part 8

Once again, the sun was bright on the eastern horizon as we awaken this Thursday morning and I remained pleasantly surprised and thankful that we had not had to ride through rain this trip. As the water for the coffee was heating up, I started my morning inspection of the bike. While we were riding through Kansas the day before I began noticing an oily spot on top of my left boot. BMW motorcycle engines were a twin cylinder design, with the cylinders laid out horizontally instead of vertically. On top of that, the cylinders, instead of being aligned forward and back within the frame of the bikes, stuck out sideways like giant ears. There were a lot of reasons for doing this but one of the primary reasons was so the moving pistons and cylinders would catch the airflow, thus allowing the engines to run much cooler than the conventionally designed motorcycles. This also meant that my feet were situated below the cylinders, so when I discovered oil on my left boot it meant that something around the left cylinder of the engine had started leaking. A cursory look at the bike on the side of the road revealed nothing and as I did my daily morning inspection before packing the equipment back onto to the bike before we left, I still couldn’t find the source of this small leak, so I decided it wasn’t bad enough to be concerned about. Even though the leak continued the rest of the trip, I never discovered the source and it was slight enough to not have any ill effect on the engine. I also noticed during this inspection that the rubber hairs on the right angle of both tires had worn off from the steady wind from the south we experienced riding easterly through Kansas, balancing out the lost rubber hairs that had worn off when we were riding west several days before.

At this point we had been on our trip seven day and the long hours in the saddle on our inexperienced bodies were continuing to take its toll as I felt an increasing physical weariness before I had even climbed onto the bike and started out for the day. As much as we loved the friendliness and beauty of America’s populace that lived along its back roads, as we spoke over coffee we decided to head toward I-40 and make a bee line for home. Bidding our camping area around the lake adieu, we started for home and once again entered the life of high speed travelers when we merged into the interstate traffic at Sallisaw heading east. As we rode I watched truckers droning along in groups and solo, acting out their immensely important part in keeping America eating and living along these arteries of commerce. I saw businessmen, laborers and people escaping from something while other were driving toward new beginnings. I saw parents with kids staring out the windows of vehicles full of luggage as they passed by hopefully anticipating arriving at their vacation spots.

However for me I was surprised by a realization, where just a few days earlier while traveling along these rhythmic concrete lanes with the excitement of exploring new miles, this time I understood that America’s high speed arteries are only tools for getting from point A to point B, whereas the two lane back roads of America are where her secrets and joys lie, waiting to be discovered in every small town that tells a different tale and experience of the passage of life, grief and happiness and history to be shared with those that choose to exit the mindless sameness of the interstates and instead take in this wonderful patchwork of thousands upon thousand of communities at a slower and much more relaxed pace.

About 10pm we tiredly pulled into a state park in West Tennessee and ended up spending a miserable hot, humid almost sleepless night in the tent at a camp site full of lumpy roots, drunken noisy neighbors and mosquitoes in a state park in West Tennessee. The next morning I gladly packed up to get away from the misery and to get back on the bike for this very thankful final leg of the journey. By mid afternoon, I directed my faithful bike into the garage at home and dragged my weary bones into the house and collapsed onto the suddenly exquisitely comfortable couch while thinking to myself…”I’m more tired than I have been in a long time, my back aches from my neck to my butt, but that trip was awesome and I can’t wait to hop on the bike and take another one!”.

That decision several months earlier to hop on our bike and head out into the unknown was a turning point for me, for in some ways, the rest of my life was framed around the desire to explore the country by bike. For the next couple of decades I would pick the first two weeks in September as vacation time and Earl and I would take off into the wild blue yonder. As we continued to mature as travelers and to learn from past experience and adapt, for the next couple of years we still hopped onto interstate system and would ride until we reached the hopping off destination we would choose…one year it was Tucumcari, the next it was Abilene, Texas, but then, for the most part, we stopped using the interstate arteries and started traveling US east-west two lane routes as far as they would take us, or until we would run out of time and have to turn around and head home along different two lane highway and back roads. Traveling by motorcycle taught me to appreciate the vastness of this wonderful country that I am blessed to live in and to appreciate the vastly different cultures and flavor of people that come together to make up America. If it wasn’t for the desire to get out there and experience it all riding in the wind and rain and heat and cold, to discover the new vistas and landscapes not only by sight, but also by smell as we pass fields and meadows of flowers, deserts of sand and scrub, lakes and shores, fresh rains and dusty winds, they all combine to create the memories of awe and appreciation of God’s green earth and I am forever thankful I have had, and continue to have the ability to take it in, absorb it and to love it all.

Jim

12-17-20

part 7

As we started down the highway toward Dodge City, I remembered it had been a couple of days since I paid attention to personal hygiene, and as I thought about it, a brilliant idea popped into my head and I started paying more attention to the fields we were passing. A couple of miles later I spotted my quarry, and as we bumped across the cattle crossing into the field, the large, galvanized tank glistened in the morning light as the cattle grazed nearby. This livestock tank was about three feet deep and maybe twenty feet across, perfect for my bathing plans. The cool water felt good on my skin as I quickly scrubbed off the grime of the last two days. As I mounted my trusty old twin cylinder steed, feeling fresh and clean again, it almost seemed the cows were glaring at me as we got back on the highway heading toward Dodge City.

I felt a small amount of excitement building, passing through this old cowboy country, the miles ticking by on my odometer as we neared Dodge, for I was a wannabe cowboy at heart and carried current copies of “The Old West” magazines in my saddlebags to prove it. Dodge City is an historic cattle town best known for cattle drives, Boot Hill Cemetery, the Long Branch Saloon, Front Street, Bat Masterson and TV Sheriff Matt Dillon. As we rode into town atop our two wheeled steeds, we felt sort of like a couple of modern day cowboys fresh off the trail…which was sort of true. Of course there are only tiny remnants of the old west left in this modern city, but we spent a few hours searching them out as we visiting Boot Hill, the Long Branch replica saloon on Front Street and absorbed historical marker around town, soaking up the flavor of the old west. Soon, however we left Dodge and turned our noses east toward home.

We noticed clouds building in the sky as the afternoon passed and as we wound our way through Greensburg we spotted a marker and decided to visit the world’s largest hand dug well, which was large enough to have stairs winding down to the bottom…it was impressive, indeed. A couple of hours later we neared Pratt and decided to pitch our tent at the county lake park, our only choice for rough camping unless we wanted to camp next to RVs, which we didn’t. We had gotten wise and acquired provisions in Dodge City before we left so we wouldn’t be forced to gnaw on wood or dig for grubs or even eat something similar to the fare from the night before, I recall not being able to decide which would be worse. After the sun went down, we doused our fire and turned in for the night and as usual I went quickly to sleep. Sometime after midnight, I was awakened by a pounding rain that drummed upon the rain fly of the tent. Initially I was concerned that the waterproofing of the tent might not be adequate, but as the rain continued to hammer the tent we realized that it was remaining dry inside so we went back to sleep. Waking the next morning, I grabbed the door zipper, opened the door and stepped out into morning sunlight and inch deep water. As I jumped like I had been shocked, and splashed away from the front of the tent I stared back at the little pond that had formed under and around the tent. I remained in awe of the cheap little dome tent as we ferried our sleeping bags and pads out of the tent across the “pond” because despite all the water surrounding the tent, the inside still remained dry.

Back on the road we had about 100 miles of generally flat cropland to travel through to get to Wichita, another familiar sounding western town that was large enough to have plenty of pawn shops to scrounge through. Whenever Earl and I traveled, one of the things we enjoyed doing was visiting pawn shops, digging through the castoffs of other peoples lives. We usually were on the lookout for camera equipment, firearm related items and trinkets for our wives, as tribute in hopes they will allow us back in the doors when we return home. We wandered around Wichita for a couple of hours then we decided to point the bikes in the direction of Oklahoma. As the waning afternoon sun rested over our right shoulders we reached the Cimarron Turnpike, a four lane toll road that transects the northeastern part of Oklahoma from Enid to Tulsa. I dug out my change to make sure it was handy and we took off toward Tulsa. As the sun dropped below the horizon I was following Earl along the turnpike when suddenly some giant grey bird swooped into my peripheral vision and before I had a chance to duck, its right wing passed within a few inches of my face as it continued on across the road to God knows where, apparently oblivious to my presence. All I know is I whooped and almost pooped my pants from the fright of this bird’s appearance that seemed as big as a truck, but was probably a heron or crane. The rest of the journey down the turnpike was uneventful as the night grew darker and darker around my headlight and it was close to 9pm when we pulled in to a state park a few miles west of Tulsa. As I wearily closed my eyes against the fatigue of riding days on end I quickly fell asleep.

Jim

12-11-20

part 6

US Route 54 takes off from Tucumcari and runs almost arrow straight northeast along the edges of Texas, Oklahoma and whistles through the town of Plains, Kansas, where we planned on turning north toward our next old west town to visit, Dodge City, the home of Matt Dillon, Miss Kitty and Festus, familiar souls that we grew up watching the drama of their life’s unfold weekly on CBS. As we bade farewell to our initial destination, we mounted our bikes and turned out sights toward Kansas, another new state I knew absolutely nothing about. We hadn’t been on US 54 that long before the scenery around us began changing from desert scrub to grassy expanse. Looking at the atlas informed us we were skirting the southern edge of some National Grasslands, something I didn’t expect to see in New Mexico. We soon discovered that US 54 appeared to be a major artery from I-40 into southwest Kansas, as we began encountering a number of semi trucks heading both directions along this generally shoulderless two lane highway.

So far on this vacation, Earl and I had settled into a certain routine of keeping anywhere from 5 to 50 yards space between us as we rode and we also made sure to follow the National Speed Limit law of 55 mph to avoid speeding tickets away from our home state of Tennessee. As we were droning through Texas enjoying the fields and small rolling hills that were beginning to appear, two semi rigs rapidly came up from behind and started passing, first me and then Earl, which was riding about 50 yards ahead of me. The lead semi had just passed Earl as we approached a small hill and when he cut back into our lane, he seemingly judged the distance incorrectly and ended up forcing Earl off onto the narrow gravel edge as the right rear portion of his trailer swung dangerously toward him. So far on this highway we hadn’t seen more than a narrow gravel shoulder, though it seemed that there were pull offs large enough for at least one semi about every few miles. I watched the drama with Earl and the truck unfold from my vantage point behind the second semi, and gasped to myself as he wallowed down the narrow gravel shoulder until he managed to get back on the highway in front of the second semi.

My sigh of relief was short-lived as Earl accelerated his bike and as he passed next to the driver’s door of the semi that had run him off the road, he stretched his left arm up in the air and shot the driver a bird, then continued on to get in front of the truck as I helplessly watched dumbfounded at this obviously reckless act. It did turn out that wasn’t the right thing to do, for suddenly I saw smoke puff from the exhaust stacks on the semi as the driver sped up to get onto Earl’s tail. I watched in shocked disbelief as Earl accelerate away from the truck just to have the truck match his speed, almost as if they were suddenly Siamese twins, rolling and weaving down the highway. I could see the driver of the second truck through his side mirror as he was speaking into his microphone and gesturing at the same time, occasionally glancing back at me as I stayed a safe distance back. Earl and the truck that was sticking to him like velcro were approaching a pull off and Earl pulled off the highway, only to have the truck match his move and pull off immediately behind him so Earl shot back onto the highway with the semi snaking back onto the tarmac behind him. I was beginning to fear that there was not going to be a good outcome to this when another pull off appeared ahead and once again Earl pulled of, but to my surprise, the truck just continued on, either tiring of his game, or the driver of the second truck had convinced him that he wouldn’t get away with running over Earl. Carefully continuing up the highway we spotted another pull off and we both exited and stopped and with a huge sigh of relief, I pulled my helmet off and sat down on the ground, suddenly exhausted. Earl had allowed his anger to get the best of him, with potentially fatal consequences, and as we drank water and chatted, I reminded him whether or not, he was righteous in any situation, any scenario with a fight between his 500 pound bike against a 25,000 pound truck results in him losing every time. I think maybe he got it…
 
After a few minutes we got back on the highway and continued toward Kansas. Traveling along America’s back roads is a completely different experience from traveling along the nation’s interstate highway system. Where the interstates are designed to skirt smaller towns and communities, thus insulating the travelers from life outside the bubble of high speed travel, its back roads allows its travelers to experience life in the small towns, communities and farmlands of rural America. As we worked our way closer to Kansas, the landscape gradually changed from grassy prairie to rolling fenced fields with the occasional copse of trees appearing dotted around the landscape. We also passed the remains of hardships in this area as tumbling down and abandoned cabins, sheds, barns and windmills lay scattered across the landscape, reminding us of the uncertainty of life and long term success scratching a living out of the soil. After we turned north at Prairie Kansas, the state roads started winding and zig-zagging along the fertile fields of this southwestern part of the state and soon in the distance the tops of structures started appearing. These structures turned out to be grain elevators that announced the presence of a small farming community ahead. It seemed that just about the time the elevators would disappear from view in my rear view mirrors, another set would begin to peak over the horizon announcing another little community built around the grain production of the American plains.

Following the little highway we were traveling on, was a set of railroad tracks on our left, the tops of the rails glistening in the afternoon sunlight, showing regular use…something that I should have paid attention to, but didn’t. I also noticed as we traveled along about every half mile to mile there would be a drive off the highway to give the farmers access to their fields. I also started seeing cattle for the first time since we left Oklahoma along with weather-worn, working windmills that pumped fresh cool water into the large galvanized livestock tanks for the cattle to drink from. We don’t have windmills in Tennessee and to watch these towering, wood latticed machines catching the wind with their plethora of rusting green metal vanes spinning creakily as they pumped the water was a rare threat, as this was the first time in my life I had seen any in action. As the sun started racing toward the western horizon I motioned for us to pull off onto one of these gravel drives to find a spot to camp. We had gone up a slight incline (in Kansas they called these slopey little bumps on the earth “hills”) and this particular farm track led into a field that was partially below the road and out of sight of passing vehicles. As we turned onto this gravel track I glanced to the left and saw a flat, level leaf covered area near the railroad track cut that was surrounded by trees and looked like the idyllic spot to set up the tent. We stopped and unpacked the bikes and as Earl set the tent up I headed toward the nearest town which was about 5 miles away, according the the size of the grain elevators I could see in the distance to rustle up some grub. I arrived at the only store in town just before closing, a store about the size of a postage stamp and as I looked around at the near empty shelves I realized our dining choices were extremely limited. So for supper Earl and I had loaf bread and American cheese…and I was happy to be able to get that. Earl dug out the rest of the bottle of wine we tried the evening before and so following this luxurious meal of bread and cheese was half flat wine…it was great. As the sun began to set the mosquitoes started attacking in force and we retreated to the tent. We had been hitting the sack soon after dark and rising with the sun anyway, so almost as soon as we got inside, I fell sleep.

I was shaken awake to, what I assumed was the end of time. Earl awakened me I to the most awful raucous shrieking, banging, roaring and whining, while the darkness was broken with this ominously glowing bright light sweeping back and forth. As the ground beneath us trembled and shook, I quickly realized that it wasn’t the end of the world or a UFO, but an approaching train. As this noisy behemoth growled and moaned as it ate the distance between us, I almost panicked as I swiftly wondered if we had camped on the tracks themselves and were about to be squashed like a couple of unnecessary bugs, as the lights seemed to be bearing straight down upon us. As the locomotive passed us about 30 feet away, we sat dumbfounded in our sleeping bags, the ground trembling beneath us as the train passed and passed and passed some more, and kept passing for three or four minutes. Back home in Tennessee, we had railroads but trains in our area might travel through maybe once a week. Once the train was finally gone, Earl told me the noise awakened him and he looked over at me sleeping peacefully and decided that if he was going to die screaming, he was going to make damn well sure I died screaming also, so he woke me up. I went back to sleep, very happy that ordeal was over. It was just a couple of hours later I realized it wasn’t. Two more trains roared by that night, but at least with these, we knew it wasn’t the end of the world or alien intervention, just Union Pacific delivering fresh goods to the east. The next morning as we heated and drank coffee; we chalked the weird night we had just experienced as one for the books. We packed up and bade farewell to this farm in Kansas and headed toward Dodge City.

Jim
12-10-20

Part 5

We were awakened by the rising sun the next morning and after packing and securing our gear we surveyed our surroundings in the morning light. We had slept on a ridge that sloped off toward the west in the direction of our destination of Tucumcari, which we could see in the distance as it was already beginning to shimmer from the heat of the sun and looking to the south, maybe a half mile away, was the small community of San Jon. One thing that had become instantly apparent after we had awakened was the landscape had drastically changed. Traveling through Oklahoma and North Texas we had noticed that the trees had started becoming a little sparser the further west we traveled, but here, in the morning light was a more arid somewhat flattened landscape of sparse grass sand and rocks and prominent mesas and ridges as far as the eye could see. This completely foreign vista was a stark reminder that were had made it “out west”!.

As we could hear the interstate travelers whizzing by below us, we bade goodbye to this wonderful little camping spot we had stumbled upon and continued westward toward our goal. As we had been doing the previous day, we looked for a mention of Route 66 on the exit signs as we neared the town. We exited onto Route 66 and headed into town along one of the surviving remnants of this grand old road. Whereas many small towns and communities we had ridden through were exhibiting various stages of decline from the cancer of cheap off-shore labor that was continuing to kill the US manufacturing industry, Tucumcari seemed to be suffering a lot less, with several of the picturesque and artsy motels that seemed to help define the Route 66 mysticism that travelers still want to experience still holding on and accepting visitors. We found a small diner that was open on this Sunday morning and as we ate our breakfast and drank our coffee inside, we chatted with a couple of locals about life in the area.

To the south of I-40 stands Tucumcari Mountain, a prominent mesa that towers above the surrounding landscape. I had never seen a mesa and I continued to stare at it as one of the locals told us the legend of Tucumcari Mountain. It seems the there were a couple of Apache braves that both wanted to be chief and they decided to fight it out on the mountain. The old chief’s daughter was in love with one of them and snuck up on the mountain, hoping her lover would win. Her lover lost and when the other brave plunged his knife into the lover’s heart, the girl rushed out, grabbed the knife, stabbed the other brave and then killed herself. When the old chief saw what had happened, he also grabbed the knife and in grief, killed himself with it and his dying words became the name of the mountain, and also the name of the town…neat huh.

As we were leaving the diner, we noticed a couple of people hovering around our bikes and as we got closer and greeted them, we discovered they were in awe of the fact we had ridden these motorcycles all the way from Tennessee and they wanted to take pictures of us and our bikes. I hadn’t really thought about the fact that it wasn’t really a common occurrence. Prior to the internet, information about motorcycle travel was fairly rare. We had read a couple of books and a few articles in motorcycle trade magazines about these crazy guys that had traveled by bikes, but that was it. Today, in 2020 there are hundreds of stories and videos out there on the web about motorcycle travel, but back in 1992, as far as we knew, it was still a fairly rare thing.

We continued to ride around town, just drinking in the sights of this cool community that, even just looking at it on the atlas, seemed so far from home. We pulled into an empty parking lot so I could take all the gear off my bike and repack it in a more logical order. With the invention of Google still several years away, I really had no reference to consult when it came to packing gear for this trip. Now that I had time to inventory what I had brought and as I took it off the bike and spread it out on the ground it was readily apparent I had packed way too much stuff…primarily it seemed that I had brought too many clothes and too much cooking equipment. The tent, sleeping bag, blanket and ground cover, as well as the spare parts and tool were all needed, but I was swiftly discovering that much of the other stuff was creating unnecessary bulk and weight. I repacked this mountain of gear, starting with the heaviest stuff on the bottom, working my way up. Now with it repacked, it would not act as much like a top heavy sail, catching the wind and buffeting me about on the road. I finally had made some semblance of order with all this gear, but I knew it was still too much.

While we were there, I also took the time to inspect the bike. So far I had been pleasantly surprised with this almost twenty year old motorcycle. I had vaguely heard of BMW motorcycle, but had never been close to one, much less ridden one before I found this one. BMW’s were very odd looking with their engine cylinders sticking out to the side like giant ears, however they had a reputation of reliability and longevity. Except for the slipping clutch, which turned out to be a problem I had caused, this little motorcycle had not missed a beat. Japanese motorcycles of the seventies generally started showing their age around ten thousand miles. This BMW had more than twenty thousand miles on it and I was starting to discover that the reliability and longevity the Germans had designed into their machines was apparent in the way it was still running all day long without a hiccup. While inspecting it, I noticed that the rubber hairs sticking out of both the front and rear tires were missing on the left side of the tires, but not on the right side. At first I thought this was odd, but as I thought about it I realized what was causing it. It seemed like once we hit Oklahoma, that there was a steady wind coming from the south that pushed against our left sides as we traveled west along the interstate. To compensate for this meant leaning to the bikes to the left, so someone following us would not have seen two vertical riders, but two bikes and riders leaning to the left as we rolled and swayed down the highway. This leftward leaning had worn the rubbers hairs to make the tires look like they had weirdly lopsided haircuts. After having hung out in Tucumcari for a couple of hours, with freshly inspected bikes and gear we were ready to continue on our journey. We had traveled as far west as we had initially meant to go and we really hadn’t talked about where to go from here. We had decided that we had quite enough of the interstate for a while, as well as the fact that we did not like backtracking, so we turned our sights north-east and took off along US 54 toward Kansas.

Jim

12-5-20

part 4

As I pulled back onto the street with a full tank of gas, I was reminded of an issue that I had started to notice previously, but one that I had almost forgotten about with the fuel situation taking my full attention. I had noticed about fifty miles back that my clutch seemed to start slipping a little as we would accelerate up hills. Now on the city streets, it became a little more apparent with the stop and go aspect of riding through this urban area. Here I was a thousand miles from home on my first long distance trip and it seemed that I was beginning to helplessly watch my two wheeled steed potentially begin to suffer a catastrophic failure.

I gave it some gas and caught up with Earl at the light and motioned for him to pull over and we pulled into a well lit gas station where I explained to him of my slipping clutch dilemma. I was really beginning to feel a sense of panic, not really knowing what I was going to do if my bike actually was suffering from clutch failure…but Earl told me that it didn’t make sense that my bike would have suddenly start experiencing clutch failure with only 20,000 miles on the clock. After all, he reminded me, the clutches on these motorcycles were known to last for 75 to 100,000 miles. After he told me that, I thought about it and calmed down a bit, realizing that he was right and that it didn’t make a lot of sense to be failing all of a sudden. He asked who had done the last maintenance checkup on the bike and I admitted that I had just before the trip and then he suggested, with a smile, that the idiot mechanic that did the work was probably the one to blame for something not being adjusted right. Riding along the highway, I had been able to visually inspect the clutch cable adjustment at the handle bars and it looked correct, so under the sodium lights at the gas station I laid down to gaze underneath the bike and I looked at the adjustment nut at the transmission end of the clutch cable and I realized that I looked like I had tightened it down too much which was preventing the clutch from releasing all the way, thus causing it to slip. I pulled the tool pouch out from under the seat and adjusted the cable nut out several turns, checked the clutch cable free play (something I thought I had done before we left), buttoned everything up and with a load of apprehension, I took it for a test ride, only to discover the clutch was now releasing fine. By this time it going on 9pm and we still had many miles to go to reach New Mexico. While I was working on the bike we discussed our options and decided to continue traveling on and trying to make it to Tucumcari tonight, which was still almost a hundred miles away. With a deep sense of relief, I started the bike up and we left the city lights of Amarillo behind us as we continued riding into the night.

Riding along the interstate at night can be pretty weird at times, especially when the traffic is so light that you can ride for miles without seeing another vehicle. With traffic this light certain odd aspects of travel seem to come to light. One thing I noticed is it appears that cars tend to run in “packs”. Bikers do this, but they generally do it intentionally, whereas most people driving cars don’t pre plan running in groups, but it appears they do anyway, as there will be a traffic lull where there are no other vehicles in sight, then in the distance, I will see a group of headlights appearing and as they get closer I would see several vehicles running in a group, and it seemed these groups generally ranged from a pack size of four cars to ten, on the average. I noticed this same phenomenon for the next three trips we out west until we stopped using the interstate highways as our main artery and tried to travel along America’s two lane highways exclusively, so we could get a better flavor of small town America across this great nation.

Just before 11pm our headlights finally illuminated the New Mexico state sign growing larger and larger in front of us and as we neared it felt like it was personally welcoming us to come into its state to rest and relax, which was all I could think of at the moment, for riding all day long and far into the night was beginning to take its toll on both of us. We had looked at the road atlas a little earlier and saw there were no state parks or campground east of Tucumcari, but close to there was a couple of interstate exits that seemed to exit onto state or county roads with no facilities or businesses and we thought it would be worth a shot to pull off onto on of these to see if we could find a place to sleep away from people and houses. Almost a half hour later, as we started up a rise about five miles from Tucumcari, we saw an exit that looked like it would fit the bill as there were no lights or any sign of civilization around as far as we could see, so we exited the interstate onto a dirt road that crossed above the highway and we pulled of the road onto a grassy field and stopped. The awesome sight that opened before us was more than we could have imagined, for we were on a flat ridge that looked down upon the city lights of Tucumcari in the distance, while in the sky above us were more twinkling stars than I had ever seen before in my life, with the majestic milky way dominating the star field as it swept across that unbelievable night sky. As I rolled out the sleeping bag onto the grass and wearily plopped down on it, I took one more look around at the amazing sight in front and above me while thinking “we are actually in New Mexico!”. Apparently we slept peacefully under our blankets without any disturbances, for after I closed my eyes, I do not remember anything else until the rising sun woke me up early the next morning, rested and ready for the new day.

Jim

12-4-20