IBR 2021 Day 9: Chi…Chimichanga

Pencil Bluff AR – Tuscon AZ
Tuesday Jun 29, 2021
(~1380 miles)

My brief nap in Ouachita Forest ended about a half hour after closing my eyes – the rock bench actually wasn’t very comfortable (go figure) and I would have probably done better on the gravel. At least the air quality was a bit more comfortable with a bit of elevation and the heat of the day having gone.

I felt rested enough to continue riding, so I followed US 270 further west, then turning north on US 71 for maybe 100 miles to rejoin I-40 in Van Buren. A few miles later, I crossed into Oklahoma and just before Salisaw, I pulled into a rest area to get another brief catnap and to ‘freshen up’ using the facilities, spending about a half hour total here. About an hour further down the road, I napped another 20 min at a rest stop shortly before Henryetta.

I fueled up in Okemah before the run into Oklahoma City, where I turned south for a few miles on I-35 and exited in Norman, home of the National Weather Center. I rode through a very spread-out corporate park next to the small airport and arrived around 06:00 at the radar station being used for the daylight-only OK bonus.

NEXRAD doppler RADAR was invented by professors at the University of Oklahoma. The first operational prototype was finished in 1990.

OK bonus - Radar sign with tower

OK bonus

wind turbine farms along I-40 in TX panhandleI restocked my tank bag vittles, then headed back north to continue my loop around OKC, heading west on I-40. Lots of wide open space, wind turbines, and not a lot else for many miles now across the remainder of Oklahoma and into the Texas panhandle. I’m pretty sure I passed a lot of this time chatting with Ken, who was working his way along the Gulf coast somewhere in pursuit of the ORBIT combination.

On the far side of Amarillo, I jogged north to the parallel highway I-40BL, which was undergoing some major paving and shoulder construction. The shoulders were all freshly graded, so they had apparently removed the historical marker that I needed to photograph for the HE bonus.

After confirming I was indeed at the waypoint and matching the rally book photo to the one of the buildings nearby, I called up Lisa Landry. She confirmed the bonus sign had already been reported missing and reminded me to just document my presence there with shots of the building and maybe my GPS showing coordinates. Yes ma’am!

HE bonus with GPS coords shown

HE bonus (GPS coordinates to document missing historical marker)

This plant was the first to produce helium in the Texas Panhandle and from 1929 to 1943, it furnished almost all the world’s supply of the element.

HE bonus - building with missing historical marker

HE bonus

I was running about 9 minutes ahead of my ‘Waffle House’ schedule, so far so good. I fueled up at a Loves off the next I-40 exit, then continued west. The landscape was changing over a bit now, as I entered New Mexico and began spotting the scenic mesas and escarpments near Tucumcari.

The weather was also changing, becoming quite cool and cloudy. Soon, it began to rain fairly steadily, which was the last thing I had been thinking about, considering I was in the desert!. Cold and wet riding in New Mexico just doesn’t fit the brochures! I got everything zipped up, and my gloves were getting soaked, but I just didn’t want to take time to stop and address it, thinking I would wait to get to the bonus. My schedule was still pretty tight to get to the “Chimichanga” bonus down in Tucson with daylight in the sky.

I was chatting on the phone and distracted when I missed my exit on US 285, but luckily found a convenient turnaround rather than ride 10 miles to the next exit. Yikes, focus! 285 was a nice fast road that brought me into a lighter rain pattern around Santa Fe.

I’d never been to this city before, and it seemed quite a nice place to explore, despite the slow speed limits and many stop signs. A hilly city, with fairly uniform stucco housing – classic southwest. Traffic wasn’t too bad, maybe due to the “horrible” weather? My new pinlock face shield insert wasn’t fully sealed (I’d discovered back in Michigan but had no time to fix it), and was fogging up something fierce at slow speed, forcing me to keep the visor open a tad, which of course lets more water in. Ack, the joys of riding in the rain!

I wound my way into the downtown area, following Google, and pulled over by a parking garage entrance on San Francisco Street, a busy thoroughfare with lots of shops and restaurants. I switched off the bike in gear due to the slight slope, and left it with flashers on, walking under a sidewalk portico to reach the small restaurant that served as the XMAS bonus.

Tia Sophia’s claims to have coined the term Breakfast Burrito and the use of the word “Christmas” to describe dishes served with both red and green chile.

XMAS bonus - front of Tia Sophias

XMAS bonus

Oh how I would have loved to stop in for a bite! I have yet to try an authentic southwestern style breakfast served with red or green chiles. I’ve already decided Santa Fe is on my list of destination cities to visit again sometime. My hands had been getting chilly while riding, so after getting the shot, I sheltered under that portico while trying to pull my dry insulated gloves on over my wet hands – a frustrating exercise! I managed to get most of my fingers in the correct slots, and pulled my rain mitts on as well.

The way south out of town went a bit quicker, as my devices took me more directly out via St Francis Drive, a wide divided boulevard. I picked up I-25 for a quick and easy ride south as the precipitation began to abate.

I took that ‘left turn at Albuquerque‘ that Bugs was always missing, heading east on I-40 for a few miles, then exited on Eubank Boulevard. In a few blocks I turned into the parking lot of the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History, on the property of Kirtland Air Force Base, for the TRINITY bonus.

We cannot get you onto the actual Trinity Test Site during the rally. At the National Museum of Nuclear Science you can view a replica of the Trinity test tower and device.

TRINITY bonus - tower replica


I pulled in for a fuel stop en route back to the highway to refill my tanks and water jug. The new RTIC jug and Yeti mount were absolutely working a treat during this rally. It was so much more convenient to remove and replace the jug on the bike, that it no longer seemed such a chore when I had to fill it. Less mental energy wasted. The only problem was that it insulated so well that I kept running through all the water sooner than I was used to with the Coleman jug, in which the ice melted away by the end of each day. The ice in the RTIC wasn’t melting as quickly, just taking up space in the container. It took me a while to start dialing in the amount of ice, about 1/3 full (or slightly less), to keep the water cold for the day, while maximizing usable hydration volume.

I headed back over to I-25 and began the long trek to southern New Mexico on wide-open interstate. I ran scenarios on my GPSes to figure out what I could manage to get done today. I was running on schedule with my ETAs, but not making up any time. So if I stuck to the plan, I’d probably arrive in Tuscon after daylight, around 23:00. That meant tacking on an extra hour to my rest bonus in order to maximize the points. Then I’d have plenty of daylight to get the bonus, but would also mean crossing the Sonoran desert between Phoenix and LA in the sun’s heat.

I had already dropped the big time-limited SMOKEY bonus in Capitan from my original route, during my Waffle House session yesterday. Now I realized I’d need to also drop the sizeable NM bonus as well. That was a disappointing decision to make, because NM  wasn’t too far off the route, and I really wanted to visit the Genesis sculpture because it was in the rally poster and just looked cool. I hemmed and hawed all the way to the exit in Truth or Consequences, but stuck to my guns and continued straight ahead on the interstate. All my focus now had to be on getting to CHIMI in daylight.

I exited I-25 into the relaxed and quirky town of Hatch NM. This place was apparently home to a very large chile pepper-centric agricultural lifestyle, as there were stores and booth advertising chiles everywhere, with all kinds of odd signs and statues, as well as big bunches of the dried peppers hanging in shaded overhangs out front. I vaguely remembered hearing about this place and their annual chile festival on some travel show. There also must have been at least 100 different oddities qualifying for “Roadside America” attractions in this small town, including a whole bunch of signage sculptures lined up like a bizarre gallery exhibit. I stopped to fuel up, but to my current chagrin, was feeling too focused on my deadline in Tucson to stop for any extra photos.

storms in New Mexico

I followed NM route 26 southwest from Hatch across a very wide scenic plain, framed by tall mountains in multiple directions. I had been out of the cool rainy weather for a while now, but the skies were still active. I could see isolated storm cells dumping rain in the distance here and there.

desert sky with distant storm clouds

I hit the I-10 in Deming and blasted west into Arizona as the temperature climbed steadily to more proper and uncomfortable desert-like temperatures. Finally sailing into Tucson after sunset, I wended my way through some residential streets north of the city center and pulled up to the curb across from the CHIMI bonus location just before 20:00, daylight still showing on the edges of the horizon. Goal accomplished and NIRVANA combo secured!

According to one source, Monica Flin, the founder of the Tucson, Arizona, restaurant El Charro, accidentally dropped a burrito into the deep-fat fryer in 1922. She immediately began to utter a Spanish profanity beginning with “chi..”, but quickly stopped herself and instead exclaimed chimichanga, a Spanish equivalent of “thingamajig”.

IBR 2021 Day 9: Chimichanga

CHIMI bonus (auto-exposure was metered on the neon sign for readability)

El Charro looked like a perfect little spot to enjoy some chimichangas and a margarita or two out on the sidewalk tables on on this warm night. I’ll be back to Santa Fe for sure some day to spend a couple days and this place will be top of my list! Alas, time for some rest now.

I’d budgeted myself two hours for a break, but I really wanted a hotel room to get out of the heat, wash off the accumulated grime and sweat from two days humid riding, and do some more routing for tomorrow. Even though my usual rule is at least three hours stopped for a hotel room, there was no question my body needed a reboot. I’d booked a nearby Comfort Inn earlier in the day and headed directly there now.

El Charro with lighter exposure to show daylight

daylight at CHIMI bonus

daylight at CHIMI bonus

After a quick check-in and refreshing shower, I quickly got to work on tomorrow’s route. I was feeling unsure whether my original route through the northwest would be possible, so I ran an alternate scenario skipping directly from San Fran to Glacier Park by way of Salt Lake City and that seemed viable as a backup plan for keeping the PARKS combo within reach. The key anchor point now was getting to the time-limited MUIR bonus (part of PARKS) in Martinez CA by the time the time window closed at 17:00 tomorrow, and before taking my full rest stop.

By now I’d used up the better part of an hour and I’d really only allowed for two hours at this stop. Based only on a quick glance at tomorrow’s timing, it seemed my plan could handle some extra rest time, so I set my alarm for two hours and hit the sack.

map of day 9 route

that NM bonus was so close to my route! tick tock…

7 comments on IBR 2021 Day 9: Chi…Chimichanga

  1. I’m feeling your stress, decisions to make, second guessing decisions. Loving the read. Gonna make a cage ride out to Phoenix, just may use your stops for places to go while riding cross country. Thanks for the inspiration.

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