I dispensed warm goodbyes to riding friends in Arizona, saddled up, and turned the key in the ignition with a growing reluctance. Internalizing my petulance in the process, I was happy where I was. A heavy sigh betrayed a sadness in parting from the place. Our stint in Yavapai County had not been terribly long, but I liked it there. Uncharacteristically mild days for the season agreed with me, as did the expanse of the beautiful desert amid ponderosa pines and the Granite Dells, big lumps of bedrock and large rippled boulders. Collectively, they radiated my soul. Although it is prudent to leave the party when you are still having a good time, I wanted to do anything but.
Our next destination was New Mexico, a southwestern state we had not yet explored. Sitting just above Mexico, I was sure it was filled with vast expanses of hot, arid desert, too barren to support anything to write home about. Nope. Wending around a gamut of snow-capped mountains, carpeted in pine and spruce, repaired my ignorance alone, as the weather blew a bracing wind.
From Camp Verde, just 50 miles south of Flagstaff off the I-17, our route saw us eat, sleep, and ride 200-mile days through Strawberry, Rye, Globe, and Safford, staying parallel to reservation land. Crossing the Arizona/New Mexico border into Lordsburg, we rode through Deming until we reached Las Cruces. As we inched toward the mysterious white sands, we were greeted with lofty cottonwood forests and colorful wildflowers on the cusp of blooming. If the truth be told, there is nowhere else that reminded me of New Mexico.
Splendidly, the sky was azure, and the air felt beautifully crisp. Spring had sprung, but so too had an oil leak on my Suzuki DR650. A motorcycle trip would not carry much clout without one roadside repair or four, courtesy of my partner-in-life Jason. Sympathetic to our transiency, the mechanics at Las Cruces Motorsports tended to the leak without a moment’s notice, albeit it had turned into a niggling drip from the previous worrisome trickle. It turned out we were using ineffective sealant on my bike’s valve cover. The high-temperature, extreme conditions gasket sealant Hondabond, however, worked a charm.
Otherworldly Dunes at White Sands National Monument
Toward the north side of SR 70, about 16 miles southeast of Alamogordo at the heart of the Tularosa Basin, iridescent white dunes rise up from the earth. Unmissable but not immovable, they constantly shapeshift and settle over the Chihuahuan Desert, engulfing 275 square miles in sparkles. White Sands National Monument is a gargantuan gypsum dune site, the world’s largest.
Motorcycles & Gear
2008 BMW F 800 GS
2001 Suzuki DR650
Firmer and cooler to the touch than you might think, the dunes make for shed-loads of fun sledding down them from 60-feet high. But between us—hauling a laden rucksack spilling over with camera equipment and more dry bags strapped to me than I care to remember—we traipsed rather than tobogganed in. A mile later, we set up camp in a secluded spot we would call home for the next two days. Perfect timing, I mused—the day before a dazzling sea of spring breakers descended on the site.