Sunday, November 5, 2017

From Flatstan to Canyons..

My time in New Mexico was partly  a reminder of the way life was 40 years ago. Folks are laid back, doing their own thing, and quite content to take each day as it comes.  The country side is spectacular and there is a very strong sense that historical figures are around each bend.  I caught the best of their autumn season, and the blue skies were very enticing.

I was having some difficulty navigating south out of Pilar, in that on one hand I wanted to avoid the interstate and get a feel for the easter portion of New Mexico.  I ended up going through Santa Fe and Albuquerque.  I came within inches of being sideswiped in Albuquerque traffic, and I opted to head away from the freeway and the mad rush as soon as possible.   I managed to find a road which headed west, and apparently followed the historic track that the early Spaniards and Mexicans used when they travelled northward.  Sometimes maps don't seem to help, unless one is anchored....

    I went into town one day and tried to enter the Taos Peublo. There was a funeral taking place, and so the pueblo as close to the public for the day.  As it happens, I was looking for a sticker and wandered into a shop.  The owner was a young man whose Dad was a full-blooded  native from the Peublo. This young mans' mom had come from the big city, so he had a good grounding in two distinct cultures.  He had also done two tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, so he had a very clear idea of how the world works.  We talked about the problem of the elders insisting on strictly an oral culture and transmission of that culture through secret ceremonies, versus the need to document the history before cultural assimilation destroys those histories.  While it sounded like the Peublo elders and that particular tribe had its act together, I recognized the issues from what I have seen working in Western Canada.  The retention of the oral language and history is a tremendous challenge for any group faced with the overwhelming influence of technology and the English media upon the young people.

I had to leave the interesting folks of Taos behind and aim for Phoenix, where I had made arrangements for an oil change and a new set of tires.  I had some work done on Blondy (you do remember Blondy, don't you) when I returned from Cuba and Mexico in 2013.  Seems like a lifetime ago... After fighting the traffic through Albuquerque and nearly getting sideswiped, I found an easier, safer way to head west to Phoenix.  The plan was to take Highway West 60 over the New Mexico and   Arizona prairies, and then drop into Phoenix from the North.

I fuelled at a small village called Magdalena, and had a good chew the fat with a good old boy about the best rifle, whether it be a Ross or a .303.  I was surprised that he was familiar with the British Enfield .303. but I was not about to argue with him.

The New Mexican plains began to spill out before me, and the vista was overwhelming.  In the middle of a huge flat area, I ran across what is known as the the VLA, or the "Very Large Array."  Apparently the 27 Giant dishes are spread over an enormous area on the floor of the ancient sea bed on which I was riding.  The VLA has served science and the American space program very well, with a significant number of discoveries in deep space.   

This ancient sea bed seemed to go on forever, and soon it was time to find some camping space, as I was a long way from Phoenix.  Out of what seemed nowhere, a community of windmills and a two cafes appeared.  The PIE TOWN label gave it away for me.  I knew that I was somewhere that I should know and appreciate.  I had not clued into the significance of Pie Town, even after I had chatted up the nice lady who owned the Gathering Place.  When I walked out of the cafe, two fellows were videoing the cafe, my bike, and the surrounding area.  I chatted with them and was reminded that PIE TOWN is on the trans Continental trail. Ah hah...the lights went on and I had a better idea of what I was up to, finally.
I enquired about camping space around "town", and I was asked if I would prefer to stay in a house, under a roof...It didn't take me 5 nanoseconds to answer that question.  I was directed down the road to the "Toaster House"..(You can't miss it, I was assured).

Before I headed for the "Toaster House", I had to get some shots of the windmill farm that introduced me to Pie Town.  Some enterprising soul. has gathered all of the broken down and dated windmills from the surrounding area, and placed them on his property near the road.  I hadn't seen so many windmills since outback Australia.

I found the Toaster House and was greeted by an enthusiastic young lady and her dog.  Inside, I met the owner, Nita Larronde.  Nita had raised 5 kids in this house, and when she realized that many of the trekkers doing the continental Trail needed a hot shower and a decent place to stay and recuperate before the last 400 miles of the trail, she opened her house to anyone travelling.  A very cool and sophisticated lady who was warm and welcoming to all.  There were 5 film crew staying in the house with me that night.  It was very interesting to talk to them about their vision regarding creating a documentary of the trekking of some of their friends over the length and breadth of the trail.  The crew themselves were filming, writing and leapfrogging the trekkers so that they could document and film every step of the incredible journey.  Nita did not live in the house, but paid for the power and maintained a goodly supply of coffee and necessities for the travellers.  The Toaster House reminded me of the attempts that were made in the 60's to establish communes and shared living spaces.

There was a wonderful tribute to one of the young people who had passed away after finishing his trek.  His family and friends had built a bike repair station so that the pedal bikes would always have tools for fixing their rides.

The young people who were building the documentary are on Instagram as well as at #3MPHFilm. Their goal was to have a finished documentary for Netflix, and I am sure that they will accomplish that.  I was very impressed with their focus and their willingness to work hard towards their passion.

An old jeep provide shelter for chickens, who had long ago left for parts unknown.

I left Pie Town and the Toast House behind after a nice breakfast at the other cafe in town. Nita came in and we chatted. I really enjoyed her attitude towards travellers, and left that little place in the middle of nowhere with a great feeling towards mankind.

Much later in the day, the landscaped changed from the endless prairies of New Mexico into the steep canyons of  Northern Arizona.

There was some wild rides down into the canyons, and climbing out of them.  As I approached Phoenix, the air seemed to thicken, and the traffic certainly increased..

That night previously, I think I had spent it on the last of the bald prairies. The sunset was spectacular, and the free camping was a bonus. I spent a few hours chatting with a fellow who was camped in the boonies.  He was pretty well convinced that the world was going to hell in a handbasket, and he had a conspiracy theory for every issue.  He did have a nice, friendly dog, and he was only dangerous to himself, in my view.

I eventually, and I do mean eventually found my way through Phoenix, with no thanks to Garmin. I had a 10 AM appointment at GO AZ motorcycles, where I had Blondy serviced, 5 or 6 years ago.

I remembered that this shop was a URAL dealership from my previous visit.

The Twin was set up with new shoes and an oil change.  In the early afternoon, I was ready to head for Yuma to find some pesos, and then on to Calexico.  I had planned on getting a hotel in Mexicali, but the crossing was fairly straightforward, and in less than two hours I was on the road again. I decided to head straight for San Felipe while everything was rolling, and I arrived in the late afternoon.  A full day....