Are Buttes Eroded Mountains?


Traveling though New Mexico as a young boy I was enchanted by the rapid changes of landscape. The ground and the rocks and buttes were constantly changing colors and shapes and riding through the changes are mystifying and enchanting, a Super E ticket day long ride. I used to think the flat top hills were mountains that had eroded away, the wind carrying away their tops because they weren’t strong enough. They probably had weak mountain roots unlike the mighty Sierra Nevada roots which reached hundreds of miles into the earth. The Sierra Nevada’s and the Rocky Mountain’s will never have flat tops! Today I began thinking that the buttes and the rocky hills were actually what was left of what used to be and the ground I rode on was what remained after eons of erosion. The hills and buttes were a lot stronger than I thought.

Riding @30 miles out from Grant, NM large black rocks began rising through the ground and then began expanding on the surface in ridges, clumps, and…flows? Nah, this was oxidized iron rich rock or maybe even badly tarnished copper ore type rocks! There’s that flow again and an angry cracking shape trying to cover the ground. The road sign said NM Visitors Center next exit and I rode to the center. It is an elegant visitors center well off the road and as I parked there was black lava in the landscaping and several large black lava boulders scattered about. Lava! I asked one of the staff members if the black rock I had been seeing was lava and he acknowledged proudly that it was. “If you take this route 53 to the south and back up to Arizona you will be on one or two of our largest lava mesa’s, and from those spots you will be able to see 9 of our ancient volcano craters. Hundreds of square miles of this area are covered by lava fields.” Oh man, New Mexico has it’s beauties and mysteries and sights and smells and brother Raven seems to be every where. I want to explore this place forever.

I pulled into the Flying J truck stop in Grants to use the restroom, fill up, and have a cup of coffee. I was feeling weak and a bit dizzy. I learned we were @6000 ft elevation and I understood my dizziness. I walked out the door with my coffee and passed a fellow traveler, “How’re you doin’ sir?” “I could be a lot better!” “What’s the matter?” “Well, my wife has leukemia and we were at a hospital in Albuquerque and they didn’t take our insurance so that was $2400.00 out of pocket. Now we’re trying to get to a hospital in Arizona that does take our insurance but I’m about tapped out.” “I’m sorry to hear that, sir. I hope things get better!” “Well, somethings got to give.” I waked over to the ice machine and checked my phone for any messages from Gene; uh oh. Gene’s text: “I’m having a bit of your service trouble. I’m at Albuquerque Harley Davidson, my shifter started loosening up so they’re taking a look at it. I’ll be about 1.5 hours late into Gallup.” My heart sank. My service time at HD Oklahoma City and again at HD Amarillo, TX had stressed me out and made me feel bad. I hoped Gene wouldn’t have the feelings of desperation and strandedness I had felt. We texted back and forth a bit and I was noticing the man and his wife sitting at the pump in their older Winnebago. Uh oh again. She looked thin and he looked frantic. I walked over to talk to the traveler and we had a nice chat. I asked if he’d been able to get enough fuel and he advised he had a little but not much. His wife was very thin as was her hair. We talked about options and resourcefulness and I bid him farewell. As I was walking away his wife tried to yell at me and said I wasn’t leaving that easy. I walked around to her side and she opened her door and hugged me, saying she had ridden bikes before. I hugged her back, kissed her cheek saying, “Take care, Dear”. I walked back to my bike and started crying.

One thought on “Are Buttes Eroded Mountains?

  1. Beautiful story, Jeff. Anyone who reads it will feel the tears running. I know I did. Thanks for sharing it with us. Be safe. Hope you’re enjoying the snow cones.

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