Rider of the Storm to Solstice Depths and Blown into a Supermoon

Tender Mercy - Monahans, TX © 2013 Skip Hunt

Rising up, and up into the cool mountain air around Cloudcroft, New Mexico. There were amazing vistas looking back down toward the white-hot desert plains below, and plenty of overlook parking along the way. I was moving now and couldn't bring myself to stop. The cool air was so soothing that all I wanted to do was glide around the easy curves, under great pines. 

I passed this way, over the mountain through Cloudcroft, a few years ago and remember thinking I'd stop the next time I pass. Guess it'll have to wait until the next one I reckon. 

Beyond Cloudcroft, things started to get more dicey. The clouds on the horizon were dark and the view frequently obscured by dense dust storms. At one point I couldn't see more than about 10 yards ahead of me and had to slow it way down. Just beyond the pine mountain forests, you drop down a bit in altitude to flat plains that look like they've been in drought a good while. And, with wildfire smoke, dust storms and dark clouds, the high plains just felt ominous. I just had to make Carlsbad even if it meant I'd get a little wet. 

Stopped in Alpine, New Mexico for gas and to check the weather reports for the last 50 miles into Carlsbad. Not good. Severe storms and flash-flood warnings. It was stay up on the high plains amidst ominous dust storms and dark clouds, or take a chance and see if I could punch through the storm quickly enough to escape the worst of it. 

As I left Alpine toward Carlsbad, the sky I was riding into got significantly darker and the sky filled with spidering electrical bolts in all directions. It wasn't until 2 couples on touring Harley's passed me heading right into the darkness that I decided if they weren't giving up, I wouldn't either. Basically, idiotic machismo directed my decision-making process and I was all in. 

The Harleys were traveling at a fairly high speed and the wives on the back didn't look all that thrilled about it. I stayed close to them in case anything went wrong with any of us, they'd  be strength in numbers. In the worst of it, I would have pulled over for shelter and waited it out, machismo be damned, but there simply is nowhere for shelter in those parts. Just desert plains, highway, and severe storms. I suppose I could have turned back, but it didn't look much better in that direction either. 

My budget had really taken a beating with over-priced dive highway hotels along the way and I'd planned on making up the extra expense by camping as much as I could. Even with the storm, I checked out a Carlsbad campground after discovering the least expensive shoddy motel I could find, basically triple-gouged their prices for the hoards of tourists coming to see Carlsbad Caverns. 

It was already dark and the campground was closed, but I met a couple who'd been assigned a spot for their tent just before they closed. The couple were covered in ink, lots of piercings, itching their arms and twitching a bit like they could use a quick dope fix. Their assigned tent spot was on dirt and gravel next to a garbage dumpster and they paid $25 for that. Decided, I'd have to extend the budget once again and pony up for the triple-gouge dive motel. Not that I had a problem with camping by a dumpster, or the storm… but I was really tired and wouldn't be able to sleep without my gear locked up near folks who looked pretty desperate.

Started to silently grown to myself a bit after learning Carlsbad Caverns National Park had just nearly doubled their entry prices and I was paying for the privilege of going down into a deep cave with huge crowds of other tourists and screaming children in-tow. And, on the day of the Summer Solstice no less! For a brief moment, I almost decided to cut-bait and just keep on motoring into Texas.

So glad I stuck it out and descended into the magnificent cavern! The crowds weren't as bad as I'd feared, and the children seemed mostly well behaved. It was so quiet and at times it felt like I'd been transported back in time to the Summer trip I made with my grandparents a few decades ago. 

The caverns weren't lit up as much as I remember from my childhood, or perhaps my eyes are less sensitive now than they were when I was about 7 years old. Getting photos proved to be a challenge that I mostly failed. I took a small monopod that converts to a table tripod, and tried to use the railing to support my camera. Two second exposures where picking up the tiniest vibrations from the railing for floors so most of the images have motion blur. I knew this fairly quickly, but thought I'd see if I got lucky with a few or at least got some nice abstracts and colors I could use as backgrounds later. 

The deepest part of the caverns called "the Big Room" is where the most impressive details are. I think I vaguely recall this from my childhood, but descending through the natural cavern entrance appealed to me more than just taking the elevator down. 

After a fill-up at the tourist compound of "White's City", I tried to make contact with Guadalupe National Park about 50 miles away to verify their camping wasn't full. Couldn't reach anyone, but a fellow in the parking lot overheard my phone call and asked what they charge to camp. I told him $8 but that I didn't know if they were full or not. He said I could camp in their campgrounds with hot showers, wifi, etc. for the same price. Being a Saturday and likely the park grounds would be full, I decided staying put and relaxing in my hammock sounded a lot better than a later afternoon gamble.

The flies were very aggressive there & were biting me most of the evening. Had to chase a raccoon away from my bike because I think he smelled the sardine can from my dinner. 

A bird started incessant squawking up in the tree where I had my hammock slung and couldn't get back to sleep. But, I witnessed the most resplendent vermillion sunrise in the quietude of dawn & somehow it all seemed worth it for that interlude of serenity.

The next day, I took my time and eased along casually. It shouldn't have taken long to get to Monahans Sandhills State Park near Monahans, Texas. That is, if they'd thought to put up any signs pointing the way for travelers coming from the Carlsbad direction. This park is really tricky to find, but it's not far off the Instate highway 20. For some reason, it's location throws off GPS and online maps. After at least three wild-goose chases, I finally just happened to stumble onto the feeder road and entrance sign. 

Because I'd taken my time getting moving, it was right smack dab in the hottest part of the day. When I pulled up to the guard shack, a lady in a car behind me blew on her horn and kept yelling something at me. I asked her to hold on while I take my helmet off and pull out my headphones, but she just kept yakking at me. After I could finally hear her, she said, "Just pull over there, park your bike and come inside and we'll get you taken care of." Gee thanks! That's exactly what I was trying to do before you started blasting your horn at me, but I didn't say that out loud. 

Inside, there was a ranger who acted like he really didn't like the look of me and even less interested in helping me with any information. I told him I was there to camp, but he just kept on suggesting other places, saying there's no shade out there, and there are several large groups of boy scouts on their way, etc. 

All the options other than staying put were too far away or too expensive. So I asked him which part of the campgrounds am I most likely to be the furthest away from crowds. He got upset and said he couldn't guarantee anything. I told him fine and asked if I could just have a look before I registered. By his description, I'd be boiling out in the sun on nothing but asphalt with screaming boy scouts running around like banshees.

On my way out to my bike I decided that if it wasn't going to work out, I didn't want to have to take off gear again just to go back inside to let them know I was moving on. When I went back inside the office, the rangers didn't see me and I watched them making fun of me and mocking my questions. Cleared my throat so they could see me and they quickly shut up and got embarrassed. I told them that I was a long-time supporter of Texas State Parks and didn't appreciate being ridiculed. The offending ranger stuttered a bit, then said, "Well, I can't guarantee how many people are going to be here and where they will be camping!" I replied, "I never asked for any guarantee. I asked for your opinion based on your experience since you work here and I don't. No guarantee, just an educated guess. Sorry that request was too demanding. I'm going to see if it'll work out for myself. If it doesn't, I'm going to just keep moving." He swallowed his tongue and said, "I'm ok with that." 

At this point, knowing I wasn't welcome made me even more determined to stay put. Glad I did. The grounds weren't even close to full. It was easy to see where a large group of boy scouts would likely choose to camp, and the sites had shelters perfect for a hammock. Everything the ranger had told be turned out to be false. 

When I went back to register, the ranger closed himself into a small office while the yakking woman took care of me with minimal words exchanged. 

Standing my ground and staying put despite every reason to keep on moving, proved to be the best decision I could have made. There was a high wind, but it served to wash away footprints and create an ethereal blur of moving sand in many of the images. The boy scouts arrived and were led my a scout master who kept them all pretty much in-line and they all were extremely well behaved. It was to be the night of a "supermoon" and after a couple glasses of wine in the evening and checking the time the moon would be the most full, I slumbered in my hammock and drifted away with the sands. 

The "super moon" was to be the most full at 6:32AM and I woke up at exactly 6:32AM. Grabbed my camera and stomped out onto the dunes. The full moon looked pretty much like any other full moon, and it was still too dark for images. This is one of those moments where I just stop, forget about yesterday, stop planning or analyzing, stop taking photos, etc. and just breath in the moment. This is the sort of moment I seek on these trips. Everything else is just trying to grasp onto something and make visual notes to remember.

The last leg home through oil-country was dry, desolate, and littered with countless oil derricks foresting a drought beaten countryside. As I approached Austin, Texas the rolling hills and familiar green foliage returned to my view as I made my way down the last stretch and held onto that last moment remembering the gently blowing on the dune surface and the clouds passing before a full supermoon… and I was home.

"Heathen"

- This video's intent isn't particularly to showcase my work. The video's intent is to translate my experience. I make so many images compulsively, without thought of sales, or how they'll be received. I hope they're well received and that I sell a few, but that's not what drives me. Always moving and trying to keep the frame in front of me ever changing... constantly making visual asterisks in the form of images, words and video as I try to snag bits and pieces in the content rushing by. 

When I'm in the place that I often seek, it feels like it's moving this fast and I'm just trying to keep up... almost as if I switch from an analytic, thoughtful mode to one of pure intuition. In this mode, it's a constant flow of information. At some point, I simply stop... breath... I don't make in images... or engage in thought. The "I" disappears and there's just ALL. That's ultimately where' I'm trying to get to.

 

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Offer good for only a few more days before being closed and patron print choices collected.

a quick rest and I'll hopefully be back on the road again soon...

Stay tuned!

 

Extra Images from the Road

New text dispatch with more images coming soon, but here's a few extra images from the road.  

Petrified + Hopi Land + Sedona + Rte 66 + Gila

Here's a few images from Sedona, Hopi Reservation land, a bit of old Route 66, petrified abstract, and the Gila wilderness with cliff dwellings.

Will update the text portion soon with the most memorable bits.

Stay tuned and don't forget you can still get in on the sweet patron print deal, but the opportunity will expire shortly after this trip concludes. Your support helps offset some of my travel expenses I incur while sharing what I see from the road... and gets you signed museum quality prints on 100% cotton rag paper. A win, win. :)

Will continue updating my Instagram Feed when possible.

If you're enjoying the trip so far, PayPal gratuities are very much welcome via the tip jar link top right. Or, if you'd like to own a specially discounted and signed fine-art print from this trip, check out my patron support options HERE

Next stop White Sands & Carlsbad!

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Dark Dreams & Hopi Hail Storm Punishment

Oh wow, I had some of the most intense dreams/nightmares last night. The kind that when you wake up, you're not completely sure it was a dream.

In the dream, I had been diagnosed with possible cancer. I had to prepare for some procedure when the doctor would basically give me drugs that would stop my heart & effectively kill me, while they administered some other hardcore chemicals. Then, they'd bring me back.

I had to get prepared & say goodbyes and all for a full day before the procedure. And, in the dream this was my second time to go through this procedure.

Never have I been so happy to wake up in a roadside Motel 6! ;) Really took more than a few uncomfortable moments convincing myself it was only a messed up nightmare.

I felt something strong in the Hopi reservation. Partly good & spiritual. But I have to be honest too, although I went there expecting some deep spiritual connection, I felt something of a dark trickster presence there too.

Every Hopi person I met were extremely warm and friendly. Real salt of the earth folks, but I also sensed something dark there as well. The way that hail storm came upon me out of nowhere, pummeling relentlessly, felt like some sort of aggressive act. I know that sounds crazy, but after the intensity of lasts nights dreamscape, I'm sort of ready to get on down the road.

Thought about doing Canyon de Chelly, but from what I've heard about all the Navajo jewelry vendors & expensive guides, etc. I'm thinking I'll work my way toward the Gila Cliff Dwellings in New Mexico.

The dreams I had while camping in Sedona were strangely magical and had a strong mystic quality. The place I visited in my dreams there was a place I'd visited in another dream years ago, only this time was far more vivid with more revealed. Possibly another dimension altogether.

Imagine... all that without drugs. ;)

Might wander around Holbrook a little before moving on. Check out is at noon, but I don't want to spend that time editing photos, so I'll add the Sedona dispatch later & out of order.


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If you're enjoying the trip so far, PayPal gratuities are very much welcome via the tip jar link top right. Or, if you'd like to own a specially discounted and signed fine-art print from this trip, check out my patron support options HERE

Pushing on Through...


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Sierra Club Slummin', a Filthy North Rim Stare-Down to Vegas

A quick stop to view a lovely overlook on the road into Navajo National Monument, Arizona and I was surveying the campgrounds for a suitable tree to sling my hammock. I hadn't stopped by the ranger station since it looked to be already closed, but a neighboring camper next to the site I selected, an Irish fellow, offered me details.

He said there were no fees for camping and that everything was free. He said its the strangest park he'd ever been to in that respect, and told me I could still check out the overlook of the Hopi cliff dwellings down the  trail behind the ranger station. He also informed me that you had to take a Navajo  guided hike if you wanted to get closer.

I answered his questions about Hovenweep and the route I'd taken. He also wanted to check out my hammock setup. All in all, a very nice exchange and he let me know I'd have to sign up for the hike early at the ranger station.

Found an electrical socket behind the ranger station and hung out charging my phone after the cliff dwelling overlook hike. The days riding had finally taken its toll as I fell asleep leaning on a trash can by the electrical socket. By the time I woke up the sky was already full of stars.

The next morning I rushed over to the ranger station to sign up for the hike. A Navajo ranger told me I was too late because they were already full. I thought about having to camp another night when the Navajo man asked if it was just me. I told him yes and he said "OK, you're in. Bring water & meet me in the front in 15 minutes."

The hike was to last 4-5 hours and it was already getting pretty hot. When the group convened, I learned half of them were from the Sierra club. All of them had high-end safari gear, hiking polls and packs full of food & water. Seemed excessive for just a little hike to see some cliff dwellings, but I figured they were just really getting into the "adventure" vibe. Seemed funny to see all that gear considering they were all staying in million dollar RVs with the works, including full satellite dish hookups. I was barely even getting a phone signal & had to camp out by a trash can to charge it up.

Long story short, the hike was 5 hours because the guide stopped about every 10 minutes to let people rest and to tell them a out various plants. The Sierra Club folks took every opportunity to ask questions that were really just statements about some Hopi book they'd read. Every stop they broke out food bars as if we were on some long expedition.

After the decent into the canyon to see the cliff dwellings and listen to a presentation by the guide, we were free to return at our our speed. It only took me 40  minutes to hike up and out of the canyon on the return, while the descent took over 3 hours.

Had a good sweat going, but it looked like I might be able to make the North Rim of the Grand Canyon if I didn't drag too much breaking down my camp. I'd heard there might be roads washed out and roadwork delays, but one of the men on the hike was from the region and he said none of that should effect me on the route I was taking. One if the Sierra Club dudes told me it was going to be horrible waits and that there was no way I'd make it in a days ride. Took my chances that he was wrong and that I'd indeed watch the sunset from the North Rim this very day.

The ride took me along these towering Vermillion cliffs lining a surreal dry desert valley the looked like some exotic Martian backwater. The sun was so intense that my vision started going blurry and head dizzy.

Stopped to rest and walk across the Navajo Bridge. Got a few shots and was distracted by this older Navajo woman who was whispering to draw my attention to a large bald bird under the bridge. She said it was one of the condors they'd released into the wild.

Just as the heat was all I could bare, the highway started to wind up and up with cooler temperatures as I approached the Northern rim of the Grand Canyon.

There were campgrounds with showers at Jacob's Lake about 45 miles before the Grand Canyon, but i was determined to see the sunset on the rim this day and pushed ahead.

As I pulled up to the park guard shack, there was a big sign that read "Sorry, Campground Full". The lady ranger asked how I was doing. Told her I was fine until I read the sign. She said they're booked for the entire season even before the season starts. She saw the color drain from my face and asked how I felt about dispersion camping. I asked what that was and she said it was basically finding a spot in the National forest and just camping for free. I told her I could likely handle that but that I only had a liter of water left. She said that wouldn't do, but if I had something to put it in, I could fill up at a nearby cabin that often has a cooler of water set out for hikers.

Now I had 3 liters of water, a liter of red wine, and enough food for two days. The guard told me I could actually see the rim on the service road in the forest. I asked if it looked any different from the forest than the park. She said, "Nope. Looks the same. The canyon is the canyon. Just drive through the forest and keep going  until you see light. But, be careful not to ride off the cliff." I thought she was joking about riding off the cliff, but after 17 miles of rough dirt and gravel through the forest, I saw daylight and the Grand Canyon before me. Had I not stopped, I indeed could have ridden off the cliff.

For 2 nights I camped on the North rim of the Grand canyon and hiked during the day. The heat was intense in the afternoon, but is got cold just as soon as the sun fell. Watched 2 sunsets and 2 sun rises from my camp on the rim. The majestic power you feel being so close to that grand ditch is indescribable.

Just before my second sunset, there was a large Mormon family who arrived in large trucks. The women had the long dresses and hair conservatively fastened in buns. They all filed out on the stone point with me to watch the sunset.

One of the little Mormon girls paused after taking a photo and stared at me long and hard. She looked me up and down and then focussed on my feet. I looked down at my feet and they were covered in dirt and general filth. I looked at her and noticed how spotlessly clean she was. All of them were. Not a hair out of place. Then I looked down at my feet again and remembered the phrase that cleanliness is next to godliness. 

For a brief moment I felt like a filthy heathen looked down upon by a saintly child of god. Then, I looked at the color of the dirt on my feet and noticed it was the same color as the earth below me and the same hues as the Grand Canyon itself. 

At that moment I'd never felt closer to the great spirit, filth and all.

The next morning I packed up my camp and left it as it had been found. It was brutal riding through the edge of Death Valley with record temps of 127F that day, but once I hit the cool air-conditioning spilling from the Las Vegas casinos, all was good.

I've been recharging, bathing, gambling and getting ready to get back on the road for the second half of the adventure. In the morning I'll pull out of Vegas and point East. Where first camp will be made is anyone's guess. After 4 nights of Vegas make believe, I'm ready to get back in-sync with the road.

Will continue updating my Instagram Feed when possible.

If you're enjoying the trip so far, PayPal gratuities are very much welcome via the tip jar link top right. Or, if you'd like to own a specially discounted and signed fine-art print from this trip, check out my patron support options HERE

Ride to Live!

 

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Hovenweep Swapping Bacon & Eggs for Coffee & a Story

Took me a little longer to get out of the Farmington, NM area than I wanted. I'd been told the Aztec ruins were a must-see and since they're only about a half hour outside of Farmington and sort of on the way to Hovenweep National Monument, Utah, decided to check it out.

The Indian hotel clerk from Mumbai, was thrilled to chat about my travels in India and gave me good advice on how to get the best fares. Basically go around Christmas time. I asked him if the Aztec ruins were worth a stop. He hesitated and said they're worth seeing once. Turns out, thats about right... and, only if on the way. "Must-See" is a bit of a stretch, but the information was very good. They have a rebuilt Kiva there that's still used in Hopi ceremonies. It's actually a Hopi site and not Aztec. When the explorers discovered it, they were reminded of the Aztec ruins in Mexico and the name stuck.

Got a tip from a park ranger about a rode from Cortez, NM that cuts through the back way to Hovenweep. I was nervous since this road wasn't on any of my maps, or Google. But it was indeed there and a magnificent ride ta boot! It's basically the old country road to the airport, but I didn't see any airport. Just twisty roads that followed a shallow canyon and rounded the mountain all the way to Hovenweep, Utah.

I saw a white horse in a grand landscape along the way just before Hovenweep and wanted to get a shot, but as soon as I stopped and pulled off my helmet, my head was engulfed in a swarm of gnats. Decided I'd keep an eye out for another white horse along the trail and let this one go.

Turns out these gnats are a prominent feature of the area unfortunately. The park ranger called the constant swatting of gnats the "Hovenweep Salute". Luckily there was a little wind that cut them back a good deal and they all but disappeared by dark.

Had a sweet camp spot and slung my hammock right in the campsite shelter and sipped wine looking into the Milky Way. Just before sunset and getting my camp set up, a park ranger gave a good talk on the rim of the canyon about the ruins and petraglyphs. Turns out one of the attendees was also a Facebook "friend" I'd never met. He was a volunteer at the park and I technically still haven't met him, but it was cool to share space in a small world.

The next morning I was using a power socket in the campground bathroom to heat up water for my instant Starbucks, when another camper asked about my motorcycle, then invited me to have bacon and eggs with his son at his camp. I took the generous offer, but I think he really wanted some of my Starbucks that I shared with him. His son seemed thrilled to meet the guy on the motorcycle too, so that was cool.

There are plenty of reasons why many wouldn't dig camping, but one of the great things that sometimes happens, it that you meet complete strangers and swap some coffee for a bacon & egg breakfast... share stories, then wish each other a grand life. That alone makes fighting off gnats a fair trade.

Most of the impressive Hopi ruins at Hovenweep can be seen along a trail along a nearby canyon. A pretty hike and a few images of ruins later, I was packed and heading on my way to Goosenecks State Park in Utah. I'd wrongly assumed there to be camping there, so since it wasn't going to be a long ride, I went off road in the Valley of the Gods, cranked up my headphones, ate dust, and had a blast.

Was pretty beat by the time I actually got to Goosenecks, and a bit deflated to learn that there is no camping at Goosenecks. It's a very impressive overlook of some dramatic serpentine canyon twists and certainly qualifies as a legit "must-see" stop. It's just had I known I'd have to continue riding to find camp, I might have cut my joyful off-roading in the dirt a little bit.

Goosnecks is just outside of Mexican Hat, Utah... named after a rock formation that sort of looks like an upside down Mexican hat. It's a cool formation, but it really didn't look that much like a Mexican hat to me, but I did sense some sort of power coming from it that intrigued me enough to hang out below the base soaking it up.

Still had time to make Navajo National Monument, Arizona after riding through the ever majestic Monument Valley where I found my white horse once again. :)

Will continue updating my Instagram Feed when possible.

If you're enjoying the trip so far, PayPal gratuities are very much welcome via the tip jar link top right. Or, if you'd like to own a signed fine-art print from this trip, check out my patron support options HERE

Ride to Live!

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The Price of Being Awake

I'd become tired of having to always pay attention to the direction & speed of the wind... how the clouds are changing... weather forecasts, temperature, etc. because you're so exposed when you're on a motorcycle.

When you're in a car, you just go without much thought because no matter the conditions you're pretty much protected.

I even considered being done with motorcycle travel mostly because of the raw elemental exposure, and the all too intimate struggle with insects & wild animals who want to steal your food.

Now I think that all of these inconveniences actually help to force me awake and paying even closer attention to detail. It's no fun trying to outrun a storm, boiling in the sun, shivering in the night, or chasing the raccoons away from your food. But if that's the price to be forced into complete awareness of every moment of living, I'll gladly pony up. :)

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Chaco & Hovenweep

Images of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico & Hovenweep, Utah

© 2013 Skip Hunt

If you're enjoying the trip so far, PayPal gratuities are very much welcome via the tip jar link top right. Or, if you'd like to own a signed fine-art print from this trip, check out my patron support options HERE

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Close Encounters of the Sacred Kind

The day I was planning of leaving Santa Fe, an odd family with 4 pitbulls on chains and looking like they might be trafficking meth, moved into the campsite next to mine the night before. Was considering lingering another day, but decided I'd be get on with it.

On the long way around toward Chaco Canyon and around lake Abiquiu, I was behind this old woody station wagon moving along at a real crawl. Figured he was just taking it slow or perhaps the car only went that fast. When it became clear to pass, I made my move. There was a truck coming in the other lane, but plenty of room given the woody's very slow speed. Just as I made my move, the guy floored it and started racing just as the truck approached. I barely made it over avoiding a collision, but I looked over at the guy as I passed. His head as shaved with prison tats. He smirked maniacally as the on-coming truck and I nearly collided. Made me wonder how often alleged road accidents are really accidents and not some crazed maniac using their care as a weapon.

The ride was smooth and so peaceful in that region. I'm told it was a refuge for Georgia O'keefe. It's clear why that area would be magnificent for any painter. Wanted to stop for more images, but I'd read the road into Chaco was a challenge and a storm was coming.

At the turn-off toward Chaco, there was a gas station store where I could get food supplies for 3 nights or so, but I figured I'd just get my campsite then jaunt back to the highway to get food.

There's a sign that says there's only limited camping and to have alternate plans if full. Alternate plans? There's nothing out there so if there was no camping available, I had no other plan. Continued over some extremely rough washboard dirt interspersed with soft powered sand where I almost lost control at least a dozen times. Hoping it was just a mile or so, I pushed on. After about 10 miles of the 17 miles of dirt, I started to panic that if there was no camping I'd have to ride back out on this road. Hit the gas to make time and just gritted my teeth with the intense vibration. Shook a couple bolts out and my handlebars went loose, but I made it and found camping. Very primitive, but serviceable. Only problem is I didn't stop for food and wasn't about to ride that road again until I was leaving. The 4 packs of tuna and can of sardines would have to be rationed.

The park has an energy to it that's hard to describe. It feels peaceful and makes you sort of feel an intense balance. I can see why the Anasazi decided to build here and revered the area as sacred.

Tried to buy some food from some other campers but they felt sorry for me and wouldn't take my money. The extra bag of homemade jerky, a can of tuna, and one evening I even got a couple glasses of chablis and some carrots... all helped to get me through almost 4 days.

The hikes around the area were pretty brutal in the intense sun, especially as I forgot to bring a hat. Had plenty of sunscreen through, so along with not having any showers, I walked around pretty greasy for the duration. The first night of rationing, I drank the oil from my sardines to kill my hunger. It worked, but I also smelled like fish for 4 days.

I figured the fire theme spell was broken for this destination, until the last night. Chaco has an excellent dark sky that presents amazing views of the stars and the staff astronomers often have star parties with their donated large observatory microscope. Just before I left the campground for the star party, I noticed a small group of young folks with a giant blazing fire going at their site. They were all laughing and dancing around wearing red touristy feathered indian headdresses. I thought, "Guess they aren't going to the star party." ;)

Seeing Saturn for the first time through a giant telescope was an incredible experience. You could even see the rings! There were other clusters and nebulas the telescope was pointed at and as I stood in line for my turn, I smelled weed and booze on the breaths of the folks in front of me. It was the partying kids who laughing and playing indian around the campfire.

After a good couple of hours staring at the heavens and asking questions, the days brutal hikes were taking their toll and I needed sleep. I hadn't eaten, but since I was leaving in the morning I figured my last pack of tune would suffice. Still, I with the intense sun and lack of food, I was beginning to feel a bit delirious. My imagination wandered to thoughts of U.F.O.'s and alien/anasazi influence in the sacred Chacoan world. The Hopi say this is the place the ancestors originated up from underground, etc.

As I approached the campground, I noticed some very bizarre lights flickering all over the canyon walls that bordered the primitive campground. At first I thought the imagination and delirium had got the best of me... then pondered my first close encounter with aliens. When my senses took hold, I figured the party kids must be making themselves a little rave out there and brought some lighting with them. But I knew the park host and rangers wouldn't allow anything like that.

When I got close enough to make out the lights, I discovered they were either police or ambulance lights. Someone had likely had a heat stroke or something. They were near my campsite and I pulled up to the party kids in a line in front of a police SUV. They looked pretty scared and were lit up by the police headlights and flashlights. The police marched them to their campsite and took one of them away.

Turns out the dimwits took off from their campsite with their fire still ablaze so they could check out the star party. Thats a big no-no in wild fire season. The police fined them $500 for leaving the fire unattended, busted someone for drug paraphernalia and ticketed them for speeding through the campground. So, no close encounters with aliens this time, but I did feel relief that I wasn't standing in that line-up in front of the police SUV. And, the fire theme at each destination continues.

Really dreaded the ride back out of the canyon on that horrible road. The hunger kept my mind occupied and taking a bit slower while standing up on my pegs a bit more... it was easier getting out than entering for sure. Those first gas station snacks were divine, only beat by the first hot shower in 4 days and cleaning off all the layers of greasy sunscreen, etc.

Found a replacement bolt, tightened up the handlebars, washed all the dirt out of my chain, bought more camp supplies here in Farmington, NM and am ready to get back on the road. Will stop off at the Aztec Ruins National Monument since it's on the way, and will continue to Hovenweep in Utah to camp tonight. After there, it's all tentative, but I've heard good things about camping at the Navajo National Monument. Will update when I get wifi again and will continue updating my Instagram Feed when possible.

If you're enjoying the trip so far, PayPal gratuities are very much welcome via the tip jar link top right. Or, if you'd like to own a signed fine-art print from this trip, check out my patron support options HERE

Below are a few more images made with the Nikon & a rough timelapse sequence I made in the canyon. It's a little shaky due to high winds, but will suffice for now. Will steady it up later. Enjoy.

Onward!

~ Skip

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0asis to Santa Fe Images

Images from Oasis State Park to Santa Fe, New Mexico. These are in addition to the iPhone images and were made with a Nikon compact for more control & resolution.

If you're enjoying the trip so far, PayPal gratuities are very much welcome via the tip jar link top right. Or, if you'd like to own a signed fine-art print from this trip, check out my patron support options HERE

Onward to Chaco Canyon!

~ Skip

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Wandering Canyon Road

The temps drop really fast around here, at least they do in the forest I'm camping in just outside of Santa Fe. As soon as the sun dropped behind the mountain it felt like the temperature dropped a good 20 degrees.

There was a fellow camping near me on a motorcycle as well. He's all loaded up for long distance but when I asked where he comes from he said Santa Fe. Said he was camping out to work on his monastic studies, etc. he seemed a bit off. I figured I was disturbing his chi gong vibrations or something but he insisted on hearing stories about traveling in Mexico. He just stared at me with this goofy grin and his eyes nearly shut, so I asked him if he was stoned. He got offended with the question and said he was just really relaxed. Uh-huh. ;)

The fires are under control without even the smell of smoke anymore. Very impressive! Decided to stay on a second night and am now wandering the Canyon Road art galleries, but to be honest... I think I'd rather be riding and/or hiking around the forest near my camp.

Stopped by the UPS Store and my replacement sleeping bag was already there! All is groovy now. Gotta give props to Amazon. I know we're supposed to buy local, from mom & pop shops and all, but I can't imagine any mom & pop shop taking my word for it the product I'd purchased was flawed and agreeing to overnight a replacement to me at no cost... while I'm on he road. Thanks Amazon!

Off to wander the galleries a little more then I think I'll go cruising around the mountain roads and hiking in the woods. It's too beautiful a day to be in a gallery. :)

Heading toward Chaco Canyon tomorrow I think. Stay tuned!

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The Fire of Santa Fe

Today goes down in my top 5 hardest rides I've ever had. The entire day I was whipped by brutal winds from all sides.

There was a small truck that overturned on I25 that held up traffic. About a dozen people were trying to pry the doors off to get the passengers out. I really hate it when people stop to gawk for a possible glimpse of gore & told myself I wouldn't look. Still, looked anyway. Really didn't want the imagery but couldn't stop myself from looking. Why do we do that?

Fortunately, there wasn't much blood but I'm sure there were serious injuries based on the trucks condition. The passengers were all conscious but looked to be in shock. I'm certain those relentless winds were to blame. Almost lost control several times myself.

For hours there was pretty much nothing but open plain for as far as you could see. The endless horizon tends to hypnotize me to think that all the day to day chaos isn't real and this is all there is. Or, am I just waking up once again and the chaos is the actual illusion?

Again, there appeared to be a massive fire in the direction I was headed, Santa Fe. Sure enough, the fires are right over the ridge from where I set up camp. One woman said we'd likely be evacuated but I should be ok for the night. The whole city of Santa Fe is now enshrouded in smoke. After I get my replacement sleeping bag tomorrow, I may keep pushing West.

Just stocked up on supplies from Trader Joes and found the place surreal. At least here in Santa Fe. All of the people are just so cool and friendly. I mean everyone from the stockers to the customers. This place has a vibe I could definitely get used to.

Heading back to my campsite where I don't have any mobile signal at all. Will update tomorrow on whether the sleeping bag showed up and whether I have to evacuate or able to stay another night checking out the galleries.

Hopefully I'll find a way to stay warm tonight even with a busted sleeping bag zipper. Or, maybe those fires over the ridge will amp up the nighttime lows a degree or two. ;)

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Ran into a slight snag...

Everything was beautiful until the temps dropped & I went to zip up my brand new sleeping bag. I'd zipped it up once before I packed it, but now the teeth wouldn't grab. Shivering I tried to fix it under flashlight without luck. Went to the park restroom for more light & still a no go.

Managed to bundle up enough to get through the night but what'll I do for the areas I'm going that have nighttime lows in the 30F's?!

I don't have much signal here, but managed to call Amazon customer support where I bought it. Didn't really expect much & assumed I'd likely just have to buy a new one along the way & give this busted one away.

Told Amazon the bind I was in and asked if they could overnight me a replacement sleeping bag to Santa Fe where I'm camping tonight. They said they'd do it, have it on the way to a UPS Store in Santa Fe with a return shipping label for the defective bag.

Can you believe that level of service?!!!

Just need to make it through one more night with a busted zipper & I should have a replacement waiting for me in Santa Fe tomorrow. We shall see. :)

Onward toward Santa Fe!

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Riding the Flow to an Oasis

Watched the weather forecasts like a hawk and paid heed to all the storm warnings. I wanted to have a perfect launch on this trip with no rain and sunny skies.

After getting aggravated by all the wrong forecasts, there appeared to be a window this morning to make a dry escape.

Not 30 seconds after pulling away from my garage, a light rain began to fall. I sighed but pressed ahead letting the droplets fall away as I continued along the highway out of Austin.

A couple of hours in and a few more light showers, I think I got what the Great Spirit was telling me. "You can't control any of this and the best you can do is surrender to the flow."

My grip on the handle bars relaxed. As all the tension left my body giving in to the highway current, the clouds parted revealing that sacred blue. Come what may.

The winds are fairly dramatic on the plains of Northwest Texas around Abilene and all the way through Zephyr and Lubbock. There was a giant fire in the distance around Muleshoe. The smoke and dust burned my eyes, but nothing could shake me out of the flow.

Finally made it to the Oasis State Park near Portales, New Mexico... only to discover it's really nothing but a barren, lonely fishing pond in the middle of nowhere. Still, the peace I'm feeling right now as I lay aloft in my hammock in sync with twilight, has me grateful to be alive.

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Although weather forecasts all over the map...

We Have Lift Off!

Waited out forecasts of storms yesterday and last night that never came. Then, this morning they said no rain all day. Now, it looks like storms contrary to their forecasts that constantly change to possible rain.

Can't do this dance with the weather forecasters... gotta ramble. Signing off and pointed toward Oasis State Park in Portales, New Mexico.

Next dispatches from the road!

Should I chance it and try to outrun possible storms?

Brain in turmoil of indecision

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Itching to get gone early by leaving today, but there's large hail, thunderstorms and tornados forecast in the direction I'm heading. It looks like most of it's later tonight... thinking maybe I can make a run for it and find a cheap room by 10ish if the weather holds out. 

Or, just relax, be patient and leave tomorrow when the storms are supposed to be finished by morning for smooth sailing all day.

Dang, I so much want to go ahead and get on with this!

This may be LAUNCH week

Countdown Sequence Initiated

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Coming to the conclusion that if I'm going to do this, now might be the best time. I'm thinking maybe this Thursday, May 30th. I'm getting the same pre-trip cold feet that I always get. It's just so easy to get comfortable and not want to shake it up, but after I finally do "dive in", I'm always glad I did.

The only plan I've got is to head from Austin, Texas toward Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. Looking at the map, I'll likely make the trip to Chaco in 3 hops. First target will be Oasis State Park to camp for a night and rest. Then Santa Fe because it's sort of on the way and I really liked it the last time I went that way. Then to Chaco.  After that, I'm wingin' it. 

In the past, I've done Kickstarter and Indiegogo trip-related projects, but all the work and extra self-promotion that has to be done, really takes it's toll on the experience. I'd rather give in completely so that there's more potential for richer treasure to share.  

However, I do need to fund these wandering odyssey's in some way. On previous trips I've produced books from the road and had a private supporter-only blog. This time I'm going to just put most of it out there and trust that if the experience I'm sharing has value to my audience, then they'll toss me a few bones to help out with the expenses and be a part of the trip. Heck, many toss the folks making their coffee or cutting their hair a tip! :)  

So, if at any point along the trip you're getting something from my efforts, please use the "Tip Jar" PayPal button at the top right to help me a little further on down the trail. I VERY much appreciate it! If you enjoy my efforts, but if you're a little light in the pocket book right now, then please help by sharing my posts. :)

For my SUPER-FAN patrons who've been there for me on previous trips, I'm offering 3 levels of support that get you deep discounts from my normal print pricing and inclusion in a special bonus dispatches with extra private dispatches from the road.

Level 1:

Gets you a signed 9x12in museum-quality print on 100% cotton-rag archival paper of any image from the trip in addition to special bonus dispatches. $75  
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Level 2:

Gets you a signed 9x12in AND 12x16in museum-quality print on 100% cotton-rag archival paper of any image from the trip in addition to special bonus dispatches. $150
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Level 3:

Gets you a signed 12x16x12in AND 18x24in museum-quality print on 100% cotton-rag archival paper of any image from the trip in addition to special bonus dispatches. $300
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(Shipping included for U.S. orders. International orders may incur additional cost) 

This offer is good at any point for the duration of the trip, but if you want to get all the bonus dispatches, sign on early! 

countdown sequence initiated... Stay tuned!