Kansas to New Mexico
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the morning I wanted to check out Fort Union, but to get there I took the scenic way deeper into the Rockies.
There are a number of alpaca ranches in the Rocky Mountains. This one was bountiful with freshly shaven alpaca.
Along the small twisty highways one passes a few forgotten wonders.
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.
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.
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.
I came across this can top while roaming around. After having a look I placed it back where I found it.
Though the foundations of the fort are original, National Parks Service continually layer the adobe exterior to protect it from natural erosion.
Fort Union also had the most state of the art hospital in the entire country. Here are the remnants of the hospital below.
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.
There was a recreation of a native kiva. I would love to have some land and build one of my own one day.
Here is what’s left of the Spanish Mission.
From Pecos I was headed north toward Colorado.
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!