Writing on Saturday, today was a pretty spectacular day. I covered about 700km and have been through four states. Twice. I’m not sure if I should count the first time through New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona. You see, I visited a place called Four Corners. Unfortunately the actual monument is currently under reconstruction. I saw a photo of it on Wikipedia — and well, it doesn’t look like that now. That said, I did circumnavigate the area in under five minutes which is by far the fastest time I have ever been through four states or provinces. Its an interesting experience for what it is.
I saw so much today. I started out in Cuba, NM and it was rather chilly (10 degrees celsius/or about 50 in gringo). I ended up to 7000ft and down a bit and up again and down. I traverse quite a number of different terrains today. BTW — while it is all desert out here, I have seen very few cdacti (or cactus looking things) on my journey. I don’t think I have seen any for a couple of days. The flora is generally shrubs, grasses and small trees, mostly conifer I think. And quite a bit of sand and rock — but not many areas of exposed sand (i.e. when you think of the Sahara and the like).
Today I have seen vast tracks of land which mainly consist of first nation allotments or reservations. Actually, in mosts of the areas it is not really possible to veer from the main highways as everything is fenced off and stern warnings about trespassing on native grounds and/or ranches are abundant. I find it surprising to see cattle grazing in some of these areas as, to my uninformed eye, I wouldn’t think there was much for cattle to eat out there.
For someone growing up and living in Southern Ontario, I have only been to one reservation in my day and, looking at the map, the reservations in Ontario seem to be far smaller and far less abundant. I know that this is “Indian Country”, so to speak, but at one level I don’t think that I expected to see what I saw.
There is a lot of poverty in the area. While I won’t say by an means that it is the norm, shanty town conditions are present which don’t seem too far off from what I know about the shanty towns of South Africa. For example portables (“houses”) surrounded by chain link fence and barbed wire. Or just rough shacks. I have heard the term “fourth world” thrown around to describe aboriginal “third world” conditions within so-called first-world/developed nations. While I don’t want to generalize, I do see the how this term would be valid in the region. This is a very different world other parts of the US that I have passed through. I sometimes forget that I am still in the USA.
I am presently in Tuba City, AZ. It is on a Navajo reservation. Tuba is known for its uranium and Mormonism (apparently). Besides the Four Corners, I also went to Monument Valley. Situated just within Utah, Monument Valley is a Navajo sacred area — and while also a sort of a (minor) tourist trap, it is definitely very beautiful. Essentially you pay a small entrance fee (or a larger price of you want a less restricted, guided tour) to access the area. The area is packed with massive red stone outcrops and buttes, weather beaten by millenia of winds. Having paid my $5, I spent a good amount of time riding around the sandy, rocky dual track taking photos of interesting scenery.
Now writing on Sunday from a diner, I am in Flagstaff, AZ. It is at about 7000ft above sea level. My bike is slightly struggling with the altitude. KLRs, like any carbureted engine, don’t do much in terms of adjusting fuel/air ratio like a fuel injected vehicle does. Hence when I head to even higher altitudes I may have to “re-jet” — I am carrying the appropriate parts for this.
So today has been interesting. I stopped for a short visit at a dinosaur footprint fossil site near Tuba City. I saw what were apparently raptor and some sort off (very large) bird foot prints, the remains of an area where dino bones were removed and a fossilized bird foot talon. The stop was worth it and payment is only voluntarily tipping the guided.
Shortly after this the scenario change to a lot of red stone again and loose sand. I was getting close to getting my goggles out and then suddenly the altitude began to clime. In about 1/2 an hour I went from being warm (cooled by the highway wind) to actually quite chilly and ready to put on a layer. Desert scrub quickly turned to dwarf conifers and snowy mountain tops (in the distance). And now full grown evergreens. While I have been in the Canadian Rockies — say from Calgary to Banff — this degree of climate change is new to me. From what I have heard, I can expected lots of this as I move further south.
What else to say? My packing is becoming much more routine and organized. Seemingly I put the same jigsaw puzzle back together every morning, and while my gear quantity hasn’t really changed, some how it has “settled” — by this I mean the natural order of how stuff falls into place is taking place. My duffel, while once seemingly overstuffed, seem manageable now. My next major task is to find new boots. I have done enough (mild) off-road at this point that I know that I need something more supportive — but that will have to wait until the bike stores are open — hopefully Monday.