I awoke in darkness and slowly came to the realization that I was going to have to risk that elevator once again. It was before 6 AM and the hotel wasn’t stirring. I gathered up my bag dressed quickly and walked into the nightmare of the hall. With no external windows in the hall, it looked the same as it had last night. Thankful that no blood stains had been added to the carpet in the last several hours I made it to the Elevator. It actually opened with its floor level to the one I was standing on. I got in and it made its descent with alarming alacrity. Perhaps it had been repaired in the night, or more likely it had feasted on the soul of that poor pizza guy. Either way I was out and getting on my bike quickly and without incident.
There wasn’t anywhere in view that looked worth having breakfast at so I was quickly moving south on I-25. I had done some route planning and decided that I still had too much time on my hands and needed to add some more stops. I wanted a second Colorado stop, and the best option was to swing east and pickup Bent’s Old Fort just outside La Junta, then to swing south to Capulin Volcano National Monument.
At Pueblo, I turned east on my old friend US-50. I’d never been on US-50 this far east, unlike the road in Nevada, this US-50 is similar to all too familiar highways in the midwest. Towns every 20 miles and lots of traffic. It was early still, but I knew it would be slower going as soon as people woke. As I pulled into the metropolis of La Junta I spied a Sonic hamburger place. It was closed, but I looked longingly at it, my mouth watering for one of their shakes. The day was young though and I’d keep my eyes out for one later.
Bent’s Old Fort was listed as being available at 8 AM, but the gate was open and there were several riders already in the parking lot when I pulled up at 7:51. My memory fades as to who was there, but they did mention that at least one rider had taken his picture from outside the gate before it opened. The fort was way off in the distance, but the picture in the rally book was from the parking lot, so that’s where we were taking ours.
BEOL – Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site
109 Miles since REST in Colorado Springs 7:51 Arrival 7:56 Departure.
Leaving La Junta south on CO-109 I was back on the remote rural highways that Bart Bakker and I love. The road was perhaps a tad straight, but traffic was non-existent. My big worry was that my fuel system was beginning to act up again. This was a very remote area and based on my GPS I’d have a point where I could either continue on hoping my pump would start working, or side track 40 miles to fuel up. Just before the final decision point at Kim, the pump started working again. I pushed on, resigned to the fact that I might just have to stop at the side of the road and remove the rear tank to dump fuel into the main.
Thankfully that didn’t happen, as US-160 is what I would call a rustic road. Wisconsin has a program where they advertise their rustic roads and will send you a sticker if you ride 10 and a certificate if you ride 25. I’ve ridden 108 (all that there were when I did it in 2011). My good friend Michael Matheny (RIP) referred to these as “crappy roads”, but they were a lot of fun to ride. US-160 would make Colorado’s list for sure. It had no runoff, and the lanes were about 9 feet wide. Not sure 2 semis could actually meet and pass on that road! But on a motorcycle with no traffic it was great!
I turned off US-160 southwards towards the town of Branson, Colorado. This town still has a post office, but from what I could tell it exists solely to service the rail junction there. It hasn’t disappeared yet, and as long as the rail line runs through there then it will probably survive. It’s rather scenically nestled up against the hill range with the rail line looming over the town. Passing up into New Mexico the road became much more entertaining.
Soon however I found myself mired in a tiny traffic jam. Up ahead was a Ford F-250 hauling a rather large, but empty trailer. Behind him was Andy Mackey! Once again my aggressive passing maneuvers put me shortly in the lead of this small train with the F-250 dwindling into the distance. We quickly came to the end of NM-551 at a crossroads with NM-456, in the aptly named Toll Gate Canyon.
Turning right onto NM-456 I was admiring the beautiful scenery when all of a sudden from my left a pair of wild turkeys ran out of the sage brush to my left. Now we in the LD riding community have a saying that if you can eat it in one sitting you don’t swerve, but these bridies would have made a good thanksgiving dinner for the entire McCaa clan. I rapidly slowed and started honking my horn. The lead bird actually took to the air and flew about 20 feet across the road, his buddy returned back to the sagebrush on my left. I counted my lucky stars and continued on. Andy had apparently stopped back at the intersection and was a good 1000 feet behind me, I wasn’t even sure he’d seen my close call. My animal stories are always difficult to believe, and so I was hoping he saw them so I’d have a corroborating witness.
Continuing on I entered the town of Folsom. I’m not sure what keeps this town alive but the downtown is the usual collection of abandoned storefronts that litter so many small towns, but strangely there were many people out and about, certainly a lot more than would be expected in such a small hamlet. Climbing out of the valley that nestled Folsom I could see the cinder cone of Capulin Volcano National Monument in the distance.
The road snaked up the valley and I crossed a cattle guard a few miles before the bonus stop. A short distance after the cattle guard I discovered the cattle that were in need of guarding. About 50 head were scattered across the highway. Luckily I had plenty of room to stop before getting too close. Cattle aren’t particularly dangerous, I had plenty of farm time in my youth, but still on a motorcycle I was basically defenseless. On the opposite side of the herd was a car that was stopped and headed my direction. He was honking at the dumb beasts and they started moving in my direction. I was soon joined by Andy Mackey at my side. We both started honking back at the cattle and eventually they moved off in a neutral direction and we passed by.
Andy and I finally made it to Capulin Volcano without incident. He had indeed seen my close call with Thanksgiving dinner and reported that Turkey #2 had simply retreated into the brush so that it could make a second suicide attack on him. Luck was also with Andy and he had avoided the damn bird.
CAVO – Capulin Volcano National Monument
113 Miles since BEOL 8:45 Arrival 8:51 Departure
Another great write up, thanks,
Bent’s Old Fort and the Capulin volcano were among the very last parks/stamps in my 2012/13 national parks tour. Early into that trip I saw a couple of California bikes – a BMW and Duc in motel parking lot for the place I was staying in Kansas. A couple of days later I saw those same bike parked at Bent’s Old Fort and had a nice chat with the riders. (If you follow the link to the photo, that’s my old KLR in between the two bikes.) Having a great time following your ride, Steve.