Dirt Biking in Elephant Butte

Bad news first? ATVs (non-licensed vehicles) are not allowed to play in the huge near-abandoned sand pit known as Elephant Butte Lake State Park.

The next-to-the-last picture in the series above might give you an idea of how dry the driest state in the union, New Mexico, is. With 3% of the lake’s capacity, more than 97% of this state park is sandy desert. Way more, since there was a fair amount of sandy beach and rocky hillsides even when the lake was a lake. So, the good news is if you show up with a street legal dirtbike, you have miles and miles of sandy, packed gravel, and rocky trails to ride with pretty much no one else in the park to bother. The state still, apparently, desperately wants to pretend this lake is coming back someday, so some of the “roads” are regularly graded. In fact, for most of the days we’ve been camped here there are more park employees, counting campground hosts, than there are park visitors and campers. Often, considerably more. For the most part, New Mexico is a red-state, so management skills are pretty low on the list of state competencies; along with education, poverty, average income, child well-being, and a variety of quality of life measures. From an out-state dirt biker’s perspective, not much of that has a negative effect on riding in the state. (However, like most red states there are an excess of traffic cops in most cities, so watch your speed and obey signage carefully. New Mexico drivers are notoriously careless and reckless, another thing to be aware of.)

2013-12-28 Elephant Butte (15)The other cool thing about the lake being water-free is that you can ride pretty much around the whole thing, skipping from one abandoned campsite or boat launch area to the next by interconnected trails. We are talking miles and, possibly, hundreds of miles of trails. I burned up a whole tank (3 gallons) of fuel and did 160 miles totally off-road yesterday, including playing hill climber for almost an hour in a rocky area near one of the world’s most pointless dams. (Look way up at the top of the picture at left and you can see the outline of the world’s coolest dual-purpose motorcycle.)

Sunday is supposed to be cool (45oF) and windy, so I will probably spend the day cleaning the bike, wrestling with my VW’s electronic mess, and sucking up Aleve tablets until my joints quit aching. Tomorrow, it will be near 60oF and I’m gonna see if I can screw up some old man bones.

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