Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Standing on the corner of Winslow, AZ!

As sung by the Eagles in the song 'Take it easy' Well we've pretty much got the latter part cracked over the last 3 years but this was our chance to get the first bit checked off!! Winslow, Arizona is a tiny town on the old Route 66. Politely put there doesn't seem to be much going for it these days but after it's fame from the Eagles song they'd milked every last drop and have a fab little park dedicated to the whole 'Standing on the corner...' thing. A bronze statue of a backpacker with guitar standing on the corner. A lovely big mural of a girl in a old Ford truck is in the background (And the real life version in the foreground). It's rather cool and I've been humming that darn song the last 24 hours. Perhaps this will get it out of my system!

Also in Arizona, also on the Route 66 this time in Holbrook - a classic of the old Mother Road - the Wigwam hotel - 15 concrete wigwams, each comes complete with it's own classic car parked and rusting away outside! I'll stick to Harvey thanks but it sure looks the part! And you can still actually stay in these things - rates were starting from $48!!

More about Petrified Forest National Park which we visited the same day soon (my battery is about to die!)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend

Finally the weather picked up just in time for the long weekend. After a couple of days cooped up in the RV half way up a mountain getting snowed on it was good to get out! This really is such a beautiful part of the state - we took a long ride out north west of Santa Fe - up to Taos area. Lots to see and do along the way!

San Francisco de Asis church - it's in some dispute whether this is the oldest or second oldest church in America - either way it's old! A lovely adobe building - the straw is literally crumbling out of the walls with every gust of wind! - But adobe building techniques are not to be sniffed out - it was built in 1815!

The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge - with incredible views into the river gorge some 650 feet below! The landscape around and approaching the bridge is quite flat and within 1/4 mile of the gorge we still hadn't seen the gorge - then suddenly it opens up like some giant crack in the earth - Amazing views along the gorge with the mountains far off in the distance.

Taos Peublo - was built around 1450 and has been continuosuly inhabitated ever since! It's the largest exisiting multi-storey pueblo structure in the USA and is traditional adobe construction and is home to a fair few ferral dogs following you round and begging for scraps!

Taos Plaza - we stopped in Taos town for our lunch and listened to the drone of Harley Davidsons going by. Being Memorial Day weekend every man and his pillion rider were out on bikes proudly wearing their Vietnam Vet jackets (did the US Military issue Harleys to their War Vets to see out their days deafening everyone with the noise???) On the up side it was free parking on the plaza and a cheery display of Stars & Stripes flags backlit in the sunshine.

Red River - we soon discovered the source of all the Harleys...Bike Week in Red River! The place was heaving. It took about 15 minutes to ride the 1 mile downtown main street. I don't like (the noise of) Harleys (who'd have guessed eh?) BUT they do look good - especially en masse and there was a party atmosphere even just riding through.

Took the 'Enchanted Circle' road - 84 mile loop around Wheeler Peak the highest in New Mexico (13,161ft) - still completely snow capped at the moment and by the time we passed by glowing in the last rays of sun.

We had such a long ride out - didn't get back till 10pm - 2 hours after sunset by which time it was freezing of course! Just as well the neighbours had a healthy campfire roaring away to sit beside!

This morning we said out goodbyes to Nancy and Chris - after nearly a week of having some Brit Rv-ing neighbours they're fast-tracking their way to California whilst we're Arizona bound. We moved further up the hill but back into a site with electricty for the night to recharge our woeful batteries after battering them with an overdose fan heating!

But with more gorgeous weather another day out on the bike beckoned. There's so many variations of roads around the area - all with such lovely scenery and good roads just to be out enjoying the ride and the long weekend holiday! (but with that ever-so-slightly smug thought that I'm not going back to work tomorrow! (Yes you can all laugh oh-so-loud at me when it's my turn, but until then...!))

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Snowing in Santa Fe

Here now in Santa Fe. We're staying in the National Forest just 8 miles away from town but it could be a million miles - we're 1500 feet higher than the city (which is at 7000 feet anyway!), the air is fresh and clear, we're camped surrounded by pine trees with the most amazing smells and today we woke up to snow!! (actually it was exciting but wasn't really part of the plan!) The high altitude seemed like a great idea when we arrived in town with temperatures in the 90's. Now I'm not so's a little chilly! It didn't stop us setting off for our daily hikes but the last mile today was a determined hail storm! (nothing like a natural exfoliator!) We ventured briefly into the old centre of Santa Fe but we're here for a few more days and we'll explore more then. Camping next door to us are Nancy and Chris - the other English RV'ers. There's nothing like a good chin-wag around the campfire at night!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Albuquerque part II

Had a busy time in Albuquerque. Lots of chores to do - a new fridge fitted, new tires for the RV and for the bike (already!!). But we still had time for some fun. Did a couple of hikes in the Cibola National Forest - We rode up to Sandia Crest - a 16 mile scenic highway to the 10,000 foot peak overlooking the city and hiked from there. Or rather it wasn't so much of a hike as a 'trudge' - it was still pretty thick snow on a well shaded trail - at times knee deep! The view from the top was spectacular - that was moments before the cloud came in and obscured the view and treated us to a little snow in case we were in any doubt who was boss!

Back at the bottom of the hill we stopped by a great museum - The Tinkertown museum. We've done our fair share of musuems during this trip but this was totally unlike anything else. It was put together by an artist called Ross Ward who spent most of his life creating what today comprises Tinkertown. It started with a collection of miniture hand-carved figures back in the 60's and 70's which he travelled to carnivals and fairs to display. Now the museum is housed in buildings made of glass bottles (over 50,000 of them!) and is a crazy maze-like series of rooms with various collections - the original figures & old southwestern street scenes, circus scenes, a collection of wedding cake bride & groom toppers, antique tools, dolls, a 35ft boat (Which spent 10 years travelling the world - that's a whole other story!), fairground entertainment - we had our fortunes told by 'Esmerelda', established that I should be a 'Dictator' on the career wheel of fortune and listened to music on the wurlizter! It was just an amzing place and such fun! You turned each corner never knowing what delights were in store and there was so much to see! We met Carla - Ross's wife. It was her brother Fritz that had travelled for 10 years in the boat. We chatted for a while about his travels - so interesting for us also being travellers! The boat he wasn't able to sell after his adventures so it took the trip across the land to settle forever in the Tinkertown museum. As we left Carla gave us a copy of his book - we haven't finished it yet but already it's such a fascinating read.

Our second day being tourists we went downtown. First to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Centre - we got there in time for the traditional dancing. There were just 5 dancers but they all performed different traditional dances - lots of fancy names which I'm afraid were totally lost on me. The costumes were what I loved the most - so colourful and vibrant and full of texture and flow as they moved! The rest of the centre was dedicated to the 19 pueblo villages that still exisit in New Mexico. Although they often get lumped together as similar cultures they are all quite distinct with a number of different languages and customs.

We spent the rest of the day at the National Atomic Museum (it was here in New Mexico that the first atomic test bomb was exploded) and in the old town area - eating ice-creams in the shade of the trees surrounding the traditional plaza.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


We have a new camera! Very excited! After a false start on Sunday when we bought the camera orginally, we took it home, played around, and discovered the colour was off - like REALLY off - Chris's new bike was bright pink! After a call to Canon they agreed it was defective. Somewhat frustrating as we were in wilderness 200 miles from the nearest store to get it exchanged. So's sorted. We have our brand new fully functional Canon Digital EOS Rebel XSi!! and very nice it is too. Currently wading our way through the instruction manual. It's a late birthday present from each other and from Pat who gave us birthday money this year towards it - so thank you all!

Have just spent a few days in a town called Truth or Consequences. Yes a strange name for a town, but in 1950 they changed their name (previously called Hot Springs) as part of a publicity and fund-raising effort and it's stuck ever since! It was named after a popular game show at the time.

From here we took a fantastic ride out on the bike up into the hills and Gila National Forest. The roads were fabulous biking roads through very picturesque scenery. Past the HUGE open mine pit of Santa Rita (the oldest active mine in the SW - it's 1.5 miles wide and 1800ft deep and is producing 300 million lbs of copper a year!), over the 8228ft high Emory Pass and through a few small (nearly) ghost towns . Stopped for lunch in Silver City - it was a silver mining town, then got lucky and found copper once the silver ran out so now it's still going strong as a funky bonhemian town with every other store an art gallery, a few good cafes, wineries and at least one brewpub that we noticed! The old downtown is full of Victorian brick buildings and a real wild west town feel to the place! A great stop and a chance to stretch our legs for a couple of hours. We then took an incredibly twisty road north to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument - the road was actually TOO twisty to be really good fun on the bike - but at least we weren't in a car - the recommended drive time was 2 hours to do 58 miles!! (we did it all in about an hour! - the advantages of a bike on narrow roads - at least we could overtake the slow stuff!) Gila Cliff Dwellings were inhabited about 700 years ago by the Mogollon people - there were a series of 7 caves set up in the cliffs with dwellings built in stone inside them making up some 40 or so individual rooms. Quite fascinating stuff - quite reminiscent of the Cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde, CO we visited a couple of years back but these were very quiet because of their remote location - we only saw 2 other people in the area!

And so now we're in Albuquerque. Getting a new fridge fitted! After 2 years of intermittent problems with the thing - going from +15 and everything warm to -5 and frozen food I've got fed up and booked us in Friday, whilst Chris was still mincing about it all (it doesn't help that for the last week everything seems to be fine). I figure it's a kitchen applicance and therefore my domain and whilst Chris sits gazing adoringly at his mistress (aka the new bike) I'll get on and admire a new shiny, clean fridge - a fair deal - nah!!! - get me my leather jacket and helmet and take me for a ride baby!! (but I WILL get a cold drink when I get back!)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Fireblade's first track day

A bit of an exciting 'in a nervous kind of way' day today; I took the new bike, aka 'The Mistress' (as named by Helen and for probably obvious reasons) on the track for the first time; not bad really as it is only two weeks old and barely run-in! Not that modern Japanese bikes really need much of a running-in; more of a case of stay under 120mph and don't practice too many racing starts... The nerves were there anyway, what with it being a new bike that I'd hardly had chance to get to know. (unlike 'Donkey' who had over 25,000 miles on him before he was subjected to track abuse) And then compounded by the track owner who gave us a drive/walk round first thing explaining as he went just how technical and complicated to learn the track actually was. And then there was the bad surface, the dips and bumps, the gouges dug by previous unfortunates and the desert wind blowing sand and dust across the place. Being a sensibly mature(?) kinda guy I set off at a comfortably slow pace choosing, along with another 'new' guy - Bill, to follow one of the locals to learn the lines and was more than a little surprised to see Bill hammer it down the first straight, brake waaay too late and run straight off the track into the desert; the last I saw out of my peripheral vision was him and his beloved bike cartwheeling into the distance. Almost comical considering the conversation we'd just moments before about taking it easy for the first few sessions! Thankfully that was the only mishap of the day and the rest of us had a good safe day exploiting the sheer excess of power, speed and ability way beyond any of us mere mortals that is a modern sportsbike. So now my head is buried in magazines looking for any up-coming track days whilst Helen has resigned herself to second place... No chance honey!!!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Viva Terlingua!

We so didn't want to leave Terlingua. Such a great place that just felt so 'right' straight away. It obviously helped that we met great people - Cynta, who in turn arranged for us to park the RV in the yard of Sue & Joe. Such a warm welcome. The plan was just a night - Cynta laughed at us and said people never stay what they planned - and she was right - it really didn't take that much persuading for us to stay an extra day (And really it could've been so much longer). Terlingua Ghost Town is such a funky little community that we felt right at home in - out walking the neighbourhood dogs with Cynta in the mornings and sitting on 'The Porch' at the Starlight in the evening (and really the BEST margaritas I've tasted!). Last night we also met another great couple - Nancy and Chris - English (check), Young (check), RV'ers (check), wanting to emigrate to Canada (check)!!! Talk about conincidence! In all this time of travelling we've met next to no RV'ers our kind of age and then we do and we're similar in those other aspects too! Obviously we had a fair amount to chat about!! With 4 Brits in the house we treated Terlingua to a little of the weather from home - got them pretty exicited about the flash of rain that passed through - first for them since November I think it was!! With that came a spectacular show - lightening like we'd never seen - dramatic fork lightening going across the sky in all directions - amazing!

Staying the extra day also gave us the chance to check out a wicked little biking road that Sue & Joe implored us to do. (FM170) Just 62 miles long between Terlingua and Presidio it was non-stop twisties and roller-coaster straights - sometimes both at the same time! There were a few crazy blind bend hilltops and some seriously steep hills - following the Rio Grande all the way. We stopped in Presidio for lunch then turned around and did the route in reverse - which was just like a whole new road of turns and twists putting the new bike through it's paces. We stopped at a little old film set village and some fun teepees (or wig-wams?) check out the pics!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Big Bend National Park

We've just spent the last 3 days in Big Bend National Park. Right at the bottom of Texas on the border with Mexico. A very remote and beautiful part of the state. The Rio Grande runs along the edge of park creating a natural border with Mexico. We camped down by the river - the hottest place to be! But the other campsite was up in the Chisos Basin - 5500ft up with a small, twisty and steep road with a bunch of switchbacks to contend with - not a road that Harvey could handle! It would've been nice but I don't think we'd have lived to be writing this blog!! Instead we used the bike to get around the park. We did a couple of amazing hikes up in the basin - one out to 'the window' - a gap in the mountains surrounding the basin where you can see out into the surrounding area (slightly spooked at the idea that the trail we used had had a bear sighting only the afternoon before - a bear with 4 cubs no less! - our crazy bear song came into good use once again!! - actually it was a pretty well used trail and we saw a bunch of other people out hiking too) The second hike of the day 'Lost Mine Trail' was way more peaceful - the trailhead had 2 other vehicles parked up and we passed 2 groups of people heading back down within a few minutes of us setting off so it seemed like a safe bet we were the only ones out on that particular trail that evening. We didn't leave till 6pm so we had gorgeous late afternoon light when we got to the top - just amazing views. Back in the basin we watched sunset - conviently it lines itself up just so with the window!! From the basin we had a 20 mile ride back down to the river campsite and here we were ran the gauntlet of sucidal animals that seem to live in Big Bend. We had near misses with 3 birds (added to the 3 birds that met their maker on the 8x12 foot speeding wall that is Harvey!) We saw 3 deer and then 3 javelinas - which we stopped in good time for but the truck coming the other way wasn't so good on the brakes... and lets just say if Javelinas were pigs then I'd be cooking myself a bacon butty right now! Finally the sucidal Jackrabbit so I seriously don't know how we missed - and by this time we were crawling along at a snails pace after all the near misses!!
But besides all the crazy animals there's been a few 'new' animals sightings for us to add to our list! Javelinas (they are NOT pigs!!) and a real live tarantula (not in a zoo!) and though we've seen them before we had a cute little roadrunner hanging around our campsite! The morning we left the winds had come in. Bad for visibility but great for the heat - so much cooler down by the river and we took a nice hike out along the river, through the desert to the Hot Springs. The cooler temperatures made it so much nicer easing yourself into the 100 degree water too of course!

Right now we're staying in Terlingua Ghost town - just a few miles outside of the park on the western side. We came here to meet up with a couch-surfer - Cynta. She lives in a beautiful house she'd rebuilt from the ruins of the ghost town (this was an old Mercury mining town which was abandoned in the mid 1940's). It's a great little place full of funky old ruins and the old Stralight theatre - now a great reaturant/bar/meeting place. The town mercantile with a huge porch full of intersting characters and impromptu music from someone sitting out and stiking up a toon on the banjo! It's so peaceful here! We just whiled away the evening sat on Cynta's porch star-gazing - and boy can you see the stars in a place like this?! There's just no light pollution - the sky just doesn't seem big enough for all these stars!