Thursday, April 10, 2008
Flagstaff, AZ to Socorro, NM
In a way, the snow encounter in Utah, while unwelcome at the time, actually simplified and removed some potential stress from my trip.
From the first days of planning, I’d looked skeptically at the road options between Moab, UT and the Texas border. The good roads were in the mountains and it was still very early in the season. The safer roads, on the plains of NM, were likely to be fraught with hair-raising gusts of wind. These worries were now moot.
I had two days to get to the STN Region 2 Meet. The base (interstate) route between Flagstaff, AZ and Alpine, TX is about 800 miles. I always figure that adding interesting roads will add at least another 100 miles. My days are further lengthened by stops for attractions along the way.
Sitting in my motel room with Mapsource running on my laptop, I decided that the only thing to do was shortcut Arizona on I40 (after all, I had just ridden in the region a year ago) and try to make it to some new (to me) roads in NM.
Just cuz, I stopped for gas (and breakfast) in Winslow, AZ. It wasn’t much of a corner.
To break up the interstate dash, I took some time to ride through Petrified Forest National Park.
The ranger at the entrance station swiped my parks pass, and then told me to be sure and have my camera out for the first six miles. Riding away, I looked at my gloved hands and shrugged internally. Riiiiiiiight.
Instead of attempting to take pictures while moving (yeah, I know some riders do it) I stopped at several of the Painted Desert vista points to take in the view.
The park road commemorates it’s crossing of Rt 66 with a nice informational plaque and blatant photo op.
Having seen some geology and history, I was ready for the main attraction: petrified wood (yeah, I know it’s stone).
Jasper Forest was once filled with logs fallen away from the eroding cliffs that once encased them. Around the turn of the century (the 19th/20th one, that is) the valley was plundered and many of the logs were dragged away to be ground down for minerals or sold to tourists.
The park was created to protect the remaining logs, but in it’s early years, tourists often didn’t follow the rules against collecting rocks. I couldn’t help but think of all the times my parents hammered into us the rules against picking things up in National Parks.
Reaching Gallup, NM, I headed south on fairly straight state highways through a large indian reservation. The area appeared to be fairly depressed, so when I saw what appeared to be a bunch of junked trucks spread out in the valley ahead of me, I didn’t give them much scrutiny…
…until ten miles later when I hadn’t yet passed them and they had slowly resolved into satellite dishes. The gravel paving in the turnout couldn’t stop me from pulling over to read about the VLA (Very Large Array).
About an hour later I reached I25 and decided that I’d had it for the day. I found an inexpensive motel on the strip in Socorro, NM.