After the ride of my life in the Ozarks, New Mexico was expected to be a pass-through state as we made our way to Pikes Peak and the hype that is Colorado. With rumors of strict traffic law enforcement, a reputation for hot, flat desert, and a drastic change of scenery from the green mountains back east, expectations were set fairly low. But never have I been so wrong.
Though our environment and scenery changed, the one thing that remained the same was the tightly woven community of motorcyclists that strives to lend a hand. For the past few weeks, we had been trying to get Dave’s CBR1000 running after a phantom electrical issue killed its fuel pump.
In the search for replacement parts, we came across the former medic at Arroyo Seco Racetrack who not only sold us a used part but also hooked us up with the circuit’s owner for a private track day and a sneak peak at his Advanced Rider Class after hearing our story.
Getting to the track required a five-hour detour close to the border of Mexico that kicked us off the beaten path of major cities and known routes and down to the Gila Cliff Dwellings West of Silver City. A late start and a slow truck earned us a thorough inspection with the US border patrol, where we successfully established our innocence in the human trafficking business. A rather suspect unmarked box truck from 1995 with Jersey plates must fit some type of profile…
As we headed further south, the warnings from friends back east of the lawless, remote towns of New Mexico whispered in the back of our minds as we pulled into the Lakeview RV Park around 3am, far from any large populations.
We were greeted later that morning with friendly neighbors and a family staff eager to give directions to the finest local eateries on our way to the dwellings. The park is located directly on Route 152 down a few mile stretch of flat open blacktop that begs for a top speed run before releasing onto an incredible run of mountain twisties. With a day to kill before our session at the track, we put in close to 300 miles on a down and back route of 152 to 15 in Southern New Mexico. We called this practice, but I think we might have had it backwards.
For me, the next two days were pure bliss. We arrived to a desolate track, greeted at the gate by the owner and sole inhabitant Roger Heemsbergen, who led us to our campground at the base of the drag strip that doubles as the main straight on the race course. For the next two days we had open access to one of the most technical courses that I have ever ridden that returned the confidence I lost after the street crash in Virginia.
The long course is perfect preparation for any mountain ride replicating many of the turns that you see in the real world. The Carousel has a decreasing radius sweeper, and the Bus Stop chicane throws you from left to right in ways I have only known on tight mountain roads like the southern mountain of Route 16 or the cheese grater of Route 123 in the Ozarks.
We left late Saturday night, on a midnight trek back to Albuquerque to catch a glimpse of a local bike gathering that meets at the base of the Sandia Crest Byway in a coffee shop called “Coffee at Dawn,” which was very reminiscent of those back in Brooklyn. Eclectic furniture, outdoor seating and a parking lot that used every square inch to pack in close to 100 sport, adventure and cafe bikes, and most riders were outfitted in full leathers ready to carve the neighboring mountain.
The morning lasted nearly four hours as we chatted up the local bike builders, drooling over their works of art. Refreshingly different from the biker gatherings in other areas, the lack of neon lights, candy paint and fiberglass stereos made for great route advice and an even better exchange of stories. Every bike there was built to ride.
We finished the day with a refreshing day ride to the top of the Sandia Crest Byway to enjoy a majestic view of the Albuquerque cityscape. At near 10,000 feet with a clear blue sky, it felt like I could almost see New York.
We concluded our New Mexico ride in Santa Fe, leaving the Rancheros de Santa Fe campground to ride the Taos Box, an incredibly scenic loop consisting of Route 64, 38 and 522. We traded our one-piece suits for street gear and civilly cruised through a fairly tame pass. It’s hard to pound the pavement so soon after a track day. We compromised convenience for the route that would take us into the city of Santa Fe and concluded the night with a round of the local brew downtown to celebrate another incredible state of riding on our trip.
We departed early Tuesday morning for Colorado and arrived in Salida, which is the jumping-off point for a number of incredible routes that will provide epic footage of one of the most talked about states in American riding.