Sunday, August 16, 2015

~ La Joya Fiestas ~

Whispering Pines Camp ~ Datil, New Mexico
The Fiestas in La Joya are always fun -- good music and good food.  I think back and this may be Fiestas number six for me.  I've skipped the tent and I will take my chances with the rain.  I pack my essentials the night before and they all go cleanly in their respective spots: my sleeping bag, ground cover, therma rest, a pot to boil water, water bottle, first aid kit, flashlight, extra batteries, camera, camping lantern, headlamp, a few extra t-shirts, a can of stew for my first night, my rain gear, and my jacket.  

On the back of my jacket is a new patch that Lori made for me.  She also designed a t-shirt with a similar logo.  Both are beautiful and I look forward to wearing them on this trip.  My miles are stacking up on my Yamaha Road Star and I will hit 60,000 somewhere on this trip.

Day 1.  My goal is Upper Satellite which lies on USFS lands just outside of Ash Fork, Arizona.  It is a long day but stopping anywhere else in the hot desert just doesn't make sense.  As I approach Ash Fork, the temperature begins to drop.  I think I left my bungee cord here on my last trip with Gilbert so I go to the spot where we camped but it is not there.  I set up camp nearby where there is ample firewood and the hot stew tastes good.  The stars are bright and I hear coyotes in the distance.  I think about the 540 miles after leaving Three Rivers but sleep erases those miles quickly as I fall asleep.

Day 2.  The weather in Flagstaff is always
 unpredictable.  The roads are wet but no rain has fallen on me yet but it is very cold.  I navigate off interstate 40 for a back road called Mary's Lake Road that is peaceful and relaxing.  There are several lakes and on our last trip, Gilbert and I saw over 300 elk in a huge meadow.  It is elk season so that's in the back of my mind when selecting a camping spot.  This road takes me by Happy Jack, Strawberry, Pine, Payson, Herber, Show Low, and Pine Top.  My tio Bene use to live in McNary and as kids we would love to go see him where he worked at the Logging Mill.  

I must keep moving on if I hope to reach Whispering Pines, just outside of Datil, New Mexico.  I pass Eagar, Quemado, and Pie Town.  The rains hit and my rain gear keeps me dry.  In my rear view mirror, I see a light curtain of bending rain with huge beams of sunlight shining through.  I then see the silhouette of a lone biker approaching in the distance.  It is one of the most magical views I've seen.  The biker passes me with all of his rain gear on, and we lower our left hands in a sign brotherhood.  All without speaking a single word.  

Tudie Romero and Robert Griego, 1st cousins de La Joya, NM
Another long day but tomorrow will be a short day into La Joya.  The rain has stopped and I slow down to enjoy the scenery.  There is a small store in Datil where I buy a big T-bone steak and head for Whispering Pines where I have camped before.  It is on USFS lands and is remote.  I find the spot where I camped three years ago and the rocks from my campfire are exactly as I left them.  I hear hunters nearby and I build a good fire to let them know where I am.  Tonight, the most beautiful sunset welcomes me home to New Mexico and the T-bone steak cooked over my campfire was my best ever.
Day 3.  I break camp quickly and head for the only cafe in Datil.  They are playing some very old country-western music and the entire place is rich in western appearance.  Everyone who comes into this cafe greets me with a "good morning" and I do the same.  The breakfast is good, filling, and hits the spot.  The ride from here into Magdalena and Socorro is some of the most beautiful country in New Mexico.  My ride is quiet and I am so thankful for the beauty all around me.  I thank God for everything.

I call my sister Elva and let her know that I'm here for the Fiestas and I plan to visit her and Robert who live in Abo. But first, I want to go see my 1st cousin Tudie in Belen.  Unknown to me, he fell from a tree that he was trimming and was seriously hurt.  He was just released from the hospital where he spent three weeks; he had broken his pelvis in two spots and required surgery.  He is recuperating and is anxious to began exercising.  He knows that I am here for the fiestas and we take some pictures and part our ways until next time.

I arrive in La Joya and pay my respects at the Cemetery and then head for Jewels Camp and later tonight, the Fiestas!  There is a big downpour shortly after I make camp and this rain will delay the fiestas some.  After a 30 minute delay, the music is playing and people are leaving the shelters of their cars and pickup trucks to gather at the church.  I quickly find myself eating beans, green chili, and sopapillas while the music plays; I'm happy.  Father Peter is nearby so I say hello.  "I remember you from last time" he says quickly.  "You ride a motorcycle, right"? He listens as I briefly tell him about my ride.  I do not think he fully understood the miles to get here.

Day 4.  I break camp early and quickly.  In less than 20 minutes, I'm on the road heading for Socorro and specifically, Sophia's Kitchen.  The huevos rancheros are topped with a mountain of green chile, with coffee, water, and tortillas that fill me to the brim, and then some.  The musicians are getting ready to play but I need to move on as I'm planning to go to Ruidoso where I hear their is a big bike rally in the hills.  I've never been there so I adjust my compass South/East into the mountains where Billie the Kid became famous.  The ride takes me back in time and the life of Billie the Kid.  I think I see a group of mounted cowboy outlaws just ahead.... nope.... just some bikers and I send them a friendly wave.  

New Mexico does not have a helmet law so most of the bikers are riding free with the wind; my helmet on securely on and I feel just as free.  A biker approaches, then another, then more, each extending their left hand; I return the gesture.  There are no words spoken, yet we spoke simply and clearly..."hello brother, isn't this great, ride safe."  Ruidoso has maybe 2,000 bikers in town, and I walk the streets to absorb the moment.  Some say they are coming from El Paso, Texas and they are surprised that I came all the way out here from California.  I'm now heading South for Las Cruces, and hopefully just beyond Silver City.  It will be a long day but taking the side route to Ruidoso is worth it.  I made a few calls to assure everyone that I'm OK.

Day 5.   I stop for gas and I ask the guy, "how far to Silver City"? "30 to 40 minutes he says", but his voice sounds unsure to me yet I set my mental clock accordingly.  After 40 minutes, Silver City is nowhere in sight.  It will be another hour before I arrive at it's city limits.  That guy has likely never been to Silver City as he was off by a good hour.  An hour for me means that I will arrive in camp well after dark.  I ride beyond Silver City and still no camp spot; too many fences around and private property signs everywhere.  I go what seems forever but in reality it is only another 50 miles and then I see what I have been looking for -  a sign that reads "Bill Evans Lake two miles ahead."  I know there will be camping here and I immediately spot huge cottonwood trees where earlier campers had a fire.  I immediately call this spot, Desperation Camp.  I decide to not camp directly under those huge cottonwood trees with falling limbs and within minutes my fire is roaring.  I quickly go about my business of setting up camp, and when I am done, I think Desperation Camp, is a perfect name for this spot.  The night sky is bright and the shooting stars zip by, one after another.  It is only in the morning that I realize that there is a stream nearby that comes from Bill Evan Lake and the area is quite nice.  Bill Evan Lake is a good spot and I was very lucky to find it in the dark, however, the name Desperation Camp sticks.

Day 6.  I'm in Glenwood, New Mexico and the only cafe in this one horse town is open for breakfast.  What a find.  The lady who runs this is the hostess, cook, and bus girl.  Her homemade food is perfect.  She serves up the biggest biscuits I've ever had.  My eggs, potatoes, sausage, and coffee give me all the comfort of a home cooked meal, and then some.  I make a quick decision and adjust my direction 90 degrees; I'll head south towards Tomstone, Arizona and my bike has a new heading.  Highway 78 pointing East is one of the most easy going, scenic rides, it carries a name of Mule Creek Road and I am very near the Arizona/New Mexico boarder.  

I come to Blackjack Campground on USFS land and I make a mental note that this is a potential camping spot; it is in the forest and has a nearby stream.  I meet two bikers from Phoenix who suggest I go to Bisbee and then Tombstone.  I am on some very small farm roads and Bisbee is not what I had expected.  Tombstone on the other hand is cool.  I immediately feel that I stepped back in time with the law and wild cowboys roaming the streets.  The country music coming from Big Nose Kate's Saloon is too hard to resist; the cold beer compliments the good music and I rest.  I do not find any good camping spots and the temperature is hot in the desert.  In Tucson, it is evident that I will not find a camping spot so I opt for a night at a local motel.  You would think it would be easy, just pulling up to a motel but it isn't.  I have to take all of my gear inside and I have a lot of little things and I make many trips.  I do not feel as safe here compared to my usual camping spots with the coyotes.  The hot shower does sure feel good.

Day 7.  At Casa Grande while eating breakfast, my decision is whether to go onto San Diego or begin heading towards home.  In Gila Bend, I began turning North towards Three Rivers.  It is hot and I stop at every rest stop for water.  Near the Blythe rest stop along the Interstate 10, I spot a road runner and then I see a baby road runner, something I've never seen before.  The temperature must be at least 110 degrees and I sense that this will be a very long day.  Indio, Redlands, and San Bernardino are still a ways ahead of me.  The traffic is fast and it takes all of my concentration to keep up with the flow.  In Victorville, I jump on hwy 395 and my goal is Walker Pass near Lake Isabella.  It is almost 7pm when I arrive in Inyokern where I buy groceries.  By 7:30pm, I arrive at Walker Pass, a BLM campground and begin to quickly gather fire wood.  It is only later that I see that I've gone 608 miles today; something I didn't plan.  The stars are absolutely brilliant and I settle down for some stew, beer, peanuts, and music.  This campground is primarily for those hiking the Pacific Crest Trail but there is no one else around.

Day 8.  Near Lake Isabella, I give Warnell a call and we reminisce about our fishing trips here with his parents when we were about 12 years old living in Barstow.  He reminds me that the croppies are biting at this time of the year.  I stop by Kaweah Delta Hospital in Visalia to see Denise who is with her sister Arlene who will have surgery today.  I'm soon home.  It was another great ride.
The odometer records 2,738 miles . . . . .

Repair of an aging home in La Joya, NM
I was born in this adobe house

The grave of my grandmother, Alejandra Griego

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