Leaving the Volcano, I realized that I had about 350 miles to go and 9 hours to do it in. There really weren’t any additional side trips that I could take, so I decided that I would drop my speed to have a more relaxing ride. It was a short ride down to US-64/87, which is a 4 lane highway with plenty of traffic. Looking over the rest of my route I realized that the quiet solitude of my 2-lane rustic roads was pretty much over for this leg.
Approaching the town of Raton (did the people who named this town know what the translation was?), I was thankful for my very reduced pace. Topping a rise, there was an officer waiting for any unsuspecting motorists with less prudence than me. The fellow that passed me at that moment was about to discover just how little tolerance the New Mexico State Troopers have. I was doing well under the speed limit at this point so I rested easy.
Soon I was on I-25, counting down the miles to my rendezvous with the scoring table. Even at my reduced pace I was going to have plenty of slack time before I could be scored. I was thankful of my slow pace as New Mexico’s finest was out in force.
Before the rally, I’d purchased some audio books. I’d never used audio books on a bike before, but I figured why not give them a try to combat my back of the bike boredom. I usually listen to music on the bike. But I’d hardly had any on for the entire leg. I’m convinced that listening to music while riding teaches the brain to ignore sensory information, but this doesn’t stop me from doing it anyway.
I’d chosen two books both based on the fact that I knew I’d be riding in Indian country with the start being in Albuquerque. First was “The Blessing Way” by Tony Hillerman. It was a murder mystery set on the Navajo Nation Reservation. This was one of the first Audiobooks I’d ever heard, I’d purchased it on CD in a family car trip 15 years ago. I’d remembered that it was really interesting, but the sound was kind of quiet in my wife’s Honda minivan. I’d listened to it some on the way to the start of the rally and sadly the audible version is also too quiet to listen to on a motorcycle.
The other book was “Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee” by Dee Brown. This is a history of the decimation of American Indians from 1860 to 1890. I’d read this in high school, but its contents were also lost in the haze of time. I’d started this book on my trip over to New Mexico as well, but it was so depressing that I could only take it a little at a time. I turned on “Bury my Heart” and listened to the destruction of the Cheyenne peoples at the end of the civil war. It’s a sad and unsettling tale, one that I think all Americans need to understand, but few ever will.
The miles ticked off and soon I was exiting I-25 onto NM-161 headed to Fort Union National Monument. It was a pretty drive into the Fort, the marshland and water of Wheeler lake being a welcome change from the harsh desert that is New Mexico. Tom Austin had decided that we needed to spend some time off the bike at Fort Union. Rather than take the obligatory picture of the visitor center, we had to take a picture the ruins. The picture in the rally book had a distinctive pair of brick chimneys, and from the parking lot I couldn’t see any sign of matching ruins.
I removed my helmet and perched Sanjay’s hat on my head and, rally book in hand, I wandered into the visitors center. There was a pair of Rangers behind the counter, chatting with a family. With my hand still on the doorknob, the female ranger looked at me and said: “Through the visitor center, out the back, look to the left by the flagpole.” She was pointing to the back door a few feet away. I gave a big grin and said thank you.
It might have been possible to take the pictures from further away than I did, but I walked out for a good quarter mile to a place to get a picture to match the one in the rally book. It was hot and I removed a layer under my Aerostitch, but I’m never smart enough to take the damn thing off when I have to go on a walk like this. Of course, my spandex workout shorts that I wear underneath do tend to frighten the women and children.
On the way back there was another rider that was walking out. As we passed he asked me if we really had to walk out that far. I exclaimed that I wasn’t going to get a half-assed photo after coming this far. He looked miserable in the heat but kept on trudging. Walking back into the visitor center the helpful ranger was no longer talking with the family. I thanked her again and asked if she’d had a lot of us through already and if we’d been well behaved. She laughed and said yes we were fine. I told her that she’d have a heavy stream of us up until about 3 PM, as we all had to be in Albuquerque by 8 PM.
Walking back out in the blazing sun of the parking lot, Andy Mackey was getting off his bike, along with another rider. I gave them the directions to the bonus spot, and the strong suggestion that they leave any riding gear on the bikes. I’m not sure if they heeded my advice or not, as I was soon on my bike and motoring away.
FOUN – Fort Union National Monument
123 Miles since CAVO Arrived: 10:24 Departed 10:46
I always enjoy ride reports about the famous Iron Butt Rally.
I have really enjoyed your ride report. I hope you have time to tell us the rest of the story.