I cross the state line from Texas to New Mexico. Little baby mesas give way to big mommy and daddy mesas.
Mask-wearing is suddenly a thing again. I check a map I downloaded earlier and sure enough, New Mexico is my first blue state in a while. This should never have been allowed to become a tribal blue state/red state issue. The virus doesn’t care which bozo you voted for.
A rural postal carrier pulls up next to me on a remote stretch of road for a brief chat. She points out that there’s a truck stop ahead where I can go inside to warm up. Later, she finds me inside, hands me $5 cash and says “this is to help you buy your meal.” This is a first for me. I accept the gift in the spirit in which it was offered. Definitely made my day. Later, I find myself wondering if I looked especially pitiful.
I pull into the Buckaroo Motel in Tucumcari and something doesn’t look right. It’s not clear if the place is open for business. There are some cars around but they look more like permanent residents than travelers. I spot an electric bike with solar panels attached to a trailer. A wild solar bike spotting!
“We don’t have any vacancies,” says the unpleasant little man. He’s using the tone one might take with a puppy who has defecated on the rug for the third time this week. What have I done to earn such disrespect?
“That’s fine. I would love to meet the owner of this bike…”
“He’s not here,” he interrupts. “Leave that alone.” The tone is now distinctly get-off-my-property. He seems to have forgotten that he’s standing under a “motel” sign.
I snap a quick photo and leave the troll to trudge back to his hole.
The next morning, it’s 21°F (-6°C) at sunrise. Checking into a motel had been an easy decision. I wait a couple of extra hours after sunrise for the day to warm up before heading out.
The wind impedes my progress. When the tumbleweeds are coming straight at you, you know the wind is not your friend. By mid day, it’s only 45°F (7°C). I’m slow to realize that the steady climbing I’ve been doing for the last couple of days has added up to 5000 feet elevation and it is mid-November. I won’t be getting back down to sea level until I reach California. I resolve to pick up the pace and start putting in longer days which leave less time and energy for picture taking and sightseeing.
I check into a motel to self-isolate while I nurse a sore throat. It’s probably not COVID but I can’t find a test location or a home test kit to verify. I bounce back in a day and a half.
To get away from I-40 for a little while, I follow an older Route 66 alignment which takes me to Santa Fe. An art oasis in the middle of the desert, I can’t decide if I love it or hate it. Too many people for my liking. The place is awash with kitschy, commercial garbage with the occasional piece of exquisite art here and there.
My front tire is worn out at the 4000 mile mark (6400 km). Forward and reverse torque from the motor (with regenerative braking) is causing accelerated wear. I replace it with the spare I’ve been carrying. The rear one is still in good shape.
In Albuquerque, I school myself up on the rules and etiquette of traveling through Native American Pueblos. Photography is prohibited. Initially, I assume that this has something to do with cultural sensitivity. Fair enough. But apparently you can buy a photography permit so it sounds more like it’s about making a buck?
Or perhaps the rule was necessary to curtail rude tourists showing up and shoving their cameras in people’s faces without permission? As the subject of much staring and picture taking, both with and without permission, I can relate.
The only camping option to break up a 100 mile day is an RV park which is closed “out of an abundance of caution for protecting the public against COVID.” However, the casino next door is open for business. Because, you know, the virus doesn’t infect gamblers or those who profit from their addiction.
I opt to spend another day in the (literal) roach motel in Albuquerque to wait out the rain and visit the Nuclear Science and History Museum. Wow, rocket engines look complicated. Who would’ve thought.
The Polaris missile nose cone on display appears to be made of a laminate of wood and fiberglass. I remember reading that missile tech is the origin of today’s high tech composites. Maybe this is the great grandfather of my carbon fiber trailer?
I leave the museum feeling equal parts pride and shame at humanity’s nuclear accomplishments.
Departing Albuquerque, I say “good morning“ to a passing jogger. No response. Maybe he’s wearing headphones?
“Good morning,” to the dog walker. No response. Maybe he’s deaf?
“Good morning,” to the cyclist. No response. Maybe he’s just an ass.
Or perhaps they are all annoyed with the chatty weirdo who doesn’t seem to know that morning is a time for quiet contemplation.
El Morro National Monument has some neat ancient and 150 year old graffiti carved into rock. New additions are frowned upon.