Not All Horses Were Meant For the Trail

Dec 20, 2012 View Comments by

Not All Horses Were Meant For the TrailYou pull your pristine (Iron) Horse up to a road clearly designed more for mules than the chromed out, low pipe-hanging, highway tire wearing outfit that you now sit upon. Is it worth trying to go up just a little bit of the trail? Do you turn around and miss out on the unknown? Do you curse because the way back to the main road means backtracking 30 miles?

What do you do?

These were the emotions I encountered back in 2003 shortly after I kissed my bride goodbye and hopped on my Honda VTX 1800. I was headed from Colorado to Phoenix, AZ on business. I would like to say that I left with plenty of time to spare so I could take as many detours as possible. The truth is that this was my first multi-day solo trip and while I was excited, I was also nervous. My plan was to stick to the highway, get to Phoenix early, and hit the pool!

However, just south of Santa Fe, NM I met a couple at a gas station. They were riding up to Colorado from Texas. They suggested, since my destination for the night was Albuquerque, that I get off the highway and take Route 14. I was a mere five hours into my trip and was already contemplating a diversion that would mean losing valuable pool time. On the map (Pre-GPS days for me) Route 14 was a tiny and twisty line. Exciting, but I was anxious. What if something happened? I was alone and would most likely be out of cell range. Before I knew it, I was no longer thinking about it; I was heading south on Route 14.

Whether you’re on a street bike or a dual-sport, this is how it starts. A detour here, a suggestion there, a wrong turn disguised as intentional—whatever it may be, before you know it, you are on an adventure. For me, a time came when the adventure had to be off-road.

That simple suggestion at the gas station changed my life. In less than 24 hours I transitioned from sticking to the highway to stealing every detour I could find. I thought nothing about a detour to El Malpais followed by a 200-mile detour to the Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano before continuing on through the Zuni Pueblo in route to Arizona. Hiking the whole time in full gear and still getting from Albuquerque to Phoenix in a mere 15 hours (insert sarcasm).

As amazing as the ride was, I felt something was missing. Mile after mile I would see forest roads, back ways, or unnamed access areas that looked interesting. Many of which were clearly not maintained for an 800-pound. cruiser. I knew I had to get off road . . . but how? Dirt bikes were too small for long distance highway riding and honestly I knew very little of adventure bikes at the time, other than BMW. Unfortunately, I did not have the spare kidney required to finance one.

When I got home I immediately purchased a Honda CRF250X to start working on my off-road chops. For years I dragged it behind a car into the mountains looking for places to get off-road. It was street legal but the thought of riding it up Colorado’s I-70 corridor was not the kind of adventure I was looking for . . .

The following year I added a KLR 650 to the stable. This gave me the ability to cover longer road distances as well as to get off-road whenever the mood struck. I eventually sold the VTX, two trailers, and two ATV’s so I could afford a down payment on a slightly used 2007 BMW R 1200 GS ADV. My adventures exploring the west from Colorado to California had begun. I rode everywhere, always seeking out the least direct way with a minimum amount of pavement.

I love being able to burn up road miles to get to interesting off-road destinations. On one such ride, years later, I returned to Albuquerque for the International Balloon Fiesta. My dad and I rode with my wife, daughter, and stepmother following behind in the unofficial “support vehicle.” I shared with them my “discovery” of Route 14. At the same time, I learned that it was, in fact, the famous Turquoise Trail!

The trail was made more famous when, in 2007, John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, and William H. Macy battled the Del Fuegos in the town of Madrid (pronounced MADrid) in their movie Wild Hogs.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love taking big asphalt chewing rides on a cruiser; I even secured my Iron Butt Certification last year. It was humbling to see that my life-changing detour was now just a tourist trap for fellow bikers and movie fans. But, it also revealed how any ride, be it on dirt or a simple paved off highway detour, can offer a spark of adventure. To me, the Turqoise Trail will always be the place where I chose to not just go anywhere, but to go somewhere!

How about you? What was your first life-changing ride? I would love to hear about it.

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About the author

I am an introvert posing as an extrovert. I love travel in all forms, but prefer 2-wheels. I created AdventureHermit as a way to share my adventures and inspire others to find joy through discovery; writing for RoadRUNNER is a dream come true!