Run to Raton
Raton, New Mexico is less than 4 hours south of Denver. We met up at Threepence with about 10 other bikes, and headed out around 2pm on Friday. Since we weren't traveling that far, no one expected this to be too arduous of a ride. We were wrong.
Leaving Denver, it took about 2 miles before we were stuck in gridlock traffic on the highway. Bikes were heating up. Left hands were getting sore. And the excitement and thrill of our "Big adventure to Raton" was wearing off. It took about 20 miles of picking up and putting down our feet until we gained speed. Then, as a reward for our slow race efforts through the traffic, we got caught in our first rainstorm of the day.
We were able to pick up the pace at this point, but that only made the rain hit harder, and the rooster tail off my front tire shoot more directly in my face. We rode it out for a while, but ultimately took cover at a gas station off the highway. Boots were full of water, bras were soaked, and everyone was wishing they'd brought more than 1 pair of pants that weekend. We hid under the gas station overhang and ran inside to grab hot coffees. But as we knew, the longer we stood there waiting for the rain to pass, the later we would arrive in Raton.
So we pushed on, and thanks to that Colorado air - I was fully dry and sweating by the time we got to Pueblo. That was until we saw the next rain storm dead ahead, looming over our route. This time, it was the type of rain that makes you second-guess whether it's hail. The kind that has me examining my tank while riding to make sure I'm not chipping my paint any worse. It was stabbing our faces and bruising our skin. But the only way out - was through!
By the time we got to Raton Pass, the sun was behind the Rockies and it was nearly 8 PM. Perfectly timed, Jay(my husband) ran out of gas when we were just 6 miles from Raton. Luckily for choppers, he was carrying extra gas. But it was just one more hump for our crew to endure before the final leg.
Rolling down the backside of Raton Pass, I wasn't at all deterred by the events of the day. This is the shit I love. It was the type of ride where it didn't matter how terrible conditions were, we were just stoked to have arrived, and to have all done it together. With music bumping through my headphones, we rolled through the empty streets of little town Raton.
The next morning, there was a mass exodus of choppers heading in the direction of Taos. The idea of heading out with a few dozen bikes, in territory I'd never explored before had me stomping around camp like an over-excited drill sergeant trying to get our crew ready to roll.
To visualize camp, picture a town that was created around the former highways and train systems of the west. Both Sante Fe Trail (Independence, Missouri to Sante Fe, New Mexico) and the Amtrak train run through Raton But I quickly realized that despite it's convenient transportation system, Raton had outlived it's hay day. The glass store is now an "Ass Co." and dinner the night before had come from either Arby's, McDonald's, Dominos, or Denny's.
That being said, I went for a walk to find coffee the next morning, and every person I passed greeted me. (Growing up in New York, this is not something I'm accustomed to). My friends found the cutest coffee shop where all the baristas were dressed like 1950's pinups. Camp was in the town center park, and was conveniently located to everything we needed, and directly across from JP's shop.
After breakfast burritos, coffee, and maybe a few beers, we cruised out towards Cimarron where our crew of ~20 bikers, congealed with a group of ~40 bikers from the event. We continued west and hit twists and curves as we headed through Cimarron Canyon State Park. It was rocky, and green, and beautiful. A few miles in, we pulled off near the creek, and sat in the water beside a massive rock face. We drank, scared away a few family picnics, and got to relax after the partying the night before.
When it was time to head out, everyone knew where to go next. The only thing on Route 64 between Cimarron and Raton was Colfax Tavern, or "Cold Beer." We had thought it'd be a quick stop, but true to our tale - there was now a flood warning in Raton.
Side note: I know I'm new out west, but did anyone else know that there's a monsoon season in New Mexico? In my mind, we were going to be riding through the desert blocking our faces from the sand like Burning Man. But...no.
As we watched the storm from a few miles away, different groups gauged when would be the best time to leave. After a few hours of hanging, drinking, and napping, me and my friends finally decided to head out. And boy, did we gauge that wrong! Within 2 miles we were being pummeled by some of the thickest and sharpest downpour I'd been through in years. It was the type of rain where the only thing you can see is the rider in front of you, and everything else is a mass of grey.
We made it back to camp in less then 40 minutes, and found that many of the tents had flooded. Ours, in fact, had blown over and was sitting on it's top. We changed clothes, rearranged our tent, and caught up with everyone else about their personal adventure.
The rest of the night was a blur. Cody almost crash his chopper because...wheelies. The iron butt award went to a dude from New Jersey(hell yeah). Someone else won the psychedelic panhead trike that JP had built. My friends hopped in a cadillac with a dude from Texas who took them for a ride up to the Raton sign. And I won $3 shooting dice on the sidewalk outside JP's shop. Not to mention, I got to hang out with a lot of cool people, many of them who I hadn't met before.
On Sunday, we packed up our gear (mostly still wet) and our group headed north to Trinidad, Colorado. Half of us split off to do the Highway of Legends loop, and the other half either jetted home, or broke down...
We cruised through San Isabel National Forest, and through the stone wall of Stonewall, Colorado. We saw the Spanish Peaks, and were approached by countless numbers of drug addicts at every gas station. They just love choppers! But hey, so do we.
We made it home in several hours, and managed to dodge I-25 for most of it. It was a great way to end a fantastic trip.
There's a ton of details and highlights that I didn't mention in here. So much of this weekend was awesome because of the new people I met and friends I got to hang out with.
Thanks so much JP Rodman for putting on an awesome event! I'm sure we'll be there next year to make things weird again.
Some other highlights
Wasn't quite sure if I would add these photos in, but there's some fun cell phone photos in here from when I didn't have my camera out.