Nice and safe and predictable
This location was a weather related change of plans. It felt like an emergency to us, but really it was just our shock at experiencing actual weather events that had us seeking the comfort of a KOA type place rather than another state park. Backing up to leaving Heron Lake, our plan had always been to take Highway 64 over a smallish mountain pass and have Richard ride part of that. We looked up weather forecasts for the day and saw that possible thunder storms would be rolling in around 2pm. We figured we had enough time for Richard to ride to the summit and we could meet up there. We were very, very wrong.
Nice pretty start to Highway 64. Gosh, everything is so green and lush…
It started out nice enough, with the only problem being that there were next to no turnouts or places where I could pull over with Dory to wait for Richard. When I SAG him in unknown territory, we usually play “leap frog,” where I pass him, find a pull out spot, wait for him to pass me, and so on. We give each other a thumbs up as we pass to make sure all is well. That gives him the ability to bail if something comes up. The problem happens when I have to drive a long way before I can pull over. It’s easier when it’s just me in the Passport, but with Dory, I need a legit spot, well off the road. It’s also easier when there is cell service so we can communicate.
When southwest people say “monsoon season,” they are not kidding.
There was one spot where I waited a good while, passing the time by cleaning up a water bottle spill that had gone under the Chilewich carpeting. We both saw weather on the horizon but Richard opted to keep going toward the summit. I gave him a good head start and continued up the road, passing him quickly. The grade was getting steeper and the skies were getting darker. I must have had to go another five miles before I found a pseudo safe place to pull off to the side of the road. I got out and took some nice pictures but heard thunder. No sign of Richard. I got back in the car and it all happened pretty quickly. The rain started falling in big huge drops that turned to hail almost immediately. It got really intense and I could not see the road, ahead or behind me. I put on the emergency lights, hoping anyone traveling would see me over to the side, but I was also really worried about Richard being out in that.
Poor wet Sweetie got hail nailed.
I knew I couldn’t turn around safely with Dory in tow. I pondered unhitching her, which we later decided would have been a bad idea. It seemed an eternity before I saw a small dark spot in the rear view mirrors that could only have been him. The hail was pouring down at that point, pummeling the roof of the car to the point I thought it might break the windshield. I could see Richard was struggling to pedal forward, but slowly he made it up to the car. He dropped his bike and got into the passenger seat, dripping wet and shaking. He lost it for a while, which I totally understood. That was hands down the worst biking experience he’d ever endured. We stayed there for a while until he could get out of the soaking wet clothes and into something mostly dry. Then we just waited for enough of a break to be able to throw his bike in the back.
Better. Clearing in the distance.
We made it up to the summit where there was a safer place to pull over. We both went inside Dory and just sat. Eventually, we decided we’d better get off the mountain. I drove with flashers blinking most of the way down. Happily, everyone else seemed content to go slow and there wasn’t much traffic up there. Once we’d descended a couple thousand feet from the ten thousand foot summit, the skies started to clear and we could see blue over the Taos valley. Cell service started to return and that was when I asked if there was a KOA in town. The idea of driving another forty miles up into another mountain range to get to Eagle Nest Lake was not resonating with me. Plus, my whole purpose in staying in that area was to visit Taos. So Richard called a well reviewed private place and got us set up for two nights with hookups. Bliss.
Touristy Taos things…
The rest of our stay in the Taos area was undramatic. We did touristy things and ate out, all much easier to do from town. Taos Pueblo remains closed, but we knew that going in. We got to see the main drag and central plaza, and found a Baskin Robbins. We also did a load of laundry and dried out all the soaking bike clothes.
Eagle Nest Lake from our intended site
For our full day sight seeing tour, we drove the Enchanted Circle (pronounced “Ed Shannon Circle” if you are hearing impaired and your husband mumbles. I wondered for a while who Ed Shannon was that he got a circle named after him). Instead of starting and ending at Eagle Nest Lake, with a drive through town, we did the reverse. We checked out our site in the campground and it was very pretty. No regrets, mind you. It was not boating weather, but I could imagine it being a nice place for a paddle. Everything up there is green and lush, with wildflowers dusting the meadows in a medley of summer colors. But also, it rained a lot, explaining the dense greenery. We were happy in the nice dry valley with restaurants and stores and service.
We got in a brief visit to the “Earth Ships” in the afternoon. This was something I spotted on the way in that made me wonder what I was seeing. Curiosity brought us their website, which noted tours and a visitor center. We learned that this is a sort of experimental community whose goal is to build dwellings using as many recycled materials as possible and design them in such a way as to be minimally environmentally impactful. They are mostly built underground, using car tires and mud to create an insulated outer structure. They all use solar systems and recyclable water filtration to maximize efficiency. Most of them are built with whimsical and unique designs. Most of them have huge glass walls for greenhouses. You can walk around some of the demo dwellings, but this is also a living community, so there are boundary no trespassing signs letting you know your limits. It was an intriguing stop.
Me on the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge
After that, we stopped for photos above the Rio Grande Gorge and then onto dinner at Orlando’s. That was fantastic and we were not the only people who seemed to know about it. It opens at 5 and there was a line to get in by then. I recommend the Los Colores Enchiladas. YUM.
It was a short visit and I know we missed the main event by not being able to see the pueblo. But we were happy with the parts we did get to see, and even happier to be out of mountain hail storms.
Total miles: 95.7, 19.1 mpg. Site 49, electric and water hookups. Dump looked ok, not great, but had a line, so we skipped and dumped at Great Sand Dunes. LTE for both of us, but it was slow. Laundry facilities. Looks like it once was a KOA, exactly the same look and feel.