It had to be done, but I didn’t know how, when, or where. I had to take a trip on the bike before I went crazy. Which way should I go though? East to the Atlantic and run the coast? Maybe north to Sturgis like several thousand others were doing. Or I could head south towards the Gulf of Mexico and its many attractions.
I stewed on the matter for several months with lots of names floating through my work-clogged brain. I toyed around with Las Vegas and thoughts of Colorado Springs, but my mind kept wandering back to someplace that had always been of curiosity to me. My father-in-law had mentioned the Superstition Mountains of Arizona numerous times and I had been fascinated by tales of the mountains, and of course the infamous Lost Dutchman gold mine. The more I fought internally about destinations, the more the mountains called.
I finally gave in and started planning a route and a timeframe. I had been through Arizona along I-40 and along the southern route of I-10 and I-8, but I had never been through the middle of the mountains. I managed to get ten days off of my regular job and planned to go in as straight a line as possible, which turned out to use the fewest routes.
Leaving well before dawn, I went west from my little hometown of Poolville, Texas to Mineral Wells where I picked up Hwy 180. As you travel westward on 180, the town of Breckenridge more or less marks the edge of civilization as we know it. From this point forward, it is small towns and few stops until you get to the La Mesa area and the oilfields of Brownfield. Here, grasshoppers (oil pumps) dot the countryside, and the smell of oil is thick in the air.
Picking up Hwy 380 in Brownfield I continued on to Roswell, New Mexico where I ended day one, roughly 432 miles of gorgeous, uncomplicated riding. Having come here, it would have been a shame not to at least look around a little. I took in the local souvenir shops and the UFO museum and made the perfunctory stop at the Harley dealership for a T-shirt. I love the shirt with the alien riding the Harley, but I have to admit that I wasn’t sure what to think about the dealership that was combined with Honda, Yamaha, and Suzuki.
The second day started out overcast with a threat of rain. I was prepared though and pressed on along 380 to Socorro where I did a slight dogleg on I-25 north bound until I picked up US 60 west. Going across the lava fields and the Plains of St. Augustin where the VLA (Very Large Array) of radio telescopes watch the sky, I was pounded by a cross wind of 25 to 30 mph. I fought my way to Vernon where the sky opened up for a brief downpour. I stopped for something to eat out of exhaustion as much as hunger.
After lunch it quit raining, and not being at all familiar with the area, decided I would attempt to get to Globe before nightfall. Fortunately, the winds did not die down and I was forced to stop again an hour down the road at Show Low where I spent my second night. The day however was not a total loss, I had managed to avoid running over a HUGE dead porcupine and was fascinated by the Plains, which they believe were an immense intermountain lake thousands of years ago. I also learned about Elk. Primarily, don’t hit one. From listening to the locals, hitting Elk is extremely common. Every one has an Elk tale. In order to have something interesting to talk about, you had to be the guy that hit something unusual, like a porcupine. Another 374 miles in the bag.
Day three started out cold, 41 degrees, but calm and clear. I continued westward on US 60 towards Globe and my destination. I am glad I did not attempt this ride the night before when I was tired. Coming out of the valley of Show Low and crossing Corduroy Creek, you proceed down Corduroy Creek Canyon which is absolutely beautiful, but with the tight turns, steep grades, and abundant wild life, not a road to ride if you are tired or not up to your absolute best. Motorcycle skills aided me greatly, but it was my familiarity with trucks that helped the most. The 7% downgrade sign along with the twisty road sign and the Elk Crossing next forty miles definitely got my attention.
I absolutely love this road though, for one simple reason. Almost every overlook has a wide area to pull over and take pictures. Or better yet, for a motorcycle to pull over to get out of the way of folks driving motor homes down the canyon while taking pictures. I made it out of the canyon and through Globe to Apache Junction where I stopped long enough for coffee at the Harley Dealership and another t-shirt at the foot of the Superstitions. Time to head home.
After spending all morning in the twisties I elected to hit the big slab (I-10) and put some high speed miles under my tires. Phoenix and Tucson drivers are pretty aggressive and clever, but they can’t hold a candle to the sheer ruthlessness of the drivers of Dallas and Ft. Worth, so I had no trouble negotiating my way through to Benson, where day three came to a halt after 334 miles.
I stayed at the Quail Hollow Inn, which is in the Best Western chain and was really impressed. For the first time during the trip, I received a biker’s discount, and they actually had small towels to use on the bikes. Which I think is a smart move, just ask anyone who wakes up to a dew-covered bike or needs to wash the bugs off the windshield. The staff and the room were also fantastic. There were several places to eat nearby and the scenery was great.
The following morning I woke to find that the previous day’s predictions were true, it was raining. It fluctuated between a drizzle and a downpour while I mulled over the complimentary breakfast and the situation at hand. I had considered the night before of taking the detour to Tombstone, but with the rain I didn’t think I would be all that happy with that decision. After careful study of the newspapers, weather maps on TV, and the coffee grounds in my cup, I decided I could out run the rain. It rained on me relentlessly until I reached Los Cruces, NM, abating slightly as I rode through El Paso and the oilfields of Texas once more to Van Horn, where I ended day four; 406 miles.
My last day on the road started out as clear as the first with temperatures starting in the low seventies. I rode I-10 east and picked up I-20. I stopped along the way at Big Spring, Texas, home of the oldest Harley dealership in Texas. In operation by the same family since 1929, the tradition carries on. The prerequisite T-shirt in hand, I headed home. With the last day being the longest at 479 miles, I arrived back in Mineral Wells a little tired, but no worse for the wear. The straight highways with the 80mph speed limits had saved me quite a bit of time. A grand total of 2,025 miles in five days.
All in all, it was a wonderful trip. I would feel remiss if I didn’t provide a few cautionary tips prior to taking a long trip:
And lastly, ride safe and have fun!
- Service your motorcycle. Check everything, tires, oil etc. If you are not qualified, take it to your favorite mechanic. Oh, and bring him back a souvenir. If you make it back, he deserves it.
- Dress and pack for the worst. I don’t know what I would have done hitting the 8,000 foot level if I had only packed T-shirts, which I have plenty of now. Don’t forget to anticipate rain and foul weather.
- Plan for fuel. There are places in West Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona where fuel stops are few and far between. Don’t forget that some small places close early and don’t open on Sundays or holidays.
- If possible, preplan and reserve hotel rooms. I received some information that had I gone on along US 60 as I had originally intended, I would have had problems with hotels due to the workers from a new copper mine occupying all the rooms.
- Watch the weather.
- Plan for fuel….again.
- Take along a cell phone, but prepare for no cell signal. If you are going alone as I did, make absolutely sure someone has a copy of your itinerary and call them daily to allow for changes in routing.
- Carry a licensed weapon. There are animals in the woods. ‘Nuff said.
- Deserts; high or low can take the fluids out of you. Stay hydrated, drink plenty of water, and avoid alcohol and caffeine.
- Pack a camera, notebook, and pen. Take pictures, make notes.
By Michael Lousha