Golden Aspen Rally - Riding in Ruidoso
Date: Friday, September 26 @ 10:14:01 CDT
Topic: Rally News
It must have been thirty-some years ago. One evening several friends ended up in their regular hang-out to treat the severe dehydration after the weekly Tae-Kwon-Do class. I was among them and I fondly remember these times for them being simpler times. As in Jeans and plain T-Shirts. Music was still played off vinyl records on turntables.
That particular evening, the innkeeper played an album which soon took me in and fascinated me so much, I just had to ask what it was. Movie soundtrack. “Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid” by Bob Dylan. Most of you may know the title “Knocking On Heaven’s Door”. It’s one of the cuts.
By now, some of you may ask “What in the world…does that have to do with the “Golden Aspen Rally?”
Well, this is how it all started. I thought the music was so great, I HAD to see the movie. By now it is a classic. Sam Peckinpah directed and Kris Kristofferson and James Coburn starred. I became fascinated with the story and over the years, devoured books and articles about the “Lincoln County War”.
Fast forward to 2001 and my wife and I being upset about the price gouging in “Sturgis”. We thought of an alternative trip and I succeeded in convincing her to go to New Mexico to trace “Billy The Kid’s” footsteps. Also, the quest to find a nice place to retire and the fact that Las Cruces was one of the 50 best places in the U.S. to do so, was another reason to pick this destination. That year, base camp was established in Albuquerque and from there, the Harleys and the 81 CBX served as modes of transport to explore the area. The fact that the Mother Road, old Rte 66 is still present in some spots there, was an additional attraction. Ft. Sumner with the old fort, Santa Fe, White Oaks, Las Vegas, Roswell and of course, Lincoln were visited. On the trip back to Albuquerque from Lincoln we were caught in a rainstorm in a town called Ruidoso. Two hours were spent in Schlotzky’s Deli while the bike sat outside under its cover, waiting for St. Peter’s floodgates to close. When it finally happened, I pushed to leave in order to get back during the “dry spell”. The wife, however, having been enthralled by the quick glimpse she caught of the quaint village, never forgave me for rushing her out without being able to check the shops. Also, we never made it to Las Cruces.
Salvation finally came in shape of the 2003 “Golden Aspen Rally” in – of all places – Ruidoso, New Mexico. (Thanks for being patient. It took me a while to get to the subject)This time, we stay in Ruidoso. Turns out, the hotel we picked could not have been in a better location considering the GM dealer was right next door and the fact that the transmission in tow vehicle, the Yukon Denali decided to give up upon arrival out there, just 500 miles before the warranty expired. (Somewhat unusual for GM and their service dealer network, they did an excellent job of fixing the thing and getting it ready by the time we had to go back home. Please allow special thanks here to Cameron Sidwell of Sierra Blanca Motors for doing everything possible to make this happen).
The Motorcycle Rally, I believe, is in its 37th year and has a lot of regular attendees, many of whom have been coming for years. The rally site was nicely located a little outside of town, next to the (horse) race-track in Ruidoso Downs.
Official rally days were Wednesday 9-17 through Sunday 9-21. We arrived on Sunday the 14th and had plenty of time to get familiar with the surroundings before the crowds arrived. This included ample opportunity for my wife to check out all the merchants in town. I was also able to redo some of the photo shots I missed two years ago around my special personal interest, due to a malfunction in the good old Nikon F2. I got George Coe’s ranch, Tunstall’s murder site and San Patricio all located right on Rte 70, and all the important landmarks in Lincoln. Such as the “Courthouse” Billy escaped from after shooting Bell and Ollinger, Tunstall’s store, the Torreon and the empty site where the McSween house, that was burned down during the siege, once stood.
When the rally started on Wednesday, it brought another nice experience for my wife, as she won the bike show in her class (Sportster 883,1000,1100,1200). And as I customized the thing myself with a lot of sweat and bleeding knuckles, it was sort of a reward for me to.
Rewards to be had were plenty. The rally organizers had done an outstanding job, putting together two rides per day for those who wanted to explore the area. One was called a “tour”. It was usually between 120 and 200 miles and included 4 or 5 points you had to stop at to answer a specific question on the ride sheet. The correctly filled out sheet earned you a ticket, which at the end of day was drawn for a $200 first and $100 second prize. The other ride was a “poker run”, between 30 and 80 miles long and the same principle of answering questions at stops. The correctly filled out ride sheet earned you the right to draw five cards back at the rally site, your “poker hand”. Best hand would win $300. Except for Friday, when a local sponsor had boosted the prize to $500.-
The rides were a reward in themselves, however. One trip went from Ruidoso to Capitan and from there to Roswell. This particular leg used Rte 246, which was great. Although a little gusty that day, it was dry and sunny, the surface was nice, with a lot of grip and the road was full of smooth turns and rolling hills with plenty of room and visibility to roll on the throttle and lean the bike over a good deal. Another ride took us down Rte 70 from Ruidoso to Tularosa, almost into Alamogordo, with a temperature rise from 72 to 95 degrees within a distance of 40 miles. The highlight, however, was Friday’s tour to Cloudcroft and the excursion from there to the Sunspot solar observatory on County Rd 6936. One of the best motorcycle roads I have ever been on. I counted 111 turns on 16 miles, some of them 270 degree, 80mph sweepers with a surface as close to perfect as you can get off a race track.
In a nutshell, riding out there was awesome. The rally was extremely well organized. A large, tented area housed a great number of vendors with everything from the usual T-shirt collection to specialty coffee to motorcycle dealers. Maybe because of this being a “Touring” rally, Trikes seemed to be especially popular. Besides a large number of attendees arriving on trikes, there were a total of four manufacturers/dealers of trike conversions present.
As far as rides were concerned, I have to report – sorry, Mark – that the majority of bikes present were Harley Davidson’s. Probably because everybody who lives within 100 -200 miles of Ruidoso and owns a motorcycle comes to the rally. And HDs still represent the largest number of motorcycles above 750cc. The general attitude among the bikers was not narrowly brand oriented, though. This was all about “motorcycling”. It was rather refreshing to see the Harley guys talking to the BMW riders and the Goldwingers chatting with the V-Star and Vulcan pilots.
Saturday had a parade through town and being the first weekend day it also brought the crowds. Unofficial numbers were said to be around 30,000. We don’t particularly like riding in parades, so we took it in from a comfortable spot in the shade on the side of the road. Some interesting sights: A club from Mexico(!), the “Centauros” were lead by a white bike pulling a white chariot with a woman standing in it waving the Mexican flag. The things people do with a motorcycle.
Outside motorcycling, we enjoyed the offerings to satisfy one’s palate. Several great restaurants must be mentioned. The “Pasta Café” with a superb menu selection of classic and Italian cuisine. “Pepper Crusted Tuna”, “Crabcakes” and “Osso Bucco” were divine. Mexican food was very well presented at “Casa Blanca” which advertised it to be ”authentic, except for the water”. The best “Jalapeno Poppers” I ever had, a great “Habanero” strip steak and excellent “Fajitas” not to forget a real good “Marguerita”. The place itself, originally a vacation home, converted to a restaurant with additions over the course of many years, was quite interesting and provided an awesome atmosphere. For the “real guys” there were two steak houses, the “Texas Club” and the “Cowboy Corral” specializing in that good old red meat fare.
We considered the rally a really nice experience and enjoyed the event. We may have to go back. After all, we did not make it to Las Cruces