~SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST~
Also known as New Mexico SR126
NMSR126 is a stretch of road, which looks fairly straight on the map. It's 40 miles long and is designed to save 27 miles on the way from Farmington to Santa Fe. And it did that. However, the map doesn't tell all of the story, and you are about to hear (read) the rest of the story.
I entered Rte 126 about 11:00 AM. It is a standard two lane blacktop road like any in any area in any country. But I should have gotten the message from the signs about one mile in. "During inclement weather Rte 126 is impassable 8 miles from this point." Hmmm must be a mountain pass they can't plow in the winter. But this is a dry summer day, and the chance of snow is negligible. So onward and Upward.
Eight miles in the situation changed. No, the weather didn't change, but the highway did. The blacktop disappeared, and the surface became red clay. Still not too bad. It was packed solid and fairly smooth. So onward and upward. I was right about the mountain pass thing. This road had more twists and turns and up and downs than any roller coaster I've ever ridden. And shortly after reaching the red clay another surprise. Something I had not seen in a very long time. My first ONE LANE bridge. And it seems that all one lane bridges are placed in close proximity to a CURVE. Here's the sign, here's the curve, here's the bridge! No way you can see anything coming from the opposite direction. So recommended speed here: No more than 5 MPH. Two is better. I said my first one lane bridge because there were eleven of them in a 22 mile stretch.
It took about two hours to go the 40 miles of Rte 126. Actually that isn't a fair assessment of the driving time. It took about 10 minutes for the first 8 miles of blacktop and about 10 minutes for the 10 miles of fourlane highway at the other end. So in reality it took about an hour and forty minutes to traverse the 22 miles of unpaved road. So that brings the average speed down from 20 MPH for the forty miles to near 13.5 MPH. Should I say here that I didn't pass anyone? Should I add that NO one passed me? This road just wasn't designed for catching anyone. I did, however, meet 17 people coming the other direction. Many of those were out of state and two were campers. So the road is in general use and it is in a National Forest. It wasn't someone's (AAA) cruel joke.
About half way through the unpaved portion the red clay turned to grey dust. This was not as hard packed and not nearly as smooth. I suspect the hubcap I'm missing is lying along the side of this part of the road. This also made it very DUSTY. I'd guess that 10 of the 17 cars going the opposite direction came along during this part of the trip. Now you'll remember I had no A/C since leaving Oregon. This caused me to do some RWC (rapid window closing) to prevent my car from being filled with grey dust. One benefit was that the approaching dust clouds gave some warning of approaching traffic near those one lane bridges.
These were some of the things I encountered ON (in) the road: several dead trees, rocks of all sizes up to about three feet in diameter, one cow (live), and one Hispanic gentleman, who flagged me down for a ride. There is nothing boring about this stretch of road.
Think I'll call AAA and clue them in.