Saturday, November 12, 2011

Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado July Ride

(To ride along, the video is at the bottom)

In 2010 my wife and I took our regular trip to Northern New Mexico on the 4th of July.  Angel Fire, at south tip of the Moreno Valley just west of Taos, is one gorgeous place!  This is an isolated valley in the Sangre de Christo mountains that extend from Colorado down into New Mexico.  We come here because it is isolated and beautiful and they put on a great fireworks display in Eagle’s Nest that you can see for miles around the Eagle’s Nest Lake. 

Angel Fire is also the home to the David Westphall Veterans Foundation and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial - a very moving place worth several hours of your time. 

Highway 64 takes your through the valley from Taos west to Cimarron, NM (the home of Philmont Scout Ranch and the very haunted St. James Hotel from the real old west).  However, that is only the south and eastern part of what is called the Enchanted Circle which is both Highway 64 and Highway 38 and makes a circle from Taos, to Angel Fire, up to Red River and back down.  Basically this circles Wheeler Peak (13,161’) and the Taos Ski Valley.  It is a great road by motorcycle.  In fact there are several rallies held in Red River and Angel Fire each year. 

Check out the photographs of the Sangre de Christo area.  

In the video below we rode from Colorado Springs down to Angel Fire and stayed at the Angel Fire Resort the first night.  I’m very sad to say this place, once a nice ski resort facility, is now really run down.  Lots of “delayed maintenance”, poor service at the front desk, lousy parking, handicapped ramps are broken concrete etc.  This was so bad I complained to management, the State Disabilities department, the city of Angel Fire and on the resort’s Facebook page - and received NO positive response.  Too bad, but I understand the owners are spending their money on a new golf resort across 64 in a new housing development.  So I do not recommend you stay here, unless there is nothing else available. 

Unfortunately there is not a lot of other places to say (part of the problem with the resort - captive audience traffic) so I would recommend you plan on staying in Taos and there are many great places there.  One of our favorites is the Sagebrush Inn.  An old wagon stop and it really has the New Mexico charm!

But for this particular video we decided to ride from Taos down 518 to Mora, NM, a really beautiful ride with very little traffic, as you’ll see.  Then we took 434 north to Angel Fire.  This is kind of a “dream sequence” I did just for fun.  Part of 434 is a very small two lane road where you may never see a car.  The music comes from the sound track of Milagro Beanfield War by David Grusin. That movie was based not far from here (Espanola, NM) and the music has just the right flavor of New Mexico for this road.  This is one of my favorite roads in the country.  This road also goes right by the location where they filmed “Lonesome Dove” with Robert Duvall.  

After 434 we turn on to Highway 64 from Angel Fire to Taos.  This is Palo Flechado Pass and is nice and “twisty”.  Again more music from David Grusin’s album that is the sound track for the Milagro Beanfield War. 

After Taos we head northwest still on 64 over to Chama, NM.  What a great road.  It goes by the Brazos Cliffs, where this photo was taken. 

You will love this road and the little town of Chama.  If you need a place to say, check out the Elkhorn Lodge on the south side of town and tell Jill Lane that "Road Dog Jim" sent you in.  She'll know me by Dr.Jim.   (Maybe the famous "Travelin' Jack" will be there!  Jack (seen below) has his own blog that is really fun.

                     Jill Lane and Travel'n Jack        Our Great Cabin at Elkhorn Lodge

Next we head up 84 to Pagosa Springs, hang a right to cross over Wolf Creek Pass.  This is where you see the first tunnel in the video.  This road often must be closed in winter for pretty serious snow and they work hard to open it again as it is a major route in southern Colorado. 

After we get over Wolf Creek, we enter the little town of South Fork and turn left on a famous road to two wheelers - Colorado 149 to Creed and Lake City.  This is one of the coolest twisty roads you’ll ever ride and I try to show that in the video.  Creed is an old mining town with a very interesting mining museum, and Lake City Colorado is a super vacation get-a-way with shops and restaurants.  

There is a nice little falls right off 149, watch for it. 

When you continue north on 149 you’ll intersect the famous Colorado Highway 50 right at Blue Mesa Reservoir.  If you go left or west you’ll be near one of my favorite roads Colorado 92 and the West Elk Loop.  But I’ve saved that for a separate video.  Further west on 50 takes you to Montrose Colorado, a wonderful place to base from and do about 5-6 great day rides including the famous “Million Dollar Highway” down to Durango.  I have videos on those also. 

But in this video we are going to turn east at the 149 and 50 junction, head into Gunnison another one of our favorite places to stay and base from.  We like the Holiday Inn Express there as it is new, people friendly and food both walking and short ride away. (after having stayed at HIE's for many years, we've racked up the points, so we try to hit these on our trips.  We've yet to have a bad experience at any of these properties)  Holiday Inn Express

The HIE in Gunnison Colorado

From Gunnison we head over another famous and really exciting but short pass - Monarch.  We did this in the morning and it was pretty cool so I had on the full face helmet.  I think you will like that part of the video.  


Then after you make it through Salida Colorado (another good place for food or over night stays) as you head east on 50, you now take another superb ride through Big Horn Sheep Pass which follows the Arkansas River and was the route taken by many of those who first populated the west.  This road takes you by Royal Gorge and if you’ve never seen it, it is worth the quick short trip south to see that.  Continue on 50 and on into Canyon City, Colorado and that ends this ride.  

One more thing, IF it is open take Skyline Drive on the north side of Canyon City.  It is not real easy to find but ask some locals, definitely worth the time as it is a “one of a kind” road on a geological “fin”.   You’ll see a little of it at the end of this video.  Pretty cool. 

That’s if for this 4th of July ride in Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado.  I hope you get to do this road and if so, tell me of your experiences. 

Till next time, shiny side up!

Road Dog

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