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postheadericon The Fellowship of the Scoot (Apologies to Tolkien) Part I

Scooters, along with a good ride, have a way of bringing people together. An excellent example of this happened earlier this month when a few of the Sky Island Riders decided to do a 600 mile, overnight ride. First, a little about the ride.

There are a couple of places a number of us have been wanting to go that will require at least two days to complete. Riding AZ Route 191 and NM Route 252 are a couple. Unfortunately, these require riding in some remote areas and not all of our scoots were ready at this time to do either of those rides, so we decided to look for a long ride that would have a bit more support available in the event of problems.

This is a section of AZ Route 89 south of Prescott.

The club had never ridden up to the Sedona region, so we started looking at that. I had done a similar ride in the past, so the plans started falling into place. It was decided that we would ride around to the west side of Phoenix by way of Maricopa and make our way up to Prescott via Wickenburg, US-60 and AZ-89. From there, we would climb over Mingus Mountain, stop in Jerome, then spend the night in Cottonwood, AZ. We chose Cottonwood because hotel rates there are about half of what you will pay Sedona. Also, the way our ride route was coming together, Cottonwood was almost exactly halfway.


View Larger Map The ride was supposed to look like this.

Day 2 would have us ride to Flagstaff by way of Sedona and the beautiful ride up Oak Creek Canyon. From Flagstaff, we planned to take Lake Mary Rd to Route 87 and take that to Payson. Then we would ride past Roosevelt Lake, up to Globe and back to Tucson. This worked out to about 300 miles each day. Vacation days were requested, time off arranged and hotel reservations were made.

Once we got within a week of departure (Thursday, Oct 11th) we started watching the weather, to help us dress appropriately. This is Arizona. Temps were still in the 90’s in Tucson, but you never know about the northern part of the states where elevations are much higher.  The long range forecast was calling for a significant cold front coming into the state Wednesday or Thursday. There was a cold wind moving in from Mordor.

We saw a lot of storm clouds, especially on day 1.

I was hoping that as the day got closer, the forecast would improve, or the front would slow down by a day. It remained unchanged. The sad part is that the weather was only supposed to be bad the two days we were riding. Sunny with temps in the 80’s the days before AND after the ride. Oh well. I began warning all potential riders of the forecast and the fact that it looked like we would be riding in temperatures in the 30’s with rain and a lot of wind.

I went all over town looking for thermal stuff. Found these at Target. Ooh! Pretty colors.

I went out and bought more cold weather gear, specifically a thermal shirt and as many chemical hand-warmers as I could find. It wasn’t easy because cooler weather hadn’t arrived in the desert yet. Stores that usually sold the hand-warmers told me “We carry them in the winter, but we haven’t ordered them yet. Check again in a month or so.”

The day arrived. I was first to get to our meet-up point. Given the weather conditions, I wouldn’t have been surprised if no one showed. As it turned out 2 more scooter and one rider in a car turned out. There was Warren and his PCX 125, John in his Honda Fit, me and my RV250 and a new rider, Jim, on his Kymco 250. When asked why he chose this as his time to join us on a ride, Jim said, “It sounded like fun.” Yes, scooters and bad weather (apparently) have a way of bringing us together.

The Tucson Sky over the QuikTrip where we met prior to leaving town.

It was raining lightly as we left but that stopped within about 15 minutes. We made our way up the I-10 access road to Picacho. Then we took AZ Route 84 through Eloy and into Casa Grande. We did a little zig and a zag through town and wound up on Cottonwood Lane, which becomes the Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway. That took us into Maricopa for our first fuel stop. Road conditions of the access road, Route 84 and the Maricopa-CG Highway were all very good.

Here we are after breakfast at the Waffle House. Photo by Guy.

Our next stop was in southwestern Phoenix where were meeting another friend of the SIR’s for breakfast. Guy is part of the Phoenix scooter community and founder of VespaAZ. He found out we were coming through Phoenix and took a bit of time off work to come eat and visit with us. Thanks, Guy. It was a pleasure introducing you to your first Waffle House experience.

Yes, this is a corn field in a Phoenix suburb. That is a shopping center in the background.

For those interested in getting between Tucson and Phoenix using alternate roads, we took Route 347 north out of Maricopa, then turned west on Riggs Road. Riggs become 51st Avenue. If you’re going to Glendale, stay on 51st. We were wanting to avoid more of town than that, so we went west on Baseline until it ends at 91st Ave. Other than stopping for breakfast and fuel, we took 91st St north until we hit US-60, aka Grand Ave. We had initially planned on going further west to Loop 303, but there is a lot of construction there and when that is done, 303 will no longer be suitable for smaller scooters, so I would recommend the 91st Ave route for those wanting to go to Wickenburg and beyond.

Here are Jim, Glenn and the Silverwing.

After meeting with Guy, it was on to Wickenburg to join yet another new friend of the Sky Island Riders, Glenn Mason. Glenn rides a Honda Silverwing. He found out about our ride after joining our Facebook group. He met and rode with us all the way to Prescott. He even led us through most of the twisty parts of  AZ Route 89 between Congress and Prescott. This, he did,  in spite of deteriorating weather and rain. Another fine example of fellow “adventurers” being brought together by scooters, a great ride, oh, and the internet, of course.

Part of the climb up to Yarnell. As you can see, the road is in good shape.

We rode US-60, through Wickenburg, then took Highway 93 north toward Las Vegas for 6 or 7 miles north of Wickenburg to the Route 89 junction. 13 miles later you start an amazing climb (1200 feet in 4 miles!) up the White Spar Highway to Yarnell, AZ. Road conditions on White Spar are very good and the steepest part of the climb is 2-lane divided highway, so it is pretty safe for slower vehicles, because it is easy for people to get around you.

Can you see all the twists in the road over there?

From Yarnell it is only 35 miles to Prescott. The first 20 of it are flat and mostly straight as you go through the beautiful Peeples Valley. The last 15 miles are mountainous and twisty with great places to put off the road and take pictures. Our ride was pretty nice. It was a bit windy, so we had to be especially careful in the twisties. We could see rain clouds over Prescott, but it stayed dry all the way there.

Here I am, trying on a Ural at Scooter and Auto Source.

They even have a Harley-Davidson Topper on display.

We stopped in Prescott to visit at Scooter and Auto Source. They are very nice and have a great selection of vehicles: Jeeps, lots of scooters, Ural sidecar rigs, mopeds,  even electric bicycles. Stop by and check out the vintage bikes that they have displayed.

The rain started in earnest while we were checking out the bikes at Auto Source. It was raining pretty hard as we left Prescott. Fortunately, it stopped shortly before we got to Route 89A where we had to climb up and over Mingus Mountain. It was still windy but the road was dry. Road condition on 89A between Prescott and Cottonwood is fair to good. There are some rough parts in some of the corners.

Scooter Trash is a biker shop. “I we don’t have what you want, then you want the wrong stuff.”

We stopped in Jerome to get a few obligatory pics in front of the Scooter Trash sign. We looked down toward Cottonwood and saw a huge storm rolling toward us. We cut our visit to Jerome short and raced down the hill in an attempt to beat the storm. We didn’t make it. The storm slammed into us as we came out of the first traffic circle. There were high winds and heavy rain all the way into Cottonwood.

Don’t you just love classic, old neon signs?

Our hotel was The View Hotel. It is older, but it is well maintained. It’s only 20 miles to Sedona, where room rates are extremely high, but at the View, rates (as of this writing) are as low as $50 a night. They have wi-fi, a pool and a hot tub. Our rooms were pretty basic, but clean. The staff was nice in our dealings with them.

We walked down the hill and went to Renegades Steakhouse for dinner. The service was excellent and we all really enjoyed our food. TIP: Try the nopalitos appetizer. It was superb.

I hadn’t planned on making this a two part episode, but it looks like that is what it will be. Part I recounts the Sky Island Riders’ trip to Cottonwood, AZ. It shows how our love for scooters brought people from several different communities together and how our love for the ride wouldn’t let something like bad weather keep us from it.

Stay tuned for Part II. After that, I will be writing about the 25th annual Fall Classic Scooter Rally.

 

 

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postheadericon Rally Report: El Scoot de Tucson IV

Well, El Scoot IV has come and gone and what an event it was. We had more bikes and riders on the ride portion than for any other ride in club history!

El Scoot is a little hard to describe. It’s not just a “ride” because we have a big dinner at the end, followed by a raffle. It doesn’t exactly feel like a “rally”, either, although I don’t really know why. We are calling this a one-day rally from now on, though.

From Foothills Magazine. This is what the start of the bicycle race looks like

We started El Scoot because of the annual bicycle event here in Tucson: El Tour de Tucson. It is a ride that takes cyclists on a 109 mile circumnavigation of the city. I have ridden in El Tour a couple of times and really enjoyed it. After I started riding scooters and planning rides, I decided to try doing the route on scooters. We can’t ride it exactly because there are two “river/wash” crossings and part of it goes through a private, gated community. Instead of 109 miles, ours was more like 120.

Creating the route was relatively easy, but I didn’t want to have just a ride and nothing else. I talked with my wife and my local scooter shop (Scoot Over) and we decided to have a sponsored stop or two along the way, just like the cyclists do, then finish with a barbecue. (I enjoy cooking on my wood smoker and decided it would be fun to make a special meal for my scooter friends. My wife agreed to make the rest of the meal and away we went. I’ve yet to get all the stops “sponsored” but I’m still working on it.

Check out the variety of scoots as we ended the ride at my house for BBQ and fun.

El Scoot I was well received. We all had a good time, so it was decided that we would keep it on our annual list of events. El Scoot I was actually the precursor to our annual spring, 3-day rally. Doing El Scoot gave us the confidence we needed to do the May Day Rally, now known as “For A Few CC’s More.” I think there were 16 bikes that first year. Shelby and Scoot Over sponsored one of our stops and provided coffee and donuts.

16 riders heading south on Houghton Rd near Catalina Highway

El Scoot II also had 16 riders, but a new group participated: the green Valley Scooter Club. We felt very good about having another regional group join us for an event. We had a good time. Scoot Over was there once again to provide us with some coffee and pastries along the way.

Different faces and different bikes, but still having a great ride on El Scoot III

El Scoot III was a little different. Due to non-scooter related issues, we were unable to host the barbecue, so chose to do the ride, then have the barbecue at a local BBQ joint: The Hog Pit. We did a long ride, and the route was altered just a little bit for variety. We all had a good time, although comments were made that the homemade meal would have been preferred. A review of pics from the event indicates there were a total of (care to guess?) 16 scooters on the ride. There were a lot of new faces, including two riders who came down from the Phoenix Scooter Club. The Green Valley guys didn’t make it, but Phoenix did. We were so stoked about this ride that one of our riders even had patches made to commemorate it. below, is the route as we rode it this year:


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Along comes El Scoot IV. Leading even 10 or 15 bikes through city traffic can be a bit trying. I was ready to alter our route rather significantly. After all, I am not affiliated with the bicycle event, so I have no obligation to keep to their route. Also, Tucson has very nice riding roads very near the city, so a new route was created that would keep us more rural, into more twisty, fun roads and away from stoplights and traffic.

2012 has been a good year for scooter sales, which has meant that the Sky Island Riders have been experiencing growth as well. We were still quite surprised, however, when  the RSVP count a few days before the ride was in excess of 40! Through their meetup.com site, we took note that there were even 16 riders scheduled to ride down from Phoenix. There was a little bit of scrambling as we made sure that there would be enough food to feed 50. I have been involved with scooter events long enough to know that RSVP’s are rarely an accurate count of how many folks turn up. You never know whether the actual number will be much more or much less than predicted. We did all the preparation we could, then plunged into Sunday morning and El Scoot.

Eight riders got up early to ride the “Ride to the Ride” ride.

We added additional segment to the long ride this year. We added a “Ride to the Ride.” The start of the official ride was on Tucson’s northwest side, which made it easier and closer for the Phoenix riders. The official ride also started on the edge of town so that those who didn’t want to ride as much “in town” would be able to skip the metro riding. The “Ride to the Ride” started early and we stopped in three different places so that those who didn’t want to ride to the start alone could join the group someplace close to their home and arrive at El Scoot en masse.

The Green Valley contingent was waiting for us. We had another motorcycle this year, too.

Working together to get everyone’s bike ready to ride.

We had eight riders join us for the Ride to the Ride. We arrived at James Kriegh Park, joined several who were already there and counted at scooters began to gather. Shelby and the Scoot Over Suburban arrived with coffee and donuts and riders were renewing old acquaintances  and making new friends as they enjoyed some breakfast.

Here are the nine riders from Phoenix who had to do a lot of riding to join us at El Scoot. Big props to them.

Ride out was scheduled for 10:00 am and at 9:55, Glen and 8 other riders showed up from Phoenix. We gave the Phoenix crew a few minutes to rest and as we pulled out around 10:15, there were 32 bikes behind me. 33 was not only a record for El Scoot, but a record number for any single ride in SIR’s history!

Here’s the dweeb cutting into our formation of scooters.

Here is our formation snaking around what we call scooter killer curve.

The ride itself was relatively uneventful. Early in the ride, we had some knucklehead in a white car cut right into the middle of the formation at a stoplight. The group quickly reformed and we were on our way. I really enjoyed the site of all the bikes as they snaked their way up Picture Rocks Road as well entered Saguaro National Park west. One rider (thanks Randy) estimated that the single file line of bikes was approximately a half mile in length.

You can’t see all of the bikes, but here we are at Saguaro National Park Visitors’ Center

We rode through the park down Sandario Road, turned east on Kinney and made our first stop at the national park visitors’ center. After a few minutes to rest and visit some more, we rode the rest of Kinney Rd, then weaved our way down to Mission Road. We rode past San Xavier Mission. From there it was to the least scenic portion of the ride: Hughes Access Road to Los Reales past the city dump (oh boy.)

This is on Mary Ann Cleveland Way, in Vail

We arrived at our second stop about an hour ahead of schedule. We did have one bike run out of fuel just as we got to the TTT truck stop, but otherwise the group was still intact. We stopped at Thomas Jay Park, in Little Town, which has been a stop at all the previous El Scoots. Here we had more refreshments and fuel was available.

It was a beautiful sunshiney day with some interesting cloud formations

From Little Town, we made our way to Valencia and east to ride to Pistol Hill Road and back along Old Spanish Trail Rd. We lost a couple of bikes as someone else needed fuel. Other than that, the rest of the group successfully pulled in to my house to enjoy some BBQ and the raffle.

Gathering together to eat and have some fun

Nothing builds up an appetite like a long scooter ride

I know I sure had fun hosting this event and I hope everyone had fun. Stan Scott won the raffle’s grand prize: a hand-made quilt. I would also like to thank Cycle Gear and Ride Now Power Sports for providing raffle items. Of, course, a big thanks goes to Scoot Over for providing breakfast and for driving behind us the whole route as sag wagon. I am thankful that no bikes needed to be hauled away from the ride. Finally, the biggest thanks and appreciation goes out to my wife. Without her help, i would be unable to do much of what I do with SIR’s.

 

 

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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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postheadericon Patrolling Picacho

My apologies for not posting something sooner. It’s been 2 months since my last post, but life gets in the way of blog posts sometimes. Now we’ve got the High Roller rally coming soon, plus our own For A Few CC’s More II” coming up soon, so I don’t know that I’ll be any better about more frequent posts, but I’ll try.

On January 26, last month, I went for a ride. My original plan was to ride out to Coolidge, AZ, to verify ride times and route for our February 4th club ride to meet the Phoenix Scooter Club for lunch, but the road called for something a bit different.

Along the frontage road, north of Marana

I rode across town to the I-10 Frontage/Access (Is there a difference, or are these terms synonymous?) road. This is a great way to cross Tucson, is you need to do so on the west side. The big issue now is that there is construction being done at and around the Prince Road area. The frontage road is nice because there is little traffic and few stoplights. Once you get past Marana, there is virtually no traffic. Road quality is above average.

I rode out of town, enjoying the sites and sounds. 22 miles from Ina Road is the Red Rock exit and overpass. Red Rock is an unincorporated village which, according to Wikipedia, had a population in 2010 of a little over 2000 people. The only functioning business that I have seen there is the “Red Rock Bar.” There are a lot of homes being built there and I suspect that some additional retail will be there before too long.

That’s one BIG puddle!

In September of 2008, my son and I rode out this way, in an attempt to explore what’s left of Sasco, AZ. We came this same direction, and were confounded by a huge puddle (at least 100 feet across) blocking the road. We couldn’t tell how deep it might be and didn’t want to risk crossing it. As I was riding along the frontage road, I recalled our trip and decided to change paths and see if I could find another ghost town. After all, a puddle that was there two and a half years previously would be there now, plus there hadn’t been any rain recently.

From the frontage road, go across the overpass and turn left onto Sasco Road. This will take you through the middle of the tract housing, past the skate park, the pool and the elementary school. 4.3 miles after passing the school you will see and smell a large cattle “feed lot” to the right. Coachway Rd branches off to the right here as well. From this fork in the road, it is another 7.5 miles to the Sasco Cemetery. Off I went to do some exploring, glad that I wouldn’t be blocked by a water hazard.

Well, I was wrong. That “puddle” isn’t a rain puddle. It is actually the Santa Cruz River and at this point, and it flows directly across the road! It wasn’t as wide as on my previous visit and I could see recent evidence of cars or trucks crossing, but I still couldn’t tell if there were any “sippy holes” or other hidden obstacles. I debated on scooting across but I was alone and if I dumped the bike, it would be a long, cold ride home.

“Now what should I do?” I thought.

I remembered that Coachway Rd was paved and went in the same general direction as Sasco. I thought that Coachway might have a bridge across the Santa Cruz or that the river may have gone back under ground a bit further north. Either way, I still might be able to find a ghost town.

Wrong again.

Coachway took me on a nice ride, but it never got me back to Sasco. Coachway runs due west along the southernmost border of Picacho Peak State Park. The road becomes well-maintained dirt after a half mile. Another mile and the road turns north and becomes and Cripple Creek Rd. About two miles later, the road turns west again and is then called Baumgartner.

At this point, I was directly south of Picacho Peak. The view was great and I should have snapped a couple of pics, but, alas, I didn’t. I was actually considering what I would do if I broke down. The RV-250 was running great, but after breaking down in the middle of nowhere in the not so distant past, I was having those terrible “what if” scenarios running through my head. Mostly, I was trying to figure out how to give someone directions to my location and who that “someone” might be.

I continued along Baumgartner. Even though it remained dirt, road quality was remarkably good. I think it’s because they are doing construction on the canals but the road is very wide, smooth and free of significant sand patches. A little more than 4 miles in, I reached a “T” intersection. If I kept straight, the road would become Wheeler Rd. Baumgartner went left and I could see asphalt. I went left.

What community is this? The “store” is on the right.

There were a number of houses at this intersection. There were no signs indicating a town, nor is there any indication on Google or any of the maps I’ve got. The reason I thought it may have been a town or village is that across from a large house on the north side of the road, is what appears to have been a store. There is even an old gas pump in front of it.

I like the way the farmer used this old bridge to hold up his irrigation pipe.

A quarter mile west of the house and the “store” is an old bridge next to the current road. It is in poor repair and is clearly unsafe, but I did snag a couple of photos.

Two miles later, I reached the intersection with Picacho Highway. Although I had never been this way on Picacho Highway, I knew exactly where I was and how to get home from here.

A good photographer could have made something out of this.

It’s only about 9 miles from Baumgartner Rd to I-10 and our favorite frontage road. Even though this is a straight piece of road, there are still some points of interest along the way, As may recall from earlier posts, I not enjoy ghost towns, but any old, ruined buildings. About a mile north, I saw a burned out hulk of a building at Curtis Road. I pulled over and snapped a few photos.

Rest in Peace.

A quarter of a mile further, was a roadside marker. The friends or family of this person had built a small building as a memorial. I stopped and took a few more pics.

Guess Your Weight?

A littler further were the ruins of an old weight station. I think it was probably part of  a cotton gin. It doesn’t seem so interesting now, but there was a swarm of bees nesting in one of the walls.

Three miles further north, is the Picacho branch of the Florence States Prison. I didn’t take any pictures in fear of them thinking I was going to help with a breakout, but it is an interesting looking place.

A mile further, I saw what looked like one of those Border Patrol observation towers in the desert a half mile off the road or so. A little while later, I saw the following sign:

A pilot friend told me this is used for national Guard helicopter pilots.

I was intrigued, so I pulled off the road and followed the dirt road. I came up to a gate and could see at least one runway. There were no aircraft, but there were 2 cars and a neat little control tower.

Three and a half miles further, I passed the campground where my parents used to live, turned east on the frontage road and was astonished. If you haven’t driven past the town of Picacho lately, you’ll be surprised. It seems a large portion of the town was razed to the ground sometime in December or January. Remember those vacant, dilapidated hotels? They are gone now. There is only dirt remaining. Several of the remaining buildings have notices posted on them indicating that more demolition is imminent. I would have taken a picture, but an empty field of fresh dirt doesn’t make for good photography.

I stopped at the Dairy Queen at the Picacho Peak exit and checked in at home. I then had an uneventful ride back to Tucson.

Ride Map: http://g.co/maps/5ydqd If you’re interested in doing this ride, it is about 85 miles in length, from Ina Road, to Picacho, via the back way, and back. The dirt portion accounts for about 8 miles and it is in good shape, but remember, it is dirt. Take your time and ride within your ability and you should be fine. I rate the difficulty of this ride as moderate.

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