Motorcycling the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway is one of our bucket list rides. It’s an 84 mile loop that encircles Wheeler Peak, the tallest mountain in New Mexico. Our starting point was Red River, where we took Highway 38 and headed west. This route is stunning and runs through the narrow valley of Red River, but if oncoming vehicles are flashing their lights at you, it probably means there are bighorn sheep in the road, so be aware. Highway 38 dead ends at Questa, so we turned onto NM 522 and headed towards Taos.
Rio Grande Gorge Bridge
Our first stop was the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. From NM 522, turn west onto Highway 64. Having lived in New Mexico many years, we always referred to it as the Taos Bridge, but it was originally called the “bridge to nowhere” while it was being built because the funding didn’t exist to continue the road on the other side.
Take a stroll on the pedestrian walkway for views of the gorge and the Rio Grande River, which lies 650 feet below. For the more adventurous, there’s a trail from the rest area which goes along the West Rim, offering fantastic photo opportunities of the bridge itself. This steel deck arch bridge has achieved minor celebrity status; being featured is such films as Wild Hogs, Terminator Salvation, and Natural Born Killers.
We backtracked to NM 522 and continued on into Taos, a funky authentic New Mexican town chocked full of fabulous restaurants. Stopping at La Cueva Café, just about the smallest restaurant we’ve ever set foot in, we were delighted by their traditional Mexican fare. You’ve heard the saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ – well that goes for the La Cueva Café as well. With its humble adobe exteriors, you might think about passing on by, but you would be missing out on real treat.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Leaving Taos behind, our next stop was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial located in Angel Fire off US Highway 64. This memorial was begun by Victor and Jeanne Westphall in honor of their son, David Westphall, who was killed in Vietnam in 1968. While the grounds are serene and beautiful, there is a hushed somber air to the entire place that leaves you contemplating the brevity of life and the sacrifices of so many.
Leaving Angel Fire, we traveled through the Moreno Valley, through Eagle Nest, and throttled up Highway 38. This route twists its way up to Bobcat Pass, which at 9,820 feet elevation, is the highest mountain pass in New Mexico.
From there we made our way back to Red River, having taken all day to traverse only 84 miles, but gaining memories of a lifetime.
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