This is going to be our first bike trip together out to La Joya, New Mexico. My son, Keith, just bought a used 2000 Yamaha VStar 1000 Classic. We bought it from the son of a guy who passed away. Apparently the guy loved his bike, took great care of it, and it looks to be an excellent shape, so we grab it. He will still ride on with us; I feel that he will be happy.
Keith is excited about this trip and has made some long distance bike rides of his own in the past; I think out to Nebraska was his longest. On the way back, we plan to meet-up with Denise, Lori, and Evan in Phoenix, Arizona. They will be at the Cibola Vista Resort. Sun, fun, water.
I stop by Keith's condo in Spring Valley and his gear is laid out all across the living room. One look and I know that about half of his gear will stay behind. It is amazing how little you really need on a long distance trip if you stay with the basics. We'll leave in the morning going East on Highway 8 to Gila Bend, then North/East towards Globe, Arizona. That morning I'm feeling not too good, my stomach is upset. He eats a hardy breakfast at Denny's and I sip some coffee. His bike looks good, well packed with his gear, and without any fanfare, we're off. The desert heat is tough. At times, it looks like it might rain but it doesn't. We stops frequently for water breaks that will continue until it begins to cool down after Globe.
Our bikes run smooth and the higher elevations in Arizona agree with us all. Bike get better mpg at the higher elevations. It will be a long first day but we push on hoping to reach Eagar, Arizona before dark. Actually, about 5 miles West of Eager, is the South Fork Campground. It is critical that we look for deer in these higher elevations, but thank goodness, we do not see any. It has been a long day, over 550 miles when we reach our destination. We gather fire wood and soon camp is set up. We cook over the open fire and go to sleep right after our meal.
In the morning, we cook a dozen scrambled eggs, spam, tortillas, and have some orange juice, and coffee. A good night sleep and a hardy breakfast will push us easily into New Mexico. Our first stop is Belen where we visit with my first cousin, Tudie Romero. I don't why it did not occur to me, but today is Fathers Day and they are celebrating with a barbeque. "Come and join us Robert and Keith, eat" and we do not hesitate as we each have several hamburgers. Erlinda's sister and brother are there are too as well as other family. It is a great first day in New Mexico. They make us feel right at home.
Our goal is La Joya and this will be Keith's first visit there after many years. We set up camp behind my mom and dad's adobe house and wander around La Joya, and especially the Cemetery where I'm showing Keith our family ancestors. "Here is the headstone for Pablo Griego, your great grandfather....here is Alejandra Griego, your great grandmother, and over here is Silvestre Moya, your great grandfather on my mom's side." He listens but I talk mostly. We take pictures, and then return to our camp. Tomorrow, we'll ride North/East to Abo where my sister Elva and her husband Robert Esquivel live. Robert's family has been there for four generations and he is full of history. His dad was a school teacher, and though I never met him, a good man I hear. Robert, who retired from the Santa Fe in Barstow, is a Vietnam Veteran. Their property is located next to the National Park Service, Abo Ruins, Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. We spend the night and both have warm showers, a real treat on the trail. We eat stew, beans, red chili, tortillas, and tasty deserts. We sleep out side on a mattress and the stars out here are perhaps the brightest we've seen. There are several shooting stars that I see and I always seem to fall asleep quickly when looking at the stars. A find the Big Dipper and my finger moves to the North star. That will be our direction in the morning, taking some back roads to Santa Fe. North, I repeat, as I drift off to sleep.
In the morning, more straight up New Mexico food. At breakfast Robert pulls out a map, "why not take some very scenic roads to Santa Fe instead of the freeway." That sounds good to us so we ask him to continue. "Go East on highway 60 to Mountainair and then North on highway 55/337 towards Manzano, Tajique, Chilili, Cedro, and Tijeras." This is some laid back New Mexico country side riding -- good advise Robert. Cruise'n New Mexico style.
Santa Fe is busy, too many people. It is hard to navigate around town and we get lost a few times. "Since we are here what about going to see the Georgia O'Keefe Museum," Keith asks. He is an artist at heart and loves to draw and paint. I like her work so that becomes our priority. Afterwards, we both agree to leave Santa Fe and push on to Bandelier National Monument. This was not on our mind, but sometimes it is best to adjust. We love it. A great campground with a table, fire ring, water, and restrooms. We buy two big T-bone steaks to barbecue for dinner. Delicious!
We feel very good, rested, and eager to move West on scenic highway 4 and 126. Keith thinks I'm joking when I say "if we stay on this road, we soon wind up in Cuba." At the intersection, we head South on hwy 550 all the way to Bernalillo. As we fill up, he smiles and thinks back to our brief stay in "Cuba." We need to make up some time after our detour to Bandelier so we jump on to interstate 40 heading due West for Grants. I've taken some back roads going South from Grants on hwy 117 and that's the plan. I show Keith a nice BLM camp site near El Malpais National Monument where I've camped before. It sits high on a bluff and is a no-frill camp site but it is free. We leisurely ride South towards Pie Town. You guessed it. We stop for pie and it is delicious. A must if you are out this way. The weather is very good. Keith must be my good luck charm as most of my trips are wet ones. Next Quemado and we stop for a break, and we both are feeling good. We are just cruising in 5th gear.
About 40 miles from Show Low, Keith signals me that he has hit his reserve tank. I see the worrisome expression on his face. Our options are to return back towards Springerville or go for it. I never have like going backwards so I quickly do some math. I know my bike and I keep track of mpg in my head but I don't know Keith's bike that well. We pull over to talk and I say "if you ride behind me, and we slow down to 45 miles per hour, I think you'll make it." He agrees so off we go. By now, I'm going though some contingency plans. Could I tow him with the parachute cord? We could camp along side the road and hitch hike into Show Low. We could drain some gas from my tank to his. So on and so on. Wears me out thinking about it. So I stop. We'll make it I tell myself. Done. Over. We keep steady at 45 mph and there before us is Show Low's first gas station. His tank holds 4.49 gallons and the gas meter stops plumb full at 4.469 gallons! His bike was getting about 50 mpg on those easy going roads and it paid off. He was riding fumes. Relieved we continue until we find some USFS land and camp. There is a red flag warning so we do not have a campfire that night. My small stove works just fine to heat up the can of stew we bought at the last little market.
We travel along highway 260 towards Heber, Payson, Pine, Strawberry, and Camp Verde. This is one of my most favorite rides and we savor the cool air and sweeping vistas. The desert will soon be in front of us again. We reach Phoenix easily. There to meet us is Denise, Lori, and Evan. We spend the night with them and enjoy the pool at the Cibola Vista Resort. They are relaxed and happy.
Keith continues onto San Diego as do Denise, Lori, and Evan. My direction is North/West on hwy 93 past Wickenburg, Nothing ('that's right Nothing'), Wikieup, and the interstate 40 and my usual route, Satellite Camp for one night, past Barstow, and then home to Three Rivers.
This was one of the best trips that I've ever taken and Keith made that possible.
|Six miles from La Joya, New Mexico|
|1st cousins, Tudie Romero and Robert Griego|
|Our La Joya house, built by Sebastian Griego|
|Jewels Camp, La Joya, NM|
|Our neighbor, Marcello Abeyta & Robert Griego, La Joya, NM|
|My Grandfather Silvestre Moya|
|Abo Ruins, Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument|
|Robert, Elva and Robert Esquibel & Kiko|
|Robert Griego, Bandelier National Monument|