Tuesday 4 November:
Once again we are up at silly o’clock in the morning, and today it is cold: there is frost on the bike saddles, not what I was expecting in Arizona! Breakfast at the Trail Riders was basic, so we set off to seek something more substantial on route – again deciding not to wait to ride with the Hadrian V-Twin guys.
We headed out on Route 80 heading south. Once again the road and the views were impressive, but once again the low morning sun caused problems – worse today because the road was quite twisty.
We decided to stop earlier than planned to allow the sun to get a bit higher, so pulled into a very nice looking town called Bisbee. Unfortunately it was entirely closed, so we reverted to plan A and headed on to Douglas. Douglas has a border crossing with Mexico and appears to be one big city with the Mexican border running through the middle of it. South of the border it is called Agua Prieta.
Here we managed to find a small cafe – a strange little place which seemed more stylish than practical. The furniture was sparse, the decoration elegant and mellow jazz played in the background whilst old black and white films played soundlessly on the flat screen TV. Again, not what I was expecting!
We continued on along Route 80, heading back north passing between Chiricahua National Monument, famous for its vertical rock formations, and Whitmire Canyon Wilderness Study Area. The road was superb: long arrow-straight roads with wide open vistas fringed with mountains and a clear blue cloudless sky.
We crossed the border into New Mexico and soon came upon the monument commemorating the surrender of Geronimo, the last Apache chieftain, on 6 September 1886 in nearby Skeleton Canyon. His surrender ended Indian warfare with the US and the memorial was erected by Douglas in 1934. It seems amazing to me that the war with the Native American Indians ended so recently.
We weren’t alone at the memorial, the rest of the Hadrian V-Twin guys were already there – although they left the hotel after us they hadn’t stopped for breakfast. Not wanting to get caught up in the group, we headed off on our own before them.
We joined route 9 heading east, and the scenery continued to be breathtaking. It was also extremely windy. It had been windy all morning, but now it seemed to be getting worse – very hard on the neck and shoulders and, not for the first time I questioned the wisdom of abandoning the Softail’s screen. I think I have already gone up a collar size during this trip!
Route 9 runs very close to the Mexican border, and at one point we were stopped at a border control checkpoint where, unlike last time, we had to show our passports to some initially very stern looking officials. Once satisfied that we weren’t illegal immigrants they lightened up a little and let us go on our way.
Our plan had been to stay on Route 9, bouncing along the Mexican border pretty much all the way to El Paso. The trouble is there seemed to be little chance of finding fuel on the route, so instead we headed north to Deming where we re-fuelled and joined the I10.
Now it was really windy and, as before, although not as bad as it could be, the I10 is not a great route. We had 100 or so miles to go, so agreed to break it up half way since we were all tired from battling the wind – well, except Paul, who looked perfectly comfortable on his fully-faired Electra Glide.
As we made our way along the I10 clouds started massing on the horizon and took on a distinctly menacing look. We stopped at a petrol station after about 50 miles, as planned, and no sooner had we pulled up than it began to rain: good timing. It didn’t last long and, by the time we were ready to set off again it had pretty much stopped.
We continued along the I10, passing through Las Cruces, where it heads south. Now the wind became a gusting side wind – very tricky, especially for Andy who has solid billet wheels on his Fat Boy – there is a lot to be said for spokes.
Finally we crossed the border into Texas and soon came into the outskirts of El Paso. Familiar to me from the Old El Paso brand of Mexican food, this is the 19th most populous city in the United States, with a population of almost 675,000 people in 2013. It stands on the Rio Grande and is another city divided by the Mexican border, with Juarez to the south.
Despite my expectations of wild bandit country down here on the Mexican border, El Paso has been ranked as the safest large city in the US for the past few years.
I’m not sure how safety is measured by whoever does these stats, but I’m guessing it is not based on the roads as these seem to be crazy. Despite knowing the population figures I was surprised by the size of El Paso: it is huge and sprawling. As you enter, the I10 becomes many lanes wide and it splits into numerous concrete overpasses and flyovers. Having said that, these are all nicely painted, not your normal drab grey, graffiti strewn affairs, and even the motorists appear fairly polite, so maybe there is something to this safest city thing.
We fought our way through the rush hour traffic to make a pilgrimage to Barnett Harley Davidson, the world’s biggest Harley dealer. We were initially unimpressed as, although the world’s biggest Harley dealer had ample car parking, there was hardly anywhere to park bikes!
The dealership itself was undeniably vast. Impressive in scale though it was, this perhaps inevitably also made it a bit impersonal. Nonetheless, the Harley owners in our midst ended up parting with cash.
And so the time finally came to make our weary way to the hotel. All thoroughly knackered by this time it was all we could do to fight through the horrendous traffic for the relatively short distance to our hotel for the night: a Quality Inn, which was actually a motel, but very nice.
We arrived at about 6pm and had a quick shower to meet up for dinner at 7pm. We went for Chinese for a change, mostly because the Chinese restaurant was closest to the hotel. We were the only ones there, but the food was good and portion sizes enormous. Mental note: we are in Texas now, we can probably share food!
Miles today: 334
Total miles: 1086