Despite a long day’s ride on Monday from Mesa, Arizona, to Socorro, New Mexico, I was up at 5:30 a.m. sharp. Then I realized it was much too early, and was back in bed and asleep until 7. I was glad to be awake in time to attend the second presentation of the proclamation created by the mayor and city council of Socorro. As you’ll see in the Day Three video recap, these folks were as good as gold and honored us with the proclamation. It turns out that the town’s mayor pro tem (Gordy Hicks) is an avid rider and escorted our group to the county line – but only after presenting Don Emde with a handmade wooden bowl as a memento of our visit.
Gordy also made a friend for life with Perry King when (and this is true) he learned last night that Perry had fastened a dinner spoon to his Ducati’s kickstand to it would stay up. It turns out that Gordy couldn’t abide by that and invited Perry to his house where he welded on a new kickstand. A friend at the census bureau advised me that few American mayors are skilled in the use of an acetylene torch, so the fact Perry found one in Socorro is one of those ‘on the road’ stories that I’m sure to enhance with each telling.
Today’s ride was fairly long – about 360 miles – but it was the center section; the non-interstate section, that really got my tail wagging. Just north of Santa Fe we got on (pick one) the Turquoise Trail, the Santa Fe Trail, or the High Road to Taos. Whichever one it was, it was dandy, with plenty of twists and some great eye candy and a few distant memories came back when I recognized places like Madrid – places I had been years ago when I was on my earliest trips for my book Great American Motorcycle Tours. We breezed through the square in Santa Fe and since there were so many of us riding through and our bikes were making a racket equivalent to a squadron of B-52s flying through a cathedral, I got the feeling I was part of a gang. A highly educated and relatively affluent gang, but a gang in that sense.
Lunch was in a small village called Rancho de Chimayo (which translates into means ‘Ranch of Chimayo) and then we were back in the bikes and rocketing up into higher altitudes where it had a nice crisp feel. For me, the best part of the ride was en route to Watrous, where Cannon Ball stayed when a flooded river blocked his path. While the postal clerk in Watrous was charming and kind enough to stamp our logbooks, it was the scenery into the town that pleased me most. If I want to be assured of clearing my head on a motorcycle ride, the active ingredient is an empty landscape. That’s what was presented to us on Route 161.
We were flanked by fields of golden grass that coated the level floor, tacked into place, it seemed, by the silhouettes of distant mountains. I live in a place where there is something – signs, cars, businesses, lights, people – something in any direction I look. When I looked around today and saw nothing but nature, that meant everything to me. In fact, after getting my logbook stamped, I rode five miles back to that spot, shut off the Yamaha, and listened to the whisper of the wind across the plains.