Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Dirt Bike People Are Awesome!

As I mentioned in my previous entry, I went to Farmington, NM on Friday, March 27 to pick up the part that I ordered from the manufacturer of my rear brake system. I chose Doug's Kawasaki only because he was a dealer for Rekluse (company that I bought my braking system from). I met Doug and I could tell right away that he was a dirt bike guy. I introduced myself and he got the box of parts. They had sent me the wrong part. Even though it was not his fault, Doug started making phone calls. To make a long story short, we found the right part at the supplier of Rekluse. They will ship it to me and I will have it on April 1. No problem, this is a nice area and we love our campsite. We will just stay until next week.

Doug and I got to talking. And we talked and swapped a bunch of stories. He invited me to go riding with him and his friends on Sunday. I reminded him that my bike is not working. He said no problem, you can ride this demo Sherco 300 2 stroke I have here. I had to ask him if he was serious. He was! Doug will turn 73 on April 2. He still loves to ride and I found out later that he is a very good rider not even considering his age. He set up a ride with 3 other guys for Sunday morning. I met them at the shop and 10 minutes later we are just outside of town unloading bikes.

Here is my steed for the day:

I really liked the Sherco. It felt a little bit soft in the motor department, but Doug reminded me that we are at 6000 feet in elevation. Overall it is a really balanced package. It has a mellow and hard switch. I played with it all day. It made about a 6 HP difference. I was impressed.

Here is the crew:

That is Kevin on the left, then Doug, then Jude and 62 year old Rick on the right. I only mention Ricks age because he is an excellent rider and he was our tour guide most of the day. I could not ask for a better group of guys to ride with. Thanks Guys!!

Here is a shot of me and the Sherco:

The terrain in this part of New Mexico is amazing. Much of the land is either Native American Reservation or BLM land. We were riding on BLM land and it seems to go on forever. 

We rode up and on top of 1000 foot high mesas and through sand washes. The trail was ever changing. They even had some fairly tight singletrack through the juniper trees. It is nothing like what I am used to in Missouri, but it was really FUN! Pictures just don't do this place justice at all.

We started by climbing this to get up on the mesa:

You have to go up a steep hill and then at the top turn right on a very narrow spine and then climb again to get to the top. Kevin and Rick are down there spotting for Doug. The last time he was here he fell off the spine...twice! He popped right back up and tried again until he made it. He had it all on helmet cam and showed it to me. 

Here is what some of the formations look like:

Here is a small arch.

You can see into three other states from up there. We rode for about 4 hours. Doug had his GoPro camera on his helmet and recorded the riding. I got the raw footage from him and made this video. 

The riding in this part of New Mexico is some of the best riding I have ever seen. On top of that the scenery is off the chart. It is a 14 hour drive from Missouri. The best seasons to ride here are February/March and November/December. It does get warm in the desert in the summertime. 

This has to go down and one of my favorite experiences since we have been traveling. You just meet the most amazing people.

Navajo Lake State Park

We left Villanueva State Park on Thursday, March 26. We decided to make a very long drive for us to the northern part of the state. We were taking advantage of a good travel day from a wind perspective and we really could not find a place to camp that was at low enough elevation for this time of year. The route was about 270 miles. I chose Hwy 550 that was away from the mountains and looked like it was across the desert on the western side of state. I was expecting a boring drive, boy was I wrong. The drive was beautiful. We could have stopped every few miles to check out a new vista with beautiful rock formations and snow covered mountains. Here are a few shots that just don't do this beautiful state justice.

I thought this one of the rig was kind of cool:

Same ridge without the rig:

We crossed over the continental divide at the lowest elevation I can remember. Just a little over 7000 feet,

We made the drive on to Navajo Lake, The campground sits on a ridge high above the lake. It is a beautiful spot. Kim fell in love with one campsite that looked to have a great view. It was difficult to squeeze in there, but we got it done.

Here is our view:

If you look closely or enlarge this photo, you can see some snow covered peaks in the distance. 

We did not know anything about the Farmington/Bloomfield, NM area. We came here because I needed to pick up the replacement brake line for my motorcycle that was damaged in the little mishap down in Carlsbad. On Friday, we made the drive down to Farmington to get the parts. I stopped for a few pictures along the way.

One cool part of the road goes right up the face of the dam.

The trip to Farmington yielded some unexpected results. I will not elaborate now, but will tell the full story in future posts. I will just say it was one of the best experiences I have had since we have been traveling. I love my life!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Enjoying Villanueva State Park

When we first arrived at Villanueva, I was not that impressed. The local town looked depressed and the campsites are set up very strangely. I think my negative impression was partially due to the fact that the drive in was long and difficult. Once we got set up, I began to relax. One issue with Villanueva is that we had no cell signal or OTA TV in the campground. As much as it bothers me to admit it, I like to stay connected. I really need to get over it.

After our day of driving all over North Central New Mexico, we decided to stay at Villanueva for two more days for a total of 4. The winds were going to be bad coming from the north, so we paid for two additional days and relaxed with books, video games and some hiking.

There are two real steep hiking trails up the sides of the gorge to some overlooks on the top. I headed out on one. It was steep and loose, but the view from the top was worth it.

The campground is in the center of this picture.

There were some steep canyons that I am sure have great waterfalls on the rare occasions when they have water here.

It was only about a 2 mile hike, but it got my heart pumping and my legs enjoyed the workout.

On the third day, I decided to head to the closest cell signal to do a few things. It was a 10 mile drive, but I was in no hurry and really spent some time checking out the local town. I found out that this area along the Pecos River was first explored by the Spanish Conquistadors. That was back in 1540. The town of Villanueva was begun by early spanish settlers. I also noticed much of the construction of abandoned buildings are real adobe. Here are a few shots:

Before we left, I really started to like this place. The views up the canyon walls are really beautiful and the campground was very quiet. The Pecos was really muddy, so I don't know if there are any fish in there, but I would bet the right time of year would yield some fish. 

I ended up really enjoying our time at Villanueva. Now, comes the big move to the northern part of the state. We are shooting for Navajo Lake State Park. We have no idea how that will work out, but that is all part of the adventure. Go on an adventure today that you do not know the outcome. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Villanueva State Park and a Tour of NE New Mexico

We had lunch in the church parking lot before we left Roswell, NM on March 22. Which is my brother Bob’s Birthday. Happy Birthday, Bob!

We were looking at 170 miles up to Villanueva SP. The web site for this park is really lacking in information. I made a phone call and no one answered. So, we just decided to go for it and hope that things would work out. It was Sunday night and most Spring breaks should be over, so we were hoping for some openings.

As we headed north I could tell the drive would be quite different from the day before. We had a gusty wind out of the NW and the land was even more barren than we had seen. We drove up 285. At times there was not a tree in site. We did see a number of small herds of antelope. I love antelope.

We drove north through Vaughn and then turned on Hwy 3. We drove on Hwy 3 for 88 miles. We saw three vehicles the entire time and two of them were motorcycles. There was not a single house or business that was occupied. The terrain turned to rolling hills and juniper trees. The thoughts of what would happen if we broke down does creep into your head, but that is all part of the adventure. We did cross over I 40 after about 50 miles and saw a few cars there, but then it was back into the wilds of central NM until we got to Villanueva. We dropped down into a canyon along the Pecos river. I was not too impressed with the SP when we first arrived, but it is starting to grow on me. Here are a few shots of the park and river.




Here is our site:


We had some neighbors, but that turned out to be cool. We met some neat people.  One thing to note about this park is that we have no Cell signal, so no internet and no OTA TV. We are listening to the one radio station that we can receive. It is old country.

We were thinking about going skiing up in the Santa Fe area. We decided to take a driving tour of NE New Mexico. We heard from our daughter that Taos was her favorite place in NM. So we got up on Monday morning and headed to Las Vegas, NM and then up into the mountains to Taos. The views were beautiful.

Rock Bluff LV NM

We did see some snow on the high mountains, but the temps were in the 50’s, so we knew the snow would be melting fast. We did stop and check out this small family ski area called Sipapu:

Ski Area

The snow had the texture of mashed potatoes and was melting fast. Check out the rushing creek in this shot:


We decided that skiing was not a good idea this late in the season. We just continued on to Taos. The views just kept getting better.

Mountain Scene

mountain Scene #2

We continued on to the town of Taos. To be honest, we were not that impressed. The town is surrounded by mountains, but it is very arid and there are almost no trees. We headed up to the Taos ski area. It was over 50 degrees at 9000 feet. Not good for the snow.


We then headed back south on the road to Santa Fe. We came to a spot where the highway crossed the Rio Grande River. It was one of those, “ Hey that looks deep, Really deep, really really deep! Wow, Shawn, Stop, we have to check this out.”




We bypassed the roadside area that was full of vendors selling their trinkets. We went into the adjacent rest area and took a short walk out to the edge. That is where I got all of the pictures above. I pulled up the map and found that there was a road that ran along the edge of the gorge for a while and then dropped down in. Then it crossed over and ran along the river all the way to Espanola. It looked like this might be part of the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument. Kim was a bit skeptical, but we turned off on the road. It was paved for a while, but then we hit dirt and then a spot that had all of the warning signs. Steep, 4X4 only, etc. Yeah, Yeah  whatever. Kim’s skepticism turned to “I don’t think this is a good idea.” My response was, “What do you think?” She said, the classic “Your decision…” My response, “Cool, let’s go!”

For once in my life, she later admitted that I was right. The dirt only lasted a short while and the truck had no issue with the road. The fact is any car could do it easily. The views were very cool and the ride down the canyon had new vistas at each turn. The water was high due to the run-off and it looked like very good easy white water. We were thinking more about the boat.





As we got closer to Espanola, the white water got more serious. We saw a couple of 3 feet tall standing waves. There were a number of outfitters and it looked like on a weekend it would be the place to be. There are also some nice campgrounds along the river. A few of them could handle big rigs.

We then drove on to Santa Fe. We had no idea where we were going, but headed downtown. If you have been following this blog for a while, or just know me, you know I don’t like cities. Santa Fe was no different. We found a mexican restaurant that was right next to an REI store. Kim wanted some new hiking boots. We got some Merrells for her and then got a bite to eat. We then made the 60 mile drive back to the campground. We had to make it back because they lock the gate at 7PM. No way to get in, no combination lock. We have never seen that before, but we made it and all was good. Long day, but we can cross off a couple of other places off of the to do list and found, to us anyway, a hidden gem.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Bottomless Lakes State Park

On Saturday, March 21, we left Brantley Lake SP. We had to move because the site we were in had a reservation for that night. We thought about moving within the campground, but decided if we were hooked up, we might as well move on. We made a short trip of about 70 miles to Bottomless Lakes SP. This park is just about 15 miles to the east of Roswell, NM. No, we did not see any aliens.

To say the drive from Carlsbad to Roswell on US 285 is desolate would be an understatement. The drive was easy with little wind and a very flat and smooth road. When we arrived at the SP, you could tell they had taken some significant rain in the previous 24 hours. I am sure it is rare to get much rain there. it is a very dry landscape.

Bottomless SP is built around a series of flooded sinkholes. They are surrounded by a large rock bluff. Here are a few shots.




We had a nice wide site. It was really pretty nice.


We got up on Sunday morning and decided to do something that we had not done before. We left after only one night. That is really unlike us. It is really all about moving on to Utah. We did want to go into Roswell to go to church, so we just hooked up and headed to church. I took a few more shots before we left.


Here is a cool swimming area. Too cold to swim though.


These lakes got us talking again about buying an inflatable boat. We would love to go out on that smooth water and do some paddling. We will see if we make the decision to buy one. We then need to figure out where to get it shipped. I do find that I buy less stuff because it is tough to get it shipped to us. That is probably a good thing. 

After dumping, we headed off to church. It is always a good idea to get rid of your extra stuff before you go to church. ;) We were able to park in an adjacent school parking lot. I was able to check it out on Google earth before we left. Assumption Catholic church was very beautiful. The profile of the roof of both the church and adjacent outdoor gathering area are made up huge curved laminated beams. They also had some of the prettiest stained glass windows, I have seen.

Roswell Church

I wish the sign was not in this picture, but that is the only shot I took. If you look close, you can see the tree blooming on the left. We then headed north, but that story will have to wait for another entry. We had not seen true desolation yet.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Carlsbad Caverns and a chance meeting

On Friday March 20, we got up early and got ready to head to Carlsbad Caverns. We left the trailer by 9:30. OK, so we just changed to mountain time and we got an extra hour of sleep. Man are we getting lazy. I will call it well rested. We would need the extra rest on this day.

We drove the 39 miles to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. We were both excited to see the caverns again. The last time we were there was 1985 when we had two young children. We had both also been there with our families growing up. We went in the visitor center and got our tickets for the self guided tours. It was free because of our National Park Pass. Then we walked down to the place that they give you a talk before going in. We met three guys from NYC and other places that are on a two week trip. We told them about our trip and they thought that sounded cool. I gave them on of our cards, so let us know if you find your way to the blog. Just as we were leaving to start into the cave. We saw a family that we recognized. It was Kim's cousin Ashley and wife Renee and two girls, Kendall and Ellie. I hope I spelled all of those name correctly.

It was amazing that they just happened to be there in the light of day just as we were going in. They were just coming out after doing the tour backwards. They had just climbed up out of the cave. After walking down in, and taking the elevator out, the walk out looked brutal. It was great seeing them.

Then we headed down into the natural entrance of the cave. 

Here is the view back up:

It is every bit as steep as it looks making the climb back out by Ash and family that much more impressive. The problem from here on is picking what pictures to choose. Between Kim and I, we took about 100 shots. Many turned out pretty good. 

I kept saying "Wow" and "check that out". I spent most of the day in awe.

OK, you get the idea. It was really cool and we really enjoyed it. We walked about 2.5 miles in the cave. We have been to a number of other caves and this is clearly the best we have been to. The size of the rooms and the formations is just amazing.

We then began to drive out of the park and we saw some mountain sheep or goats (not sure which one). Check out the second picture of the babies having a late lunch.

If that was not enough to do in one day, we knew we were only 35 miles from Guadalupe Mountains National Park. We figured if it was a NP, it was going to be impressive. So, we went back into Texas and went to the visitor center. I had considered camping there, but it is really not set up for big rigs. This is a park that is best seen by hiking up the steep mountains. The views are very beautiful. Here are a few shots to show you the views from the visitor center. There was some fog and clouds in the mountains.

I kind of like this shot:

We then made the trip back to Brantley State Park. While I was looking at Kim's pictures for this entry, I found some sunrise and rainbow shots she took on Thursday. These turned out cool.

Look closely to see the double rainbow.

I know that was a large entry, but it was a big day. These are the days we live for. Two National Parks in one day. What an awesome day. Can't wait for more.