It was Christmas Eve and I just wanted to get moving. The snow in Las Cruces was still falling, but the temps were just high enough to turn the slush into water. One thing was dominating my thoughts. I just wanted to get to Arizona. There really wasn’t a good reason to be in a hurry, in fact, the only reason I wanted to get there was to experience that slight rush that I get when crossing a new state line. New Mexico had shown me some great times and I’ve made a few more new friends. It’s a shame that I can’t go north and experience the really rugged side of the state. Wicked snowfall from the states northern high elevation mountains is dominating the roads up there. No place for a sport bike like mine. Perhaps those BMW guys, with their semi-knobbed tires, could get around. I’ll plan to hit up northern NM on the way back home next year.
With the Goose all packed up and checkout time lurking in the near future, I headed for the highway only to make it about 20 feet. For the past two days a BMW has been covered up in the motels parking lot near my bike. I haven’t had a chance to meet the owner until he spotted me heading out and came out of his room to say hello. His name was Dennis and he is heading to Los Alomos from Sacramento. We spoke mostly about long distance motorcycle travel. He’s racked up quite a few long trip in his years. One story he told disturbed me though and it still bothers him to this day. He was rear-ended by a car back home in Sacramento a few years ago and the driver of the car stopped and looked at Dennis after he hit him. The driver noticed that he was African-American and took off, leaving Dennis laying there with a shattered left knee. I find that highly unsettling and I wish that we could just send people like that driver to another planet. There’s absolutely no excuse for a hit and run, especially after you just struck a motorcyclist. That driver didn’t know that he just smacked into one of out nations military veterans and left him for dead. What a piece of shit.
Dennis and I ended up exchanging info and I hope his travels are much safer for now on. After that I fueled up and headed for 10west to crank in some miles. I was amped to turn the throttle and head toward the western horizon. Nothing could stop me! Except. Except a 20 mile long traffic jam that started about 10 miles from the Las Cruces city limits and lasted almost until the town limits of Demming New Mexico. Road work was the culprit. I’m really not sure why it was so important to get that shoulder work done on a Christmas Eve, Saturday afternoon, with heavy holiday traffic relying on interstate 10 to get families to one another. As humans can’t we just slow progress for a second and remember what’s actually important in life or will we always let the mighty dollar rule us for here on out. I do realize that those guys were getting good overtime and holiday pay, but it came at the expense of creating stress for thousands of others. The shoulder will be there Monday folks. Anyway, the traffic jam joyfully came to and end and the Gooses clutch remained unfried. I briefly stopped in Demming to get warm and wi-fi. The toes on my right foot were completely frozen. The left foot was exposed to the sunshine the whole time and was doing just fine. I never thought that the sun in 3o something degree weather would be able to make such a warming difference, but it sure does. From Demming it was about 55 miles to Lordsburg, the next town along 10w. I’m really toughening up when it comes to cold weather riding. Doing 90mph in 35 degree weather for 50 miles is a cinch, as long as it’s not to much longer than that. Eventually one foot or the other starts to feel it. A brief stop in Lordsburg for fuel, rest room break, and caffeine and I was on the road again. Arizona was only 20 miles away!
The big blue sign with the sun rays appeared in front of me and that feeling I was talking about earlier engulfed me. Arizona, the Grand Canyon state, changing to the Sonoran desert instead of Chihuahuan, one state from the Pacific, wild west, Navajo Nation, all those things and more. I was glad to be there. At the sign I snapped off pics like a mad man and headed off into the distance on 10 west again before stopping 40 miles later in Wilcox Az. I decided to give Motel 6 a shot. All this time I’ve ignored them thinking that since they are a big nationally known franchise that their rates would be higher. Not so. They had a room for $35. I couldn’t believe it. That’s only $5 higher than popping my tent up at most state parks (at least on the east coast). Seemed like a deal to me, so I got the room and chilled out all evening and even watched “It’s a wonderful life” all the way through for the first time. It was a great movie and I love the way people sounded back then. They just sound like they had an innocence in their voice that has been lost with time.
Day 73 Christmas
Merry Christmas everyone! This is the first Christmas that I’ve spent alone and without family. It did feel a bit weird. Not really because I wasn’t back home though. Mainly the strange feeling came from being in the rugged desert on Christmas and knowing that my plans for the day had absolutely nothing to do with the holiday itself. A bit of a heavy feeling followed me around in the morning until I got on the road. Heading down 10w I came across a sign that reminded me of a recommendation that came from the Crossroads Yamaha shop back when I was in Albe Marle NC. A customer at the shop that day, named Jim, has ridden across the US a couple of times and told me about “The Thing”. Once I saw the sign and found the exit I just had to stop and see “the Thing” for myself. Being Christmas day, the building that houses “the Thing” was closed. Luckily Jim told me what it was while I was in NC. “The Thing” is actually a mumified Native American woman and child. Perhaps someday in the future I’ll be driving on 10 west and have the time to stop in a get a picture of it.
Two nearby places were on the agenda for Christmas day. Tombstone AZ and Bisbee AZ. They were about 40 and 60 miles from Wilcox. I thought the rather short drive would allow plenty of time to see both places.That was until I arrived in Tombstone. Tombstone is the epitome of the old west and it grabbed me with both of its ghostly hands and held me there all day. Like Luckenbach TX, some places are just to good to briefly pass through. It only took a couple of minutes to realize that I’d be staying overnight in Tombstone and that Bisbee and its canyon would have to wait until the next day. Tombstone began its larger than life existence as a silver mining town. Once the precious metal was found it didn’t take long for the place to fill up with all sorts of rough and tumble characters. Wyatt Earp, Big Nose Kate and her saloon, the O.K. corral, Johny Ringo and a host of others are just a few of the defining fixtures of this town labeled, “to tough to die.”
The Goose and I were there to soften the place up a bit. I found a place to park in the wide open parking lot. Being Christmas day, the town was a borderline ghost town. I definitely timed it wrong for experiencing the live reenactments that happen daily and all of the other museums and shops. On the bright side, the streets were wide open and I could snap plenty of pictures without having to always wait for someone to move and that’s exactly what I did. Literally everything was closed (around here they say “shut”) except three saloons. I made my way up and down the main drag a few times before being lured into Big Nose Kates saloon by the live music. As soon as I walked in I noticed the attire that the bartender had on. I didn’t hesitate to ask him if I could get a picture of him. He did me one better by getting the owner of the place to take a picture of us, both behind the bar, holding guns. Excellent! The Wyatt Earp looking bartenders name was John and he made my experience there top-notch. The lack of tourists allowed him to give me a few history lessons and show me a few pics around and behind the bar that were taken years ago that have ghosts in them. He also filled me in on why a shot is called a shot. The story goes, cowboys in the old west never carried much money on them, but they always had a bunch of bullets. One bullet was worth about five cents. The cowboy would lay a bullet on the bar and tell the bartender to give him a bullets (or one shot) worth of whiskey and the bartender would give him a small amount of whiskey worth about five cents. Later on the cowboy would come back to the saloon after getting paid and buy his bullets back. John the bartender also gave me a free shot of Old Overholt rye whiskey, that’s the stuff Wyatt Earp and the boys would order while in Big Nose Kates. I ended up hanging around there for a while until I had to find a place to stay. John recommended the Trail Riders motel, so I took him up on that and got a nice room and went back to town since it was still daylight. There was another saloon open just down the street that had fixed a feast for the townsfolk and few tourists that were lingering around. I went there and scarfed down some lasagna, mince meat pie, and chili. Being grateful for the free food I ordered a beer and tipped well. While there I met another motorcycle rider named Mike who was 29 years old. He and I hung out for about an hour when John the bartender walked in. John joined us and we had a few cold ones and since we all owned bikes, we mainly focused our conversation in that direction. Soon the sun went down and the moon came up and Mike went back to Tucson. John and I hung about for a bit before I left to go see what Ringos saloon was like. I didn’t stay long. The night was getting late and I was pretty wiped out, so I made my way back to my cowboy themed room for a slumber to remumber.
(christmas day pics coming as soon as i can get wi-fi again)