The star of the story today
is the road. Have you ever just looked at a road. Not to see where it goes,
but to see what it is? I did. In one of the several construction zones
through which I waited for passage, I put the bike up on its stand and
turned to watch the crowd gathering from out of the cars. Most everyone
goes to the side of the road and looks "out there" to see the world they
forgot was on the other side of the window. Instead of following the crowd,
I looked down.
Now, I'll admit the reason I looked down was to make sure my stand was not sinking into the freshly compressed surface, but then as so often I do, I looked again with a quizzical eye at what I have been scrutinizing for 30something days. Road. Blacktop, asphalt, macadam, bitumen, hardpack, hotmix, whatever you call it, it is mostly crushed rock and viscous petroleum ... otherwise known as tar and gravel - which is roofing material! The road surface is the roof of the vehicular domicile. No wonder I feel on top of the world when I travel :)
Imagined conversation: "Mommy, why is that man staring at the road and smiling?" "Come, Junior. Let's go look at the trees and leave the man alone ... motorcycle people are not like us."
Lest we forget the ease the
road brings us in addition to pleasure, I will remind you this epiphany
took place at a construction site. One of the sites was on the Navajo Nation,
where the (temporarily returned to dirt) road passed an enormous round
rock butte. The butte has been dissolving over the last few hundred centuries
... and the ground hereabouts is a fine flaked clay. Clay and rain do not
make good traction. Some bikes are good off road, but my K bike is like
a dainty damsel in the old west, wanting to pick up the petticoats at each
puddle. This Navajo mudslide formerly called Indian Route 12 would have
had more traction if a layer of grease had been put down. It took me nearly
an hour to cover the 7 miles of no pavement. I learned today that ABS does
not engage when the bike is sliding *sideways* ... but somehow I managed
to keep the day vertical.
Go back? Who, me? No way? Besides ... there was this big black cloud spitting at me from behind. Yes, all homage to Neptune - there was finally what we'll count as a rain day. (Now don't write to tell me Neptune isn't the rain god ... he eventually gets the outflow, so that's good enough.) We'll count it as a rain day, but it was more like scattered showers and mist all day. Not enough to dampen my spirits. Considering the drenching that drifted in after I galloped out of Gallup, I still feel like I am riding with my head above the clouds, so to speak.
Speaking of spirits, a spirit
guide appeared for me today. On the long straight of US666 (yes, New Mexico
still has it signed) approaching Shiprock, I was staring at the bindu point
of nothing in the great distance. A figure streaked across the road fast
and low. It was a "traveling dog" in Indian lore - a coyote. Thinking it
has disappeared into the bush, I casually glanced where it had gone as
I passed - but it had stopped, turned, and watched me. As soon as we locked
eyes, it was gone. I'm sure I received a message, but what I don't know.
In an obscure way the roadside signs to preserve the 'pride of native america' reminded me of a boss I had (from Texas, of Scandinavian stock) who railed at ethnocentrism. Whenever asked for his 'race' he always checked Native American, saying he was born in this country - and so were 7 generations of his family. How MANY generations are necessary to be native? he would ask. Didn't the Indians come from somewhere else too? If the first humans came from Africa, aren't ALL Americans 'african americans'? The man was, at least, amusing.
The contrasts of the southwest
are astounding. In one day I went from massive smooth red rock formations
of the Navajo reservation, to open flat prairie plain near Shiprock, to
verdant river valley near Cortez, to extreme mountain terrain near Telluride.
This is a day I would really like to share, even with the rain. Rarely
are reservation roads recommendable for riding experiences, but there is
one hidden jewel in the northwest corner or New Mexico. Route 134 from
Indian 12 to Sheep Springs transects the Chuska Mountains in the manner
I have come here to find. Try it on your way to Canyon de Chelly.
But the road I really want to sing of praises is the most scenic hundred miles in one of the most scenic states. There are not many areas of Colorado I haven't seen ... and having been a tour guide for Edelweiss in Colorado last year, I "had to" (awww :) ride most of the common destination routes - Rocky Mountain Park, Aspen, Gunnison, etc. They are good ... but this is great. Routes 145 and 62 from Cortez to Ridgeway have it all - from ridge road cut in the rock above the rushing river, to pine forest so dense the trees look eager for snow, to alpine meadow with beaver bungalows in the ponds, to the most incredible pointed peaks swirling in their mists almost close enough to touch, to literally "gorgeous" massive multi-canyon vistas, to the open mesas of the incomparable Uncompahgre Plateau ... oh yeah, and throw in Telluride for a tickle. In my opinion there is no better than the ride over Lizard Head Pass.
Ah, Colorado, where the yuppies won't admit they are. It has been weeks since I saw even a "coffee shop" instead of a cafe. Here each small town boasts 'gourmet coffee, espresso, and bakery'. Yup. Works for me :)
FuelPlus 320 miles, 6:37 hours engine, 49 mph average
Gallup I40 NM118 Indian12 NM134 US666 US160 CO145 CO62 US550 Montrose
Sam Lepore, San Francisco