New Orleans to California

Hey Folks! I have been on the road for a month now. Sorry I haven’t posted here in a while. I keep another blog with things other than motorcycle stuff @ nygumbo.com. So if you see any nygumbo references in the following text, that’s why. It has been difficult to work on two blogs while on the road. If you would like to check the other blog, feel free. But now that I am here, so let’s get caught up.

I went to a magical place from my childhood today. City Park. Within City Park is Story Land where my Grandma and Grandma Lu (great grand mother) would take me when I was a little boy.
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It was filled with large sculptures from stories and fairy tales that kids can go in and climb on. I always like the old woman who lived in a shoe.

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City Park is also home to some fantastic old Live Oak Trees.

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These trees are amazing. Old and wise trees.

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After City Park I crossed Lake Ponchatrain to visit my uncle. He was at the Abbey where he used to be the Abbott. He is retired now but was there to celebrate his 50th anniversary as a monk.

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There are some really cool murals where the monks eat.

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From the Abbey I headed to my cousins place in Gretna. I rode through a storm and like a dope did not put my rain gear on. DUMB. Now my boots are soaked and I’ll have to ride with sneakers on for a bit today. My cousin and her family took me out for some New Orleans seafood. Mmmmm Mmmmm Good!

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Ya can’t visit New Orleans with out having some crawfish.

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This little feller slept with me last. Cute kitten prrrrrrred under my arm throughout the night.

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So I was packing the bike to leave New Orleans after a big breakfast with my cousin and her family when I noticed a problem.

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My clutch cable was about to snap. Fortunately it was Saturday and I was still in New Orleans. First we went to Smitty’s bike shop in Gretna and spoke to Lurch. They didn’t have the cable but they let my call Triumph from their bike shop. They had two cables in stock and fixed it in a jiffy. So I said good bye to my cousin and headed toward River Road along the Mississippi. I had a great visit. It felt like family should. Bye Cuz!

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So it was on to Plantation land. This one is called Evergreen.

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This shot is a little piece of a plantation called Laura. It cost $15 to get it and I could afford the time.

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And finally, a place I have always wanted to see, Oak Alley.

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I rode South to check out some Cajun Country. In a town called Franklin I saw this wise old tree. This tree looks as though branches have come an gone, but it remains standing strong.

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Then I rode through a wicked storm to Lafayette. When the storm broke the sun was just setting.

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The next day I rode North along the Western edge of Louisiana. I stopped by this yard full of old trucks and fire engines. I met this old guy there. He was a lot like Goober from Mayberry with overalls cut off just below the knee. Goober’s handshake was so firm he is just the one you would want around if you slipped at a cliffs edge. He brought me into the garage to show me an old Mack truck they were working on.

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I rode all day and into the night where I arrive at Dinosaur Valley State Park in Texas. There is a river bed here with actual dinosaur tracks.

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It’s really cool. The tracks behind the campsite are the best ones.

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It started raining as I snooped around. I was told later it was the first rain they’ve had in 6 months. Below are Brontosaurus tracks.IMG_1147 copy

The other tracks are from the guy in this painting jumping on the Brontosaur.

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From Dinosaur land it was time to cross Texas. I stopped to stretch my legs when I saw this old car.

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I stopped again when I saw Bob’s well. You have to take a break every once in a while.

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There is lots of debris on the roads. Most of it is bits of rubber from truck tires. As I was flying down the highway at 85 I noticed one of those pieces of debris moving. I turned around to investigate.

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Yes! That piece of debris was a tarantula. I played with him for a little while before finding a place to camp for the night.

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I am off to Cadillac Ranch. See ya next time. I should be in New Mexico by nightfall.

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It’s been a long ride since my last post. And it has only gotten better. Once I hit the Rocky Mountains everything has been perfect. So back to Texas. I had the scariest night to date as far as weather goes. I pulled into Caprock Canyon for the night. The sky was magnificent. Stars galore. So I figured I’d crash in my hammock for the night. Bad idea. I saw some lights on the horizon before falling asleep, but I thought it was just a little heat lighting. WRONG! At about 2:30 am I woke to a bright flash and a sonic BOOM! Then came the winds and sideways rain. I had not time to set up the tent. I covered what I could and ran to the bathrooms where I waited out the storm. Intense! One of the two tarantulas I played with was in Caprock Canyon. Here are some of my bathroom buddies.

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In Turkey Texas, home of Bob Wills, I saw this great old gas station. Route 66 eat your heart out.

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As I continued across Texas I saw this old jail in the town of Silverton. It’s now a museum of sorts. Inside was this great old guy, Jerry Baker is his name, who told a little of the jail’s history.

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Here is Jerry who told the stories. Man this guy loved to talk. Real nice guy with an awesome Texas accent. He said some of Bonnie and Clydes gang did some time here. He told me he is self educated and signed a copy of the brochure for me. His claim to fame: He told me he met Kelsey Grammer once.

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Then I came across one of my planned stops. CADILLAC RANCH!

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Hey! Does it say nygumbo.com on that gas tank?

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It’s too cool.

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Texas Mission accomplished. It was on to New Mexico. I had to crash at a hotel. It threw my budget off but I couldn’t deal with another storm like the night before and it was comin’ for sure! The next day I went to Taos. While checking out the former home of Kit Carson I spoke to basket maker Bob. He came to Taos with aspirations of being an electricians. The natives told him they don’t need any electricians. What they need is basket makers. So Bob learned a new trade. He told me how to get to the Pueblo where he learned his trade. I believe it’s the oldest habited pueblo in the States.

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From Taos I rode to Bandelier Nation Monument.

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This place has mountain ranges with unique cavernous formations. The ancient natives built homes on the mountain side making use of the caves as rooms.

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Here is how the would have looked with the adjacent buildings.

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Here you can see the uniform holes that would hole the joists in place.

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I saw a sign which read “Stay on Path”. I just couldn’t resist. Most of the sites open to the public have been cleaned up and the floors cemented. I needed to explore and find something more pristine. That’s just what I did. I found this old site and the most amazing thing happened. As I sat there meditating and contemplating on how life must have been for the natives I began to feel myself lift from the ground.

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There were some strange areas nearby fenced off with signs that said “No Trespassing and Beware of Explosives. These sites were only marked by numbers and were frequented by unmarked trucks. I stopped at the local tourist bureau to inquire. Bandelier is in the mountains of Los Alamos, home of the Manhattan Project. It is still a government site with some of the most up to date nuclear reasearch to date.

So many amazing sites to see out here, like this beautiful Butterfly. Hi Butterfly!

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There is more to post, but I don’t want to spend my day in Starbucks. I’m in Arizona now. I haven’t even looked at my photos from The Petrified Forest yet. That place was super cool!

The four corner is what they call the section of the states where New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado meet. It is the only four states that meet at right angles in this way. It is also where you can find most of the ancient ruins left by the native people of this country. I’ve already introduced you to a couple spots in New Mexico. Let’s move on.

I headed south a bit to a place called El Morro. El Morro’s history involves the native people, the Spanish and the early Americans headed West. Here is how it looks from my campsite.

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It has also been called Inscription Rock as many who have crossed it’s path have left their mark.

The Natives.

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Spanish Conquistadors.

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The new Americans.

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Another unique feature of El Morro was an oasis. The water that ran of the side of the cliff was situated so it would not evaporate. A source of water in this climate was valuable.

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I climbed to the top of El Morro where there were ancient ruins.

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When I returned to pack up the campsite I found this peculiar bug crawling across the floor.

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And I found a snake skin.

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From El Morro it was off to the Petrified Forest. It began with the Painted Desert.

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There were ruins and petroglyphs there as well.

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Then along with the terrain the skies got grayer and the wind started kicking up. I was getting sand blasted as I rode. I think the strong winds is what prevented this guy from flying away.

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And of course there was petrified wood. Lots of it!

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Then there was something I was not expecting. Ruins made from Petrified wood!

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I saw this great old ride outside of a vendor just beyond the park.

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If you pull off at exits along Route 40 you may find bits and pieces of old Route 66. This is the Wig Wam Motel.

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From there I had hoped to find a place to camp, no problem. But I lose track of time sometimes and now it was the weekend. Campsites were filled. So I had to camp in the local forest.

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Well I am tired and it’s been days since I’ve had a hot shower. I’ll try to catch up in the morning.

In that same forest where I slept there were some old ruins.

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Then I rode south to Monezuma’s Castle. It is a huge multilevel ruin on the side of a mountain.

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Just north of Cottonwood AZ there was this ruin on the top of a hill.

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Cottonwood and the adjacent small towns are filled with old hippies. I past a huge drum circle on the way to this ruin.

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From the ruin I had to zoom to get ahead of this oncoming storm. I have been surrounded by storms for days but somehow have remained dry.

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Unfortunately that storm blocked the sun as I drove through Sedona. Sedona is surrounded by huge red rock formations. Without light it wasn’t worth taking photos. I did stop at this stream and take a shot.

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I might have stuck around this area, but that storm was moving toward me as I made my way north. Besides it was pretty touristy. Not my scene.

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That night I camped out at Navajo National Monument. At the visitor center I bumped into my new Korean friends I had seen earlier in the day at Starbucks. They were amazed that a guy could travel by himself as I was. They wanted to have their picture taken with me. So I had a shot taken too.

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From the mountaintop where the campsite was I could see storms all around, but amazingly none hit me. I caught a lightning strike as a watched what I thought was the impending storm.

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I was safe with the Captain on my side.

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In the morning I hiked to see the ruins. The only way to see them upclose is register for an overnight hike. I was asking the Park Ranger about it. She is Navajo. I must say I had a hard time keeping a straight face as she kept reminding me I have to make a “reservation” for the hike. Instead I settled for the overlook.

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Here is a closer look.

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Then I was going back to New Mexico to see a couple more ruins.

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This is Salmon Ruins.

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This is an old kiva. Kivas were the big round room for ceremonies.

The old bunks where the original surveyors lived were still intact too.

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Next I went to Aztec National Monument. It is called Aztec because it was first believed Aztecs had built the site.

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It’s rare to find ruins with the original roof. At Aztec they have rooms with the original roofs.

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I ended up visiting all four states of the four corners on this day. After passing through Durango CO I saw these elk.

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From there I rode to Bluff UT where I had been last year. I hadn’t showered in days and I knew the campsite there hot great showers and WIFI. I fell asleep to the sounds of frogs croaking in the pond.

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When I woke up the next morning I could see the sun glowing on the bluff.

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I decided to go to the Valley of the Gods. I was afraid to go there last year as it is a 16 mile dirt road. Now it was time.

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It was an exhilarating ride through the monumental cliffs and bluffs.

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Then I went back to the site to pack up camp where this lizard watched over me.

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I then had the unpleasant task of riding all the way back to Navajo National Monument where I had left my camera battery charger with the Ranger. How funny is that “reservation” thing now pale face! I made the best of it and took a few shots on the way. This huge rock can be seen from 20 miles away.

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I found an old pull tab can.

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Then in order to get where I wanted to go I had to ride up an 8 mile switchback.

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The view on the way up was incredible as you look down into the Valley of the Gods.

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Next stop Natural Bridges Nation Park. It’s in the middle of nowhere. I was low on gas. Fortunately they had a supply for emergencies. I had to fill out some paperwork and pay a premium price but I needed it to get to tghe next gas station. I’d like to go back there I hike to the bridges. They aren’t so exciting from above. But the flora was interesting.

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I rode on not sure how far I’d get. Then the sun began to set.

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I love a good sunset.

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Got to go this place is closing.

Utah is where I left off and where I remain. I left you at sunset 2 days ago. So let’s ketchup!!

Oh, first let me go back to New Mexico for a moment. As I was riding from Taos something funny happened. When you ride on a motorcycle there are many of things to worry about. Loose gravel, deer in the road, and of course bad drivers. If you read my post from the Catskills you heard of a story about an owl flying into this guys chest. Since then I have been super aware of birds. They are nuts! They dodge in and out of the rode before you coming so close you often duck (get it, duck) uncontrollably expecting that the bird will fly into your head. Well, I was riding through the mountains from Taos and there was this bird in front of me. I expected him to cut to the left or the right, but no. This bird wanted to go ahead and race me. Well he lost the race. I caught up to him all right. Face first! That little bird landed right in my mouth. I could actually feel the cold texture of his feet entering my mouth. That’s when he decided it would be a good idea to make a sharp left turn. No harm no foul. I am just glad I didn’t scare the shit out of him because I was firmly in place for a hot meal.

UTAH:

With every turn in the area around Glen Canyon I would yell out loud because of the shear beauty before me. Especially at sunset. I want to pull over and take it in at every corner.

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I didn’t care that it was getting dark. I didn’t care where I would stay the night. I just wanted this moment to last. I was told by the ranger at Natural Bridges of this place to get gas. He said the store would be closed but I could still get gas. Much to my surprise I could camp there too. And it was magnificent. A place to camp right on the edge of Lake Powell.

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I love this part of the country.

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If anyone is interested in gear. This folding saw called the Big Boy by Silky cut through wood like butter.

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I almost stepped on this guy before going to bed.

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I am just going to post some photos. I want to hit the road. I may have a thing or two to say along the way.

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I will add text at another time. There is still so much to see out there. Not that sitting here is bad. This is the view from where I am now.

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Howdy Folks! I am at Bryce Canyon now. Here they have lots of facilities. Laundry, Wireless Internet and Showers! I will take advantage of all 3.

Yesterday was fun. After posting I rode right into a storm. I have to admit, I try to look cool when I am taking a photo of myself, but when it rains there is not time for cool.

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Many riders have waterproof gloves. I find that the xtra large heavy duty chemical proof rubber gloves over my riding gloves do the trick. The storm was heavy and a little frightening but fortunately brief.

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So from Capital Reef I headed toward Bryce Canyon.

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Between the two parks is a state park called Kodachrome.

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Needless to say they have free range cattle in the area.

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These storms appear out of nowhere. But the effects in the sky is great for photos once the sun hits your subject.

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These folks learned what a flash flood was the hard way. When they crossed it was a dry creek bed.

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Another storm was approaching as I neared Bryce.

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And then came Bryce Canyon. Having been here before I thought about skipping it. I am so glad I didn’t.

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Not too shabby huh? And now it’s shower time with fresh clean clothes to put on afterward. Oh yeah!

Hey there nygumbo fans! I thought I would have time to post in Vegas, but that didn’t work out. I was only able to pay tribute to the Mook. Now I am camped out in California amongst the Sierra Mountains and I am able to get a wireless signal from a nearby radio station. So I am back. When I left off I was in Bryce Canyon, so let’s return there. There is so much to share. At Bryce I did my laundry, I posted, I showered. Then I went to see the rest of the canyon. I have to admit the first few stops at Bryce Canyon are exceptional. The other stops are far away and not nearly as scenic, but I had to check it out. IMG_3853 copy IMG_3785 copy I saw this jive turkey. I have seen a few turkeys but they are not very good subject for photos. They are quick to run away. IMG_3798 copy I was rather annoyed at having spent so much time at Bryce. The latter part was anticlimactic and it looked like storms were inevitable. IMG_3796 copy Not that it’s not an amazing place. It is. But I was hoping to be at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon before dark so I was beginning to stress a bit. I left Bryce with worry on my mind. On the way was Red Canyon. I felt the need to fly by, but I just can’t help stopping everywhere. I get real caught up in the natural beauty of this part of the country. I’d like to come back in December and decorate this big sucker. IMG_3928 As I was riding away I passed this place Mugwumps. I turned around to take a photo. Besides, the storms ahead were making it cold and I had to put on a couple layers. As I was taking this picture a lady came up from behind me and asked, “What is it about that place that people want to take a picture?” I said “It’s tacky.” She said, “It’s mine.” Oops! IMG_3938 copy So now I was cold, and stressed about the time. I started flying south toward Arizona. I realized I wasn’t enjoying myself. It felt like work. Then I saw something on the side of the road, a tree that I wanted to photograph. I pulled over. I started noticing all the flora around me. It was growing out of this bright orange sand. All sorts of bizarre plant life. I calmed down and began to take the time to smell the roses (and take some pictures). IMG_3958 copy