Trip Report on the 2002 New Mexico DualSport Trip

By C. Coons & M. Bjerke

Edited by C. Coons

 

Photos of some of the described events are at http://www.dennisjsullivan.com/Gallery/GalFrame.html

 

After much planning and several attempts to schedule a trip we finally settled on leaving Byron MN on Wednesday, March 6.  Six of us - Charlie(DR350), Dennis(DRZ400), John(XT350), Milo(ATK605), Russ(XT350) and Tom(XR400)  traveling in the 190K mile Luxo-van and Karen’s new Ford F350 towing the trailer with all 6 bikes left at the crack of dawn(dawn (almost).  Our plan was to drive to Las Cruces, leave the tow vehicles with our friend Sam Davis, and ride as much as we could in six days.

 

By driving into the evening we made it to Liberal KS the first night and so were able to lunch in Tucumcari the next day.  This is a traditional stop where we have the first Mexican food of the trip complete with sopapillas.  Properly fortified we made it to Sam’s by late afternoon and were unloaded well before dark.

 

 

The only hitch on Day 2 was a flat tire on Dennis’ bike.  He repaired it before supper with a good deal of (verbal) help from the assembled masses.

 

 

Ready to go.

 

Friday morning we were ready to go relatively early and set out for scenic Kilbourne Hole, a large depression formed by volcanic activity in the area SW of Las Cruces.  It took a while to get on the right road.  The first choice turned out to cross private land that was closed to us.  We eventually got there and then Russ promptly drove over a 2-inch long thorn.  Our first on-the–road tire repair ensued.    We were soon on the road again trying to get to Deming without resorting to paved roads.  As the afternoon wore on we rode over some rough and desolate territory.  Road conditions changed from drifting sand to very rocky. 

 

 

Tom and John look over Kilbourne Hole.

 

 

Russ and Milo hard at work.

 

While we were riding around an isolated tank/corral looking for the road Tom came up with the news that Dennis was back about ¾ mile with a broken leg. At that point we had about 1 hour of daylight left, so we consulted our maps and decided that the nearest phone would be in Columbus, about 27 miles west.  Milo stayed with Dennis and did a nice job of splinting the leg (using the stiffeners from his Aerostich panniers) according to the EMT’s.  Later on Milo and Dennis enjoyed tremendous stargazing in the very, very dark desert.  Staring at distant lights, both of them were able to convince themselves that the light was moving and was most likely the rescue team only to eventually realize their mind was playing tricks on them. 

 

We soon discovered that about 6-7 miles of the trip to Columbus was through a DEEP sand wash, but the last 17 miles was a good dirt road.   Tom, being our fastest rider got to Columbus first and by the time the slow guys arrived he had started a rescue effort.  Walter, the fire chief, left an un-eaten meal at the dinner theatre as did some of the other members of the rescue effort.  The officials decided to take an ambulance to as far as they could and then go the rest of the way in a jeep.  Tom went with the crew to guide them and John, Russ and I stayed in Columbus to organize things there.

 

While we were waiting the city clerk/ambulance driver found us rooms in a motel that had no rooms and showed us where to get some burritos at a little lunch wagon, the only place that was open.  As we were waiting another ambulance call came so the remaining crew showed us how to run the radio in case the first crew called in and then took off on the second call, leaving us in charge.  We handled it quite well (we think).

 

It took the jeep about 45 minutes to cover the last rocky ¾ mile that had taken only a few minutes on a bike.  They got Dennis loaded up then let Milo and Tom (on Dennis’ bike) go ahead so they would have less dust.  By 11 p.m. everyone was back in town and Dennis was on his way to El Paso via Deming.  Tom and Milo had snacks (two bags of crackers)  provided by the fire department for supper and we all went to bed.  It was good training for events yet to come.

 

 

The best motel in Columbus.

 

Saturday, Day 4 was a great day.  We got some breakfast, called to see what was up with Dennis, called Sam and asked if he could come get the DRZ and then settled in to watch the Pancho Villa Day celebration while waiting for Sam.  The annual commemoration of Pancho Villa’s 1916 invasion of Columbus was similar in many ways to the Bullhead days or Cheese Curd Days celebrated in a small Minnesota town.  Dancing girls, horse tricks, and a small parade followed by brief speeches in English and Spanish by local dignitaries.

 

 

Dancing Girls

 

 

Gen. Pershing arrives in Columbus.

 

 

Once again Sam rescues us.

 

By early afternoon Sam arrived and picked up the bike, so we headed for Lordsburg.   John and I led the group on some routes we had ridden in past years through the Cedar Mtns. before arriving in Lordsburg a little after dark.  At one point Milo again showed his maze management capabilities by finding us a path through a corral complex.  There was some lack of faith in our ability to get to Lordsburg before midnight among the “you make your own luck” crowd (person?) but luck (perseverance?) prevailed and ”everything worked out”.

 

I shared a room with John at the Holiday motel.  I must have slept very soundly.  In the morning there was a female undergarment under his bed and I didn’t hear a thing (see photos).

 

 

Johns visitor left evidence.

 

Sunday, Day 5, after checking on Dennis we took off for Animas and points south.  Near the (LONG abandoned) Cloverdale store I had a flat tire.  While I was changing it a couple of Border Patrols showed up to see what we were up to.  We were only 6-7 miles from Mexico, and they watch things pretty closely.  Also during the tire change, the lady who called the BP to report the famous 10 p.m. exit from Skeleton Canyon a few years ago came by and got to meet Milo.  During the Skeleton Canyon incident Milo had a conversation with the BP but they concluded that he was not a “coyote”.

 

With the tire repaired we continued to Cloverdale and then took the Geronimo Trail to Douglas AZ.  Douglas has grown a bit since our first stop there and has a massive BP presence. We found rooms in an old but nice hotel downtown.  They had a security guard who watched the parking lot all night and an elevator with an elevator operator.  There was also a relatively ornate bar and a nice dining room.  Everything we needed on-site.

 

Up and going at the crack of dawn (9-ish) we took it easy on Day 6.  A leisurely trip to Rucker Lake, a loop past the east west entrance to Skeleton Canyon (it has gotten worse, we turned back) and a very nice ride through Portal, over Onion Saddle, over Apache Pass to Bowie and then a 45 mile pavement jaunt to Safford for the night.

 

After a long walk about Safford to begin Day 7 we finally found a good place for breakfast.  For about $4 you could get a huge plate with eggs, potatoes or grits, lots of ham, toast or biscuits etc.  Russ, being more interested in a low fat diet had a bowl of oatmeal and toast, also for about $4.  He would come to regret this choice.

 

We took the Black Hills Scenic Byway from Safford to Clifton.  This is the old dirt highway and has some great views and a couple of picnic areas with shelters at vista points.  One could navigate this rode on a street bike as long as it didn’t rain.  John and I rode it in the rain once and it was NASTY. 

 

By noon we were gassing up in Clifton and ready to start the Frisco Trail.  This is a 25-mile route that follows the San Francisco River for much of the way.  We were to discover that there are about 40 river crossings in 12 miles, most of them knee to thigh deep with very fast running water.    Did I mention the LARGE rocks in the crossings?  Many places the current was so swift it took 2 or 3 people to get a bike across safely.  Often the banks were VERY steep and the entrance and exit to the water very narrow.  Between river crossings the trail was faint and either very sandy or very, very rocky (soft ball size to basketball size).    This was all great fun, but slow and tiring.   There are no pictures of the really challenging crossings because everyone was busy.

 

 

 

Our first water crossing.

 

 

By dark we were not through the route, we were tired, we couldn’t see where the very faint route went any more and we were out of drinking water.  All of us were wet up to our pockets.  We decided it would be best to bivouac for the night since we were so well equipped.  Tom had some Iodine tablets so we purified water from the river for the next day, built a fire, dined on trail mix and got dried out as best we could.  After we were dry we dressed up for the night and settled down on the sand.  About this time Russ was taking a vow to NEVER have a small breakfast when riding with this group. (see photos)   The night It went much better than I expected.  An Aerostich suit makes a pretty good sleeping bag, the stargazing was great and no cougars or rattlers came by.

 

 

Getting dry.

 

 

What you saw while adding wood to the fire.

 

 

Milo evaluates the Aerostich Darien sleeping bag.

 

 

Tom evaluates the chest protector and space blanket sleeping gear.

 

 

 

Breakfast before sunrise is the rule.

 

On Day 8 we got a pretty early start after a breakfast of granola bars, trail mix and iodine colored water.  It was almost impossible to sleep late given the accommodations available.  The temp at dawn was near freezing, but it warmed up quickly.  There were more water crossings and we were soon wet to the knees again.  I had the advantage in the water as my leaky Thor Dual Sport boots let the water run out quickly.  Those with waterproof boots were a little wetter I think.  Soon enough we came to the expected ranch and a real dirt road that turned into a nice gravel road.  John pointed out a sign thatout that this was the first Forest Service sign that we had ever seen using the words “Extremely Hazardous Road”, and this was to describe the road that we now thought was a major improvement over what we had just been on.

 

 

Some crossings you could ride across.

 

 

The guys reflect on the scenery now that we are on the interstate”.

 

After we got out to NM route 78, a nice twisty paved road, we covered the 22 miles to Buckhorn in good time.   We had lunch there, our first real meal since yesterday’s breakfast.  It was really tasty.  Mother’s advice about breakfast being the most important meal of the day is so, so true when traveling with this crew. 

 

Now it was crunch time.  We needed to be back in Las Cruces that night.  It wasn’t all that much fun for the 140+ miles of mostly straight, flat road.  The DR showed about 850 dualsport miles for the trip when we got to Sam’s house.

 

While we were camping out Dennis had gotten some metal inserts for his “both bone” lower leg fracture and been released to Sam’s house.  Fortunately there was plenty of room in the van for him to stretch out on the trip home.

 

 

Dennis enjoys the comfort of the Luxo-Van.

 

Days 9 and 10 were pretty much the reverse of 1 and 2 except we stayed overnight in Pratt KS.  Those of us with Saturday obligations in Minnesota made it and Dennis was even able to drive himself home from Byron using his left foot to operate controls normally operated with the right foot.  It's rumored there is a DR400Z for sale in Monticello.

 

 

A rough map of the route.