bit of time to cool off as it was 111 degrees as we hit town.

Looking east down US-70

It was my plan to head south on 191 then turn west onto Route 266 and ride to Fort Grant then hit I-10 in Willcox then ride back to Tucson. I was riding and having a grand time but started to feel a bit uneasy at not having seen the 266 intersection. We finally stopped at a nice rest area in the little town of Bylas. It was there that I asked directions and was told tat we were actually 35 miles west of Safford on US-70 headed toward Globe! The take home lesson here is that there are very few road signs out here. Make sure you’re on the right one.

I felt we were too far out of our way to turn around. Since US-70 would take us to Globe and from there we could take Route 77 back to Tucson, I decided to continue the way were going. We gassed up again in Peridot, on the reservation and climbed up to Globe. One remarkable thing we both noticed at we rode near Peridot was the unique odor of whatever was growing along the road. It smelled exactly like a fine pipe tobacco. It was quite pleasant, but I’ve never smelled it before.

We could see huge thunderheads to the south, as we approached Globe. As with my last ride, we stopped in Winkleman for a little rest. It was obvious we were going to get wet. I did discover in my last ride, that the RV-250 handles wet road quite well.

It started raining as we passed through Dudleyville.We hit severe weather at Mammoth but kept on going. It was late afternoon by this time and we had been in the saddles for more than 12 hours. Again, the RV-250 performed well. By the time we hit Catalina, precipitation was down to a sprinkle.

We rode together until we had to part ways to go to our respective homes. It was another awesome ride. I got the following ride data from My Tracks for the ride from Silver City to Tucson:

  • Total Dist –  265 mi
  • Max Speed –  66 mph
  • Min Elev –   1945 ft
  • Max Elev –  6219 ft
  • Elev Gain – 10100 ft
  • Max Grade –  11.8%
  • min grade    -9.3%

Our total distance covered was a tad over 500 miles. The RV-250 performed better on this ride than the last one. Mostly because elevation was mostly below 6000 feet.

It was a great ride and I thank Lori for coming along. It was my first long ride with a ride buddy. It’s fun to have someone to share a ride with.

This post has gotten way out of hand. Take care and ride safe.

Howard

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