The Albuquerque Motorcycle Riders Group trip description for Saturday was ambitious; ride up through Cuba to Abiquiu, then north to Chama for lunch near the border of Colorado, then down back roads south through Madrid and back to Albuquerque in a day. The leader, Jim, who probably has gear and a bike built for trips to Tierra del Fuego, apparently experienced four drops of rain after leaving the house, so he turned around and bagged the trip. He “doesn’t do rain,” he said later. I hope he does do endless chiding, ridicule, girly nicknames and other humor at his expense, because that’s what he’s going to get from that group. Any credit for the last fifty trips he’s organized and led will vanish.

But about 10 of us did meet up and ride. At Cuba, we turned east on a little road heading up into the Los Padres National Forest. It was a beautiful forest road, but the wrong one, as we found out when, after crossing a cattle guard at around 50 mph, the road suddenly turned to gravel. Whoa, lil doggies! I fishtailed the bike a little when I braked, but managed to save it. We turned around and found the right road east through the little towns of Regina (pronounced to rhyme with a certain female body part) and Coyote on the way to Abiquiu. This is the area of gorgeous red and white cliffs made famous by the artist Georgia O’Keefe.

We had lunch at the Abiquiu Inn, very nice and a little swankier than we’re used to. I felt like maybe we shoulda busted some stuff or started a fight at least to keep our reputations as bad ass bikers, but we resisted the temptation, conversed cordially and enjoyed our $9.50 green chile cheese burgers. Everyone decided that Chama would make it too long of a day, so some headed back down through the Jemez mountains, others headed back through Madrid to Albuquerque. I said goodbye to the rest and headed north on my own.

Red, yellow and white cliffs, spires and boulders, and thunderstorms in the distance adding a special glow to the rocks…Hard to keep my eyes on the road! Took a picture of my bike in front of the Echo Amphitheater that Georgia O'Keefe painted.

Just before the town of Chama, the imposing Brazos Cliffs appear to the east.

In another lifetime, somewhere around the early 1980s, I climbed this cliff – 18 rope pitches – with the adventurous Los Alamos physicists who originally pioneered the first climbing routes up the face. I can’t believe I did that. We also did some excellent fly fishing on the Brazos River back in the olden days.
The rain was coming down pretty good by now and I had already decided that this wasn’t going to be a one day trip.

So I found a motel in Chama, just like the one I pictured in my mind, with a portal porch and a bench in front of the room where I could read my book and a view out the back window of a green field with horses grazing.

They have had a LOT of rain in Chama, so it’s shockingly green. And it was such a heavy winter that the one grocery store, many other buildings and barns were crushed under the snow.

I had an early dinner at the High Country Restaurant and Saloon, which I remembered from that other lifetime when I used to come here after XC ski races on Cumbres Pass to drink beer. “Didn’t this place used to be bigger?” I asked the bartender. “Did they add walls to separate it into the restaurant and bar?” The bartender said no, it’s always been like this. “How old are you?” I asked him. Gulp, he was 24 years old, so I was remembering a time from my young adulthood, before he was born. Huh.

After dinner, I took a ride up over Cumbres Pass and crossed into Colorado. Like Switzerland, it looked. Now here is the problem with having a camera on a trip. If you see something beautiful or interesting and you don’t happen to have your camera with you at that moment, you don’t appreciate at all what you see. You only get pissed off that you aren’t able to RECORD the scene in your camera. I stopped my bike to look at the river, then noticed a small herd of elk grazing in the meadow right next to the road; three cows and a large bull elk with a trophy-looking rack. He raised his head regally, munching grass while the evening light glowed on his antlers. And the river tumbling alongside, the green green meadow sweeping up to a pine forest… it was like one of those color-by-number paintings. And all I could think of was my camera back in the room. Sh*&^.

I got packed and on the bike by 7:30 am and rode west to the Jicarilla Apache reservation. After some spitting rain, I dropped into fog so thick that I could hardly see the road. And then a sign that warned of road work, specifically warning “Motorcyclists Use Extreme Caution.” After a mile or two of squirrelly road and weather conditions, I got to Dulce where I stopped for breakfast and looked at the map. There was a route south through Jicarilla Apache land about 65 miles to where it met the road to Cuba. No towns, no markings on the map to show anybody there at all. I mulled this over. What if I crashed my bike and nobody found me? “She died doing what she loved to do” they would say.

Yeah, right. Just for the record, nobody wants to die doing what they love to do. We want to LIVE doing what we love to do, which is why we love to do it. And why we want to live. We want to die a long time later, if ever (preferably quietly in our sleep after we're done doing what we love to do). So unless you know somebody who “loves” to jump off the roof into a pit full of rattlesnakes and spear points, don’t try to comfort their survivors with that inanity.

That being said, I decided to take that isolated road south. I stopped to take pictures of flowers and explore a couple of canyons on foot. Gorgeous scenery, puffy white clouds in the sky. Not a soul anywhere around. I loved it and I loved that I didn’t die doing it.


I joined the road to Cuba and somewhere on the highway just past San Isidro, a small truck passed me in the right lane. Since I was in the passing lane already, I decided I should go ahead and pass him, too. I sped up, he sped up, and I got my bike up to 105 mph. That’s the fastest I’ve been on a motorcycle and, more importantly, I beat the truck.

Check out this church mural in Cuba and how it blends into the background:

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Comment by Gemini Goddess on July 28, 2008 at 12:50pm
Holy crap - 105mph! You go girl! As for the trip - sounds incredible. I was a chicken and didn't think I could handle the ride. Nice to see I wasn't the only chicken! *lol* But what a great trip you had!
Comment by Neonnoodle on July 28, 2008 at 2:47pm
Wow - I really to make it up that way! Sounds like an amazing ride and sorry I missed it. I saw on the AMRG site that Jim had turned back, and he definitely deserves some good natured ribbing for that :)
Comment by Ron Da Bomb on July 28, 2008 at 4:11pm
Please post more pics! Loved the photos and the narrative.
Comment by Neonnoodle on July 28, 2008 at 9:37pm
That looks amazing! Great photos. I remember the Echo Amphitheater from the ride to Four Corners. Absolutely beautiful up there.
Comment by NMBeek on July 30, 2008 at 7:25am
Terrific blog, Jill. It was a pretty awesome day, the light, the storms, the detour, the views... all just wonderful. I love your writing style and your pictures. I wish I could have gone north with you. Just thinking about the trip up Cumbres Pass makes me smile. :-) I've never riden that road south from Dulce, it was gravel last time I was on it about a bazillion years ago. Its on my list now after reading your diary. Thanks.

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