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48th annual Golden Aspen Rally

By Jeannette Ortega

An alpine oasis

Ruidoso, N.M., Sept. 13–17—As the 48th annual Golden Aspen Rally approached, you could feel the anticipation and excitement building. Facebook notifications were coming in from people all over, saying how excited they were to attend. Notifications were from first-timers and others were people who have been attending each year for over 40 years.48th annual Golden Aspen Rally

The Golden Aspen Rally is a five-day event starting on Wednesday and ending on Sunday. The five days are filled with seven different poker runs, a 55,000-square-foot trade show, bike judging and a skilled rider challenge. The poker runs started on Wednesday and ended on Saturday.

Ron and Sherry Plumlee, Central, Texas, Ricky and Morni Reed Sweet Water, Texas, and Steve Ham, Burner, Texas, outside the Texas Pit BBQ in Cloudcroft, New Mexico

Wednesday’s poker run kept the riders in the Ruidoso area giving them the opportunity to visit favorite local spots. The day ended at the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and Casino where they were greeted with a hospitality night sponsored by local businesses. Wednesday’s lucky winners were Martha Holguin, first place and Bruce Sippel, second place.

48th annual Golden Aspen Rally, santa biker

Parade through mid-town Ruidoso

Thursday’s run had riders venture out about 47 miles to the mountain village of Cloudcroft, New Mexico. Here riders visited the Texas Pit BBQ to find the word of the day, then off to the Western Bar where I was waiting with camera in hand to see who I could capture trying to solve the clue, “What is the airplane made of?” Huck and Debbie Walling, Max and Paula Bennet and David Ketchum, a group from Oklahoma and New Mexico, found the clue rather quickly and were more than happy to pose for me. After capturing a few more group shots inside I headed outside and ran into a couple, Bob and Carolyn Anderson from McKinney, Texas, who have been attending the Golden Aspen Rally for 30 years along with their friends Billy and Ann Evans from Bryan, Texas, who have been attending since 1993. After hanging out in Cloudcroft all day, I headed back to the Inn of the Mountain Gods for the awards ceremony. Awards were given for the bike judging and poker runs. Jim Sanchez and Faith Mutchnik took first and second place in the 1300-and-up cruiser category. Thursday’s tour winners were Rusty Brady, first place and Michael Barnard, second place. Eddie Shiopshire was the lucky high-hand winner in Thursday’s poker run.

Jim Sanchez and Faith Mutchnik took first and second place in the 1300-and-up cruiser category

Friday’s poker run took riders on a scenic 74-mile route to Timberon, New Mexico, to visit Riverside Condos, Nonnie’s Restaurant and Timberon Plaza and back to the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and Casino where Leisa Dawson took home first prize and Chad Roth took second, while Kirk was winner of the low hand with Tom McKryie winner of the high hand. We finished off the night at the Flying J Chuckwagon and dinner show, where participants were treated to a cowboy dinner along with wonderful entertainment. The King and Queen of this year’s rally were announced, and for the first time in rally history we had a mother, Tammy Leslie, and son, Steven Smith, win the title. Sitting across from me at dinner I had the honor of meeting 91-years-young World War II veteran Sam Phillips. Mr. Phillips has been attending the Golden Aspen Rally for 40 years straight till 2013 when he missed a few years due to his wife’s illness. Mr. Phillips is a retired fireman who use to lead the parade of motorcycles through midtown Ruidoso for 12 years on his fireman’s edition Harley-Davidson. Accompanying Sam were Paul and Lynn Anderson from Midland, Texas, who have been attending the rally since 1982 along with first-timer Sherry Hill, also from Midland.

Huck and Debbie Walling, Max and Paula Bennet and David Ketchum, a group from Oklahoma and New Mexico. Inside the Western Bar in Cloudcroft pointing at the airplane made out of Tecate cans, the answer to the days clue, “What is the airplane made of?”

Saturday started off with the parade of motorcycles riding through Ruidoso, ending at the Inn of the Mountain Gods. The parade gives participants a chance to show off their bikes and personalities that include decorated motorcycles along with the riders dressing up. We have had a Santa Claus, a Batman, a group from El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico, and a Native American group proudly displaying their culture. Saturday’s poker run took riders to the historical town of Lincoln, New Mexico, made famous by the notorious Billy the Kid then on to Capitan, New Mexico, home of Smokey the Bear followed by the trek back to Ruidoso and Mescalero. Cash prizes of $750 were awarded to winners of the poker run. Also the Reno Dirt Rider Challenge winners were announced along with the bike judging and the big one, the winner of the new Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Deborah Ehettinger was the first-place winner of Saturday’s tour, with Gene K. taking home second place and Joy Missle third. The ecstatic Leticia Sarabia from Odessa, Texas, was the lucky winner of the brand-new Harley-Davidson, which was donated jointly by Barnett’s Harley-Davidson in El Paso and the Golden Aspen Rally.

Steven Smith, 48th annual Golden Aspen Rally King

Tammy Leslie, 48th annual Golden Aspen Rally Queen

Steven Smith, 48th annual Golden Aspen Rally King

Steven Smith, 48th annual Golden Aspen Rally King

Overall this was a great rally with wonderful weather, great participation, and my favorite—all the fabulous people who attend from all over. Every year I meet amazing new people with wonderful stories and get to see old friends from previous years. 

In November 2017, after 30 years of promoting and working on Golden Aspen Rally and 20 years of promoting and working on the AspenCash Rally and Poker Run, Jill and Ron Andrews have decided to retire and issued the following statement on their website:

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