Black Range & Alpine 2015

October 2015 

Here is a full report from Steve Cantrill

A Few More Thoughts and Images On Kingston-Alpine 2015

Barb and I have been to the annual S.E.A.T. soiree to Alpine only a few times now—probably because we have only been together for 5 years. But neither of us had ever been to the Black Range Lodge in Kingston, NM. Coming from Payson gives us quite a different path than for Sierra Vista or Tucson folks. The part past Roosevelt Lake to Globe is always spectacular all year round and where we almost always find good enough weather to ride in the winter. The rugged deep-indigo mountain range surrounding Aztec Peak to the east, divides the Salt River valley and Pleasant Valley on the other side. And as they command the heights over crystal blue Roosevelt Lake, you’re reminded that there just isn’t anything else much like it wholly in Arizona—except a couple places that border it: Lake Mead and the Colorado River.

Contrasting that part of the ride with U.S.70 west past Globe is a really boring stretch of Arizona, mostly on the San Carlos Indian reservation. The Feds didn’t do much for the Native Americans on that land. However, I just about did a u-ey with the bike at Geronimo, just to get a picture of that sign and a really blown-out building with broken windows that seemed to represent the area perfectly. It’s just the kind of abandoned roadside stuff you imagine from the 1930s or Route 66. However, cotton fields in the upper Gila River valley, just don’t flip any of your motorcycle switches there, any more than they do on I-10 from Phoenix to Tucson. After you get by Bylas and Safford and start to climb in elevation, the big mountain vistas and high-speed sweepers let you know why you rode this way. I’ve done all that many times before and it’s just a matter of getting through what you don’t like to contrast why we ride.

Skipping forward to the Silver City area reminds you to get gas even if you only have 100 miles on the tank. Lordy—there’s just nothing much out there—and isn’t that the way we like it? The road east into Klngston was totally new to me and honestly, I was gripping the bars and wishing it was early in the day instead of the last leg. It’s just too much mental and physical concentration to do when you’re already thinking about happy hour—which I think about often.

As those of you know who were at the lodge on this ride or previously, Katherine, our hostess—really treated us like gold. And what a nice place. Built in 1885 was it? Books and games all over the place. Barb and I played pool and Scrabble. The hospitality was great and so was all the good company from S.E.A.T.  We almost doubled the Kingston population of 15. Barb and I were the only couple and on the Saturday morning ride on the way out, I was afraid I was going to be the slow man on the pole position. But when we gassed up at Silver City someone told me I wasn’t holding anyone up so, that wasn’t the case. I rode much better with a great breakfast in the tummy, a fresh mind, reflexes, hands on the controls and sun at my back.

We rode up U.S.180. Some of the group chose to go over to Clifton and ride north on the Devil’s Highway. I already did that earlier this year. Despite doing better on the corners west of Kingston than I did the previous evening, I opted for the big skies and mountain vistas.[By the way someone who lives in Kingston said there were 230+ curves on that road. I counted about 300 on the way out Saturday]. 

North of Silver city about 10 miles, I clamped on the GoPro. You know, I’ve got more than 50 hours of motorcycling video on file and created many DVDS with rock music and slides. I started in 2004. But I wish there had been such a thing then as the GoPro. When 10 years pass in the digital gadget-gizmo world—things change a LOT. The quality is so much different.  Oh well, I’ll just have to ride out and re-record it all to get better video.

A larger group of riders gathered in Alpine for Saturday night and I must say, the weather on this weekend was absolutely spectacular for October—the best of the last 5 years. Happy hour under the spilt rail porch at the Sportsman Lodge gave us all the ever-promised good times. Dinner at Foxfire was as good as it gets.

Sunday morning we awoke to thicker clouds coming in from the south—a spinoff of a hurricane, blowing into Mexico from the Pacific. At times parts of the sky were black. Then it showed some blue and puffy white clouds. It was my birthday weekend and we had yet another day to ride and have fun. Barb and I headed to Springerville for breakfast and then west on U.S.180 to Winslow. We had a reservation at LaPosada and I had never been there.

It wasn’t that far and we were making really good time—even at a cruising speed as slow as I’ve gone on the new R1200RS. So, taking it easy and not really looking much at the map, we came up on the entrance to the Petrified Forest about 11AM. Barb grew up in Arizona but had never been there. We wheeled right, I showed them my “Old Guy” national park pass and in we went. I have only been there once in 30 years and only once as a little kid. Barb thoroughly enjoyed that and the Painted Desert. But the penalty was to end up on I-40 with a stiff, hard wind blowing from the left. You could have been in an Army Humvee and it would have been tugging at the wheel.

The rest of the day & evening at LaPosada was well worth it. It’s hard to believe a place like this is in Winslow or that anyone had the money or imagination to restore it. But you can build about anything with money, so for $12 Million that bought a great place for snazzy rooms, unlimited art all around, a terrific restaurant and the coziest surroundings of anywhere in the West.

The bottom fell out of the skies while we slept and when we awoke, I was trying to figure out what time to leave to dodge the clouds. It’s only about 85 miles to home in Payson—but it can be a cold ride at 8,000 feet in parts. We had the gear and the go-juice so we got with it. Again, part of the time the skies were western-gorgeous. But then at times, they were not.

All in all, it was a spectacular weekend. We are all so lucky to live in a beautiful part of the world, with great friends and great bikes to ride. My birthday weekend was a thrill.

Here is a full report from Len Robbins

The ride to Kingston went very well.  The weather was perfect the whole way in.  Upon leaving Tucson, there were just three of us; Ron Browne, Skip Blecker and yours truly.  At Wilcox we got off 1-10 and headed north on the Ft. Grant Road, from which we picked up Rt. 266 to cut through the southern end of the Pinaleno Range and Mt. Graham.  We stopped in Safford for breakfast, before running up over Mule Creek Pass, onto Rt. 180 and Silver City.  From there we took the usual Rt. 152 over to Kingston.  On the way, we saw the spot where Rt. 152 was essentially wiped out from the rains, flooding and erosion that came after they had that large forest fire in the Black Range last year.  About 100 yards of roadway, running along the Gallinas canyon and creek, were totally swept away.  They replaced that section of road, which is unmistakable with its new, gritty macadam.  Use a little caution when passing through that area. 

After our arrival in Kingston, we were greeted by the ever wonderful Catherine, who let us pick our rooms and get settled in before we sat down to dinner.  Steve Cantrell, and his wife Barbara Zirinski, had already arrived from Payson, and were settled in.  Then, shortly after we arrived, Aladin and his friend from Texas, Richard, also showed up.  All told, we were 7. 

For dinner, Catherine and her mother (91 years old and still going strong!) prepared a most wonderful roast chicken dinner, with a creamy herb sauce.  The fresh bread was still warm from the oven, and the side dishes included corn on the cob and tossed salad, followed by our choice of warm, homemade from scratch, chocolate cake and carrot cake.  Everything was absolutely delicious. 

After dinner, we took turns relaxing in the outdoor hot tub, which was a much welcomed comfort after the day’s ride.  The sky was clear, and the beautifully dark skies of the area allowed the Milky Way to splash a dazzling string of stars overhead.  In addition to that, several of us took advantage of Gary’s skills as a seasoned massage therapist.  Gary helps Catherine with her never ending construction and expansion projects there around the Lodge, and in addition to his well proven contractor skills, he astounded us with his acumen in the massage chair.  It turns out that Gary has 27 years of experience as a massage instructor.  If you ever go to the Black Range Lodge, plan to give Gary 45 minutes of your time after you arrive.  You will be very glad you did.  He is gifted, which some might say is even a bit of an understatement. 

The next morning we were treated to a delicious breakfast before our departure.  But before leaving, we all decided to change things up a bit from previous years.  Instead of going back through Silver City and north up Rt. 180 to Alpine, we went back over the Mule Creek pass to Clifton/Morenci, and then took Rt. 191 north to Alpine.  The trip went perfectly, with the one exception of passing one poor fellow who had a deer jump out in front of his Gold Wing.  Neither the driver nor passenger were seriously hurt, and we were later told the Wing sustained just minor damage.  A lot of people had already stopped to help, and EMS/Fire/Police were all on their way, so we continued on and finished the last few miles down into Alpine. 

Once in Alpine, we met up with Deryle, Wanda, Herb Suessenbach, Dave Delie, Mike L., Jon N. and Jack Herbst before heading over to the Foxfire Restaurant.  Those who had not eaten there before were rather impressed with the quality and variety of food they offered.  As usual, once the sun set it got rather nippy, and the outdoor seating was on the edge of too cold for some of  us desert dwellers.  However, this year the Foxfire had added an important comfort factor to those who wanted it, in the form of Mexican blankets for us to put over our shoulders.  Those of us who were not bright enough to bring warm jackets can be seen in the pictures wrapped up in those colorful and comfortable blankets.  That evening we enjoyed the numerous bull elk that had taken up residency behind the hotel to serenade their lady friends.  The bugling went on… and on… and on… until dawn.  It might not have helped the light sleepers in the group, but it was a wonderful thing to hear in a state that most outsiders only associate with cacti and coyotes. 

The next day a group of us left Alpine, and took the newly paved road to Big Lake, on to Sunrise and then the Hon-Dah Lodge at the junction of Rt. 73.  From there, we headed south to White River Junction and Ft. Apache, before hooking back up to Rt.60  and the ride home via the Salt River Canyon and Globe. 

All told, it was a great weekend.  We had no LE issues, no mechanical problems, no one got separated or misplaced along the way, and as usual, the company and journey were all just perfect. 

(Allow time for the video to download)

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