Saturday, May 02, 2009

Silver City, NM loop: Hwy 180, 191 and 78

Today everyone was doing some kind of a day ride before heading out to the group dinner at the Red Barn Restaurant in Silver City, NM a block away from the Super 8 we were all staying at.

Some were riding to the Gila Cliff Dwellings, some that came from the west were heading out to ride Highway 152 and some were heading to ride the Devil’s Highway. As much as I wanted to see the Gila Cliff Dwellings, one of the reasons I came here was to ride the Devil’s Highway. 191 (old 666) is one of those a “must ride roads” that appears in many articles and ride reports. Also known as the Coronado Trail Scenic Highway, most motorcycles refer to the very twisty stretch of road as The Devil’s Highway. See my previous post on the Devil’s Highway. In this post I will be mostly writing about the other roads in the loop - 180 and 78.

I was the last bike out of the parking lot this morning. I was having problems with my key card for the room and had to get it re-scanned when I got locked out. Leaving later then anticipated, there wouldn’t be too many stops on today’s 320 mile route.

Nice sweepers along Highway 180

I love big sweepers like this

Heading north in to the mountains on 180 and into some dark clouds

A scenic stop on 180, time to get some layers on and eat a snack

From what I overhead last night, I was going to be the only one riding the loop counter clock wise. I got gas in Silver City and headed west then north on 180, it was about 11AM. 180 started out pretty straight with a sweeper here or there, but got more twisty as I continued north. I was planning on riding it non-stop until my next gas stop in Alpine, AZ. The plan went out the window because I was riding in to some really dark clouds and when 180 started to climb in elevation, I needed to stop and get some warmer layers on. I stopped on 180 at a scenic pullout with some picnic tables and nice views of the surrounding mountains. It’s was really windy up here, so after I layered up, shot some pictures and ate a quick snack I got going again. This part of 180 was my favorite, it climbs via some awesome sweepers and some tighter curves but nothing really as tight as I would see on the other side of the border on 191.

Tighter curves and higher elevations as I get close to the Arizona border on 180

New Mexico - Arizona border on 180

One picture of the bike and one of the rider at the Arizona border

180 was really a good warm up road before riding the twisty 191. A quick stop at the New Mexico and Arizona border for some pictures and off to Alpine to get gas. The dark clouds were still looming above me and there were moments where two or three rain drops would fall out of the sky and splat on my helmet visor. There were scattered showers in the forecast for this area but I never felt like it was going to rain. The clouds were moving pretty quick above me, it was a windy day. By the time I started climbing 191 out of Alpine with a full tank of gas, the clouds were starting to move east and there were patches of clear blue sky visible.

I got through most of the Devil’s highway before I started to make some stops. First one was for lunch and bathroom at a scenic pullout on 191. I brought banana chips, trail mix and energy bars with me and that’s all I was going to eat on today’s ride. All the layers I had put on when I was riding180 I still had on now but with the sunshine shining and heading back down in elevation I decided to take a couple of the layers off before I started to overheat.

A top in Clifton, AZ along 191 - I just love the way this church looks

A narrow street through Clifton, AZ

If you look close, you will notice a lot of these store fronts are not occupied and without glass in the window frames

Not too much later I pulled over aging. I was descending rapidly in elevation on 191 and now it was hot. I needed to shed all my extra layers off, open all my vents. It went from 60 to 80 degrees in a very short amount of time. I pulled over for gas in Morenci. This was pretty much the end of the curves on 191. From here on I was just heading back to Silver City. I didn’t plan on stopping anymore for anything. But then as I was riding through Clifton, AZ I couldn’t help but stop. What made me stop was a cool looking church. It reminded me of the ones I’ve seen in pictures from some of the Mexico ride reports. I’ve never been to Mexico myself. I turned right in to a bumpy narrow street and rode up to the church to take some pictures. This was such an amazing little town. But it was so hot here, so after a few pictures I took off again. Now I was looking at the time thinking I would have to really get on it to make the group dinner at 6:30PM in Silver City. I still had over a 100 miles to ride, but I knew that 180 would be a fast ride, although I had no idea what 78 would be like.

Not much further from Clifton I turned east on 78 and headed for the New Mexico Border. I passed a sign that said “no vehicles over 40 feet allowed” and right of the bat I was “oh, no”. If this road was very twisty, it would take forever to get thought it.

As I headed toward my first yellow 15MPH curve sign, the only thought that entered my head was “please don’t let this road be as twisty as 191”. It wasn’t. There were a few tight curves on this road here and there but the rest of the road had some of my favorite type of curves.

The beginning of 78 near 191

The tighter curves start on Highway 78

Some curves get a bit tight

My favorite part of 78 - the road climbing

78 also called Mule Creek Road, started to climb with each curve. The curves were not too tight, they were perfect, the way I love curves to be. Just tight enough to be able to lean but not so tight that you have to slow down, or down shift too much. There were so many enjoyable curves, which each set I would look down at the section of road I was just on below me. After riding about 200 miles today, with many enjoyable sections, I was now in the “zone”. You know, that “motorcycle nirvana“ you reach when the road curves just right, where the curves continue long enough for you to reach that confidence where you become one with the machine you riding and start to glide effortless through the curves, like an asphalt ballet. Each curve better then the previous, after a few you realize that you’re actually laughing out loud inside the helmet and catch yourself yelling “hell yea!“.

And climbing

A stop near the top of 78 with some amazing scenery

You can barely see the road below in the upper right corner

This road 78, which I have never heard of before, is now my favorite road in New Mexico. I had to stop again near the top to take a picture, but unfortunately I was already way passed the curvy sections, where you can see the road snake below you and climb up the mountain side. Unfortunately I was having way too much fun to stop there.

My favorite part of 78 was definitely climbing up the mountain, the pavement so smooth. But after the climbing stopped, and I started heading back down, the curves continued and were lots of fun as well. I crossed in to New Mexico and the road became kind of straight, the pavement also deteriorated. Now I only had about an hour to get to Silver City so I got on it. I reached 180 and turned south and continued. Doing some calculations in my head I came to the conclusion that if I could maintain 70MPH I could make Silver City in time for dinner.

I continued, there was absolutely no one driving on 180 heading south which was great, I didn’t have to pass anyone. But there were quite a bit of cars heading the other way so every time I saw a vehicle coming toward me I’d slow back down to the 60MPH speed limit. Then near Silver City there was a fire on the side of the road. Looked like someone carelessly through a cigarette but out of the car and started the dry grass on fire. Many cars were pulled over, people stomping on the grass and fire, trying to put it out. There was one Police car already on the scene. It must have just happened because I passed two more Police cars and a fire truck. Since I took so many pictures on today’s ride, now my camera’s battery was totally dead. So no pictures of the fire or the cool javelin’s I saw on the side of the road.

Highway 78 AKA Mule Creek Road

I pulled in to the parking lot at the Super 8 at about 6:35PM. There was no one here except for the bikes, everyone must have already walked over to the restaurant. I guess I was going to be a few minutes late. I grabbed my tank bag and headed for the room and again my key card wasn’t working. How annoying. After walking over to the other building, waiting in line and getting it re-scanned I finally made it inside the room. After throwing off my motorcycle gear and throwing on some regular clothes I speed-walked over to the Red Barn Restaurant. Everyone as here, some people were still waiting for their drinks so I wasn’t that late.

My whole 320 mile loop from Silver City, NM: highway 180, 191, 78 and back on 180

When my beef tacos arrived, I was so hungry. Then I remembered that I didn’t even have my camera with me. Oh well. No pictures of food - again. The beef tacos were much tastier then the chicken fajitas I had last night. BTW, the Red Barn is a steakhouse, and that’s what most people were eating.

It seemed like everyone showed up to the group dinner, and as always, talking motorcycles over food and beer is a great way to end an awesome day of riding. Funny, there must have been 50 riders here, but only two women riders, Becca and me. It amazes me with so many more women riding motorcycles now, still not many that tour.


Brenda said...

Awesome blog post and love the pics! My husband and I live only 6 miles from Three Way on your map. We ride this route on our bikes (motorcycles) all the time, including the treacherous 191! You had to have gone through Glenwood, NM if you took Highway 180. That's a really pretty little town as well. You would have definitely hit rain if you'd ridden in August... monsoon! Thanks for the post, the pics made me feel like I was there again!

Anna said...


Thanks for the compliment and the comment. You are very lucky to be a able to live by one of the curviest roads in the nation.

Also, good to know about monsoon season. 191 would not be that much fun in the rain.


Payne said...

Your posts just aren't the same without food photos. :-)

gr8gonzo said...

great pics! i live in alabama but was raised in the morenci clifton area, your pics bring back old memories i have traveled those roads numerous times by camping and traveling to colorado, glad you enjoyed your trip i did once again through your pics.

thanks, robert

Dale said...

You seem to have a nose for finding all the good twisty roads in the AZ/NM area. I don't have a bike, but I drive a MINI Cooper. Your site is a great resource for planning for future road trips.... Thanks for posting these!