Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Side Road

There’s something about long, straight, monotonous roads that drives me crazy. I can stay on them for a while, but, eventually, I just have to find something interesting to look at, and out come the maps or smartphone. 

Such was the case, last Monday, July 21, 2014 when I was riding back from Louisiana to Colorado. I decided to cross the panhandle of Oklahoma and enter Colorado through Springfield. About an hour west of Woodward, OK I had enough of straight roads and decided to head west to see the highest point in Oklahoma, Black Mesa.

When I got to Boise City, OK out came my smartphone and I altered my route to follow OK 325 through Black Mesa and NM 456 west towards Raton. According to google maps, NM 456 followed a river in places and it looked like fun.

 NM 456 was much more interesting than the straight prairie roads in the Oklahoma panhandle, although not well trafficked. At one point I passed a group of ranchers, and they were really waving. A couple of them were even standing on the bumpers of their trucks waiving. I waved back and thought, wow how friendly was that!

 I was riding along, enjoying the curves and scenery, when the pavement came to an abrupt end. A sign on the side of the road said the gravel continued for the next two miles. I figured I could handle the gravel rather than turning back to the road that would route me south-west to Clayton, NM. After all, the crossroad was aways back. Big mistake! 

After what seemed like four or five miles of varying unpaved road conditions, there was more pavement. Yippee! ..and just as soon as the pavement appeared, the wash-boarded dirt and gravel road swallowed it up again.

Spots of disappearing pavement was enough to make me stop and get out the good old map. There it was, right on the map, an unpaved road. I could not tell for certain how far the unpaved road went, and did not know how accurate the map actually was, but it looked like about another ten miles. It started raining. Fortunately, it was a light rain. I decided to brave the rain rather than turn back around. The unpaved road couldn't continue on much further.

Up ahead there it had really rained. In places there was free running water on the side of the road or it coursed  right through the middle of the road. Did I mention the road was also clay? Yep, covered in gravel in some places, but bare and soggy in others.  Wet clay and cruisers don’t mix too well. Wet clay is very slick, and in spots it was hard keeping the bike from sliding out from under me. I was going to be very sore on Tuesday.

A dual sport rider passed me waiving tentatively. I imagined the bemused smile underneath his full faced helmet. Next up were two old guys in a small station wagon. They asked where I was headed, and I told them Folsom, NM. They advised to be real careful up a head since the rain just went through. They thought the unpaved section was about twenty-one miles long. They also suggested my pink jacket was going to get covered in mud, and oh, by the way, get a Subaru. See ya!

Believe me, it was hard keeping my bike up on that wet clay. I stopped often to re-check the map and rest. I even peed right out in the open. After all, it wasn’t likely anyone would see me. I’d have plenty of warning if anyone was coming.

Finally the unpaved road ended. I had planned to stop in Folsom for gas, but decided to head north to Branson, and then west to Trinidad. There are no gas stations in Branson, CO. There is a very cool old jail, but no gas stations. It is about 9 miles north out of Branson, and then thirty-nine miles west to Trinidad. Sigh…I wasn’t in a big hurry to get home. Shoot, I just spent a couple of hours off-roading on clay. 

My smartphone did not show the unpaved section of road, or at least I did not notice it. Long straight monotonous roads drive me crazy!

I guess the moral of the story is, get out the tired old map in really unfamiliar territory. Ranchers waving vigorously might also be trying to tell you something! Did I mention that the river was dry? I rode into the gas station in Trinidad on fumes, but at least I got there!

1 comment:

Annis Cassells said...

So cool that you braved it and made it safely, Janet. Your story gives me that "heart in my throat" feeling. Rubber side down! xoA