Street vendors along Old Las Vegas Highway
Having never lived in a place where there was such a thing as a "riding season" it has been somewhat disconcerting to watch and feel the temperature get lower and lower each day here in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Chipping ice off the seat of the bike in the morning to go to work and see actual snow fall around our apartment can make the riders heart sink. Nevertheless, as wise man once said that, "...there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes." (See Tom Bachur's excellent article on winter riding) With that in mind my partner and I set off on a short adventure today to visit Pecos, NM. I had been curious about "The Old Las Vegas Highway/NM 300" which runs from southeastern Santa Fe almost all the way to Pecos.
A typical street scene in Pecos, NM
For sure, it is not a road to burn off chicken strips, but it is an interesting late morning scenic ride through the outskirts of Santa Fe. Although it mostly parallels I-25 it is a much more interesting . It rejoins I-25 at the village of Canoncito if you are just passing through though all you will see is a sharp turn with some bad pavement and a lot of gravel, caution is indicated.
After a few miles on I-25 we took exit 299 heading south on NM-50. It is a pleasant little six mile, mildly curvy ride into the Pecos.
Now, as is my normal practice I had researched on-line our destination of the day. From the website it looked very promising. Lots of pictures of quaint, rural activities and the quote, "Pecos is a an ancient place with modern amenities, a village of small, family-owned lodges, restaurants, shops and guiding services. Pecos is a place of senses for people who value their sense of place." (http://www.pecosnewmexico.com/about.php)
Upon our arrival we were greeted with something completely different. The Pecos we saw was almost a caricature of a declining small town just barely hanging on.
Ruins of the 17th century mission at Pecos National Historic Park.
We rode up and down the few small streets that seem to comprise the town looking for something captivating enough to stop for, there was nothing.
At the east end of town NM 50 ends and NM 223 begins. Since it seemed to head up into the mountains there was the promise of a twisty road and maybe something more exciting. So off we headed.
After pausing to consult the map and consider our next move we decided to continue on with the game of "where-does-this-road-go" and a couple more miles east on NM 223 landed us at the end of the pavement and onto hard pack gravel.
Now I have taken street bikes before where street bikes ought not to go, but on this day I was just not in the mood and was wishing for a a dual sport. So I dutifully and carefully executed a three point turn and we headed back down the hill.
With one more place to visit, the Pecos National Historic Park, we turned south on NM 63 and followed the signs to the Park.
The park documents at least 1200 years of human habitation in the area. There are remains of pithouses going back to the earliest Pueblo dwellers, 17th century farmhouses, and the centerpiece the remains of the first mission built in 1625.
We were going to linger, but since it was already cold and the sky was quickly turning ominous, as it does this time of year we decided to head for home and shelter.
It was just a preliminary excursion, but worthy of more exploration in the future with more promising weather or more appropriate clothing.