Monday, August 7th - Sunday, August 13th, 2006

7 days
3,860 miles
9 states
. . . 1 motorcycle

(Click on the thumbnailed images below to view them at full size.)

Here I am at the Three Rivers Petroglyph site about 17 miles north of Tularosa, New Mexico. It's a remote, rugged and beautiful place -- and not very heavily visited, which is nice. It's maintained and operated by the Bureau of Land Management, and unlike the National Park Service they don't require you to stay on designated trails. This area contains more than 21,000 rock carvings made about 1,000 years ago. It's an amazing feeling to stand on a ridge and look out at the same vista that inspired these artists as they sat there scratching and pecking away at the basaltic patina hundreds of generations ago. Not much has changed out here over the past millenium. The connection to the past is tangible.

Here you can see Pancho parked in front of the Shaffer Hotel and Restaurant in Mountainair, New Mexico, where I had lunch. The Art Deco building was put up in 1923 by Clem "Pop" Shaffer. (No, those aren't Nazi swastikas on the front -- they're indian designs.) I love stopping at places like this to eat when I'm on the road. Check out their web site for more.

Highway 82 through New Mexico offers challenging curves and gorgeous views. I found myself stopping often to take pictures or just enjoy the scenery.

The mountains loom on the horizon.

Lit up by the setting sun, the road seems to go on forever.

Magnificent desolation.

Obviously I had to stop here! The collection of hang gliders and sailplanes inside was quite impressive indeed. If you're interested, go to the Southwest Soaring Museum's web site for more information.

Persuasive sign, don't you think? These are the ruins of the Mission of San Gregorio de Abo in the Salinas Valley. It was built in the late 1620s by Spanish colonizers, specifically Franciscan friars charged by the Pope with Christianizing the natives. To the pueblo religious culture, with its tradition of worshipping a complex pantheon of natural gods, some of whom were good, some of whom were evil and many of whom were simply indifferent to human existence, the idea of one man or woman having a close personal relationship with a single, almighty being who created the universe and now takes a deep interest in the life of each individual probably seemed a little nutty.

It's true: I will settle for nothing but the absolute finest in luxury accomodations when I'm on the road.

As I was driving through Santa Rosa on Thursday, I recalled my previous visit in 1992 -- wow, 14 years earlier! I remembered going to a place called Blue Hole with Shari Christine and her mother Barbara. I decided to find it again. And as you can see above, I did. I was filled with a surge of nostalgia as I returned to this same exact spot, a place I'd not been in 14 years . . . a strange, eerie feeling: familiar, yet alien. Naturally, I contemplated all that had happened in the intervening decade and a half.

Blue Hole itself is a stunning natural feature: a deep, cold and powerful artesian upwelling out in the middle of a small desert town. It pumps 3,000 gallons of crystal-clear water into a creek every minute. Strangely, it is not very well publicized. You have to know where to find it. I put on my bathing suit and a diving mask and jumped in the chilly basin to cool off. 61 degrees might not sound that cold, but believe me, it takes your breath away at first! As peculiar as it is, there is actually a SCUBA diving school located here in the arid, rocky hills of New Mexico. A beginner class was fumbling around in the spring practicing using their gear for the first time while I was in there swimming.

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