The city of Mojave, CA is not the prettiest place. But on the east side of town is America’s largest wind farm. 290 turbines produce 3 gigawatts of electricity. The windmills vary in size from, say, 80 feet in height to a couple of hundred. For scale look at the steps at the base of this guy on the right
For some reason security was non-existant and we could ride right up to them.
The wind was blowing hard and watching them rotate in apparent unison was mesmerizing. It brought back memories of the vast solo windmill at Pinscher Creek that stood apart from the others and seemed to stand sentinel to the Rockies. They’re so white, wow.
Sorry there’s a rainbow in the next one, we’re not going all Californian down here, it was an unfortunate accident
Then into the San Gabriel Mountains
We picked a small mountain road, the Hughes Lake road, up and over the hills, until we hit a ‘closed road’ sign and had to reverse back to the crest and a good road further south. We passed Elizabeth Lake, ignored the Park signs and went for a ride in the sand. Here’s Lucinda wagging her hips. She’s such a bad girl
Another perfect sport bike road, smaller cc’s though as it was very tight in places
Then down to meet highway 126 through a citrus valley into Ventura as the light failed
We needed new tires before a long dirt ride two days further on. The rear TKC was bald after only 2700 miles, mainly due to long sections of cut rock road surface. So with a day to kill we headed out west across the desert to Kitt Peak.
After a straight haul across desert that had a hostile tag to it, Kitt Peak is up an exhilarating road 6880 feet off the desert floor to a mess of impressive telescopes with an excellent interpretive centre. The beautiful telescopes go from 500′ underground (a solar telescope) to 187′ above ground in the exposed and completely isolated situation. It’s the largest observational installation in the world. The view on the way up
Twelve miles of cliff hugging bends, big drop offs and a big temperature drop
Then the finals curves
We rode another 50 miles out west before turning around, through some desperate villages, but outside of them. No-one tries to live off the land here, it’s empty and hostile. And it’s all border patrol stuff, trucks with people-cages and dogs driving around, and the most badass border police checkpoint of the five or six we’ve been through.
I walked around Page this morning. Here are the stats.
There was this cool trailer bbq rig, complete with Freightliner type pipes, parked in a gas station, that was like this hairy grown up version of Japadog down there on Burrard.
Page is on the Colorado River, right beside the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell. The dam is 290′ tall. It was designed specifically to block any salmon that could jump the 221′ Hoover Dam which is downstream a bit. It powers the equivalent of 5.6 million households.
The Colorado River behind
And behind the dam, now that the really neat stuff is done, the admin department does it’s thing.
The water level is 80′ below maximum, which I was told is normal for this time of year. It fills completely late spring/early summer. Lake Powell is fed by snowmelt.
Lake Powell behind, with the boat floats
Then, of all strange things, it was a couple of hundred miles back to Chinle, to see the horses.
Going out to check the bike as soon as I wake is the normal routine. The temperature has dropped again. It’s 22F, nearly -6C. This is a shame because I’ve another reasonably long day ahead. So I decide I’ll leave as soon as it’s 0C, measured by smoke/no smoke and go back in to call DT to chat about tires, etc.
It’s about 150 miles to Jemez before another 125 to Santa Fe and we cross more beautiful desert on our way to Cuba, our first gas stop, passing more sandstone escarpments.
And pass horses and mules occasionally. I’m not sure if they’re wild or not. No fences, so maybe wild.
The escarpments get bigger.
Then we’re into the hills and shortly before entering the Jemez canyon, the town of Jemez. This all you get because the town is on the other side of the street and there’s a big wooden sign that says:
No video cameras
No cassette recorders (I’ll have to ask Siri, my new BFF, if she knows what this is)
It’s an Indian reservation and old, dense and lived in, like a favorite pair of shoes. Washing hangs out to dry across the streets, dogs sit in the sun, kids totter on bent bikes, homes are randomly aligned, power cables are haphazardly supported, bright red peppers hang on strings everywhere. Gorgeous. But no pictures.
Then into the canyon
And down to the river
The road is twisty and leads to the ruins of an old mission church. Built in 1621 and designed by a Franciscan priest, it burned down in 1623.
There’s a point on the road after the town where hot springs rush up and flow under and across the road and join the river above these falls
Then the unexpected perfect riding thing happened and we were in twisties for miles, gaining altitude until at 9000′ the trees opened up and a high altitude grassland plain appeared, the Valles Caldera. It was one of those moments when I Whoop! in my helmet.
Then after topping out, the road descended through very tight twisties. It was several degrees below 0 and I was concerned about tire temperature but we let her rip a bit.
Then a special diversion, to the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Much larger than I’d imagined, there are over 10,000 employees on a campus at the edge of the forest in pristine buildings, pouring out to their cars; I’d arrived at 5:00. I was passed through security without any questions and headed down the main drag, brilliantly named Bikini Atoll. That’s the spirit guys!
On the highest point of the campus was a dominant building, where all the very cool ideas are cooked up no doubt. Then on to Santa Fe, as the sun set.
The temperature’s been dropping daily and we’re off to a cold start to the Cibola Forests. About 50 miles from Socorro, it’s a climb up and over hills to the Plains of Agustin (correct spelling) which is vast and beautiful, 50 miles by 20 at 7000′. Antelope, hare/rabbit things, very bloody cold and flat. Smack in the middle of this enormous plain is the Very Large Array.
After leaving the Plains it’s through more hills and into the Cibola forests. Not so much a forest, but trees where there have been none for days.
Looking back towards the Plains.
And into Pie Town. More a tiny village and named after the apple pies they made in the 20’s. Yup, another oddball name, like Truth Or Consequences, NM. The cafe where they originally made the pies still sells them as they were.
Down the road a bit, a more typical building. There’s no-one to be seen. As usual.
And then a 100 miles down, past a sandstone escarpment to San Raphael and Grant’s.
Ride notes: Stop and add insulation and winter gloves when I first need them, not later.
The plan was to visit Hueco Tanks (after an email reminder from TJ) then reverse back to El Paso and head north to White Sands. So far the ride has been completely free of non weather related screw-ups. Today we got two fails.
Arriving at Hueco Tanks we got stopped by a gate and a friendly Parks official. The park, because of the petroglyphs, is protected. The visitor limit at any one time is 70 apparently. She said there were another 30 waiting in the camp site and my chances of getting in today were about zero. So we took a pic under a tree instead.
So after loosing a couple of hours we headed off to White Sands. According to my GPS mapping software there’s a short cut bypassing highway 70. So off we went. The first thing we see are these, about 5 miles apart.
But for some reason the wording doesn’t make sense, because it’s a road, for vehicles. Part of me says the signs mean no vehicles allowed off the road. But then we see the tank crossing signs and they’re clearly either on the road or off the road and I’m confused. In denial actually. And there’s trouble in the distance.
But we go quickly past the radar buildings and past a series of testing ranges. Clearly we’re off track. And sure enough we come to a military checkpoint. A soldier asks why I ignored the signs and I stumble through the poor-signage-wording excuse. Somehow he was OK with that. Rather than getting bent out of shape at my bullshit he told me nicely to go back the way I came. I thought better of taking a picture of the situation. So it was back to El Paso and a quick re-planning session.
This is a post written from a future date so I’ll make it brief. More on Texas another time. I loved Texas and it was the highlight so far. It’s time to leave and head to El Paso.
A last look around Marfa, pretty much the second to last town west on the extreme southern link, before the couple of hundred miles to El Paso. Staying south has been a good decision.
And swing by the church for the last time
And off we went, sad to see things for maybe the last time we’d quickly loved, even after a short two weeks. I wish it had been a month.
Surrounded by military bases as we have been in the desert country, we were on the road from Marja to Valentine with the road to ourselves as usual. I never see anybody on the road. Choosing to travel on backroads or B roads in the late fall, early winter is like this.
However this afternoon we have company. Ahead of me on the right, to the north and about half a mile ahead is this white spot. I’m looking at it thinking it’s a balloon or something but I can’t make any progress towards it, which bothers me somehow. I can’t figure it out. Then all of a sudden I start making huge progress on it and lo and behold it’s a rigid dirigible. Here’s what he looked like crossing me before he falls back.
Then, to my surprise it crosses the road ahead of me and starts matching my speed, slightly ahead. I think holy shit, it’s a drone. It has two slightly darker spots, one in front and one behind a lower bulb under the main fuselage that look like hardware. I can’t see any propulsion method though and never do. Obviously I’m weirded out that it’s matching my speed so I stop. It stops, quickly, like suddenly. Then I speed up and so does he. Then he falls back and goes into the sun, behind me and to the left (southeast). I look for his shadow but can’t find it. I stop a couple of times to see where he is and he’s in the sun. Anyway I’ve blown off a half hour this way and blast off west. Some twenty-five year old in a room fifty miles away has had a good laugh practicing his skills at my expense I think happily and we go on our way.