Lately we've been getting some great weather for it being October in Colorado. Last week the mountains received a good dumping of snow but the weather forecast promised warm weather and sunny days ahead for the next week.
And they did not disappoint.
Step 1: Target selection!
I decided that I wanted to go somewhere I haven't been to. Given the colder tempetures this time of year, going south into New Mexico was the obvious choice. I started exploring possible routes that were along the north end of New Mexico and settled on Taos, NM.
Step 2: Plan of attack
A route was drawn up that would consist of roughly 4/5 Colorado roads and 1/5 New Mexico. Sfarson, being familiar with the area gave me a few suggestions and we were set.
Step 3: Recruitment
Initially there were to be 4 of us going but two had things come up at the last minute so it ended up being just me and Bob (Corporate McGyver).
Step 4: Final prep
A few days before I got the bike ready for the trip. New tires, oil change, check other fluid levels and a new sheepskin seat pad were made.
Ready to rock and roll!
Step 5: Launch
Bob left Aurora and we met in Colorado Springs just before 7am. It was crisp and cold with the sun just starting to come up over the horizon.
We gassed up and finished our coffee and then it was off to the races!
We made our way to Westcliffe, CO passing through Canon City. A few miles from Texas Creek we had our first photo op.
It was pretty cold and I was starting to wish I had heated glove liners.
After a quick break we continued on and decided to refill our tanks in Westcliffe before heading on to La Veta.
Bob throwing some kind of gang sign. I don't think he could feel his fingers though.
The roads after Westcliffe were long, straight and kind of bumpy allowing us to cruise well into the triple digit speeds. As it turned out, this would be the theme for the day.
We stopped briefly in a small town around Walsenburg to make some adjustments to my rear suspension. Thankfully it was warming up by now so the jacket liner came off.
We arrived in Le Veta and at the last second we made a course change to go down Hwy 12. As I saw the sign for 12 I recalled Sfarson's suggestion and without hesitation turned. Unknown at the time, this little detour would cost us lunch but it was well worth it.
The road is prestine full of 30-35mph (yellow sign) sweepers and no LEO presence that we encountered.
We made another quick photo stop at a dam on Hwy 12
12 put us out at Trinidad and we decided to cross the border via I-25.
Bob warned me that the New Mexico highway patrol enjoy stalking their pray close to the border and sure enough as we came on our exit for Hwy 64 just past Raton, NM there was a black and white sitting on the overpass bridge.
Now I knew what to look for. Black and whites... they're going to be easy to spot!
We turned on to 64 and and started our way to Eagle Nest, NM.
Hwy 64 is straight as an hour and we were once again able to cruise at triple digit speeds. We were practically the only ones one the road. To say "there was no traffic" would be an understatement. We came across a lone car maybe every few minutes.
Following the usual rule of "fast inbetween towns, slow in towns" we came to Cimarron, NM and slowed down to around posted speeds. A sheriff was at the end of town (presumably) looking for speeders coming the other way. We waved and he waved back. As soon as we were a a mile or two away we opened the throttle back up.
A few miles past Cimarron we entered the mountains. One thing I took note of was that New Mexico uses a lot of chip sealing for their mountain roads but they were compacted enough to not be a problem.
A few dozen miles later we came up to Eagle Nest, which as it turns out, has a giant lake. Highway 64 comes over the mountain and drops you into the valley. The pictures really don't do it justice.
From Eagle Nest it was on to Taos. Traffic through town was surprisingly thick and while I had planned to stop for lunch, our first priority was finding a gas station. We found one almost at the end of town.
Gas was $3.09/gal and the temp was around 85 degrees! Unfortantely we passed all the resturants and stopping for lunch would mean wading our way back through Taos and with the extra time already added on from Highway 12 we decided to skip lunch all together.
Despite being the trip's namesake, I didn't get a single picture of Taos.
We continued our push on Hwy 64 and came to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge (or simply the "Gorge bridge" as it is known locally).
Another quick photo stop!
64 continued to be a long, straight 130mph road...
until we came to a familiar highway, 285.
Crossing 285 is like crossing the rail road tracks from the bad part of town to the good part. Immediately past 285 we re-entered the mountains and the wide sweepers we came for.
Somewhere in the mountains we came across a large scenic overlook area and we were once again, the only ones there.
Again, the pictures just can't do it justice.
For all of the time we spent on 64 in the mountains, we saw maybe 20 other cars. This road was effectively our private race track.
We stopped for fuel in Chama and at this point we were running behind schedule (getting the Farmington by sunset).
I calculated that we had just enough time and we set out. Until... we ran into road construction. I seem to recall Sfarson talking about the heavy road construction west of Chama. Damnit, he was right.
They were repaving about 6 miles of road and were running a pilot truck back and forth. This meant waiting for about 15 minutes.
That's it... we're going to be riding in the dark, damnit.
We made the best of it though and took some pictures.
In this one, you'll notice where the sun is...
Heading west with the sun directly in front of you is not what you want to do.
At Dulce I pulled over to throw some layers back on and it was at this point I realized that I had no head lights. My fuse had blown sometime earlier in the day.
Now I felt like Will Smith in I am legend racing against the sun before the zombie vampires came out. I blew past Bob trying to cover the last 50 miles with 30 minutes of day light left and the sun in my eyes. I saw a gas station off the side of the road and pulled in but they were closed. I waited for Bob to let him know why I was in such a hurry and that plan B was to just follow behind him and his working headlights but I thought I could make it at least to Bloomfield.
Another dozen miles and another gas station but they were... you guessed it, closed. Are you kidding me??
Finally about 10 miles from Bloomfield with the sun just about gone I came across a small corner store that was opened. For being in the middle of no where I had cell service everywhere we went. I wasn't sure were the fuse box was located so I pulled up the service manual off phone and started taking fairings off. About 10 minutes later Bob caught up and I flagged him down.
The corner store didn't have any small fuses but Yamaha in their genius included a spare 10 and 20 amp fuse in the box. All I needed was a pair of plyers or a fuse puller. The girl at the corner store was nice enough to dig through her truck looking for one and found a fuse puller. She even let me keep it (something that would come in handy later).
Fused replaced, the headlights are working! Which was a good thing since it was now completely dark and there was a caravan of oil/gas trucks going past us on their way home. We booked our hotel over the phone and headed into town.
Bloomfield has no restaurants to speak of so after checking in we rode to Farmington about 13 miles away. Right as we hit main street the lights went out again. It only happens when I used my high beam which I had recently re-wired to turn on the low beams instead. I probably didn't ground it properly. I stopped at a auto parts store a replaced the fuse again. I would just make do with 1 headlight.
The next morning we left at 8am and within 30 minutes we were crossing back into Colorado.
Hasta la vista New Mexico!
Notice how our sign (Colorado) is way cooler.
Before long we were past Durango and heading to Silverton. Red mountain awaited us.
Ahhh, it's good to be home!
Just before Ouray we stopped at a bridge that construction crews had been building all summer. I didn't know we have a waterfall in Colorado, did you?
Here we stopped to check on Bob's front tire. It had been wearing out quickly and now the structural rubber was peaking through in small patches. Uh oh.
Being Sunday, all the motorcycle stores were closed so getting a new front tire wasn't an option.
We continued on to Ridgeway to review and come up with a game plan for the tire. The patches were expanding but at least limited to the left side. Bob opted for the safe measure of renting a car to get home and planned to leave the bike with a buddy in Grand Junction.
We parted ways and I continued on.
His friend was racing go-karts at a race track in GJ and Bob met him there. Another racer drove from Golden and had room in his trailer and offered to trailer the bike back to Golden. Bob was able to make it home with a rental.
After a quick lunch break in Montrose I was on my own.
Hwy 50 towards Black Canyon did not disappoint, providing high speed sweeper after sweeper. I saw a Colorado Highway Patrol Trooper on 50 but lucky (for me) he already had someone pulled over. This would be the only CO trooper I saw on the entire trip. Thanks budget cutbacks? WIN!
I got to Blue Mesa in about 30 minutes.
I went to the summit in Black Canyon and took a few more pictures and had a choice to make.
At this point it was nearing 3 o'clock in the afternoon so I knew I had about 3.5 hours of day light left. I could either ride to Carbondale, Aspen and Indie pass as planned but that would mean riding the last 100 miles home in the dark (which I had to do about a month ago and it sucked) or I could double back down the canyon and on 50 towards Gunnison and get home right around 6:30 in the evening.
I opted for the Gunnison route, which was just as fun. A lot of high speed sweepers the whole way and Monarch pass to look forward to.
I made my last fuel stop in Gunnison before heading to Monarch.
Going up Monarch I had the realization that eastbound 50 up Monarch is a hell of a lot more fun then westbound 50. I was now ahead of schedule so I made use of it for another photo op.
I went inside the gift shop at the summit and saw the "Animals of Colorado" collection. Which really should be called "Animals of Colorado that want to murder you" given that I have seen every one of them run out in front of me at one point or another.
I probably would have to given this guy a different expression:
It's like he's saying "Blaarrggggg .... murder you!!"
I saw a herd of these between Salida and Canon City:
After leaving Monarch I entered Salida a short ride later. The section of 50 between Salida and 10 miles west of Canon City is a real gem. I ended up behind 2 other sport bike riders (A ninja 1000 or 1400) and a Kawi Concourse. Both had luggage. They were cruising along with traffic so I passed them to see if they would follow and have some fun with me.
They did. For the next 30 miles we had a blast going through the last real canyon road of the ride.
Once we came out of the mountains we slowed down to normal traffic speeds and waded through Canon City before heading back to Colorado Springs.
A few miles after turning onto 115 a Fremont County Sheriff came out of no where and lit us up. He was after the lead guy (with the Ninja) so his buddy and me pulled over as well and waited behind the cop's car.
This was my first chance to say hello to my new friends. While we were waiting for the cop to finish he told me that they were also from Colorado Springs and rode to Ouray yesterday and were heading home. The lead guy got pinched doing 74 in a 60.
A few minutes later the cop came back with the license/reg, said slow down and sent us on our way with no ticket!
That was the only encounter with LEO for the entire trip.
I got home at around 7 with 1,055 miles total.
This was, easily one of my best trips ever. I can't wait to do it again!