By Kristi Strother
Bikers have their traditions. It may be to attend a rally each year or visit a special friend each year; short rides, long rides don’t matter, and they all have a special reason attached to them.
Our tradition: each year, around Memorial Day, we gather a few women riders and leave beautiful Colorado for sizzling Arizona.
Bikes packed, flags waving, we head down I-25 out of Denver with our throttles open and the road in front of us. It’s not that we don’t want guys going; in fact, deep down, we miss our men, but it’s ladies only for this trip. And since we celebrate International Female Ride Day in May, it just seems appropriate that a few of us biker chicks head to the desert on a long ride.
We take the same route each year. On the way down, we stay on I-25 past the Springs, past Pueblo, past Trinidad… and then we hit Raton Pass. Oh! Raton Pass. We all get a bit giddy as we start the climb. The Pass is only about 10 miles long, but it provides us the chance to open them up and race through the swooping curves. Reaching 7,834 feet, we often miss the welcome to New Mexico sign. It may seem a shame not to slow down to appreciate the National Historic Landmark and all its beauty, but there has never been a year where each of us isn’t smiling ear to ear after racing Raton.
Russell’s Truck Stop on the other side of Raton is the perfect place to fuel up and have some fun: kiss Elvis, take a selfie with Marilyn Monroe, or even get playful with the deer statues; traditions don’t have to be serious or involve bikes!
Now on to Albuquerque. But wait before we hit the gale force winds of the New Mexico highway (you know the wind storms, where you clutch your grips tight, squeeze the tank with your thighs and pray your glasses don’t blow off )…we always stop for ice cream. The DQ in Las Vegas, NM, never lets us down. Bikers and ice cream, they go together.
Hitting Albuquerque feels good. An accomplishment, 425+ miles. And a new road: I-40
Although the timeline is different in different areas, I-40 once was the historic Route 66. The famous “Get Your Kicks on Route 66” road can still be traveled at various spots along our route. We like to stop in Grants, New Mexico, to ride under the Route 66 neon arch. After that, we ride a short 36 miles on Route 66 up to the Continental Divide. If you know your history, it’s the ‘Great Divide’. It separates the watersheds of the Pacific Ocean from those of the Atlantic Ocean. And each year, we make sure to stop in Winslow, Arizona, and stand on the corner, made famous by the Eagles. And yes, “standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona” plays in our heads for hours.
Outside of Winslow, we head south on Highway 87. Pretty lonely for miles, but then the beauty of Coconino National Forest surrounds us on all sides. Breathtaking.
As the sun sets, we merge with Highway 260, an incredible biker road full of tight corners lined with towering pine trees. We fall into unison, swishing down the mountain, radios blaring, flags flapping, pipes growling. Somewhere around Payson, we connect back to Highway 87 and make our final push towards Phoenix.
Hot, tired, but always grateful.
We spend a few days in Phoenix and surrounding areas, visiting good friends, laughing, and resting up for the adventure home to our beloved Colorado. Our tradition may not be for everyone, but for a few wind-sisters, it is full of adventure, shenanigans, stunning scenery, friendship, and countless tributes to our brave men and women in the military. We remember them; we are forever grateful that we have the freedom to ride every year because of their sacrifice.
It is a tradition we hope to continue for many years to come.