The Mother Road

Story by Jeff Davison// Photos by Jeff Davison
March 19 2024

Riding America’s Main Street through the U.S. Southwest.

I may have been joyriding a little too joyfully. I blame the vast New Mexican desert. But when an unmarked right-hand curve jumped out from behind a big yucca, eyes widened, and knuckles whitened. Worse, I discovered it was a decreasing radius, and I began to have visions of some unplanned off-roading.

It was a welcome relief, therefore, to feel the swift pulsing of the Nissin ABS brakes, and as I came to rest on the far shoulder, the clenching of calipers (and colon) began to ease. So far, I had been delighted by my long-term test ride of the new Suzuki V-Strom 800DE, but at this moment, I was deeply indebted.

Aiming for Tucumcari, I calmed myself by focusing on the tawny bunchgrass as it turned to stunted creosote bushes, and the distant mesas creeping ever closer. In the mellow light of late afternoon, and with a post-brake-test sigh, I rolled up to the Blue Swallow Motel with its pink and blue neon sign, a classic Buick parked in front, and a garage attached to every room. This was one of the best-known and most authentic accommodations on Route 66. And I enjoyed a quiet evening with other travellers, all of us sitting outside in the courtyard under the neon and starlight.

Comfortable Mount

From the beginning of my tour down Route 66, I had found the new Strom to be balanced and comfortable on the highway, as well as rugged and well-geared for off-road. At first, the seat had seemed a little too firm for my liking but, whether it adjusted or I did, I soon found it quite comfortable even on a long day’s ride. And in the pre-ride shakedown, I’d already noticed that the seating from tank to topbox was a little more spacious than on my 2022 DL650. This not only pleased my partner, who had felt crowded on the Wee-Strom with panniers digging into her calves, but it also provided me with additional space on this solo journey to slide comfortably in front of my camping gear.

At the Blue Hole in Santa Rosa the next morning, the sapphire water was so still and clear that I wondered if I could see the bottom — but, of course, 25 metres is a long way down. The hole was deeper than it was wide (18m) and fed by an underground spring that kept the temperature at a constant 16 C.

I watched as three divers in wetsuits…


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