Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Gila National Forest Motorcycle Ride, Day 17

us-180 new mexico
Rain on my windshield along US-180 south of Reserve, NM
Chile Rellenos, Twisties, and Wind. That about sums it up for Day 17 on our 3-week motorcycle road trip. Of course, as luck would have it, we'd have copious amounts of the breezy stuff, ample amounts of the curvy, and not quite enough of the cheesy.

"No, we don't get any snow or rain here", the American-Indian-looking attendant told us at the Magnum Gas Station in tiny Magdalena, NM, "Just a lot of wind."

Sash and I thought that after yesterday's 304-miles of crosswinds down the I-25 through New Mexico, we'd catch a break the following day by going west over the mountains. But it wasn't to be. I tend to think that the winds were just a little more intense today than yesterday. If anything, it was more cold, and there were places where it rained and even hailed a bit.

The third day on our journey home from Denver, today was the day we planned for back roads riding, ultimately taking us to Safford, AZ for the night.

We left our hotel room in Socorro, NM at 10:00am this morning, heading west along US-60, going into the Cibola National Forest. We didn't need to see the grasses swaying horizontally to know that the winds were blowing at us hard. It seems there was a storm further ahead that would eventually dump rain on us.

We stopped in Magdalena, a tiny town that doesn't even show up on Google maps until you zoom in at a bird's eye level. We needed something to eat and drink because we had left our hotel room in haste, trying to beat the coming storm. It turns out that the gas station in town has never heard of a "low carb diet", because all they had to satisfy my requirements was a bag of pork rinds and water.

But it was enough.

Because up ahead we'd drop into the San Agustin Plains, where crosswinds blow really hard.  They blew so hard that random gusts threatened to shove me sideways into the shoulder. I moved my feet to the passenger pegs and laid down on the gas tank to minimize the profile, and it seemed to help.

In the tiny town of Datil, we stopped at Eagle Guest Ranch, a combination restaurant and gas station, to warm up and fill up with fuel. They were selling locally made elk jerky and elk sausage, so I picked up a sausage, which was a dollar cheaper than the jerky, and 3oz more in weight.

"How does this work?" a Harley rider asked me as he pulled up next to me at the pump. "I take it you're supposed to go inside and pay?"

"No", I replied. "You pump first and pay later."

"Oh, that goes to show how old this place is!" he said.

NM-12 was the highway I was actually waiting for. It started at Datil and ended at Reserve. It didn't look very twisty, it was just a road I hadn't ever ridden before. At first it was just more of the same wide open country with long straight road, but eventually it gave way into wide graceful curves which progressed into a little more tight, but still sweeping turns.

Motorcycle riding was starting to get fun.

At Reserve, we stopped for lunch.

Something inside me said that I should go to that mexican restaurant instead of the bar. But I passed it by thinking that Sash probably wanted something more American or cafe-like. When she stopped me and asked if I wanted to go to the bar, I shook my head and pointed at the mexican restaurant.

It turns out the special of the day at Carmen's Mexican Restaurant was chile rellenos. And these were some damn good chile rellenos. I asked the server if these were Hatch Green Chiles, but she didn't know. I suspected they were. These had enough heat in them to generate a light amount sweat from my scalp.

Eventually we rode down US-180, a highway I rode several years ago when my buddies and I did some camping along the Coronado Trail. It's curvy but fast, and offers great scenic views of the San Francisco Mountains.

The route into Safford, AZ would take us along Highways 78 and 191, dropping us some 3,000 feet of elevation into the Upper Gila River Valley. Highway 78 was perhaps the tightest of the twisties, giving Sash the most challenge of the entire road trip.

But the wind never stopped the entire time. Even here in Safford, at the lowest elevation of the day, it's still blowing.

Tomorrow, we head into Phoenix, which should be our last stop of the road trip.

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Sash riding along US-60 east of Socorro, NM
magdalena, new mexico
Entering Magdalena, NM via US-60
magnum gas magdalena new mexico
Sash posing at Magnum Gas in Magdalena, NM
eating chicharrones
Breakfast of champions: chile flavored pork rinds and bottled water, Magnum Gas, Magdalena, NM
us-60 new mexico motorcycle rider
We passed this Harley rider named "Michael", who caught up to us at Eagle Guest Ranch in Datil, NM, he's on his first day of a 2-week motorcycle road trip.
very large array new mexico
This is one of 27 radio telescopes among an observatory called, "Very Large Array" along US-60 in the San Agustin Plains.
us-60 new mexico motorcycle
The winds blew so fierce across the San Agustin Plains, that I laid down on my tank to reduce the profile.
eagle guest ranch datil nm
Eagle Guest Ranch restaurant and gas station at Datil, NM, where you pump first and pay later.
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NM-12 westbound, Horse Peak on the right.
highway walker
This hairy, dirty, highway walker seen along NM-12
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Yet another hairy, dirty highway walker along NM-12
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Carmen's Mexican Restaurant, Reserve, NM
chile relleno
One of two Chile Rellenos I had at Carmen's Mexican Restaurant
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A couple of switchbacks coming up along US-180, south of Glenwood, NM
us-180 new mexico motorcycle
Riding along US-180 New Mexico
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Descending elevation along AZ-78 in Arizona


  1. I'm loving y'all's adventure and wishing I could have similar sunny weather for my trip to Scotland (not likely).

  2. Steve, looks like a fun ride...although it doesn't sound like the wind was too pleasant. How long did it take you to ride through the National Forest?

    It's a good thing you didn't stop to strike up a conversation with those dudes walking down the road...I think I saw them on america's Most Wanted last night. :-) Have fun and enjoy your ride!



About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)