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Saturday, 30 June 2012

Wrong way thru Indian Reserves but Bears and Eagles in Colorado

Santa Fe, NM to Durango, CO via Georgia O'Keeffe's Ghost Ranch - 224 miles
The day started well leaving the beautiful St Francis Hotel around 830, having packed the bike and getting out of the city pretty easily on R84 heading North. Again, blue blue skies but due to the altitude pleasantly a lot cooler but still in the 80's!
Seemed like an easy enough route, couldn't really go wrong but past Espanola it didn't seem like I was getting into the hills but navigating thru Indian and Hispanic settlements - 6th sense I guess but knew it was the wrong route and probably just diverted towards Taos by 15 miles. Thankfully got back on track on R84 which opened up to beautiful landscapes - really breathtaking. Having visited Georgia O'Keeffe's Museum I knew that I was fast approaching her famous painted landscapes and I was not disappointed when reaching them and her Ghost Ranch just past Abiquiu, NM. Incredible she explained 'All the earth colors of the painter's palette are out there in the many miles of bad lands. The light Naples yellow through the ochres - orange and red and purple earth - even the soft earth greens.'
Continued up to Chama and Pagoda Springs and already the landscapes were changing to green verdant fir covered slopes reminiscent to the Alps.
And entering Colorado - wow, no wonder everyone falls in love with the place - exquisite landscapes with mile upon mile of rolling green hills, horses galore and red wooden chalet homes.
But hey Colorado is also the home of the big brown bear and incredibly coming around a corner the bear and my eyes met! He was wandering close to the roadside, climbing uphill without a care in the world - the temptation was definitely there to stop and record this rare sighting but for this once I thought I'd drive slowly, enjoy the site but not stop! Later in Durango speaking to a number of people who lived there, none had ever sighted one and said I'd been lucky. As they say, this once I'd been in the right place at the right time!
3 or 4 eagles flying overhead added to the majesty of the landscape and views of The Rockies.
Got into Durango which is acknowledged as a 'western' town and was enraptured by its easy going ways - even saw the massive steam train pull into Durango station but more of that tomorrow.
The only down note today which annoyed me, was loosing on the GoPro camera the 2 best films Ive done so far and recorded - the footage along R66 and riding alongside the Santa Fe cargo train which went on forever, and amazing film of the colourful Bad Lands that Georgia O'Keeffe painted - those I'll just have to hold in my own memory bank - on the ever positive note it could have been a lot worse and the scenery for filming I'm sure is only going to become more spectacular.

Friday, 29 June 2012

You want Art? We got it!

Santa Fe conjures up so many images ... Blue skies, artists retreat, Hispanic architectural influences and churches, red clay buildings, gastro centre, red chiles hanging from buildings and art galleries galore! It didnt disappoint ....
Santa Fe has the most art galleries after New York and London and it was a joy to see Chuck Jones Gallery, creator of bugs bunny and everything else -
Popped over to Canyon Road where there must be over several hundred art galleries in exquisite local properties - lots of fun.
And a visit to SF wouldn't be complete without seeing one of my favourite artists at the Georgia O'Keefe Museum. She was a true visionary and expressed what she called 'the wideness and wonder of the world as I live in it' being the first advocate of modern art in America and epitomised the unusual shapes and colours of the architecture and landscape of Northern New Mexico.
SF is just wonderful to walk and soak up the history and atmosphere with a number of great eateries on the rooftop terraces overlooking the town.
And a little visit to in the foothills of Santa Fe to end a great day.
Maps and directions with iPhone already being sorted for the scenic
route up to Durango in the Lower Rockies tomorrow - already want to get back on the bike!

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Cadillac Ranch but no cowboys

Amarillo, Tx to Santa Fe, NM - 287 miles
Amarillo is a busy transient place and never seems to sleep - started hearing the cattle trucks roaring past very early in the morning before it got light. Another hour and I was up and ready to go by 6. Even at that time it was sunny, fresh but already almost hitting the 70's! Time to leave!
Texas is and I'll say it again - enormous! The only place I could relate it to is the Masai Mara - Texas literally goes on as far as the eye can see and for the most part looks dry and barren - missed diverting by 70 miles to visit Hereford as the locals said it would be sparse and barren and have lots of cattle mmmm I'll pretend I've been.
One of the highlights of the day was finding the famous Cadillac Ranch just outside Amarillo - a farmer has basically stood 10 vintage Cadillacs next to each other in a line in the middle of a field; the world and his mother then comes and paints them with whatever designs etc. this morning I arrived around 7 so no one there which made the place even more surreal. I actually passed them initially on the other side of the road and thought it too good to miss so turned the bike back to stop and gawp ...

Again the massive trucks were coming down on me and have now got overtaking them down to a fine art - make sure they've got nothing to overtake as they love doing that, accelerate to about 80 mph and just get past them as quick as possible avoiding being shuddered too much - phew I'm exhausted just thinking about it!
Amazing but soon entering into New Mexico the atmosphere seemed to change for the better - I even managed to get back onto the old Route 66 for a short while. The drive up to Santa Fe was a slow climb up to 7000ft and already bright blue skies with those famous white clouds.
I'm certainly not a nun but am staying at the lovely St Francis an old Monastry in the old part of town.
Santa Fe is beautiful and an extremely important place for beautiful art and artists - art galleries everywhere and definitely a lotta money floating around here.
Great food here too - tried the famous La Boca - delicious

The light is so intense that everything looks a million dollars!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Getting my kicks on Route 66 ...

Oklahoma City,OK to Amarillo,TX - 267 miles.
Bright clear blue skies at 6am which meant I was impatient to get on the road. Said farewells to my friends at Rusty Gables and almost immediately got into Route 40 W heading out of Oklahoma towards Texas.
The heat was already starting to become unbearable and twice I stopped to wear even less - at one stage I felt the truckers were getting too much of an eyeful so I hastily stopped and put on a 'proper' layer,)
As soon as Bonnie and I got over into Texas the land just opened up to almost infinity being dry and barren - a hard life here I would imagine for farmers.
This is the 2nd time on the trip that I got seriously worried about finding a gas station - they were just not that apparent and at one stage was running on my reserve praying I'd see a sign!
And low and behold one appeared when I was giving up hope. Thank you oh star of Texas!
Officially since leaving OKC I'd been tracing or running parrallel to The Mother Road Route 66 and although tempted to stop along the way, I persevered under the heat and arrived at my first R66 attraction, the place I would stay overnight - the Amarillo Horse Motel (where cowboys come with their horses and keep them stabled right next to their rooms!) and the Big Texan Steak House famous for serving the largest quantities of meat anywhere! In fact if you could eat their 72oz steak within an hour it was all yours for free!
And to take in the full feel of the west my visit to Amarillo wouldnt be complete without going to see the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum which is basically the foundation for all
competitive and working quarter horses here in the US - fascinating of you like that kind of thing which I do!
I'm now feasted out with steak and once again looking at maps and best route for tomorrows new adventure!

Bull balls ...

My kinda day ... woke up to that mid western sun and bright blue skies overlooking the cactus and green meadows with the quarter horses grazing in them. Ate breakfast with a preacher and his nurse partner who had just rolled in for the night but
had never left their room! Sweet fresh fruit and eggs to die for.
So the plan was to bike it to the Stock Yards, the biggest cattle auction market in the world then go over and visit the Horse Reining Championships
which were in town for the week at the State Fair Park. But it was mighty hot and so finally
drove over with Cindy the residential artist as we both wanted to photograph the spectacles and wow were we in for a show!
The Stockyards date back over a 100 years and the auction house is original. We walked over the walkway which looks over the cattle waiting to be auctioned off and into the auction room. Fascinating about 60 guys who were seriously bidding without even raising an eyebrow and spending hundreds of thousands brokering deals for their clients. Spoke to one who explained how it worked. He'd said prices were currently good having just bidded and purchased one lot of 50 cattle for 49000 dollars or about 1k a piece.
Fascinating and another world.
Drive over to the reining championships - first day of a weeks tournament with the worlds best / exquisite horsemanship and beautiful horses able to turn on a penny.
Hot was not the word today - scorching / drove and visited Stockyards City, tried some hats and boots on was introduced to some cowboys favorite accessory. Couldnt believe it but hanging up in the shop were all sizes of natural and coloured bulls balls which explained are used by some cowboys to attach to the back of their trucks and hang on the tow bar - macho or what! And guess what I was given a pair by the shop owner - ah that's a kind momento!
We couldn't resist going to eat at the famous stockyard cafe which opens first thing in the morning for the cattlemen serving everything from lamb and beef offal to lemon meringue pies! Quite a people watching place!
Quite an eye opening day and wonderful to return back to the farm and kick my boots off, chat about everything and nothing and share a good dinner with new friends.