Tuesday, January 6, 2009

First Ride of the New Year: Tucson RTE

A new riding year and it's off to Tucson AZ for an MTF RTE. The last time I was westbound beyond San Antonio's borders was when I rode to San Diego for the 50CC. This trip two fellow MTF members - Ray and Don - would be joining me in the ride from TX to AZ. We met in Kerrville Dec 29 for dinner at Cracker Barrel, then got on the road early the next day to ride some of Hill Country's best offerings. Highway 16 and FM 337 tortured us on tight, steep twists, spitting us out in Leakey where we headed south on US-83 to US-90. The many low water crossings were bone dry - thankfully - and no deer were spotted.

We had lunch in Del Rio and then turned due west into a strong head wind. A must-stop along this stretch of the greater Pecos is the Pecos River overlook. The waters were high, and the Rio Grande could easily be seen at the mouth of the Pecos. A little further along 90, Langtry sits amidst the dust and cactus, the dry air preserving the original saloon where Judge Roy Bean meted out his justice. The visitor center is a good place to take a break. Walking through the old saloon, leaning on the old wooden bar, Don wondered at the history that took place in that small room. This is the original building, rescued and preserved by Texas state park commission. Judge Roy Bean built another building behind the saloon, and called it the Opera House. He was smitten by Lily Langtry and hoped that the new building would convince her to come to Texas. She did come, but just months after Judge Bean died.

The next gas opportunity would be Sanderson, and it would be a stretch for one of our riders, on a Suzuki DR-650. Our stop for the night - New Year's Eve - would be Ft. Davis and we arrived just as it was getting dark. The late afternoon sunlight reflected on the mountains, turning them a rich orange as we rode north toward town. The air was getting brisk, but I hardly noticed, as I enjoyed the high speed sweepers on 118.

Not much was open in town, except the restaurant at the Lympia Hotel, so we continued to the Ft. Davis Motor Inn, got checked in, and rode back to town for dinner. We had a bottle of champagne tucked on one of the bikes, so had an early New Year's celebration. I was tired and ready to call it an early night. We'd have a very long day the next day.

Temps were in the low 40's when we left the motel and rode north on 118 toward McDonald Observatory. The visitor center was closed and two of the three of us didn't care to ride to the top, so we continued on 118 north through very pretty and deserted country. Beyond the Observatory, the road becomes very narrow and twisty, as it climbs and dips over the rugged terrain. Coming around one of the tight twists I could see ahead to the next hairpin and noticed Don's brake lights. When I'd caught up with him, there were two enormous bucks standing on the shoulder. They were frozen in place and I had a few moments to admire the really large antlers on the one on the right. The one on the left was certainly a prize specimen as well. As Ray caught up, the two deer bolted off the shoulder and into the woods.

We turned onto 166 to continue riding the Davis Mountain Loop. This stretch of road was more relaxed, with fewer tight turns but many roller coaster hills. As the road turned south I had a fantastic image of Don on his bike with Baldy Peak in the background. It would have made a winning photo for sure! We turned west onto 505 which would take us to 90 and a straight shot northwest to Van Horn and I-10.

It would be all business getting to Tucson before dark. Gas stops were brief and we took no lunch break, intent on getting into Tucson. We would be staying at the Red Roof Inn with a Dennys next door, a perfect place to spend the next two days.

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