Conclusion 2022 Recap – Day 3: September 12, 2022 - Pueblo Colorado to Las Vegas New Mexico
Published: Fri, 10/21/22
In Raton, New Mexico. Left to Right: Glen Pyle, Lloyd Hill, Willie Fernandez, Don
Giacomo, Mark Hunnibell, Ron Chavez, and Andy Faust.
Conclusion 2022 Recap Day 3
Day 3: September 12, 2022 Pueblo, Colorado to Las Vegas, New
October 21, 2022
This was the
first day of “Conclusion 2022” including plans to ride the Red One off-road. I rode 20 miles off-road between Walsenburg and Aguilar, Colorado. Another 20 miles further off-road was planned to ride south on the Old Raton Pass Road into Raton. Finishing the day was some 70 miles on paved frontage roads from Springer to Las Vegas, New Mexico. I have divided the video for this day into three parts (see links below).
Walsenburg to Aguilar: This leg provided one of the best experiences of the trip since I knew I
rode over the exact road that C.K. Shepherd had ridden in 1919. The morning after arriving in Walsenburg at night in the rain on July 16, 1919, C.K. Shepherd rode south toward Trinidad. He snapped a photo of “Castle Rocks,” a very unique rock formation about three miles south of Walsenburg, riding a road now identified as Colorado Route 330. Although I found that many roads C.K. rode in 1919 are gone, this section of CO-330 remains a dirt road and has been well-maintained over the
I was able to ride this same road over a hundred years later on September 12, 2022. After riding through Walsenburg and then heading south on CO-330, I rode east on CO-310 (also an off-road section) to I-25 so I could pass through Aguilar. In the video below, that’s Lloyd you see and hear in the pre-departure footage and from time-to-time riding with me on this off-road section.
After exiting I-25 toward Aguilar, the road began as rather rugged off-road section I had forgotten about! But I was relieved when, after a mile, it turned to paved asphalt (some the smoothest I have ridden anywhere) for the remaining seven miles into Aguilar.
Old Raton Pass Road: From Aguilar, we faced the logistical challenge of attempting simultaneous arrival in Raton of three parties converging from different directions to meet and then scout Old Raton Pass Road northward toward Colorado. We (me, Willie, Glen, and Lloyd) were coming south with the Red One. Lloyd’s friend Andy
Faust was coming from Red River, New Mexico and would meet us in Raton. And we were also scheduled to meet up with two Commissioners from the City of Raton who had agreed to open the gates to grant us access up the New Mexico side of the Old Raton Pass Road. About a mile north of the old New Mexico Port of Welcome center and about four miles south of the Colorado border, there is now an earthen dam, ditch, boulders, and a fence blocking any further travel to the north (everything to the north of
this barrier is now private property). Down by Raton, there are now two locked gates blocking access to all but the sign pointing toward Old Raton Pass Road. My plan was to travel up the Old Raton Pass Road so I could ride back down and take in the
sights as C.K. would have seen them in 1919 (C.K. rode south on the Raton Pass Road, descending into the City of Raton).
Scouting: With the help of Raton City Commissioners Ron Chavez and Don Giacomo, Lloyd and Andy were able to quickly scout Old Raton Pass Road from Raton all the way up, past the old New Mexico Port of Welcome building and up to the impassible barrier. Don actually owns the old New Mexico Port of Welcome building on the Old Raton Pass Road, the first sign
of civilization that many southbound travelers saw back in the day, about five miles south of the Colorado Border. Don kindly gave Lloyd an exterior tour of the old Port of Welcome during a break in Lloyd’s scouting adventure. On the way back down, Lloyd’s cameras were rolling, so here is a video of a motorcyclist’s view coming down the Old Raton Pass Road southbound, much like C.K. would have seen it back in 1919:
The Verdict: I anxiously
waited in Raton with Willie and Glen while Lloyd and Andy rode up the Pass. When they returned, Lloyd’s safety-based assessment of the idea of me riding up that road on my 1919 Henderson is best summarized by one word: NOPE! Even though the Old Raton Pass Road has some flatter areas and gentle curves “on top” along the ridge, the very steep climb up on the twisty, rutty, rocky, washed-out road with no guard rails going up to that section made his verdict easy. The
presence of vertical drop-offs at the road’s edge on much of the most challenging and steep sections made clear the potential for fatal consequences of even one moment’s error on an old bike with no suspension and marginal brakes. Even the paved roads to the first gate and Goat Hill were so steep that Lloyd advised against me even trying to ride that up road. I was disappointed, but knew I was still safe and sound with the Red One still running well. After we wrapped up out activities and
concluded with a quick group photo before leaving Raton, we headed down to K-Bob's Steakhouse for lunch before saddling up south toward Las Vegas, New Mexico.
Most Riding of the Old Raton Pass
Road in Decades: I would be remiss if I did not mention that, in 2019, we were all able to enjoy the few miles of the Old Raton Pass Road in Colorado (me, Willie, Lloyd, and Andy). Willie and I drove very slowly up the precarious Pass road in Willie’s truck (with the Red One in the trailer) while Lloyd and Andy rode up on their motorcycles. This road is also closed to public access, but the property owner graciously escorted us up the steep and often narrow trail. In some places, it was high
grass, grown over, and crumbled rocks. We soon arrived at the unmarked location on the old road that is the New Mexico border (some four miles prior to the earthen dam, ditch, boulders, and fence), after which we were escorted to the nearest property exit by the owner, which was out to the east near a weigh station on I-25. Suffice it to say that even I could see that the Colorado side was less suitable for me to ride than the New Mexico side. I would also add that Lloyd scouted the New Mexico
side of Old Raton Pass Road for me in 2018 (the lower half of the road was not locked behind gates back then). He rode it again in 2019 as we passed through Raton “on tour.” So, with the addition of his 2022 riding, it’s entirely possible, and even quite likely, that Lloyd has probably ridden on more of the Old Raton Pass Road than any motorcyclist has in decades! Lloyd produced a video of his 2019 ride up the Old Raton Pass Road on the Colorado side, Riding on Old Raton Pass Road - The missing files!
On the Road to Las Vegas: It might seem boring to some, especially after the challenges earlier in the day, but I found
the riding to Las Vegas to be a real pleasure. Sure, I could have done without the rain and the 30-degree temperature drop that came with it. We were all whining over our intercom about how cold it got in just 15 minutes, plummeting from a balmy 81 to a chilly 51! But the rain was so brief that the outside air temperature (as well as my own body temperature) returned to normal by the time we passed through Watrous, north of Las Vegas. The roads were good, there was no traffic to speak of, and we
had a lot of fun riding the frontage roads paralleling I-25 south of Springer toward Las Vegas. Just as C.K. had done in 1919, I rode through Springer, Wagon Mound, and Watrous.
Unlike C.K., who faced deep mud every day including the day he rode this area, we encountered roads that were paved and certainly free of mud. So I never even considered riding on the railroad track... bumping along atop the railroad ties, the “sleepers” as the British say, south of Wagon Mound. Thus, I avoided repeating C.K.’s experience of being
chased off the tracks by a southbound steam train! As a bonus, I also finished the day without losing my drive sprocket nut as C.K. had done. At many points while covering those 70-plus miles, I found myself lost in thought about just how bold C.K. was for coming all the way out here on his own.