NEW MEXICO BDR: PART 3
BY: OLIVIER DE VAULX
The best of the BDR
So far our experience on the NM BDR had been great. The route developed by RideBDR offered a great diversity of landscapes and types of riding, as described in the two previously published pieces of this story. From the high plateau and forests in the east, to the sandy trails and canyons in the middle of the state, and lastly the canyons and rocks on the western side, we had a bit of everything. To be honest, leaving Grants on a chilly morning, we even wondered what could possibly surprise us in the last days of this amazing ride.
Grants to Cuba, the true Dakar experience
It didn’t take long for the “Land of Enchantment” to once again be true to its name. As we entered the desert area north of Grants, we were greeted by the most magnificent views of purple mesas, dominating vast plains of yellow and orange dirt punctuated by black lava rocks and a few green cacti. In a decor that would have driven any western movie director mad, we also found out that the trails were just perfect for our big adventure bikes. With a thin layer of sand covering an otherwise firm dirt, we had a smooth ride on these flowy dirt roads.
Our speed was increasing, and the idea that we were racing the Dakar rally was not far from our minds. Yet, it wasn’t a race but rather an exploratory trip, and we stopped more than once for no other reason than the need to soak up the scenery. Once the engines shut off, the quietness was stunning. The colors made everything look surreal or alien, like those rock formations turning green in the middle and red at the top. A few vista points had us speechless, the scenic picture in front of our eyes looking like a computer generated view of an ideal desert.
Thus, a stop at an abandoned farm in the middle of nowhere brought back reflections about history, and the courage of those people who, two centuries ago, crossed these desolated lands with covered wagons to find a better life. Insensible to our thoughts, some cattle encountered along the trail were in search of food, seemingly reinforcing this impression that we were traveling back in time. Our arrival in Cuba broke the spell, but we had to refuel the Tiger 900s and their riders, the latter with some high calorie sandwiches.
The last stop in New-Mexico
The rest of the ride to Abiquiu, through the Santa Fe National Forest, was a totally different animal. The trees, with their black trunks and reddish leaves, gave a powerful impression of strength, while the perfectly graded dirt road pushed us, once again, to ride a bit on the reckless side. It was hard indeed to resist the supermoto vibes induced by this trail, but at the first sight of a vehicle coming in the opposite direction, we slowed down and adopted a safer pace. We had enough speeding for the day! Arriving at Abiquiu, we were welcomed by a spectacular sunset, reflecting orange light on the nearby cliffs.
The Adobe houses of Abiquiu, with their brown walls made of clay and sand, brought us back in time once again to an area where Native Americans were building the original pueblos. The sunset, coloring the sky in all nuances of purple and red, validated our impression that we were in a lost paradise. Eating some great food at a fine restaurant by the famous Georgia O’Keeffe, who lived at the nearby Ghost Ranch, a mountain so spectacular it’s on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites, we almost decided that we would stay here until the end of time.
In the early morning, with the frost of November changing our bikes in snow-like sculptures, we enjoyed the heated grips of our Tiger 900, grateful for the terrible British weather which forced the Triumph engineers to implement this feature. Even better was the strength of the torquey three cylinder that allowed us to cruise through the corners of a flowy double-track going up in the mountains seldomly having to shift, feeling like we had an automatic gearbox.
With the beautiful morning light, these first miles of the day were just like a dream ride. But all this butter-like softness disappeared when we reached the ridge above Cañon del Cobre. The terrain changed with almost no warning; loose gravel, rolling rocks, steep climbs, and sharp steps being thrown our way. It was no surprise though, as it was mentioned in this section’s summary on our Butler map. Now in full trials mode, we managed to climb everything in second or third gear, once again thankful for the smooth engine.
Our efforts were rewarded by some magic scenery along the way, the pure air allowing incredible visibility over the purple mesas in the distance. Entering the Carson National Forest in higher elevation was a bummer as the view disappeared, but it also prevented us from stopping too many times to soak up the scenery.
Reaching civilization at El Rito, we found an old-school gas station that probably didn’t get a new paint since the fifties. We loved the old-school vibes and chatted briefly with the owner before buying a few snacks. Staying a bit on pavement, we rode through a few villages like this one, where you could see the exodus that plagued rural America. Buildings beautiful a few decades ago were just ruins now, and only a handful of houses were still inhabited. This was a sad realization that these farmers, whose job is to feed people living in the bigger cities, were having such a hard time, disappearing like some endangered species.
There was nothing we could do other than spend a few bucks here and there to support the local communities. From there, the trail changed once again, with a hard texture composed of dry dirt and sharp stones, typical of the Colorado trails. Wandering through the golden meadows, the trail was lit by the winter sunlight, and it was another stunning visual experience on this BDR ride. Climbing up to ten thousand feet, we found ourselves in the last hour of the day crossing birch forests, following rivers and large canyons. The humidity and biting cold were no match for the multiple layers of our Moskomoto gear, and it felt like Colorado was putting on a show to lure us into keeping the journey going north. Alas, as the full moon appeared in the pink sky, we knew it had to end tonight.
The last few miles on pavement to Antonito passed in a blur, our minds already rewinding the film of the trip and selecting one amazing memory after another. New Mexico delivered on its promise of being a “Land of Enchantment” and ultimately proved to be one of the best BDRs available. Having a last fine mexican dinner, we couldn’t help but feel grateful for the amazing work of the BDR crew that made this trip possible. We also felt blessed for the incredible reliability of modern bikes, that allow ADV riders to travel through such remote places without any worry. The last two years had put the world to a test, but it has never been a better time to explore the wilderness!