Day Five: Tucumcari to Gallup, New Mexico- 319 miles; Miserable Ride That Gradually Got Better; Route 66; Impermanence; Love, Loss and Hope; Another Dog; Do Apaches not Like Navajos?

I was happy to leave that motel that I stayed at in Tucumcari. There were only two cars parked in the huge lot and I felt sorry for the owner. Clearly, he was trying to return a once busy motel back to its glory days; when Route 66 was the only road west near here.  You can search the internet and find out all sorts of things about Route 66, the Mother Road. I have written about it here in this blog years ago when I made another journey through here.  The road spawned a song, “Get your kicks on route 66,” and even a TV series. But mainly it spawned the imagination of folks- in desperate times, as in the book, The Grapes of Wrath, but, more significantly in that archetypal journey we all are beckoned to take. People come from all over the world to experience what’s left of this cross-country road. The writer Tolstoy said: All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town. So too our lives.: hope, success, love,  loss, escape, and hope again. It’s a long journey, and if we take it – we should bring lots of snacks and stay well hydrated, and who knows how things will end. One of the essential doctrines of Buddhism is impermanence. They don’t have a lock on the concept, of course. We love people, places, jobs, objects, and we lose them. We grow attached to them and it hurts like the dickens when we lose them. I’ll tell you one thing – impermanence has a lot to answer for!

The trip this day didn’t start well. It was 45 degrees, my back was hurting, and my trigeminal neuralgia was being triggered by the strong, gusting winds. Not much you can do on a motorcycle when you’re feeling poorly, other than not ride, or ride through it. I kept my visor down, put my legs up, then down, leaned forward, back – you name it. I could only manage about 20 miles at a time to start with. Then I ‘d have to take a break, have coffee and stretch. Over the course of the morning things gradually got better, except for the 20mph head wind, which was to be with me all day. After 319 miles I stumbled into Gallup, New Mexico and found a nice room at the Sleep Inn.

The hot water felt so good I nearly cried in the hot shower. I gave thanks to God. Then, I wanted a beer. Remember the song I wrote about a few blog entries ago? I’ll wait while you look back at it.

I found a sports bar where I could watch some basketball and baseball. But mainly a place I could have a cold, calming, draft beer and forget about things.

A Navajo woman about my age was siting at the table beside me with her grandson and her service dog. She told me about her life: husband died two years ago; it had been a huge loss for her which was why she needed the dog. Her husband had been a veteran and was one of those people who never thought he’d die, so it came as a shock to everyone. She lived alone and traveled and worked on three Apache reservations. Did I know that some Apache don’t like Navajo? No, I didn’t, I replied. She said that when she first started to work on the reservations the women thought she was going to try to steal their husbands. She reassured them. She’d like to retire but what would she do? Besides, families need her help.  We both took a sip of our beers and stared at the baseball game; Arizona, her team, was losing. Love, loss, hope.

Day 3: Amarillo to Gallup, New Mexico. 423 miles: Trip Total 1533 miles; Crossing the Continental Divide; Beautiful day inside a huge miniature model train set.

I’m hunkering down in Holbrook, Arizona having a cup of coffee, catching up on yesterday.
I headed out in the morning determined not to book a place for the night, considering last night’s disaster. Interstate 40 parallels, and sometimes replaces, the legendary road Route 66. Four years ago my buddy El Jefe and I rode across country and took Route 66 frequently. You can’t take it the whole ways anymore, as much of it was decommissioned but there are still some nice sections, small towns with rustic looking cafes and old fashioned, western style motels.
Leaving Amarillo, I quickly came upon the Cadillac Ranch where, as an art statement, 10 cadillacs are half buried in the Texas dirt.
I only saw one small one armed oil pump as I road through Texas. However, there were miles of wind farms, the huge blades moving like arms of synchronized swimmers or Olympic backstrokers.
Gentle rolling hills, and agricultural fields with those long arm irrigation units, gave rise to flat lands, dotted with scrub brush and small, hardy evergreens. Coming into New Mexico the wind, out of the south, picked up quite a bit and I had to lean into it. I lowered my visor as I rode through a veil of dust blowing across the road. A dead buck lay by the center meridian and caused me to perk up. Later, a crowd was gathered in the median where a tractor trailer had overturned. Omens? I rode on.
About 30 miles out of Albuquerque I began to see pale, gray blue hills in the distance. I rode this beautiful view all the way into the city. The interstate was decorated with beautiful, colorful, Native American art forms.
Leaving, long, tall, flat mesas of different heights began to appear on the horizon. As the sun shone upon them I struggled to come up with a few words to describe their colors: pumpkin, Georgia red clay, magnolia, limestone? Near the road rose grassy, chocolate brown outcrops of rocks.
And then there were trains. Long trains transporting containers seemed all over the place, transporting goods east and west. I raced a few but they couldn’t keep up with Big Red, my Harley. With the beautiful, unfolding landscape I felt like I was a small motorcycle rider in some huge miniature model train set. That was fun.
I decided to stop in Gallup, New Mexico for the night and saw signs for a motel I knew I couldn’t miss. But I saw a sign for the El Ranchero Hotel and something compelled me to cut off the interstate. It was an old rustic hotel built in 1937 for a base for movie productions in the area. I loved it, checked in and spent a few hours in the rustic, western, 49er bar. Who can resist a bar that the actor Errol Flynn once rode a horse into? I couldn’t and didn’t.
Whatever you ride, ride it safely.