I stepped out of my room at the agreed upon time of 8AM and found the parking lot deserted except for a lone rider cleaning his windshield. He informed me that the others had already walked over to breakfast. It seemed that I had fallen in with a group of "early risers." Ick.
Entering the cafe, I found the others enjoying coffee, but waiting for me to order (or so they claimed). We discussed the day's route over breakfast, agreeing to head north through Ruidoso, ascending NM532 to see the rumored incredible view from the vista point at the top of Sierra Blanca.
We didn't leave Cloudcroft until just after 10AM, giving Rabidsnipe time to get to the hardware store to attempt to fix the mirror on his VFR, which in typical Honda fashion was trying to fall apart.
We rolled out with Rabidsnipe leading the group of six (those who wanted to group ride) and Bikerider sweeping. Cricket, Bikerider, and I were soon leapfrogging each other as we each attempted to capture the road, scenery, and other riders with our cameras.
Rolling a bonafide Hollywood stop and second to last to pull onto the main road to Ruidoso, I noticed flashing lights in my rearview mirrors. Bikerider and I never even got up to speed by the time the police cruiser passed us. I think we were both certain that it was in hot pursuit of the speeding riders leading the group. Rabidsnipe later said that he almost had a heart attack seeing flashing lights with the speedometer needle conservatively set at least ..uhh.. 15 over. He was certain that he'd gotten each member of the group a ticket.
We all sighed with relief when the police car (and the two following it) passed the leader without pausing. We were on best behavior all the way into Ruidoso, where we found an auto parts store so that Rabidsnipe could repair his broken Honda (mirror bolts had rattled out).
Next up was the much-anticipated ascent of Sierra Blanca. It was tight, dirty, and wonderful with steep switchbacks and breathtaking vistas.
Coming down the hill, we found that a tree had fallen across the road! A crew had already removed the trunk as it crossed the road, leaving only barky residue.
We left the mountains at this point, heading northeast on NM246: Endless straights punctuated with swoopy dry creekbeds. It felt reminiscent of California to me, with waving fields of wild grasses.
The wind began to pick up midway through the scenic loop. I was too worried about getting blown over to stop for many pictures and I think we all needed a break at the end of that road. I arrived at the intersection to find the other riders parked on a gravel turnout and managed to talk them into heading into Roswell. I really wanted to find a tourist trap so I could purchase a little green alien as a souvenir.
Tourist traps we certainly found. Some of the guys joined me in the pursuit of green junk, but the others stood outside in the windstorm and drank green drinks instead (Sprite?).
With the wind raging, and the afternoon grinding on, it was decided to skip part of the route and just head back to the motel. The bikes must have made a strange sight rolling down US285 leaning hard away from the wind. Some of the riders found that slowing down made the going easier. Others just wanted to get out of the storm as fast as possible. Me? Somewhere in between. I was strongly reminded of that incredibly windy day back in Sept 2004 when a Utah state trooper warned me about motorcycles getting blown off the road as he wrote me a ticket for speeding.
The group spread out when we made the turn onto US82 to Cloudcroft and thus we arrived at wildly varying times. Several riders stopped on the side of the road to change out of the mesh gear that had seemed necessary on the hot desert plains. It was obviously going to be a cold night.
After a break, we all headed over to the Western Bar and Grill to squeeze ten stinky, ornery, hungry motorcycle riders around a table meant for six. The meal was excellent, the conversation outrageous, and the waitress harried.
It being far too cold to stand outside with the bikes, we all shacked up in the motel corridor to tell fish stories and lies late into the night.