The VLA near Socorro, New Mexico
The News Entry:
I was westbound again, racing into the sun, and I wondered just where the time had gone. Three days. I had spent three days riding the mountains and deserts of New Mexico and it had gone by in a flash. Friends from Los Lunas had taken me in and then spent much of their time showing me around this glorious land. More friends in far away places, and this particular pair have very big hearts.
One of the highlights was the ride west out of Socorro, New Mexico. Some 70 miles into the mountains, on a high desert plateau about the size of Rhode Island, sits the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Very Large Array Telescope, or “VLA” (http://www.vla.nrao.edu/). Some of you might recognize parts of it that appeared in the movie “Contact” with Jodi Foster (1997). The VLA is a radio telescope of mind-boggling proportions. Twenty-seven giant dish antennas, each the size of a baseball field, can be positioned along each of three tracks radiating out from the center for miles. Signals from each of the dishes are combined electronically to produce an antenna with the resolution of a single dish 22 miles across. It is an amazing and impressive work up close, yet out here, somehow it still looks small under the heavens it strives to observe.
Today I was aiming for Kingman, Arizona, an easy direct run across I-40 from Albuquerque, but of course, it wasn’t to be a direct run for me. Just glancing at the map I had already determined a zip through the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park were in order. Oooo, there were some great looking back roads in that part of the state too. The straight route was about 480 miles. I smiled to myself, betting I would get at least 600 out of it.
One new worry; I was nursing a damaged machine, and some damaged pride to go with it. An off road excursion to avoid a couple deer in the road had shaken The Dragon up pretty hard. Riding the mountains with my friends I noticed that a front fork seal had started weeping. Days later, on my way out of the state in the early morning, the scenario had replayed itself with uncanny similarities. Almost in slow motion I had run the bike off the road again to avoid a bunch of deer bounding across my path. Two hard hits as well as the 80,000 miles I have run this bike were a bit too much for the suspension. Now the seal was leaking with enthusiastic glee, spattering my boot and the right side of my engine with oil.
Why the damaged pride? Well, I am proud of my riding skills as well as the way I maintain my machine. Here was evidence for all to see of a possible lack of both. My machine was hurt. I had let her down. Of course, I grimly reflected, a little oil spattered on the machine is a lot better than the blood that would have taken its place had I not missed the deer. It would stop leaking eventually anyway (the fork had to run out of oil sometime), and the Valkyrie is one tough machine. The suspension should hold up until I could rebuild it when I got home.
As I arrived in Kingman late in the evening and with over 700 miles to my credit for the day, I reflected that “nursing” was probably the wrong term for the riding I was doing. Instead of the straight, short route, I was turning left or right on a whim, sometimes riding miles out of my way just because the roads looked more interesting in that direction. This trip was not about “getting there”. This trip was about the journey. The bike would just have to take it. Besides, I’ve been like this as long as I can remember, and the Valkyrie has never let me down.
I checked into a motel on old Route 66, dumped my pack in my room, and asked the clerk where I could find a good dinner.
There was no enthusiasm in her voice as she told me about several chain restaurants nearby. She sounded like she was reading a script. I supposed she was. I stared at her and said nothing. She stared back.
Finally I leaned over the counter, smiled, and said, “Let me rephrase the question. If YOU were going out to dinner, right now, where would you go?”
She smiled impishly up at me. “Are you asking me out?”
It’d be worth it for a good meal. Besides, she was cute.
“Sure. Just for dinner though.”
“Then I’ll show you.” She grabbed her purse and told the other clerk, “I’m on break!”
A small steak house off the main drag was just the ticket. The steaks were outstanding and the bill for both of us was less than it would have been just for me at any of the chains. Often local knowledge can really pay off. The conversation alone was worth the cost of the meal. Besides, she was cute. Yah, I know. I’ve said that already.
We swung a wide loop out of the city on the way back to the motel just because she liked to ride and seldom had the chance. I didn’t mind. I like to ride too and this was certainly a nice night for it. She was smiling and giddy when we finally pulled into the parking lot. She gave me her number and told me, “If you’re ever in town and need anything, look me up.”
I promised that I would and headed for my room, barely keeping my eyes open and fumbling with the key as I tried to open the door. I would sleep well this night, even if I was alone.
My friend was not on duty when I checked out in the morning, but her influence still touched me. I had signed the checkout slip without really looking at it, but as I was preparing to mount up glanced at the paper while sticking it in my wallet. My rate had been “adjusted” and the total bill for the night was just over eight bucks.
Hmmm. What do you know? Another friend in a far away place.
I started the big bike and resolved to make California today. West…I needed to go west. I was only a few miles from the border. Now, which road? I glanced at the map. Wait a minute…Ooooo! What’s that? Hoover Dam! Cool!
California momentarily forgotten, I grinned and turned the heavy cruiser north. After all, it would only add a couple hundred miles or so.
A not so helpful navigational aid
My Blog Entry:
I've spent the last couple days running around the roads of New Mexico. Couldn't have asked for better weather for it...or better friends.
Tonight I am in Kingman, AZ. 4,600 miles on the clock and I haven't made it from Texas to California yet! LOL! I've got some pictures to post, but having trouble uploading. Apparently "High speed internet" at the hotel means "We've blocked every possible useful protocol at our firewall, so you'll just have to live with web browsing."
I may head up for Hoover Dam and Death Valley tomorrow. I'm due in to LA too...but I think there is time.
I’ll see you on the road.
Index Introduction Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Afterword