Run ’21: Sleepless in Raton

March 17th, 2022 by Michael Thomas

It’s pitch black in downtown Raton, save the psychedelic glow of the traffic lights and the soft golden orbs that line the streets like I’m in a Charles Dickens novel. 

The concrete is cold and cracked with history; the echoing of my steps is lost to the backdrop of music-driven cheers from the culdesac behind me and the broken-bottle-jeers from the empty lot up ahead. The stage area is settin’ ’em up; the campsite is puttin’ ’em down. 

Me? I was looking at choppers in the dark, hiding from the moonlight under black trees, waiting for my earbuds to charge in my Indian Chieftain’s saddlebag so I could listen to wifi-waterfall sounds when it was finally time to get some sleep–this was Run to Raton, New Mexico 2021, after all. My first bike rally since the party-poopin’ hit–less pandemic, more Panhead, nah mean? 

 

 

The homie sparks another, the crowds rev their engines, and the night lights come alive to pull me towards the party… 

 

 

We’d started in Taos the morning before. I was passing through from Texas to the Rockies and just happened upon some homies in Taos as they were on their way to one of Nothern New Mexico’s best-kept secrets–the Run to Raton Motorcycle Rally, hosted by JP Rodman, of Raton’s own JP Rodman’s Paint, Works. 

The first eight or so of us met in Taos Canyon, off 64, where the Enchanted Circle begins by way of South Taos. 

In addition to yours truly, Star-Journalist for the RideNow Zine, we were zappers from Magical Tattoo in Taos and Black Rose in Tuscan, fierce female wrenchers and Jessi Combs Foundation alumni, pro-musicians, hot-air balloon-pilots, and the co-runner of Half Moon Harvesters. It was a strong group of rad-road rippers from the get; some dude named Connor was there too. 

The first stop was Madam’s in Eagle’s Nest. 

 

 

We got to know each other over a breakfast of barley and bud with a chaser of ample caffeination. By the time we hit the bricks, we saw things from one another’s perspective: 

 

 

And then we saw the walls of Cimarron Canyon as we ripped and roared through the July river breeze, staggered and haggard, to Cold Beer, New Mexico–a town named after a bar named after the only thing they serve. Our group doubled in size and tripled in legacy as another batch of custom bike builders and properties of places like Ritual Tattoo in Denver threw there custom chops into our mix. 

We roasted the last stretch to Raton, set up camp in an empty lot of dry dirt and dryer grass, ate tacos, and stalked the rally for the coolest-looking bike while the sun got ready to set. 

This brass-boasting Panhead looked the cleanest to me:

 

 

We peeped the proj bikes and took in the tunes, breaking off two at a time to check out JP Rodman’s shop to buy a few shirts, and snap these picks of the chopper-chariots he could’ve custom-built for the Miser Brothers. 

 

 

Later that night lights of downtown Raton lead me to my trusty earbuds, where the waterfall sounds put me down despite the jeers and cheers of myriad moto-maniacs that lasted long into the following afternoon–here’s to the best of the Southwest; keep them engines howlin’.

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