Archive for August, 2013

Colorado

Posted in Uncategorized on August 8, 2013 by Pat Regan

I didn’t get a great night’s sleep camping on the cliff’s ledge. It wasn’t fear of falling over the edge. It wasn’t the thought of being alone amongst the wild animals. It was concern about humans. Although I was alone miles down this dirt road on a Tuesday night, there was plenty of evidence that this was a local hangout. There was garbage around. And there was graffiti depicting the initials of what I assumed might be a local gang. In NYC I am used to the Crips, Bloods, Latin Kings, Nietas, Zulus and of course Hells Angels. But out here I was unfamiliar with who might consider this their territory. It was one way in and out on a dirt road with a harsh washboard surface, so if there was trouble there would be no running from it. I would have to confront it. I figured I was safe on this weekday night and would remain alone. Then I heard vehicles. Three sets of headlights were headed my way in the darkness of night. I was truly out of my element here. As the 3 trucks stopped at the edge of the cliff I listened intently. Much to my relief I could hear the sounds of men and women laughing and having a good time. In my fantasy this was a danger zone. In reality it was a romantic spot to hang out with your loved ones. I fell asleep. Later I awoke to the sounds of the trucks pulling away. All was well. I am a silly man.

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The next morning I woke up, stepped out of my tent and saw a large hawk sitting atop a small tree. All the trees here are small. Then I looked over the edge and saw a coyote coming toward me. As soon as he saw me at the edge he quickly did an about face and disappeared. Unless your camera is set and ready, chances are you will miss shots of much of the wildlife out here. I packed up my bags and hit the dirt road. I did not notice the odometer in the photo until later. 55,555 miles on the money. I was just taking a photo to show the dirt road. Nice! I had consciously thought about taking this picture, then did it unbeknownst to myself.

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I road through a small town called Chimayo. It seems like a population mostly comprised of Native American/Spanish folk with a focus on the local churches. I had been to this area around Taos once before. I like it here. My plan was to visit some cliff dwellings I missed previously called the Puye Cliff Dwellings. After speaking to a local dude in a parking lot, I changed my mind. He said that Puye is on a reservation and they charge at least $30 for a visit. He also told me there were many other cliff dwellings in the area that one could visit for free. Perhaps on another trip I can plan that out.

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I am always amused at how folks use Jesus to promote things like agendas, politics or here Chile´.

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This funky bug was at a gas station. When I tried to lift him he hissed at me like a cat. Freaked me out!

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Having decided not to see the cliff dwellings I was headed north toward Colorado. Here in New Mexico the mountains still had a great deal of color in them.

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Once you cross into Colorado the mountains become lush with trees and the rock is generally grey.

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The roads here are a rider’s dream. If you look at the photo below you can see the road approaching the mountains from the valley, then it twists it’s way up switchbacking as you ascend.

There are many folks back home who consider me an angry man.  And maybe they’re right, but up here in the mountains I am calm and at peace. I love it here.

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At times a switchback won’t do. They had to tunnel through to provide a road up here.

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As is always the case, there will be some roadwork along the way. Often times it is a welcome relief to stop and have a little jerky or other snacks while you wait for the one way traffic. The smells however clash heavily with the serene environment. PU.

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Many of the roads travel along rivers that have spent the last million years cutting their way through the mountains. Those same rivers have also provided me with a place to bathe over the years. This was Route 149.

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I connected with Route 50 and was headed for the very twisty Route 92.

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At the foot of Route 92 is a dam that creates the body of water you see above. On the other side is the beautiful Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. I was psyched to ride this road. I started zipping along, when suddenly I had to slam the brakes.  A huge 10 point buck had jumped into the road before me. He then did an about face and ran back up the slope to my right. By the time I grabbed my camera all I could get was his horns over the horizon line. What a thrill. Earlier in the day I had already barely missed hitting a chipmunk, a rabbit and a coyote. Crazy, wonderful day!

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Here is a close up from the same shot. Big Buck!

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The canyon was gorgeous and the road a lot of fun to ride on. At this overlook I met another rider named Roger. Roger was from the coast of South Carolina, but was hanging in Colorado for the month. We rode together for a bit after this.

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Roger was a more experienced and I have to admit better rider than me. We took turns taking the lead. I watched him handle those crazy turns like a champ. I ain’t bad, but I could tell he was better.

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See that smiling man in the photo. That would be his last. Circumstances back home have forced me to abort this wondrous adventure. I crashed in an old hotel called the Hitching Post in a small town called Crawford.

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The next morning I awoke to rain pouring down. It’s just as well, I was headed toward the Interstate. There was nothing more too see. Nothing more to photograph. My only view from here on in would be the pavement lined with cops pulling people over and the parades of joyous bikers headed in the opposite direction toward Sturgis. Each acknowledged wave from my fellow bikers felt like a slap in the face as I plowed through my 500 plus miles each day headed east. With every stop I make people ask, “You going to Sturgis?” I’d just smile through the pain and say “I can’t make it this year”.

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Sorry for the anti-climactic ending, but sometimes that’s how it goes. I rode over 2000 miles in 4 days. My hands and body were buzzing for days. Now I am home. That’s all folks!

Kansas to New Mexico

Posted in Uncategorized on August 3, 2013 by Pat Regan

A hotel room (for a change) allows me to catch up a bit.

When I left off Danny from Meade, Kansas had shown me a place to camp for free. It was an open field located behind a fishing hatchery with a few trees for strategic positioning. I got out my compass and chose a spot that would provide me with morning shade. Then I set up my tent and rigged the tarps for some extra shielded real estate.

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In the morning I returned to the Dalton Gang Hideout that was closed when I arrived the day before. The Dalton Gang began their careers as U.S. Marshals before turning to crime robbing trains. This hideout was actually their sister Eva’s home. A tunnel was dug from the house to the stables where they could make their escape. Of course this only worked a couple times but a place of history nonetheless.

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Visiting the location and adjacent museum of artifacts is interesting in itself, but the price of admission is truly made worthwhile if you chat it up with the curator Marc. He is a colorful, knowledgeable character who could easily blend in to any Western film. He has that cowboy look with a gold pendant of the Free Masons dangling off a chain from a watch pocket. We talked for a while about the Dalton’s, but then I noticed a framed picture of the cast from the movie Tombstone. That began a whole other topic, The Western film. We both like Tombstone a great deal. But he knew a great deal more, right down to the the very first Western and very first movie in general, “The Great Train Robbery”. Last year I was teaching my students the history of film and we researched and watched it. As a disclaimer, Marc also explained that the tunnel (as pictured below) was actually a dirt tunnel supported by wood at the time of the Dalton’s. It was later supported with stone.

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From Meade, Kansas I was going to head into Colorado. Things looked daunting ahead so I checked my Doppler radar. Sure enough, if I continued down my planned path I was destined for a heavy dousing of rain so I turned south. I headed toward New Mexico via Oklahoma. While passing through Oklahoma I rolled through Boise City. For the common traveler there is absolutely no reason to stop here. However, I am attracted to the desolate, once inhabited environments.

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The road I would have taken to Colorado would have passed through that downpour you see in the background. And that was only one in a long series of hazardous rainstorms.

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I have to be honest. As I often do, I was hamming it up for the photo. Usually I look like the fella in the photo below. The greatest challenge to touring as I do is mastering techniques to battle the natural elements. Sun and water are the greatest ongoing battle. Last year while passing through Moab, Utah I bought this fabric tube. I never really got to test it back then because I was riding east after the purchase where the sun spends most of it’s time on my back. This year I was able to test it against the Western sun. Mission accomplished. It is the first time I made it this far without looking like a raccoon from the goggles.

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I passed into New Mexico. The sun was going down and I still had many miles to go before finding a place to camp for the night, but I couldn’t help stopping to take a shot of this place glowing from the low sun.

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It was a scary ride to get to the campsite. Dusk is when the critters are most unpredictable. I passed a number of antelope (pronghorns) along the way and the bugs were bugging out right at that height which plasters your vision with debris and smacks your face harder than rain. But I finally made to the campsite for my first night in the Rockies. To be in the mountains after spending days with a flat horizon line is heavenly. It brings a euphoric peace to me. I love it here. At night I become mesmerized by night sky. Last year I began to figure out how to capture them in a photo. One of my challenges for this year was to master that skill. I hoped to have many opportunities.

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When I arrived at that campsite, I met a nice family. A couple of teachers from Texas, Shannon and Scott was with their two daughters and visiting father from Taos. They were very kind and provided me with a few logs for my fire. It was that fire that lit my bike in the photo from my previous post. I tried lining up my tent to be shaded with that single tree when that sun peaked over the mountain. A little more to the left would have been nice.

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Alan, the father from Taos rode this 89 Honda Translap. I wasn’t familiar with this bike. It’s a nice machine. Unfortunately Alan says finding parts is near impossible. If anybody out there knows of a place to find parts for this baby, please leave a comment.

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In the morning I wanted to check out Fort Union, but to get there I took the scenic way deeper into the Rockies.

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There are a number of alpaca ranches in the Rocky Mountains. This one was bountiful with freshly shaven alpaca.

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Along the small twisty highways one passes a few forgotten wonders.

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Then it was on to Fort Union. There was never an actual battle at Fort Union, but it played a pivotal role in the shaping of this country. The continued expansion westward by white settlers and atrocities by the military created a great deal of conflict for the natives. Naturally there was retaliation. As a result, Fort Union was established to protect settlers traveling along the Santa Fe Trail.

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The fort continued it’s purpose as a defensive post against a Confederate invasion during the South’s succession. Texas was moving north but with the help of Colorado’s brigade they were driven back before getting to the fort.

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After the Civil War Fort Union became a supply hub for the settlers and other forts in the vast area. Eventually the railroad came and that purpose became less necessary. I got all this info from the Park Ranger at the reception desk. She, like Marc at the Dalton joint knew her stuff and was easy to talk to.

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I came across this can top while roaming around. After having a look I placed it back where I found it.

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Though the foundations of the fort are original, National Parks Service continually layer the adobe exterior to protect it from natural erosion.

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Fort Union also had the most state of the art hospital in the entire country. Here are the remnants of the hospital below.

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Next I went to Pecos National Monument. Pecos, like Abo and Quarai that I visited a few years ago was a place where Native Americans lived with Spanish missionaries. In the background behind the pueblo ruins you can see the remains of the Spanish Mission.

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There was a recreation of a native kiva. I would love to have some land and build one of my own one day.

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Here is what’s left of the Spanish Mission.

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From Pecos I was headed north toward Colorado.

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I wasn’t going to make Colorado before nightfallI. I found out about a campsite off route 503. I  had to continue. I didn’t know however that this campsite was at the end of a long dirt road. The sun was going down so I had no choice. After conquering my apprehensions I was rewarded with a place to pitch my tent along a cliff overlooking this lake. Being so remote in a place I was unfamiliar with was a bit unnerving, but that is all part of the fun. Tomorrow, Colorado!

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Western Stars

Posted in Uncategorized on August 1, 2013 by Pat Regan

The stars out here are magnificent! I will miss them when I am back in NYC where the skies are obscured by the city lights. The shooting stars right now are remarkable. They are frequently criss-crossing the sky like a hockey puck in a Stanley Cup Finals.  Just fantastic!

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I have had very little time to update the posts here. I have been off the grid camping and have been lucky to keep my phone charged. So I leave you with this shot.

If you want to check out a great adventure that has been updated regularly, check out Trevor’s blog. He has the passion for adventure and the support to keep him going. Good stuff Trevor. Cheers!