Toasting Through Texas to Taos
by Drew T. Newcomer
According to the paperwork, I have been a member of the Motorcycle Sport Touring Association (formally known as the Honda Sport Touring Association) for almost 12 years. While I have attended a good number of local rallies during that time I have never made it to the national event known as STAR (Sport Touring Annual Rendezvous.) This year the planets must have aligned correctly as I pulled out of the driveway on June 18 headed to this year’s meeting point, Taos, New Mexico.
Being June in Louisiana it was somewhat warm that Friday morning as I headed west on I-20 where I picked up US 69 just north of Tyler, Texas. I rode 69 to US 82 and turned west until I turned northwest on US 287 to Wichita Falls. I didn’t plan on going the 450 miles to Wichita Falls, but seems there was a lack of anyplace to stay till I got there. I had planned to meet some fellow MSTA members from Louisiana at the Big Texan in Amarillo on the 19th which left me a short ride on Saturday morning.
The dawn came early and I headed to Amarillo. Not wanting to take the easy way by just riding up 287, I quickly got lost (well, you are never really lost till you run out of gasoline!) and found myself in Oklahoma. After consulting a map I found US 70 near Randlett, Oklahoma and turned west taking 70 to Matador, Texas where I turned north on TX 70 to Turkey, Texas – home of Bob Wills (you do know who Bob Wills is, don’t you?)
I headed north until rejoining 287 in Clarendon and then on into Amarillo. Problem was, I got to the Big Texan too early and my room was not ready. Fortunately, there is a bar there and I consumed a pitcher of raspberry ice tea while my bike and luggage cooked in the hot Texas sun. Let me tell you – it was HOT in Amarillo and the tea was a welcome relief. Finally the room was ready and I unpacked my gear (my granola bars had melted.) The MSTA members arrived and we met for a great steak dinner later that afternoon.
The Big Texan is known for giving away a 72 ounce steak if you can eat it, and the trimmings, within one hour. There was one big ole Texas farm boy (stated weight 320#) who gave it a try, but I don’t know if he made it or not as we left before his hour was up. He was giving it his best shot, however.
In an effort to beat the heat, I was on I-40 west the next morning at 6:15. Heat was not a factor and I was actually cool in my Olympia perforated riding suit. Very soon into New Mexico I turned on NM 392 till NM 489 took me northwest to Logan and breakfast. In Logan, I continued northwest to Roy, where I turned more westerly on NM 120. I should say these are lonely roads and a breakdown out here would be somewhat troublesome as I am sure there is no cell phone coverage for miles and miles. Still, there is solace being on roads like this and the R1150R was running like a champ. 120 was a good road till the pavement ran out. (If I would have squinted a bit more, I would have noticed that the pavement ran out, but I didn’t pay any attention till I rode up to the end of the pavement!) So, I turned around and found NM 442 in Ocate which took me south La Cueva, New Mexico. NM 518 took me west and then north to my destination of Taos. I had ridden 328 miles and some of that was out-of-the-way, but my room was ready when I arrived at the Sagebrush Inn.
My friend Nancy arrived later Sunday evening and we were up early Monday morning as our bodies were still on central time. The 46 degree temperatures, with a humidity of 15%, were a welcome relief to what we’d been experiencing back at home. After things warmed up a bit, we headed up NM 522 to Questa and the ski town of Red River. We continued making a loop on NM 38 to Elizabethtown and Eagle Nest stopping at the Viet Nam Memorial near Angel Fire. The only Viet Nam Memorial that is also a state shrine evokes quite a bit of emotion as you walk through the grounds and view the photos and stories inside. From Angel Fire to US 64 we headed back to Taos with a stiff breeze coming from the west. The ride had only been a little over 100 miles, but the scenery did not disappoint and this was to be an indication of things to come.
Tuesday came as early as Monday and Nancy and I headed west on US 64 to Tierra Amarilla. We had come prepared and brought long sleeve shirts and pants but I didn’t think we’d need them as we didn’t need them on Monday. Was I wrong! Heading up over 10,000 feet in the Tusas Mountains things were a bit chilly. I had not seen sky this blue in a long time. We had passed from desert to forest and warmed up as we descended into Chama. After lunch it was time to head to Colorado on Highway 17. 17 took us upwards of 11,000 feet and we met hundreds and hundreds of bicyclists coming into Chama from somewhere. Chama was expecting in the neighborhood of 2000 folks for lunch, but I can tell you at the rate some were making progress, they would have been lucky to get there for breakfast the next morning. Had to take my hat off to them, as some of the inclines they were peddling were quite steep and you could see exhaustion in many faces. 17 flattened a bit as we approached Antonito, Colorado and turned south for Taos on US 285. Not much to 285 except a stiff crosswind but we managed to get back to Taos without any problems.
With only one day left I decided to head south on Wednesday. Taking the once-traveled 518 south we turned southwest on NM 68 on to Dixon and Velarde where we continued south on NM 68 to Espanola. In Espanola, an easterly turn on NM 98 took us to Chimayo, the home of a very old mission whose soil is purportedly known to have “healing” properties. This was an interesting stop and we found a good number of our motorcycle friends there when we arrived. Taking the “high road to Taos” we headed north on NM 76 until 518 took us the final 16 miles back to Taos.
Wednesday night was the MSTA banquet and the 386 attendees enjoyed enchiladas, beans, rice, and salad as we discussed the previous three days. As usual, I did not win any of the door prizes (including a Triumph motorcycle) but I couldn’t complain. This rally was full of great roads, great people, and great food.
Nancy and I left Thursday morning for Santa Fe where we explored the downtown area on foot. There is much history here dating back to the 1600s. We enjoyed time off of the bike and topped it off with a great Italian meal (we had had enough enchiladas by that time!)
I headed east on Friday morning taking I-25 to US 84 which took me to Santa Rosa and on to Fort Sumner. (Nancy returned to Albuquerque for her flight home.) I had lunch in Muleshoe, Texas where I found my old friend highway 70 to Plainview and on to Floydada. I turned south for 22 miles on US 62 and then back east on US 82. Texas had not cooled off in the four days I was gone and I was soaking my t-shirt in water about once an hour. I was “complaining” about the heat when I noticed a lightning bolt to my left.
Saturday morning I was on the road at 5:00 and headed east on TX 114 till I intersected TX 380. 380 is a good road but it does pass right through downtown Denton and there are a good number of red lights to contend with. But, they all turned green, and when I found US 69 I turned southeast and I-20.
I had been to New Mexico a couple of years ago on my way to Utah. But, I missed so much then of what I saw this time. And you know what? If I could do it next week, I would, and would put up with the Texas heat one more time!!