Silver City - Las Cruces (186 miles)
Our morning ride begins in Silver City on 15, an extremely scenic, single-lane road that heads to the Gila Hot Springs. Backtracking some to 35, meandering south along a green valley, we take a left on 152 to race over one of the best 26-mile stretches of road in America. Using first and second gears, we zip through one sharp curve after another and I'm having the time of my life. I have never seen such a perfect road for motorcycling: scenic, with intense corners, and a great surface.
Following too closely as my dad brakes in front of a curve. I have to react quickly but only use the rear brakes, which causes my KTM to stand up and head straight for the cliffs. Sliding to a halt, I get off, and when Dad circles back to check on me I tell him nonchalantly that I just wanted to stop for the great view. I'm not sure he bought that one; but later, in Hillsboro, I did remember to thank him for buying a great lunch as we were leaving the Barbershop Café.
Riding into the afternoon on 27 south, we swing through rolling hills on sweepers in wide-open countryside where the horizons are boxed in by huge ranges, the San Andres and Organ Mountains, that border Las Cruces to the east. Towards Hatch, Highway 6 throws in an 18-mile straightaway until we take a right on 185 and cruise to Las Cruces beside the Rio Grande. All in all, the roads we traveled today comprise a great route that's not too tiring. By 4:30, we're checking in at the Hilton Hotel.
Las Cruces - Ruidoso (260 miles)
Chris Faivre, the Communications Director of the Las Cruces Convention and Visitors Bureau, meets us for breakfast and we learn a bit more about the city. Las Cruces has a population of 75,000, and naturally enough, since the Mexican border is only an hour away, a large proportion of the residents, 65 percent, are Hispanic. An agricultural center, primarily producing chili peppers, pecans and winter lettuce, Las Cruces has also become a popular vacation destination due to the great weather, the area's recreational sites, and the inexpensive golfing packages offered. Even during peak season, a golfer can enjoy a round for under $ 50.
Out on the road after fueling up, we struggle with strong gusts of wind and literally hang off our bikes to stay straight along Hwy 70 as we draw near to the White Sands National Monument. The three-dollar entrance fee is a paltry sum to pay for the spectacular vistas you'll see. The contrast of colors and textures - the white dunes against the dark, high peaks of the San Andres Mountains and the deep blue sky - is an incredible, unforgettable sight. Everyone given the opportunity to visit this national monument should certainly take advantage of it.
Following the smooth, climbing route of Hwy 82, we stop next in the mountain village of Cloudcroft (elevation 8,000 ft.) for gas and grab a quick lunch at Texas Barbeque before roaming the green mountain slopes along SR 130. Its nice corners and great asphalt allow us to open it up and really let the rubber smoke. In Weed, we take to the twists of SR 24, where almost every curve seems to come with an adrenalin pump. Suddenly, it's over and we're staring at long straight-aways cut through an amazing open plateau surrounded by gentle hills. Riding there made me pray nothing would happen because we didn't see anybody else for miles. Back on Hwy 82, after a relaxing ride along Rio Penasco, we take a shortcut on Dry Canyon Road to hit Hwy 244. We cross the Mescalero Apache Reservation and by 5 arrive at our overnight in Ruidoso, the Story Book Inn.
Ruidoso - Albuquerque (190 miles)
Early in the morning a shower of thick raindrops hit the roof and the windows. I'm disappointed. Another rest day? But only two hours later my father and I are able to saddle up and start swinging down the road towards Carrizozo.
A few blue tatters in the sky give us just enough hope that we just might have a dry ride to Albuquerque. First we explore the Jicarita Mountains on SR 349. The narrow paved road winds agreeably through rolling hills to White Oaks where the pavement ends and a dirt road climbs the rest of the way up to Jicarita, an old silver- and gold-mining settlement. Population: 15, a little sign nailed to a tree declares. From an altitude a bit over 7,000 feet the dirt road drops down to Hwy 54, and a sharp left turn and later a right puts us on Hwy 55.
Razor straight, the road leads us north. Huge dark clouds amass in the west and rush toward us. Danger, danger... The first batches of lightning strikes zigzag against the blackness. We open the throttle just as hail begins to batter my helmet. I was thinking there's only a mile left to get to shelter and how much better off I'd be right now had I worn a full-face helmet. The hail keeps smacking against my mouth. Finally we pull over for lunch and wait the weather out at the Café Chameleon on 103 W. Main St. in Mountainair.