The morning in Superior, Arizona was cool and clear. Checking the forecast for a few cities and towns along my route, it looked like there was a good chance that the nasty winds that I encountered on they way down were waiting to torture me on the way back too. It also looked like it would be chilly, with temperatures in the 35-50˚F range.
I was nearly the last one out of Red’s; Randy Scurr was still there when I hit the road. The trip up the canyon to Globe and through the Salt River Canyon to Show Low was uneventful under clear skies and bright sunshine. The elevation gets up in the 5000-7500ft range north off Show Low and the temperatures dropped a bit through this region. I was able to keep up a good pace and had little traffic on the roads.
By the time I got over to Datil and on the high plateau where the VLA (Very Large Array) lives, I was expecting the winds to kick up as forecasted but it was nothing like the winds I had on the way down. On the far side of the plateau, dark clouds hung over the mountains that define the plateau’s edge. I figured I may get wet going through that area but the path down through Magdalena and on to Socorro was dry and the temperature finally crept back into the low 50s (F) in downtown Socorro. There appeared to be some dark clouds off to the west of my projected path but there were moving slow enough that I had time for a quick bite. Usually, I shun national fast food chains in favor of local establishments, but today I was moving with divine purpose and I elected to visit the McDonalds for lunch.
Back on the road on I25 north through the Rio Grande valley, the clouds to the west stayed west. Unfortunately, the mountains bordering the east side of the valley were also covered in dark clouds and my path would carry me through that range. I figured that the mountains would knock that moisture out of the air and I would have clear skies again on the other side.
Heading into the mountains, it finally became abundantly obvious that I was going to get wet. I posted a quick photo of the nasty-looking skies, got into my rain suit, and headed into the dark.
Heading through the low pass in the mountains, I was relieved to find that the rain wasn’t very hard; more of a heavy mist or drizzle. I became concerned, however, when I noticed the temperature dropping down into the 30s (F). As the skies grew darker, I realized that the falling rain had taken on a more animated character and was blowing around, almost like snow… wait, that IS snow.
As the temperature dropped down to 30˚, my mind worked the problem. I knew from riding through here just two days ago, when the temps were in the 50s, that the ground was too warm to support snow, so I wasn’t too concerned about accumulation. I was more concerned about visibility as the blowing snow was forming ice on my windshield and the leading edges of my turn signals, highway pegs, and boots. On the far side of the pass, the road stays up on the eastern slope of the mountains so I stayed in the snow all the way through Mountainair and almost all the way to Willard, where the road turns east towards Vaughn.
Even though I’d left the snow behind, the temperature had not picked back up as I had hoped. Little did I know that the temperature would stay down in the 30s (F) for the rest of the day’s ride. With the Gerbing heated clothing cranked up all the way, I was still getting chilled, so I added a layer when I reached Santa Rosa, just before I got on I40 for the last push east to Amarillo.
After flirting with the bottom of my gas tank entering Texas (thank you for 24-hour pay-at-pump technology), I continued on to Amarillo without incident. Finally, entering the metropolitan area, the temperature finally creeped up above 40˚ for the first time in nearly 300 miles.
I checked in at my favorite Super8, had a late night snack at the Waffle House, called Karen, and went to sleep.
Just like on the way out, this route took me over 660 miles in about 11.5 hours.