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BACK ON THE ROAD – Phoenix, AZ to Lordsburg, NM to White Sands, NM

July 6, 2010

This is another installment from my 2009 ride around the Southern and Western United States. In the previous posting I was in Phoenix Arizona having my motorcycle repaired. You can read about that here.

With the bike repaired I bid goodbye to Phoenix and hit the road. At this point in my trip I had ridden 5000 miles. People always ask me if I get bored riding for hour after hour across state after state. The short answer is no. There is so much to see and experience crossing the endless fields of Kansas or Oklahoma or the high California desert. People in cars are bored, on a motorcycle the experience is completely different. You smell, you feel, you sense and hear and even taste things you can never experience in an automobile. When you ride for weeks on end, the road becomes your entertainment. Looking back, I really loved waking up every day and letting the wind and my maps decide the route.

In Phoenix, the bike was not fully repaired by the Ducati Superstore until late in the day. That meant I would most likely be riding in the open desert at night. The single best modification I’ve installed on my Futura is HID lighting. The Futura has a single low beam headlight and two high beam headlights. I modified the high beam switch to allow all THREE to stay on when selected. The light output is fantastic. So, riding at night in the wide open desert looked like a fun experience. For just about all of my trip I rode mostly in daylight and did my best to avoid much riding in the early evening, doing my best to avoid meeting deer out for an evening stroll.

As you can see from the map, the ride east on 191 was not complicated. Darkness fell and I dialed up my speed. Today, I had no real idea of a place or town to spend the night. I just kept the throttle open and burned up the miles. After about 250 miles I began to want to find a place to sleep. There was NOTHING, just moonlit empty desert and only a few lights along the highway. It was thrilling and a bit frightening at the same time. I had the sensation of flying. The desert at night has an almost purple color and the evening was crisp and cold. In the distance I saw lights of a small town – Lordsburg, NM.

For whatever reason, I don’t have any pictures of Lordsburg.  Just a small town in the middle of nowhere with a KFC/Taco Bell, a couple of gas stations, one local restaurant (Kranberrys), and a couple of down at the heels motels. I pulled over and started to check rates on my IPhone using the Kayak app. I don’t recall what the rate was but something like $40.00. As per usual, I called both hotels and said the other had a cheaper rate and would they beat the price. Americas Best (which used to be a Holiday Inn/Quality Inn) had the best price so I rolled into their parking lot and walked into the lobby.

The manager was Pakistani and was without any discernible customer service skills. I paid for the room in silence while he lectured me on the difficulties of running a business, how much he hated his customers, and how thankful I should be to have his valuable time. He went on and on and on about on not using his towels for “cleaning my filthy motorcycle”. Lecture over, I stumbled up to my room and was surprised to find it clean and in fairly good order but as usual with these type of places, the sheets were tissue thin and the towels were dingy.  I stowed my gear and went to bed.

The next morning I packed the bike, resisted the urge to clean my chain with hotel towels and hit the road. I planned to camp in Las Cruces at a KOA but changed my mind at breakfast and decided to head for Roswell, NM and maybe see a few UFO’s. At lunch, I decided that Roswell was too far north and out of the way of my later destination – Austin, Texas. So, I stayed to the south east towards Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands.

Miles and miles and miles of this type of scenery.

I stopped at a truck stop to grab a drink and lube the chain. I managed to drop my can of Maxima Chain Wax and it burst on impact with a rock. Let me tell you a leaking full can of chain lube makes a god awful mess. Even grizzled truckers walked by with looks of disgust. I managed to get it into the trash before it created a BP like disaster.

Lovely middle of somewhere.

I rode past the White Sands Missile Testing facility and somehow resisted the urge to stop in and look around. That part of the country is B A R R E N, brother, barren.

I found the Carlesbad, NM KOA in the GPS, hit select and the NUVI plotted the destination. After being in many places most people would swear on a stack of bibles was “the middle of now where” this is the place. Don’t believe me? Check out this Google Earth panoramic camera view.(Note: you have to drag the little “stick figure” onto US 285 for the panoramic shot. Trust me it’s worth it),+new+mexico,+KOA&fb=1&gl=us&hq=KOA&hnear=Carlsbad,+NM&cid=0,0,7672946541017773944&ei=lUIyTM_TIYL88AaP0JCSAw&sa=X&oi=local_result&ct=image&resnum=1&ved=0CBMQnwIwAA

As you can clearly see this is indeed “the middle of nowhere”. If you go, plan ahead. Buy your supplies in advance or pay full price at the lovely KOA store. On a positive note, the staff was nice but they did manage to bungle my only request.  I asked to be on a campsite with grass and on arrival at the campsite it was almost all dirt. Arrrrrrrrg. I setup the tent and put it on the site next to mine that had grass and had to be re-issued a pass, and associated paperwork. A ton of labor for a completely empty campground. I don’t think KOA’s really know what to do with tent campers. KOA seems to be wholly devoted travelers in $100,000 motor homes and the gift shops reflect that. One thing I cannot fault of this KOA (and for that matter just about every KOA I’ve ever been to) is the bathroom. KOA bathrooms are absolutely fantastic. Clean, sanitary, and did I say clean?

Carlesbad KOA

Look! finger licking BBQ. Yuck. See my 2009 Best Of for a review of the culinary delights the Carlesbad KOA.

That night I absolutely FROZE. I woke up in the middle of the night freezing. I rummaged through my panniers and put on two t-shirts, a hoodie and a pair of socks. When that did not help I covered my lower half with my leather pants and my upper half with my leather jacket – and still froze. My bag is rated to 30 degrees and I was absolutely miserable the next morning. Thankfully a hot shower loosened me up enough to ride. I collapsed the campsite and headed towards the highway. My first stop of the day was White Sands National Park. It is, in a word, AMAZING.

Hey! What about Carlesbad Caverns? How can you miss that? Easily, and for a couple of reasons. I’ve been in mammoth caves before and I grew up caving (spelunking). My father was an original member of The National Speleological Society (NSS) and I grew up spending vacations wandering around natural caves. When I say natural cave I mean one you have to find, and explore. Not one of these ride a jeep through or walk on a bridge type caves. So, I quiet happily kept going when the Caverns exit came up on the GPS.

White Sands, New Mexico 32°23′3″N 106°29′52″W  (32.384064, -106.497698). The sand here is very different from average beach sand. Beach sand is for the most part, composed from quartz. The sand here is gypsum and calcium sulfate. Unlike other desert sands, it is cool to the touch, due to the high rate of evaporation of surface moisture and the fact that the sands reflect, rather than absorb, the sun’s rays.

This is the world’s largest quantity of above ground gypsum sand. Its powdery stuff and great for sliding down on a saucer sled.

This is why you paid $500 for a camera. Just make sure you have enough digital storage! It’s breathtaking.

Starting to accumulate a few state stickers at this point on the trip. One really great thing about the stickers is people love to ask you about your travels. Occasionally someone would remark about how far from home I was. This would sometimes cause me to reflect on that a bit and keep focused on staying safe on the road.

The roads here are plowed every morning by SNOWPLOW! Man, I left Vermont to get away from that stuff! Sun and sand for me from now on! Little did I know that later that very same day I would be running through several inches of snow!. More on that later.

The vistas are amazing. Next time I’m going to visit at night. I bet the stars are amazing.

Can you say reduced traction?

Helmetless squid heading for the park gates.

Back on the road……….

I had to make serious time today as I had 600+ miles to go.


5 Comments leave one →
  1. Rev permalink
    July 9, 2010 8:16 pm

    I enjoyed reading this part of your journal. My family and I vacationed in NM in Reodoso (sp). We visited Roswell, and what a hoot with all the aliens. Your description of the landscape was very descriptive and accurate, just as I remembered it. I hope you keep us informed. Rev, Pittsfield, MA

  2. October 23, 2010 3:04 am

    Long time reader / first time poster. Really enjoying reading the blog, keep up the good work. Will definitely start posting more in the near future.

  3. Ken Martin permalink
    January 29, 2011 9:58 am

    Enjoying your trip report.
    Where do you get the small oval state stickers?


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