Day 16  
June 20th, 2006                                             
Bloomfield, New Mexico   


The campground was quiet as I folded my tent and sleeping gear, and loaded the 1300.  No clouds were in the sky, and the blue air looked almost painted.  I'll be crossing the mountains today, leaving the desert, and on the Great Plains by days end.

This will be my first ride across the North New Mexico Mountains, my previous ride across New Mexico was much further south.

The locker/rest room was still playing 60s music this morning.  I listened to "Unchained Melody" while I brushed my teeth.

While running yesterday, I discovered the local farm lane emptied out on U.S. 64, east of town.  Thus, I was relieved I would not have to ride back into the city to pick it up.

I love the first few miles in the morning.  The anticipation of the miles ahead, thoughts of discovering something unknown, the prospect of meeting someone fascinating, or the feelings of just being on 2 wheels, and enjoying the ride in some place new and strange.  I might even get in some good leaning today.

It was a cool 48 degrees in the New Mexico high country, but the temp was warming quickly.  I passed 2 RVs on the lonely mountain bound road.  "What are they doin out so early?"  The highway was mostly empty, except the occasional oil workers in large pick ups.  Most of them had 3-4 occupants on their way to the rigs, which seemed to be plentiful out here.
​These teetering rocks were on U.S. 64 East
There is something about the desert that doesn't like man.  It can make far away mountains seem close, make shrubs look inviting, and makes his homes and other constructions look feeble. 
I decided to stop and take a walk out into the shrubs, before leaving it for good on my ride east.  I took the ST to the side, sit the stand and took my helmet off.  The desert is a quiet place.  I yelled out- HEY! And the desert absorbed it without notice.  No one for miles.  The sand was loose under my boots.  A lizard of some kind startled me when he slipped off a rock took off.  Five minutes later I said, "I better get going."  I fired the Honda up and returned to the road.

Alpine trees and Evergreens were beginning to replace the mesas and rock formations, and on this quiet morning the ST 1300 just purred along the road.  The bike was running perfectly, and when called upon to lean, responded with competence and willingness.  

The road went in the Carson National Forest and I quickly saw 2 deer, but they were a safe distance away.  At 70 mph the Honda, seemed to be walking.

The highway twisted around the hills and the riding was good.  "What a great ride this is, glad I decided to come here."

I closed down on a mini van and it was then I noticed in the reflection, my right PIAA was out.  Finally dying 6000 miles after his partner on the left.  "I can't do anything about it now,  I'll make it home."  It still bothered me it was gone.  I kept the remaining light on, thinking one is better then none.

U.S. 64 cut across an Apache Reservation just west of the Continental Divide but I don't remember much about it.   As is my custom I documented my crossing of the Divide with a picture.   The sign on the marker read the elevation was 7,000 plus feet, but it didn't look like it.  It appeared nothing more than a few hills and a pasture. 
​The Continental Divide- U.S. 64 in New Mexico
At the crossroads of U.S. 64 and 84 I found an old fashioned Chevron station to top off the tank.  Not a con store, but a "gas station" complete with 2 bays.  The odd thing about this place, it had the most modern pumps I'd ever used.  Big, bright buttons,  plush Color LCD screen with touch pad.  Smooth and quiet, with color number readouts.  All that but no place to eat peanut butter and jelly, so I went down to a con store to take my break.
I had just put down 100 pleasant miles and was hungry.  I noticed several bicyclists going by on 84 as I sat on the curb eating.  A few minutes later a State Trooper on a RT-P came in.  He was from Colorado and escorting the Ride the Rockies bicycle tour.  This was my second encounter with the rally on a tour.  

The trooper was a young single guy who used vacation time to work the rally every year.

"Look I know why ya take this duty every year, extra money, good riding, and all those young, fit ladies in the rally are easy prey for a guy in uniform riding a RT.  What's NOT to like?"

"Well sir, you got it figured out"

"Man, I was in the fire department 26 years, can't tell me I dunno what's goin on."

I told him, "I gotta a RT at home, what a great bike, but I was just in the mood to ride the Honda this tour."

"Where ya off to today?"

"Amarillo, then home in a couple of days"

"I'll be retired ONEDAY"

"Wirh duty like this, I wouldn't rush it"

We reminded each other to ride safe and returned to the road.

U.S. 64 turned south on 84 for a few miles out of Chama.  Traffic increased because this is the main northern route from Santa Fe to Colorado.

After 15 miles, the route broke east again, and the riding was good.  The mountains grew more numerous as I made my way to Taos.  Before I knew it was leaning hard over a series of long sweeping curves.  Nice. 
​All morning I worked my way through the Southern Rockies
I was treated to several nice views and stopped for pictures.  This is why I love doing what I do.  Nothing like being on a long ride in beautiful country.  I was starting to see lakes and other water bodies again.  A sure sign the desert was behind me for good.

The highway cut across the mountains and dropped down a long valley to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.  More than a few folks were gathered in the turnout, I decided to pull in and find out what all the excitement was about.  
​The Rio Grande Gorge
Most were just taking pictures of the gorge that looked a thousand feet down in some places.  It was nice.  I saw a homeless guy sitting on the east side and rode over to him.  He was dirty, with few teeth.  A poster child for the lifestyle.  I firmly believe if anybody is homeless in this country, it is by CHOICE.

"what's goin on?"

"nothing just hanging out"

"so how long ya been here?"

"couple of days, staying at the rest area over there," as he pointed to a clump of buildings on the west side.

"so where ya goin?"

"Colorado, got a gathering there"

"What the hell? What kind of convention do a bunch homeless guys have?  What do ya'll do sit around watch slide shows of cities with the best park benches?"

"No we just hang out"  I can see them walking around with those stick on name tags I use to have to wear when the fire department sent me to some kind of out of town school or conference.  I hated those things.  "Hello my name is Boxcar Willie, I ain't had a job in 20 years."
​He was on his way to a "gathering" in Colorado
I looked over to his shopping cart full of old clothes and other junk.  He had a small dog tied to it lying in the shade.  All the humans he could hook up with, he finds a hobo.  I wanted to tell that joker, "untie the dog and give him a chance to better himself.  He might find a good home in Taos, if you give him a chance."

My bread box was full, and I still had a half loaf of bread in my bag.  I'd be home in a few days and didn't need it.  So I opened the bag, took it out, and tossed it to him.  "Here ya go bro."  "Thanks man."  I did my part for compassionate conservatism, and got back on the road for Taos.

​I passed these mountains a few miles west of Taos.
Taos, New Mexico is a mixture of old and new.  The downtown district was stucco type buildings with wavy roof lines.  Typical southwestern motif.  Tourists clogged the streets and I had to be watchful working my way through, it was more than likely a absent minded tourist could step out without checking up.

It was hot now, and I pulled to a bank parking lot to open the vents and go to summer gloves.  Getting through the town was a 15 minute ordeal, more than I wanted, but it was interesting.

I broke free out the south end on SR 518, another great road through the mountains and Santa Fe National Forest.  I wondered just how much land the federal government owned out west.  National parks and forests, missile ranges, army bases, and wildlife refugee camps?  Thirty percent?  That would be my guess.

SR 518 clings to side of several mountains and the leaning was good.  Long drop offs  on my right were frequent.  Traffic was not a problem, and the riding was FUN.  The road slanted and curved as I went up and over the last areas of the Rocky Mountains, and when I crested I could see the flats of the Southwest. 
​SR 518-down out of the mountains, to the Plains.  Good

A long downhill with a series of S turns were nice, but I kept my speed and lean angles down, because dust and gravel were common.  I stopped at one of the turnouts to take some video, and to look around.  The skies were partly cloudy, and the air was getting much warmer.   SR 518 was one of the best roads of the tour.

Down I came into Las Vegas, the city claimed to be the original.  The place was busy, and it was past my lunch window, so I took the easy way-A couple of cheap hamburgers at a McDonalds.  I found a booth and looked over the video that I had captured over the last 300 miles or so. 

I was sad not to be in a local place.  Nobody wants to chat in a McDonalds, everybody in a hurry.  I made phone calls, and spent 15 minutes with Debbie.  "Yeah baby, I'm on the way home should be there Saturday.  Amarillo tonight, somewhere in Arkansas the next, home by Saturday afternoon."  I was putting notes in when my phone buzzed.  I didn't recognize the number.

"Hey Guy what's goin on?"

It was Ruby Jo Carver, a high school classmate and dear friend.  "Not much baby, whats up?"

"I was callin to let ya know we need to set a date on a meeting for the class reunion we talked about."

"I dunno baby, just pick one, I'll be there"

"How bout June 27?"

"That'll work, put me down"

"So what ya been doin?"

"baby I'm on day 16 of a 18 day cross country ride.  In fact I'm in New Mexico as we speak.  You just happened to catch me eating lunch."

The last few years I've made it a point to connect with old friends.  I'm glad to say I speak frequently with old high school friends, guys from my pickle plant days and  coaching days, and I still go by the fire stations often to catch up on the gossip.  I have many new friends from Long Riding, but I have not forgotten the old.  

I left McDonalds, and shot over to a Chevron station for gas.  The 13 still had half a tank, but I was prepping for the long ride to I-40 and by looking at the map, a whole lot of nothing between here and there.

Almost an hour later I was back on the road.  SR 104 was detoured through the city and I lost it.  The detour sign said to get on I-25 North.  I did, but missed the sign on what to do next.  "This can't be right, I need to be going south NOT north."  In this part of the country the next exit can be a long way.  "I better take the next exit and check, because once away from the city I guarantee the next one is 30 miles."

I went back south and had indeed missed the detour sign.  The exit was under construction and not well marked.  I picked up SR 104, settled my butt on the seat, and cranked up the 1300 for the 100 mile plus run to Tucumcari and I-40.

The temps soared as the last vestiges of the desert did NOT want to let me go.  It was 102 degrees.  The route took a southeast tack, and not much to see.  The road was empty, a car came at me only every once in a while.  Over the miles the 1300 steadily eased up the speedo.  Soon I was at 80 and had momentum.  

When I arrive in Amarillo, I know home is not far away, about 1000 miles.  My plan is to break it up into 2 days- 600 and 400.  I was last in the city in 2002 and came home through Louisiana and Mississippi.  This tour it will be Oklahoma.  I'm going to spend tomorrow crossing south Oklahoma on back roads, spending the night somewhere in the Ft. Smith area.

But for now I have to deal with New Mexico.

At 90 mph the miles went by fast, but that still wasn't good enough.  I eased the screen up to block the wind from my chest, and stuck the Honda on 110 mph.  In this vast open land, it seemed like a reasonable speed.  "Now I'm gettin somewhere."  The lines on the road flew under me, and utility poles, spaced a quarter mile apart, flashed by.  Not a thing was out here, just me and this fine motorcycle.  This is where the ST has the edge on his stable mate (the RT).  At 110 the Honda is barely breathing hard.  Smooth, and sedate, with plenty of power still on tap.  At this speed the RT feels "busy."  Even though it too can run there all day.

I socked the last 20 miles in just a few minutes only backing down when the signs for Tucumcari appeared.  
The area of the city I entered was hot, lonely, and desperate looking.  Old residential streets were cooking in the hot sun, although I could see plenty of evidence of people, I failed to see any.  Not a thing was moving in the super heated air.  The fan on the 1300 kicked on and I could feel the heat on my legs. 
​Not much was going on in Tucumcari
At last a con store came into view and I went in for a break before starting I-40.  I pulled a Mountain Dew out of the cooler, and took a seat at a booth under a spinning ceiling fan.  I was putting in notes when a man walked up and scared me.   He was about 40 with a soft, kindly face.  He had on bull leather boots and a Stetson hat. 

"Writing a book?"  I jumped almost spilling my drink. 

"Sorry to scare you, I thought you saw me walk up.  "You into computers?"

"This handheld is my life, I'm on a cross country ride, and I use it as my notebook."

"Looking for the answers of life?"

"Not really, I have them- a good road to ride, a fine motorcycle, a few dollars in my pocket, no place to go, and no time I gotta be there."

He sat down across from me.  "I'm driving that pick up over there."  A red Ford with a camper shell on top.  "I'm into the old west and come up this way often."  He was a loan officer in a bank, but said he should've been a history professor.   He liked driving the area, and reliving history.

"I'd like to do what you're doing but don't have the nerve to sell out and hit the road."

If I've heard that once, been a thousand times.

"Well hang in there," in my best Bronson voice.  "I gotta get goin the road is callin me."

"I understand, nice talking to you."

Now I was on I-40 riding east, just a matter of saddle time and I'm in Amarillo.  My plan is eat supper at the Big Texan Steakhouse.  I'd been thinking about it all day.

Traffic was moving speed limit plus 10 so I fell in line and got comfortable.  It was only 117 miles to Amarillo.
I crossed into Texas and dark clouds were on the horizon.  Thick and high.  "A big storm ahead."  There was nothing I could do, not a thing between here and Amarillo, besides, I wanted the Big Texan tonight.

South of me the sky looked really menacing, and I was glad to be going east.  The wind from the south really picked up and blew against me hard.  I countered lean the Honda at crazy angles to remain straight.  The land here is forever flat, no wind breaks of any kind.  

Thankfully I saw no lightening flashes, but I don't know what I could have done if I had.  

It started to rain and just so happened I was near an exit.  I took it and sought refuge in a abandoned con store.   I pulled under the old canopy and a few minutes later the bottom fell out.  I sat on the concrete island while the rain came down, and I really wasn't bothered by it.  It cooled things over 30 degrees.  A nice cooling wind blew over me, proceeding the rain about to close in.  How refreshing it was.  The air smelled good again, as I listened to the drops coming off the cover.  I took out the Axim and made a few notes.   What a nice summer rain it was.  Reminded me of home, and I'm sure the farmers in the area loved it.   It was good to be out of the desert.
​Taking shelter-old con store I-40 East near Amarillo Texas.
When the rain slackened I got back on the road.  I was only 25 miles from the city, and was ready to call it a day.  Steam came off the road as I got back on the interstate.  The rain was almost gone, and the skies looked better ahead. 

I saw the carhenge thing when I came through the west side of the city.  A number of cars were parked checking it out.  Since I could see it from the road, I just kept going.

In the old days Amarillo was one of the key places on Route 66.  The city is the heart of the panhandle.  Motels, and cafes crowd the banks of I-40.  

I took the exit for the Motel 6 and checked into a upstairs unit.  I parked next to a pick up towing a black GL 1800.  In the room I returned messages and caught up on the news.  I closed out the day with 521 miles.

After showering I went downstairs and asked the clerk.  "How far is the BIg Texan?"  "About 3 miles that way."  I jumped back on the ST in jeans, boots and coat only.  

The Big Texan is a HUGE steakhouse.  I asked for a high top table in the bar area and a friendly young lady escorted me over.  I sat my helmet and coat next to me and watched the goings on.  The place had a carnival atmosphere.  A shooting gallery, slot machines, gift shop, and poker room.  But all I really wanted was to see some guy go for the 72 oz steak.

I called over to my waitress, an attractive young lady with green eyes, and bouncy hair.  Her name was Samantha.  "Hey baby, let me know if some joker goes for the 72 oz, I wanna see it done.  I even have my videocam."

"ok, I'll be right back, lemme get this order in."

"What are you havin hun?"  She asked in a sweet Texas drawl.  Texans definitely sound southern but with a different infliction.  " Sweetie I'm back in the south after 2 weeks, so bring me a New York strip."  I don't eat much meat, but I normally finish a tour with a steak.  Because I was in the Big Texan I was going to jump the gun a day early.  I ordered the smallest, and it was still over 15 oz.  I wasn't sure I was going to be able to eat it all.  

After she turned my order in she came back to quiz me.  "So you've had a good trip?"  

"yeah been great so far, had some crappy weather in Montana and the Cascades, but that's part of it."

"what's the most interesting thing you've seen?"

" 3 burned up Yankees in Needles, California," and then explained the sighting to her.

"yeah, well you know how they can be sometimes"

"yeah we have a phrase in the fire department for such things-Free Entertainment."

"Where ya gonna be tomorrow?"

"Is it Sam or Samantha?"

"Sam is fine."

Well Sam, somewhere in Arkansas, and home after that."

I had finished eating and was checking pictures in the camera when a lady about my age walked over.  I think she was on her way to the rest room while her husband was in the gift shop.  Today must be a day when I just looked inviting, I don't think I ever had more people wanting to chat.

"Where ya riding from?  I noticed your helmet and coat.  MY husband and I both ride BMWs."  Why I always bring it in with me.

"today or the trip so far?"


"Almost home after a long tour to California by way of Montana, and Washington.  Where y'all from?"


"I was born in Norfolk but I won't tell ya how long ago."

The steak was one of the best of all time.  Good food.  BIG TEXAN STEAK RANCH 

It was dark  by the time I returned to the Motel.  I was stuffed from supper and only wanted to lay down.  My body was not use to so much meat.  It was going to take days to digest the strip.  I couldn't imagine how long 72 oz would take.

The news reported rain was still south of the city, and it was raining in Kansas.  

I finished my notes for the map sleeve and turned the lights off.  I fell asleep with the tv on but clicked it off few hours later.