by Tom Hansen
Dedicated to the Memory of Tony Lange
For the past couple of months I’d been trying to get some old riding buddies from my former hometown together. Since being in my new location, I hadn’t really made any effort to get to know anybody to ride with, so all of my riding in recent years had been solo. When I moved to Carlsbad, I was riding a Harley FLHTC. It had the looks, it had the sound. Out of the clear blue sky, “people” would ask me to take them for a ride. Most of the time, I couldn’t…… for they were underage and their mommas didn’t know where they were.
The Harley did some things well. It carried my spousal unit and me to many places with relative ease. It was comfortable and it would eat up the miles. It was heavy and hard to pick up when I fell down. It was embarrassing to call “the wife” and have her pick it up when I was pinned against the lawnmower. The IRS made me sell it.
I bought a Kawasaki Concours. It did more things than the Harley and most of them, it did better. It was used, cheap, fast, and beautiful. I began to experience the thrill of passing cages on the highway at speeds of 30-40 miles an hour faster than they were travelling. It could corner. My technique was to dive into a turn, brake, turn, accelerate like a banshee. It may have been right, it may not have been, but it worked for me. It was a hoot! I traveled to Paonia with some BMW buddies on it. Through Creede, over Slumgullion Pass to Paonia and back home through Telluride and Durango. A gorgeous ride! One of the best in Colorado. Think I’ll do it again this year.
Beloved wife did not like the Connie. She had to sit in the air and lean forward. She could lean back and read a book on the Hog. She didn’t dare do this on the Concours.
I had this good idea. Buy her a little scoot and teach her to ride. Then buy her a bigger one, and so on. Didn’t work. She kissed the pavement and decided she’d stick to refurbishing our Victorian home.
All this time, unbeknownst to me, I was in training to become a BMW rider. One who rides alone. One who rides fast. One who strives to improve every time I straddle that sleek red machine. The one with the New Mexico BOOF plate.
Somehow four cylinders makes me crazy. I needed something in synch with my body rythms. Something like a big twin. I began to look for a BMW. I had long admired the marque. I used to go to the dealer in Albuquerque, across from the state fairground and sit on BMWs in the showroom and go vrroooom, vrroooom! Or was it pft, pft, pft?
Bob and Galen rode BMW’s. Bob left and came back. Galen never left. I wondered what the mystique was.
Bob rides a R1100RS, Galen rides a R100RT. I tried to buy Galen’s bike. Last summer he said he wanted to sell it, but when I made my offer, I knew he was lying. I could tell, he’d rather sell his mother. Bob let me ride his R1100RT and I thought, shucks, this is just too much fun! I called Don Cameron in Deming to see what he had (used) in stock. He didn’t have what I wanted but he put me on to a red R1100RS in El Paso. Bob has been with me on every motorcycle purchase, so there was no need to change now. I call and see if he will meet me in El Paso. He does. He’s a wrench and I trust his advice.
Now I’ve got this BMW and I love it more with each passing day. I’m beginning to understand.
Heard about the IBMWR from Steve Lyell. I took Steve’s advice, signed up on the list and I’m hooked! Los Alamos/Alpine appears on the Events page, so I call Bob and see if he can get away for a few days.
I left home about 6:30 on Friday the 29th of May. Went through road construction , (36 miles) at a reasonable pace. Seventy is reasonable for a construction zone, isn’t it? I turned off the beaten path at Artesia, took a back road to Dexter so I could miss the next 34 miles of construction. Was hummin’ a long, singing a song, minding my own business, when I heard this sound. This sound was like a World War II fighter plane immediately to my left. I looked left and coming straight at me at about fifteen feet off the ground at a hunnerd and twenty miles per hour was this huge yellow biplane. Pucker clinched the seat and I said my last prayer. Biplane goes up and makes one of those dancing u-turns that only a cropduster can do. He comes back at me from the right. By now, I realize that he’s not really after me, so I tell my heart to get back into its normal rhythm and just watch this dude. I’m watching this guy do the Farmer’s Shuffle; it’s like ballet to you sophisticated folks. It’s beautiful. Something gets my attention. Oh yeah, I’m riding a motorcycle on a Farm to Market road at about 7:30 Ayem.
I get back into my ride and am concentrating on doing my own dance; seeing if I can pass a bunch of these geeks and get on to my breakfast destination. This gawd-awful racket coming from behind, causes me to duck. There is nothing like the sound of an unmuffled radial engine crawling up your back . That daggum airplane was motoring home just above the highway. I’m about to need a bathroom.
I pull in to Denny’s just as A.D. (R1200C) and Bob pull up. We park at the same time. A.D. tries to hustle this waitress who’s old enough to be his mother. After breakfast, we gas up. An old man comes over to look at A.D.’s cruiser. He apologizes to me for not looking at my RS. I don’t care. When I go to the carnival, I head for the freak shows first, too. We head North on Highway 285 . Pass a red Viper. He’s actually stopping, but nobody can dispute the fact that we passed him. Ninety-four miles of nothing but Llano Estacado and pronghorn antelope.. It’s straight, fast and lightly patrolled.
We’re toolin’ along at about 90. Bob passes a new F-100. I’m right behind him. He’s in. I’m alongside the pickup when I see the cop. He’s got somebody pulled over. Maybe he didn’t notice. I pull in and sloooow down. We do the normal thing. Drive through our rear views for a few miles. OK. We pull in to Vaughn. P-break and a coke. Waiting for Galen to meet us and the F-100 pulls in. I go over to apologize to the lady for pulling in and slowing down abruptly like I did. She is gracious about it. Says , “That’s ok, Tom.” She’s from my hometown. She knows who I am. I didn’t know her. Now I do.
At Encino, A.D. suggests we turn North on State Road 3. Never having been on SR 3 and having plenty of time today, we think it’s a good idea. A.D. says it’s a nice road, sweepers, drops down by a little river and goes alongside said river for a while. It’s a nice road, sweepers and ALL OF A SUDDEN the bottom drops out. From 70 to 45 to 30 to 20 in an instant. Going STRAIGHT DOWN, tight curves and a huge drop-off to the right. Jeez! Right straight up again and out the other side. We stop in Villanueva to change underwear. Uh, we stop in Villanueva to buy a coke.
Villanueva State Park is 1.4 miles down the road. So, Go! We do. Sign says $3.00 entrance fee; Additional $10.00 if you enter without paying the fee. Bob leads off; doesn’t pay. I’m next. I don’t pay either; we’re just going in for a minute to see what it’s like. I motion for A.D. to come on. He makes a funny gurgling sound inside his System II and parks his bike outside the entrance. Bob pulls up to the outhouse. Right behind us is a Park Ranger. Bob says , “I’m going to the restroom like I’m on a mission. Let’s see what he does”. I’m thinkin’, “we don’t have any CHOICE but to see what he does”. Bob speaks to the Ranger. Ranger says, “Morning”. He leaves. We leave. A.D. wants to know how much it’s gonna cost us.
Down the road beside the rushing waters of the infant Pecos River, across I 40 and North till we hit I 25. Hang a left and head for Santa Fe. Go to Maria’s for some Mexican food. Definitely not good since it changed hands. Not going back.
Galen needs some gloves so we ride to the Harley shop. The personnel there seem nervous. They’re strangely quiet and reserved. No Harleys in the parking lot. Only four Beemers. An eretheral feeling. They seem happy when we leave. I guess we were bad for their image.
Back to the motel. There’s a Suzuki cruiser there with German license plates. Beer and cigars for all that wanted them. Lies. BS. The usual stuff. The Germans come out and walk over to their bike. A.D.’s hangin’ out the window. Asks them to come in, have a beer and a cigar. Man says, thanks but going to get a steak. Maybe later. They must have come back coasting, with the ignition off. We never heard them. Probably had heard horror stories about traveling in the United States and perverts trying to lure into the motel room and rob ’em and do other disgusting things.
Later that evening, we were changing my setbacks when two couples, one from Canada, the other from Germany stop to admire the bikes. I ask them what they thought of New Mexico. Canada couple says it is hot. German couple tells me those BMWs are made in Germany. Learn something every day.
The next morning, Galen says , “Please, let’s not have any more Mexican food.” A.D. apparently forgot to take his Gas-X and BLEW the covers off the bed in the middle of the night. Galen sat straight up, now wide awake, thinking there’d been a tornado.
We head to Centaur Cycles for gobs of gooey donuts, (the invitation to which Richard posted six times). This is a nice shop, set back amongst the shade trees in a beautiful Santa Fe residential area. Richard is a nice guy and works almost exclusively on BMWs. He didn’t plan it that way, but he has so much BMW business he has to turn the other ones away.
Met several people there as we gathered to partake, indulge and generally overdo the sugar thing. I was especially pleased to get to meet Rob Lentini and Richard Meltz, with whom I’d corresponded several times.
As we get ready to depart for Los Alamos, I stand in awe of how many layers of clothes Bruce and Judy from Mesa, AZ can put on. I counted five layers for Bruce. I’m even more surprised that they can move when they have all these clothes on. (Remember the little brother all dressed up to go to school in the Christmas Story?) Down a back road till we hit I 25 North. Hang a left, just get through the stoplight and motor up to Pojauque. (Pronounce that!). Hang another left, up the hill toward Los Alamos. Galen pulls over. A.D. stops. I stop. Galen says we are not going the right way. There are thirteen other riders in front of us and HE decides they don’t know the way. They’re gone now. WE sure don’t know the way. After making several U-turns in Los Alamos, I’m starting to feel like a dog chasing his tail. I see a road and thinking back at least ten years, believe this just might be the right road. I take off. Galen tries to stop me. I keep going. Galen pulls ahead and off to the left. He motions for A.D. and me to stop. We ignore him and ride on. Another bike falls in behind us. Then another. Stop at the Caldera to admire the view. Bob pulls in. How did we get in front of these guys? Doesn’t matter. We got there first, huh Dr. Curve?
Heading down the hill, not really knowing where to turn. Or IF to turn. I’m thinking this event must be at Soda Falls. Never heard of Jemez Falls. Oops! There’s the sign. Bob and I missed the turn, pull the ‘ol dog/tail thing again and join the crowd. I stop to admire the new Triumph. Get a picture. I’m being cool. A.D. heads to the restroom. Bob jerks the door open and I take a picture. A.D. says later that the outhouse was airtight and must have had a 4″ vent. When Bob pulled the door open, the decompression sucked some of that odiferous air right up from the well and into A.D.’s face. He said it made him kinda sick. I noticed he didn’t have any trouble eating lunch..
Lunch was great! Bryan Lally had it well organized, had the fire going and lunch was served right on time. Met lotsa nice people. Ate lunch with Roy Daum and Tony Lange. Met Voni; learned the secret handshake……..yea!! Hike to the Falls. If you didn’t do it this year, you really ought to next year. It is beautiful. The uphill return was hard on the old fat man.
We’re now getting ready to head to Alpine. I stop to meet Paul Glaves. He’s busy getting ready to go back to Kansas. I don’t get to meet him this time but there will be another time. Much debate in our group over the route we’re going to take. We’re going to Cuba, then turn south. Eric Christofferson says he’d like to ride with us. Now we’re going to Bernalillo. Eric says no thanks. Cuba again. Eric, “I’m in!” Bernalillo again. Eric rides off in disgust to join another group.
As we motor down Highway 4, an ambulance passes. I hope it’s not one of us. Ride the good road. Bike and BOOF # 137 are in rhythm. Sheriff goes by, haulin’ ass and lights flashing. Damn.
Ride to Jemez Pueblo. A good ride. Nice, smooth, wide road, beautiful country. Riding easy. Troubled by my thoughts. Now we’re down to thirty-five mile per hour. Can’t get around these people. Interminable! Finally, get a clear shot and GO!. Immediately hit Highway 44 and enter a construction zone. Forty five mph. Behind two trucks and three cages. Lead cage driver must have been at least 90 years old. He was white knuckled at 45mph and holding on for dear life. Follow. Follow some more. Truck blows an orange barrel over. It moves to the right, away from the road a couple of feet. A side wind picks it up and it looks like it’s going to blow into my lane. Sure ’nuff! I fake left; no! Head right. Wind stops. Barrel stops. Grab the binders, HARD. ABS works! I punt the damn thing into the bar ditch with my left cylinder head. The two lanes to my right look like they’re finished. Still following. Take a look right. Naw. Look left. Look right again, naw. Settle down, decide to stay where I am. A.D. goes sailing by on my right at about 70. I give chase. We run out of pavement about a half mile down the road. Squeeze left, ever so gently behind the white knuckled old man and stay there till we get to Bernalillo.
A.D. and I stop. Those cars and trucks we just passed, pass us again. Bob doesn’t stop. Ridin’ with his head where the sun don’t shine.
Galen, A.D. and I catch Bob and head for I 25. It’s not our ideal road, but you can make some time. South of Albuquerque, we stop for gas at the Chevron station. A.D.’s whinin’ about his butt. A woman in a 97 Ford pickup asks us for gas money to get home. We don’t give her any but watch her work the people at the station. She gets some money, pulls in washes her windshield until the other people leave. She leaves without putting any gas in the truck. She is going toward the casino at Isleta.
We’re cruisin’ down I 25. A.D. has a pack on the pillion seat that is about a foot and a half high. He’s goin’ down the road with his butt on top of that pack at about 80 mph, trying to get some relief for his poor achin’ rear. Imagine a chubby little monkey, standing on the seat, holding the handlebars and his rear being higher than his head. That’s about how it looked. I laughed. Havin’ a good time with good friends.
Through Socorro, headed west on Highway 60. Strong quartering winds from the left. Blow past the Very Large Array. A radio telescope facility located 23 miles west of Magdalena, on the plains of San Augustin. Much of the information we know about distant galaxies is gathered here. Rode in to Datil, where the West still lives. We stopped at a roadside gas station-bar- grocery store and café. Cowboys and cowgirls moved about the store. The longest snakeskin I’ve ever seen was stretched the length of the store, up high on the wall. It must have been 24 feet or more. (It must have been from Texas). Ranch hands come in for a drink or to buy a six pack. Mommas and Poppas are buying groceries with the kids in tow. Couple of drunks pull up to the gas pumps and seem congenial enough. They smile and nod. I just hope they stop before they run over us.
We’re running about 80 taking in the sights. A good secondary road with almost no traffic. Over the continental divide for the umpteenth time. We pass through Cruzville. Cruzville is nestled in a pretty little meadow surrounded by mountain foothills. A creek runs through it, lined with ancient cottonwoods. Then into Reserve, county seat of Catron County, where they have an ordinance that requires every household to be armed. Signs in the valley just before you get to town scream, “Take Back America!” Out of Reserve down Highway 12 for seven miles. Turn right on 180 and up the hill. We stop at the overlook for a moment, then start to pull out. Wait!
I hear them coming. The big twin and the K1200 wound up tight. Tony and Howard hunkered over and haulin’ass. In a moment they’re gone. Maybe I can keep them in sight. Dream on, old man. We never saw them again till we got to Alpine.
I pretend I’m sightseeing so the others behind me won’t know how hard I’m riding. I’m leading. Maybe I’m obstructing traffic. I don’t know, but what the hell, I’m in front.
Another scoot falls in behind. Wonder who this guy is?
Pull in to the Sportsman’s Lodge in Alpine and there are the Whooooosh Brothers! Look behind to see who the extra biker is, and IT’S ERIC, the retired Navy hippie who didn’t want to ride with us. I suspect the lifetime NRA member stopped in Reserve to declare his allegiance to whatever they allege. I go to meet the Whoooosh Brothers and see if their pants are wet.
We check in, then go across the street to the bar where they have such bumper stickers as “Can’t find any toilet paper? Wipe your Ass on a Spotted Owl”, “Earth First; we’ll mine the other planets later” and “The Only Good Wolf is a Dead Wolf”. I try to keep any liberal views I might have to myself. We have a couple of beers and head for the restaurant. After dinner, we head for the Motel, walking down the middle of the deserted highway. Eric has a bottle of tequila and a box of cigars. Mighty Fine Cigars. We hang out in the parking lot and smoke cigars until my poor little rear end starts to freeze.
The next morning, we’re up at the crack of dawn. Bob checks out the room. No clock, no telephone. Good! Brew a pot of coffee and stumble out into the cool early morning air. Don Cameron is in the parking lot looking for a cup of coffee. He had to stay somewhere else, probably because Frank , the motel owner and K75 rider wouldn’t rent him a room because he was on a Gold Wing (Don is the BMW dealer from Deming). Don gets his coffee from our room as do several more of the wakening crowd. Frank and Phyllis are now making coffee for the group and have put out some old towels for us to use on the scooters.
Galen and A.D. want to go to breakfast. A.D. heads out the wrong way. Galen heads out the RIGHT way. A couple of minutes later, A.D. flies by, a-wavin’ and a-grinnin’. The restaurant is four miles down the road. Galen and a group of other riders overshot the restaurant. It had an 8 foot by 20 foot sign out front and I’m sure it was a little hard to see. It took A.D. eight more miles to catch the group and turn ’em around. Bob and I stayed at the motel and listened to all the stories told by various and sundry riders. I met a bunch more people that I hadn’t met the day before.
After lunch, we head for Silver City, NM down Highway 180. The last 25 miles or so are my kind of road. Long, fast sweepers. I have a brother in Silver City so we stop there for the night. That was a long day! 118 miles I think. Bob, Galen and A.D. stay at a motel. There they meet Gerd, a transplanted German who lives in Santa Fe. He wasn’t with the IBMWR’s but he IS riding a R1100 GS. He’s going back to Santa Fe the next day. They tell him about Emory Pass. He says he thinks he’ll ride over it and come back, then ride over it a third time on his way home. Sounds reasonable to us.
We pass the Santa Rita Copper mine on State Road 90. Santa Rita is the largest open pit copper mine in the world.
Its’ pretty tight, going up Emory Pass. Slow! Here comes Gerd. We’re going up, he’s going down. We’re going slow and he’s going fast. He has that GS leaned waaaaaay over as he meets and passes us. He waves and grins. On up the hill we go. We see a helicopter hovering above the trees. The chopper has lowered a winch into the forest. As we try to ride and watch what’s going on, he raises some kind of cargo container from the forest and leaves the scene. A.D. goes off the road twice while watching the helicopter. We top out; Bob passes me to do some riding on his own. A.D. stays with me and Galen drops back. Down the hill to Kingston. Bob’s waiting, having a cigarette. We stop. Galen pulls in. Gerd pulls in. We brag on his riding prowess and notice the outside edge of the sole of his boot is scrubbed off. Gerd wants to know, “Did I look good?”
There is a sign nearby that says “Dead End”. A.D. feels this sign is made for him and wants his picture made. He leans against the sign and displays a covered moon. Back up the only road in Kingston is a sign advertising the “Spit and Whittle Club” Gerd takes a photo of the four travelling companions beside the sign. A few more minutes of visiting, and we head down the road.
A.D. wants to stop in Hillsboro. Into the general store. Order Root Beer Floats all around. Laughter and lies and jokes and stories. A.D. pops off. Galen sprays me with Root Beer Float. As we return to the beemers, an old lady stops to admire the bikes. She tells us how beautiful they are, that she “loves beemers”. A.D. offers her a ride, but she declines, telling us about a /2 her nephew in California had. Seems he didn’t ride anymore and the bike was wasting away in a garage. He owed her some money, so she went and repo’d the bike and gave it to a friend back down the road in Kingston. A.D. and Galen wanted to go see it. We’ve traveled nine miles in the last
two hours. Bob and I didn’t want to stay so we parted company with our friends. We agreed to meet, maybe, at a restaurant in Las Cruces. They didn’t show up so Bob and I went on to Alamogordo, across White Sands Missile Range (Highway 70), past White Sands National Monument and Holloman Air Force Base, home of the “Stealth” fighters. It’s hot.
We part company. Bob lives in Ruidoso, I go over the mountain through Cloudcroft (US 82) and into Hope, NM. Stop in the park and pour some water over my shirt. Hang out in the shade for a few minutes. Drink some water and head for Artesia. As I enter Artesia, I raise the visor on my Shoei RFR, and close it just as quickly. It felt as if someone had thrust a blowdryer in my face. Through the construction on US 285 for the final 36 miles and into my driveway. The thermometer on the porch says 110 in the shade. It’s good to be home.