Saturday, April 29, 2006

Sometimes a Place is Just a Place

Go ahead and stone me, but I found Santa Fe to be a disappointment. Of course, disappointment is a two way street. I'm willing to take the blame for having set my expectations too far to the left. I have always heard about Santa Fe as being a unique community that was both art-centered and utilitarian. A place that values substance over sheen.

Santa Fe is visually appealing -- it exists in the middle of a dramatic geography. But apart from that, it is what people have made it to be. And what they appear to have made it into is a super-gentrified consumption sink. A place where the billionaires have relegated the millionaires to a meager existence -- forcing them to sustain their bling addiction on only the more affordable of trinkets.

I am not the most traveled person that you may meet, but I have to say that the shopping square was one of the most over-the-top retail centers that I have ever seen. 99% fashion, 1% utility. Well, maybe 2% utility if you believe that Starbucks is utility.

I think that you can learn a lot about a place from its restaurants. Perhaps our dinner experience can provide an exemplar for the overall experience. Elitist attitude, elitist prices, mediocre substance. Broken sauces, over-creamed soup, insensitive (even argumentative) waitstaff, and the "are you really ordering that wine?" look. Please, save it for someone who values the abuse as an integral component of some misguided spiritual journey.

Surely I have been much too harsh on Santa Fe. It is not unlike many other places in the country. Santa Fe, please accept my apology for having expected something completely different. Or, perhaps, for arriving 25 years too late.


Some photos from the ride from Santa Fe to Las Vegas, NM. The highlights are a civil war monument (site of the most westward civil war battle) near the top of Glorietta pass (7560ft), and a old unused bridge from a pre-1937 alignment of Route 66. Oh, and Anurang pulling a gun on me. Someone please lock that guy up before he hurts someone.
Photo Journal

Ride Summary

Thursday: 77 miles of headwind from Albuquerque, NM to Santa Fe, NM
Friday: 71 rainy and windswept miles from Santa Fe, NM to Las Vegas, NM

Yearly Miles: 2933

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Grants to Albuquerque

Another day of headwinds. Out of the 11 days thus far, I think we have only had 1 tailwind day. None of the days have been calm. I guess I should not complain, however, because we have not yet had any rain...

Highlights from today's photo journal include the Santa Maria Mission, ruins (of course), an interesting tree house, an impromptu found-objects sculpture, and a retired old road bridge.

Photo Journal

Ride Summary: 80 miles from Grants, NM to Albuquerque, NM

Miles this Year: 2785

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Kitsch, Petroglyphs and The Divide

Yesterday we crossed the border between Arizona and New Mexico. It was a 100 mile route from Holbrook to Gallup, but a steady tailwind gave us some extra time to play. So, leaving the Petrified Forest National Park, a few of us spent about an hour exploring near the ruins of an old trading post. We also braved some barbed wire and climbed (by foot) up a rocky hill to take a look at some ancient petroglyphs that Lon had found years earlier. Check out the photo journals to see them yourself.

We have been steadily climbing since the beginning of the tour. We have been above 5000 feet for almost a week and above 6500 feet for the past few days. When we crossed the Continental Divide today (at 7300 feet), I expected to start some serious descending. But, my geographical knowledge of the area failed me, as we are still above 6400 feet tonight in Grants, NM. The descending has yet to come. There will, of course, still be plenty of climbing on the tour but it is nice to know that I have well over a mile of descending owed to me before I get to the shores of Manhattan.

Oh, the Kitsch. That was mostly at the Hackberry Automotive (check out the wallpaper in the bathroom) and the streets of Seligman. Check out the photos...

Photo Journals

Catching up on photos from the past several days...
Friday through Tuesday (Kingman, AZ through Grants, NM)

Ride Summary

Monday: 102 miles from Holbrook, AZ to Gallup, NM - great old road segments.
Tuesday: 63 miles from Gallup, NM to Grants, NM

Yearly Miles: 2705

Sunday, April 23, 2006

99 Bottles of Piss On The Road

First, let me apologize for not blogging every night. It's not like I haven't wanted to, but circumstances sometimes conspire against plans. In addition to spotty Internet access, the weather has been somewhat uncooperative -- leaving me with little time and energy to blog. 25 mph headwinds, 35 mph crosswinds, 8-10 hour days, aches and pains, days of climbing mountain passes, 7500 ft elevations, etc. But you don't want to hear about any of that. That's just the monotonous backdrop to the real excitement.

Secondly, let me apologize for today's topic. Ok, I'm not really apologizing, but over the past few days, I had made mental notes for a variety of more mainstream stories. On Friday, for example, while riding from Kingman to Seligman, I had a lunch at the Canyon Restaurant that inspired a story called "A Tale of Two Pastries". Then, on Saturday, a mouthful of dirt gave birth to "Uncomplicated Wisdom: They Say You Eat A Peck of Dirt Before You Die".

I also had a few high-brow educational stories queued up about Roy's Cafe, the Amboy Crater, and Hackberry Automotive. And, after eating dinner tonight at the Butterfield Steakhouse, I almost bumped today's headline for "Holbrook: The Gayest Place in Arizona".

But, alas, I can only tell one story at a time. If anyone really wants to hear those stories let me know. I'm not holding my breath.

So anyway... Today we rode from Seligman to Holbrook, AZ. Little of the old road remains along the route, so most of the mileage was on I-40. Today was not the first day that we rode on I-40, but it was the longest. Of the 88 miles to Holbrook, 74 of them were on I-40. On previous jaunts down I-40, I could not help but notice the abundance of bottles laying along the side of the road -- filled with piss. Today, they seemed to be in greater abundance.

There were bottles of all denomination. Coke, Pepsi, various brands of bottled water, Gatorade, etc. I spent a few seconds wondering about why it is that the truckers feel compelled to fling their caged urine out into the wild. Couldn't they just wait for a proper dumpster? Or at least leave the lids off to facilitate evaporation? And just how many bottles are out here? That last question took hold. I started counting.

When spending 8+ hours a day on a bicycle, a person needs to find ways to keep their mind busy. Sometimes this time can be very productive. There have been many times when I have worked out some difficult problems, both technical and social, while on the bike. However, with so much time on the bike, one cannot always be focused on solving the world's problems.

It only took about 30 minutes to get too bored to continue counting, although I was still somewhat curious about the number. I decided to estimate. I had counted 12 bottles in the last 9 miles. That works out to 1 1/3 bottles per mile. At first, I was not entirely comfortable with that estimate, given the fact that the Gatorade bottles were sometimes tough to call. Was that piss or Gatorade in the bottle? I had neither the time nor the stomach to stop and check, so I decided that all Gatorade bottles were actually piss bottles. Hey, it's not like I'm publishing in a scientific journal.

After lunch, I scanned the route card and estimated that about 74 miles of today's ride was on I-40. Using my 1 1/3 bottle per mile estimate, and rounding up to the nearest whole number, that worked out to 99 bottles of piss that I would pass on I-40 today. I wondered if any of the truckers were singing that old road song, "99 bottles of beer" as they filled and tossed their bottles.

Unfortunately, variations on that song occupied my thoughts for the next several miles. No, I would not be solving any of the world's problems this afternoon.

Ride Summary

Friday: 91 miles from Kingman, AZ to Seligman, AZ
Saturday: 80 miles from Seligman, AZ to Flagstaff, AZ
Sunday: 88 miles from Flagstaff, AZ to Holbrook, AZ

The miles are starting to pile up -- now that we are riding over 600 a week. By Monday night we will be in New Mexico.

Miles this Year: 2540