When we first get home from a trip I'm faced with a pile of laundry, a big stack of mail, hours of work that I've been putting off plus a packed calendar. Did I mention sorting through hundreds of photos and finishing the blog for the trip?
We came back from a 6-day Labor Day weekend trip to Boulder, Colorado on Tuesday and today (Sunday) I'm finally writing up the blog for the last day's ride. The overall theme for this day is emptiness.
New Mexico Route 64 riding west from Farmington
Small towns are often 50 or more miles apart in the Southwest. Many of the towns are home to less than 400 people, and sometimes all we see is a sign at a road crossing, with the promise of a cluster of homes hidden out of sight behind a hill or past the next canyon. We see narrow dirt roads that snake off across the desert with 2 or 3 mailboxes sited at the highway the only sign that people live at the end of these lonely roads.
We started today in Farmington, NM and rode west along Route 64 on the Trails of the Ancients Byway that connects the Four Corners states of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona on the Navajo Reservation. People settled here starting in at least 10,000 BC, and I'm guessing that the landscape hasn't changed very much from then until now.
The landscape went back and forth from flat desert with faint shadows of distant mountains on the horizon, to craggy canyons and rolling hills where the highway swept around the larger rock formations, to tall mesas, and sometimes to weirdly shaped rock formations that rose hundreds of feet above the desert.
We were only in New Mexico for a few miles before we crossed into Arizona. At Teec Nos Pos we continued west onto Arizona Route 160. The Navajo name translates into 'cottonwoods in a circle' but I didn't see any cottonwoods at all as we rode past the tiny town.
We turned south onto Arizona Route 191 with views of the Lukachukai Mountains to the east. We've ridden through those mountains on past trips, but today contented ourselves with straight and flat roads instead of twisty mountain hairpin turns.
horses along the ridge on Arizona 191 near Many Farms
I like reading the names of the towns as we ride along: Mexican Water, Many Farms, Rock Point. 191 took us to 264, heading west again past Keams Canyon that was the site of a trading post in the late 1800's. The 3 mile long box canyon is known as Pongsikya by the Hopi and Lok'aa'deeshjin by the Navajo and is the only gas station/convenience store for several miles. Too many miles today, because instead of stopping we continued on for another 1 1/2 hours until we stopped for a late lunch in Winslow.
We've been through Winslow many times in the past year, but today was the first time we actually rode past the "standing on the corner of Winslow Arizona" statue from the classic Eagle's song.
As we continued on 87 South, we finally rode into the Coconino National Forest where the 2-lane highway wound through stands of tall Ponderosa pine trees along the rugged Mogollon Rim country. It wasn't until we rode down into Camp Verde that the temperature suddenly shot up to 100 degrees. We stopped at a gas station for a cold drink of water and I peeled off layers of clothing to make the last 45 minutes of our ride home bearable.
Some people say there isn't anything to see through this northwestern corner of Arizona, but we enjoy riding through the empty desert. There might not be large towns, traffic, or tourist stops to draw people's interest, but that means we have the opportunity to pay attention to the wisps of clouds that sometimes dot the blue sky, the bright flowering plants that dot the desert during this rainy season, and the way the wind feels as we zoom along the highway with no cars to be seen for miles in front of us.
We've been home for five days and every time I see a motorcycle with side bags and a duffle strapped to the back, I'm envious.