Sunday, April 29, 2007

2007 HOG AZ State Rally Run - Day 2: Storms

Got off to a great start. Left about 8:40 - so got an early start, and the weather was supposed to be warm - with 30% chance of rain. Not great - but hopefully we'd miss it. We left Los Lunas and decided to take 314 south and then hit 116 at Belen. Again, sticking to the backroads and off the interstate.

Hit Belen and snapped a quick 'B' photo. Nice and sunny, things are going well.

Stopped at McDonald's for a quick breakfast. Missed the turn onto 116 - which means we were on the I-25 on ramp - only would have been about 15 more miles of backroad, so we just headed south.

Kept heading south and it started to look stormy as we got close to Truth or Consequences. I was figuring we'd stop in Hatch for lunch, so we pulled over at the Fort Craig Rest Area to take a short break. We did much better on this trip than the last one, stopping more frequently. Really helped:

You can see the clouds building over the Magdalena Mountains to the northwest. Looked like that towards the southwest as well.

East over the San Andres Mountains things looked good - but that wasn't the way we were going...

North of Arrey we took the 187 south. This would put us back onto a backroad and also take us through some small towns - maybe snapping some more ABC picks. Would have zipped right through Derry, but Tina saw the post office and called it out to me. Right off the road, easy pic:

Hit a couple more small towns. Very agricultural. You'd never know it much from the interstate. But traveling the backroads you see all the chili farms - and nut farms as well. Pecans, Walnuts, etc. Went through Garfield and could have used a 'G' - but it was starting to look stormy so just kept going.

Hit Hatch and turned left into the town for a quick photo:

Yeah - storm clouds are rising - and perhaps directly in our path. So we skip lunch. :( - They ship a lot of Hatch chilies up to Colorado Springs and Whole Foods roasts them. So I wanted to eat there. But at least got a photo of the "famous" Hatch Chili town! But better safe that sorry, better push on.

So - no more photos for a while. Took 26 west out of Hatch towards Deming. Out across the flats with mountains all around, storm clouds over all of them. And that is when the rain hit. Small splatters at first - and never got where it was just dumping - but it was coming down pretty good. Tina asked if we should pull over and suit up (get on rain gear and helmets) - I shouted "NO" - and sped up. Stuck with a few trucks in front of us when another Harley roared by... OK - if he can pass, so can I. Now the rain is starting to rooster tail off of the cars, but the road is still dry enough. Yeah, water on it, but its not slick yet - so I want to just keep going. Maybe we can outrun it or get out of it. Head is getting pretty soaked now, and I have to sit up straight to see over the windshield (otherwise I'm looking through my rain spotted glasses AND the rain spotted windshield - not good). Almost catch up to the Harley when they pull over to suit up - and we just blast by them. Its starting to get cold and wet - but I'm still hoping to get out of this mess.

Sun doesn't break out - but after about 10 miles, we are out of it. Not too bad. A little wet, but things could be worse - and hey - the water washed the dead bugs off the windshield. :) And then doing 75 helped dry my bandana out!

Pull into Deming and grab lunch at "Blake's Lotaburger". Regional chain - wasn't too bad. We can still see the storm brewing and the bushes are starting to whip around in the wind - time to go.

Tina asks if I want my helmet... No way. I'm sure I can outrun whatever we head into. Tina decides to put hers on. So we head west on 10. Never having been on this part of the Highway - and probably wouldn't remember if I had - I'm not sure exactly what way we are going - other than west. So there are some clear spots and some stormy looking spots. One of the "fun" things of the road and being on a bike. You are all excited because its blue ahead - when the road turns and you head straight towards the storm. Oh well - its an adventure.

So we hit the highway and crank it up to 75. Music is blaring over the loud pipes and I just look at the storm and laugh at it... then start praying. A little rain I don't mind - but having to pull over and find a place to get out it - not fun.

So we make it about 5 miles and it starts raining again - but this time even less than before and we are out of it in a few miles. Phew - hopefully it keeps up like this.

Highway 10 - which we kind of forgot, is one big stretch of wind. There are "Gusty Winds possible" signs, which turn to "Dangerous Cross Winds ahead" signs, which as you get towards the AZ border change to "No visibility possible. Dust storms possible. DO NOT STOP ON ROAD if you can't see. Pull over." And they mean it. The bike is getting whipped pretty good. I see another bike approach a semi (two lane high way) and he leans towards the side of the road and then cuts back towards the semi right before he gets to it. Kind of leaning into the wind. I try it a few times and it seems to work. Most of the time it isn't an issue given we are on a 4 lane divided highway - but given road work - once in a while it comes in handy.

Lots of canyons and hilly areas where the winds whip down through the gullies. Heading up through some hills and around a corner, I look off to the side and then look back and my mind registers black dots appearing out of nowhere in front of my windshield - and all of a sudden the bike is peppered with something. Sounds like a car in front of me just through gravel all over the windshield - but I'm not that close to a car. I flinch and then notice that my fairly clean windshield is now *covered* in bug remains. 15 big clear juicy splots just appeared out of nowhere.

OK... so rain storm, wind storm, and not a bug storm! What next!?

We get to the border and snap a shot entering AZ

and turn to take a shot of the NM sign behind us:

Tina then climbs off the bike and says "Get this helmet off me!". It hasn't rained since she put it on, and it is scratching, hot and noisy. So I unbuckle it and "save her" from it. Back into the duffel bag it goes.

We plunge on through San Simon and Bowie, but decide to take the business loop through Wilcox. I've been gassing up fairly often. I usually get about 45 MPH - but lower on the highway because I'm at higher RPMs. 65 is a good crusing speed, 75 (or faster) eats up the gas. And we were on empty a bit earlier in the day - so I don't want to miss the chance to get gas. I can't remember how far apart the towns are here.

We pass a Dairy Queen in Wilcox, and although we are both on diets, Tina says we have to stop. So we do. Still looks like it could storm, but not too bad. As we are climbing back on the bike I hear my phone beep. Its Tif, "Dad - I'm not sure where you guys are at, but there is supposed to be a major dust storm between the border and Tucson in Cochise County - right where you guys are going. It should be over by 3:00 your time - so if you can hole up somewhere, you might want to. Be safe and call us to let us know how you are doing!".

Great - dust storm in front of us, rain storms chasing us - well lets head out and see what it looks like. Heading out of town and get close to the interstate - we stop for gas - and look towards where we think we are going - and its all brown. (Looking at a map now, this would be over the Wilcox Dry Lake Bombing Range). There is a truck gassing up and the driver asks where we are heading. "Tucson". "Just came from there. Hit a little rain, but that's about it. But I just heard the highway is closed because of a semi accident." We thank him for the information and his service (Hes served 3 tours in Iraq) and he heads out. We decide to call Tif and let her know whats up, and that we are going to hang out for a while.

I keep seeing the traffic heading west, and its not backing up, so maybe the road isn't closed. Plus we can see that the traffic is heading at about a 45 away from where we though we might be heading. So we decide to chance it - keeping an eye on the dust storm and the rain storm.

We head out and its still pretty windy, but we only hit one little patch of rain. Not enough to even get us wet - and the dust storm appears to stay to our south. Tina notices some "dust tornados" - or "dust devils" that are pretty good size. An ambulance zips by us - so maybe the road will be closed, and then we see the lights up ahead. Traffic moves over to the right lane - and I keep my eyes on the road, noticing a number of emergency vehicles and a paramedic wiping a guy's forehead who is sitting up (a good sign) and continue on. Tina yells, "Did you see the semi?" - All I saw was pieces of it strewn through the median, "NO". "It went across both of our lanes, through the median, across the other lanes and out into the other side. It was covered in dust." Well the driver looked ok and I'm glad we didn't hit any of that.

I'm keeping my eyes on pull off signs. Rest areas or towns. Keeping track of how far to the next one in case we have to get out of the weather.

But then there is "the sign" - "2 miles to Houghton Road exit" - Woo hoo! We are almost there. 15 minutes later we pull into Tif's driveway - Brian hears the bike, and the garage door goes up. We've made it. :)

It was a weird day. A bit nerve racking at times. A few times I though we might have to hole up somewhere - and if it had gotten bad enough we would have. But you always hear (and we have experienced) about folks who went through the rain for 10 miles, or 20 miles. Sometimes you can just outrun it or just miss it. Much of the road we covered had been rained on, but was dry when we got there. So its worth pushing through - otherwise you'd never go anyway.

I wore 3 different sets of gloves during the day. Tina wore many different layers of clothes. Hot, cold, cool, hot again, cold again. But it was all good and all an adventure. But we were glad to get to Tifs. Although I-40 seemed a lot nicer weather - and maybe we'll look at taking that back - even though I-10 is faster.

And then Tif pulled up (she was at the store) in her snazzy purple car and got out with her "hugh" pregnant stomach (which is the size of a volleyball - not a basketball) and Tina petted PeaBaby and started laughing - and it was all good.

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