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 Four: El Reno Oklahoma to Tucumcari New Mexico. Namaste!

Back in Georgia the time is now 8:50 pm Monday, in Ireland it’s 1:50 am Tuesday and here in Tucumcari, New Mexico I’d say it’s about 1950. That’s because the town still holds onto much of the grandeur of the 1930’s and 50’s when Route 66 was the only road in town; almost literally.  Once the interstate was built much of old Route 66 was abandoned. But some old diners and motels persist! Beautiful relics to a time long ago.

Today was a long biking day. Over 400 miles. Right now I’m sitting in the Desert Inn motel drinking a Tecate beer with the air conditioner on and feeling like I’m in somewhat of a stupor. Despite a couple of rounds of factor 50 sunscreen I’m toasted.  I hope I can write more intelligibly later but for now just a brief update.

Jeff took his bike to the Harley shop first thing and they managed to sort the problem out. By 10am we were on the road. Due to our different styles of riding with Jeff being a man with a mission, and me being a bit of a dawdler (“Hey, let’s see what’s down here!) we decided to again meet up somewhere later and ride at our own paces. We kept in touch a few times by texts during the day but otherwise we just met up an hour ago. He took off on Interstate 40 where the speed limit soars to 75mph. His story, which he can tell better than I, is that once we split up his handlebars starting going a bit wonky; too loose. He got to Amarillo, visited another Harley shop then drove on to Tucumcari.

He later admitted that the problem had been his own fault. Last night I had given him a small Route 66 gremlin bell and he had failed to attach it to his bike.  Motorcycle gremlins love to hitch rides on motorcycles. They are mischievous rascals who cause all sorts of mayhem. A minivan cuts in front of you; your battery goes dead, road gators charge after you, or as in some reported cases, your handlebars come loose. Apparently, if you get a bell on your bike (it has to be given to you-you can’t buy it yourself) the gremlins get trapped in the bell, the ringing drives them nuts and they lose their grip and fall onto the road. Jeff has promised me he will put the bell on tomorrow.

I decided to go Route 66 for awhile, back through Bethany and Yukon and El Reno where legal speeds can gust up to 55mph. I managed to take the wrong roads twice (not the same road-two different ones) but I also stopped and took pictures of an old bridge, of the great bar Jeff and I went to last night and then tried to go a bit further on Route 66  but I ended up on a section of pre-1937 route which was built with poured Portland concrete. I began to realize why they don’t drive much of the old-old route anymore: bounce, smooth, bounce, smooth-every 10 yards!

So I went back onto I-40 and settled into the 75 mph mantra. I crossed the rest of Oklahoma, then went across the top of Texas and slithered into New Mexico. I had to stop every hour or so to gas up,  rehydrate and to administer to myself a mental status exam to ensure I could still ride safely. I know there is a population crisis and that we should take this very seriously but really, has anybody been to the top of Texas and ridden across I-40? Miles and miles of deserted land. I know I went more than once about 40 miles without seeing a gas station. Consequently, I almost ran out of gas.

Amarillo was a bit dicey when I came upon a rolled up carpet and small pieces of wood blocking my lane. I braked, down shifted, looked left to change lanes but a car was there, to the right was another car so I somehow managed to slalom the bike and thread my way around the debris. I also dodged a metal bar in the road and avoided attacks by those pesky road gators, bits of tires lying in wait to pounce.

I decided not to take a chance on running out of gas again and so stopped about 20 miles east of Tucumcari. The filling station it turned out was run by Indians-no, not native Americans but real Indians. I stopped at the pump and it said: sold out. So I rolled the bike back to a pump that didn’t have a notice. Engine off, kickstand down, glasses off, helmet off, fingerless gloves off and I start filling. Turns out this one is out of gas too. I roll the bike over to another pump and try again and I get 20 cents worth. I stop and go inside and explain my problem to the Indian cashier. He says that they are out of premium gas. I ask whether I can have $5 of regular gas and give him $10. For some reason the cash register jams and I hear him discussing and arguing in some Indian language with a man standing by. This takes about 5 minutes.  I’m exhausted, frustrated and I’m thinking: I need to show love and compassion for all beings! Finally, the man says “You can do it now”. I ask for my $5 back from the $10 I gave him and he says: “Oh I thought you wanted $10 dollars on pump 5!”

I say: “That’s fine.” and “Namaste” which essentially means: “The Spirit within me salutes the Spirit in you”. I go back to the pump and the tank will only hold $9 worth. “Namaste” and I ride off.

Later I make it to our motel  and the receptionist is another Indian man (not native American) who is delightful, charming and helpful. I kind of mutter but he is patient and suggests places to eat and drink.

And drink I do! I’m on my second can of Tecate right now and ready for bed.

Nameste to you and good night!