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 16 Continued: Carson City Nevada to Independence California, Not Santa Barbara, Plum Tuckered, Highs and Lows.

As soon as I left Carson City, Nevada the weariness began to grow on me. I began to feel weak and rode-hard. A chronic health problem I have is called Trigeminal Neuralgia. It’s a very bizarre problem (what else would I have?) that effects the nerves in one side of my face. I can feel pain in three places, singly, or simultaneously: the left side of my forehead, my ear or my teeth. I take medication every day but I can have flare ups. Most are handled with just increasing the pain medication. That’s what I’ve had to do the last four days. Today, my teeth took their turn. And when it’s in the teeth, I can’t eat. Frankly, after having this for about 10 years I’ve gotten used to it as does everyone with a chronic health problem. Anyway…
After all my planning to go to Santa Barbara, at the last minute instead of turning west I kept heading south on 395. El Camino Sierra. I just had a gut feeling to go this way. So glad that I did!
An amazing highway! Yesterday I was on the route that the Pony Express riders used to take and today’s is more of a ‘gold rush’ route.
Yesterday and today, I was dealing intellectually, emotionally, with the loss of a relationship. It was a good time to practice letting go of “what if’s” and resentments, trusting what’s happening, (Taoism, Christianity) and being in the moment (Zen). Taoism says that there will be highs and lows; take what comes graciously, let go of expectations and, in effect, enjoy the ride.
On Hwy 395, heading south, on my right, I had the magnificent Sierra Nevada mountains and the border of Yosemite Park. They were spectacular, snow still clinging brightly to the higher elevations. On my left were the White Mountains. Heading south I went through five mountain passes, including Deadman Summit, and peaking with Conway Summit at 8,138 feet (2480 m), the highest point on 395. The views were amazing and it was cold. I had my leather jacket on and my heated gloves. There were signs for elk but all I saw was a bear rambling across the road.
Once I got to the Tioga Pass entrance to Yosemite the road grew more familiar. This was the way that my buddy Jeff Stafford and I came last year (See earlier sections of this blog for last year’s trip.). Last year, however, we turned left and went through Death Valley while I’m heading to LA.
As I got closer to the town of Independence (ironically) I thought: “It would be great to stay at that motel Jeff and I stayed at last year, Ray’s Den.” It was our favorite motel of the whole trip! Well I stopped and saw Linda, the owner, who easily didn’t remember me at all from last year. I got a great room for a good price and hunkered down. (I need to take some photos.)
So here’s where I’m at this very moment. Sitting outside my room on a wooden chair, drinking a Golden Trout Pilsner Beer and glancing at old Mount Whitney, the highest summit at 14, 505 feet (4421 m) in the United States (The lower 48). Now, if you were to go just 84 miles east- southeast of Whitney you’d find (ironically) the lowest point in North America : Badwater in Death Valley at 282 feet below sea level.
That’s what this trip has been about. Experiencing, enduring and trusting the highs and lows.