WanderlustBy Sam Lepore
(Click map for full size)
Lubbock to Alamogordo
Subject: Wanderlust 35 - Artesia and Alamogordo, New Mexico
Date: Tue, 13 Jul 1999 22:54:12 -0700

        Happy bike. Very happy bike. Primped and pampered by professionals, it rejuvenated itself and was growling to run again. High Plains BMW is a hidden jewel in the vast expanse of the delta quadrant of Texas. I highly recommend them for their precision, their friendliness ... and their donuts (on Saturday, anyway). I mean, really, what can you say about an exclusively-BMW shop with four employees who have titles instead of names. There are the two owners - The Janitor and The Safecracker, and their helpers, The Padre, and The Grandpa. This is the kind of place where a crowd shows up to sit and watch whatever work is being done. Fun.

        Just after punching 'send' on the Lubbock segment, I moseyed across the corral to the steakhouse, walked in, and heard the opening strains of a familiar country song ...
        "And the wayward wind is a restless wind,
        a restless wind that yearns to wander ..."

Yes, I still have the yearn, but I have yet to learn what makes me want to. So I ask you, when is a voyage of discovery complete? when it discovers, or when it ends? Whatever .... there is no end to the plains. West of Texas is more of what should have been Texas. East New Mexico is gas fields, oil fields, and plain plains. Eau du sulfur, extraordinairre! At least it is fast.
        Watching the weather channel as I travel, I have been expecting to get my 'comeuppance' regarding rain. But no. This trip is still charmed. There was a band of gully whumping thunderstorms in northern New Mexico, and enough rain to raise the Gulf of Mexico in southern Texas ... and this tiny leeetle band of dry in an arc between. Bisected by US82, which I randomly chose to enter New Mexico. But with my late start after the service at High Plains, it was getting dark after only 150 miles ... which happened to correspond with the gathering storms. A safe ensconcement in Artesia, New Mexico let me watch it rain all night. (And 'enjoy' yet another steak house. Oh what I would do for sushi ... that actually came from the ocean.)

Lubbock TX179 US82 Artesia (NM)

        Sunshine awaited me yet again when the forecast was for scattered disgruntlement. On this bright Sunday morning, every church yard was parked to overflowing into the highway ... of course this is the *only* highway for 50 miles north or south ... so the churches have somewhat of a captive audience. Motoring though Cloudcroft (a crafted name if ever I heard one), it was cool enough in the clouds to croft on some heavier clothing. Cloudcroft is celebrating its one hundredth year - and it surprises me for the next several days to see the towns in this area were only settled within the last 100 to 120 years.
        Sixteen miles west of Cloudcroft the road has dropped 4,500 feet into Alamogordo. That's a 6% grade, and about a 20% rise in temperature. In Alamogordo, I arranged to meet IBMWR President Karen, who laments being between hither and yon that few come this way to ride. We rode. We rode to aptly named Sunspot, the location of the helioscope solar observatory. Selected for its location because of almost always sunny days and being away from air pollution, on this day Sunspot was lost in the clouds ... and they were burning forest cuttings, making the air murky. What irony.
        Karen is a self proclaimed Tome of Triviality ... but she is nonetheless a fountain of fun, if frivolous, facts. She told me Alamogordo means Fat Cottonwood. Leading me, she pointed out the only vehicle tunnel in New Mexico ... the highest elevation golf course in North America, and a real treat ... the original home and museum of Smokey Bear (who was a real bear found after a forest fire) in Capitan, New Mexico. I'm glad to see Capitan has built itself to honor its claim to fame and not become a commercial concentration ... as Smokey would say, "Remember, only You can prevent tourist traps."
        On the way to Capitan I mused that I am getting quite good at targeting the 3-inch wide binding strips that hold cattle guards together. If you aim for the middle, like most riders do, the girders can be quite a jolt. I've been learning to line up my wheels with the off-center binders, and take them smoothly. It was here that I saw a cattle guard with an -open- gate beside it. The sign over the gate said "For Emergency Use Only". It was enough of a shock to surmise that cows can read (Gary Larson / Far Side ... where are you?), but for the next hour I pondered what constitutes a cow emergency that the bovine bypass would require?

        I really have to applaud riders like Karen who are committed to a brand of motorcycle despite the odds. The closest BMW dealer is over two hours away, and the preferred dealers are more like 300 miles away. It makes me feel lucky again to know that within 100 miles of my house there are *eleven* BMW dealers. (Although, unfortunately, the closest one in San Francisco is one I would not recommend to even my worst enemy. If they are your only choice ... sell the bike.)

FuelPlus 311 miles, 6:26 hours engine, 49 mph average
Artesia US82 Alamogordo (then Sunspot, Ruidoso, Capitan, Carrizozo, and back)

Sam Lepore, San Francisco
Wanderlust Rider

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