Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Fall Colors of Canyon de Chelly

The morning started out pretty cold up in the Chuska Mountains, Gentle Reader of This Blog.  I waited a bit for things to warm up, but as I started down the mountain, a pretty fierce headwind kicked up - Winter is on the way!

The headwind was brutal - don't I look like I'm having fun?  Trying to take a selfie and almost getting blown off the road...  I would rather ride in the cold mountain air of the Reservation, or the furnace-like heat of a September in Tucson, than fight a headwind, mes amis!

Getting set for the fast down-hill into Chinle
I've been off the bike for a few weeks - due to rain up here and cold.  There may not be too many warm days left.  The sun also goes down pretty fast so I am not quite able to ride to the firs pull-out and back by dark.

A new Friend
I pulled into the Visitor Center at the Monument - this fellow gave me a tired but friendly sigh.

At least I'll have a tailwind, right?
I have to say that I thought about going down to the Thunderbird for a piece of pie and maybe a cup of coffee.  But now the afternoon was a bit warmer.  Since there was no one around save my new pal waiting patiently in the car, I thought I'd look around a bit.  Usually I'm here just to fill water bottles, eat my cliff bar, and roll on.  Today I wanted to take in the change of the season - which I am happy to report was bold!

The Hogan on display - actually a nice place!

I would be okay living here!  Room for all my bikes too!

Hmm, not sure about the skylight...

Mostly Hogans are used for ceremonies - old timers still around may or may not live in the ones I see, but friends have them to use for camps when they round up herds in the mountains.

A nice replica of the way times used to be for many people in Dine Dikeyah - Navajo Lands.

I was surprised to see this guy again!  Every time I show up to get water, and eat my cliff bar on the benches by the HQ, he comes out to look me over.  Today he let me get a bit closer and I photographed him for you.  It might be a bit late to have a "name the lizard contest" but I was happy to think he remembers me.  He may have been thinking to himself, "Might be Buffalo Belly's last ride for awhile, with Winter on the way..."

If you visit the Canyon, you could have a nice campsite.  These young Cottonwoods will give you shade in the Summer, and protect you from the crisp Winter Wind now passing through.

These old-time Cottonwoods have thrived here on the way to the old trading post!

Beautiful colors and the bitter-sweet smell of the changes soon to arrive.

The families that have horse and jeep tours live here.  I've not done one yet - my Navajo friends say we can just saddle up a horse and go on our own.  But my friends are always so busy!  After work and on the weekends they have to attend to sheep, cows, horses, and their fields.  Late Summer and Fall means fixing things, cutting wood for cold times ahead.

I just rode up a bit on the South Rim, it was so windy that I thought I would just enjoy the tailwind back up to The College.

Chinle is a few miles past the Monument HQ, and as you can see, I'm in the open and the wind is very strong right now!

I'm heading back with a sweet tailwind, Gentle Reader.  It's nice to have a bit more silence rather than the loud wind-tunnel effect coming down the 2000 feet or so in a roaring headwind.  Really can often leave my ears ringing when I get home from the ride.

This hill is right at the first pull-out - Mummy Cave and Massacre Cave.  It means that all the hard climbing back up to The College is behind me, and I can get some speed going back with the tailwind now helping me along.

This is the Defiance Plateau, and many Navajo live, like these folks do, in their house on the Rim - they have Hogans and fields that they farm, and have farmed for generations in Canyon de Chelly below.

This has been a long hard ride today - not much further, mes amis!

If I look to the West, that's Round Rock.  I could ride down to Chinle, turn and ride North, up there to Round Rock, and then head East back to Tsaile.  It would be about an 80 mile ride round-trip - but with the wind today - no way!

I have lived in Dine Bikeyah for almost a year - this country had endeared itself to me and I feel One with every breath I take - which are deep because I am climbing!

The say, "What we do to the Mountain, we do to ourselves."  Which means to say, this is sacred land and I must tell you, Gentle Readers of This Blog, this is a very special place and the Navajo are very lucky to know it - and share with me too.

Okay goats and sheep!  Out of the road!  I'm coming through!

Two pieces of pony, and bits of plastic are all that remain of this wild one.

Here at Benally Hill I say farewell to the tailwind I've had coming home.  I didn't have a real fast ride today - and it was cold as the afternoon started showing up - but I feel my lungs are cleared and I've sleep well tonight for sure!

Here is the trailer park where I live.  The main campus is just a mile down this road, and to the library and my office.  That's Tsaile Peak about seven miles East of The College.

Black Pinnacle is about four miles away on Hwy 12.  I have to tell you a few times when I've come home in the evenings, and when it's dark, some ponies are sometimes on the edge of the road.  Even with my bright commuter lights, you just don't see them until you're right there on them!  So I am very careful!  Often the cows will just stand in the entrance of the trailer park's drive.  That I don't expect! 

I'm working hard and putting in a lot of hours - the days are shorter and cooler now.  It's good to ride - thanks for coming by the blog!

Cheers!  Bruce

Monday, October 06, 2014

Banana Cream

Cold weather and rain have swept through this part of the Reservation - I finally got out on the bike and put in some miles!  Now it's October and I can feel the change on the way.  Some of the ponies are looking healthy, like these guys up there - who watched me intently from the safety of the cliffs - others look thin.  I hope they can survive Winter!  Usually the wild ponies hide, but lately when they see me they want to get a closer look.  I envy their freedom, but they have a hard life - mostly people that own them can't afford to take care of them, so they release 'em into the Monument.  I've been told that they quickly multiply - let's say you have three and they go wild - in a short time there will be like ten or fifteen.

As I speed down the mountains from Tsaile, I can see Chile sprawled down below.

Just a few miles from the Canyon de Chelly Visitor Center HQ, I fly past Star and the group he's with.  I called out and so they started to slink away - I don't think they liked being spotted.  I turned around to try and get a picture of Star - he's the colt walking a few paces behind the white horse, and his mother is close behind.  She was not killed after all as I had thought.  She's the Roan with a white flank. Anyway, it was good to see Star.  This group looks in pretty good health.

This afternoon, I went down to the Thunderbird for lunch.  I sped past the mighty old Cottonwoods by the Trading Post, and then tucked my bike just inside the restaurant.  Really the Thunderbird Cafeteria isn't all that great, on the expensive side, and a tourist trap - but it's run by the Navajo Nation and well, why not?  The Banana Cream Pie looked good - I was hungry too.  And there was just enough chill in the air to make a cup of coffee go well with the pie.

As I sat down to dig in, a few bus loads of German tourists came in and the place was packed.  I got there just in time.

avec toothpick apres lunch
I rode up to the first pull-out just to get in an extra bit of climbing.  It was warmer and I know that being able to ride on warm days will more infrequent .  I was feeling petty good too.  Just nice to be out on the bike - the tourists are about gone so the road is quite - and the views of the Canyon incredible.

As you ride up, the canyon is much deeper.  Most of the local Navajo are hauling wood back and forth, getting ready for winter.  The corn has been harvested and the ponies seem to be getting that winter fuzz on their coat.

Heading back my friend the Tailwind shifted, and I had a tough crosswind this time.  Early October and there was a hint of chill in the air.  I needed my thin pair of arm warmers, and my longer knickers - so I was comfortable.  But I must tell you, Gentle Readers of This Blog - I started getting a bit tired as I climbed home back up to The College.

The pony on the side of the road is now just bones.  It was not Star's mom like I had thought.

The ride is almost done - this is Benally Hill going home.  Once I make this last climb, I get to sail back to The College - this is when and where I hit 40 MPH for the descent!  I am happy to report that I looked at my stats (from my Garmin and from Stava) and I had the best time on the segment going up.  That kind of surprised me as I felt kinda slow mes amis - but I'll take it!

If you look down at my handle bars, you'll see the "Blinder" I bought when I was back in Lawrence for a short trip mid-September.  After Cal was killed by a driver trying to pass a pickup truck, a lot of the local riders were thinking seriously about getting hit by passing cars on a two-lane hwy.  Some of my friends were there to pick up this little light that they had special ordered.  I bought one as well.  It's called a "Blinder" and it is BRIGHT -

But what I have to tell you is that fucking twice - TWICE on my ride back up from Canyon de Chelly, drivers passed and came right at me head-on - just fuckin speeding like bats outta hell!  Just reckless and high-speed driving.  I guess they just don't see me or don't care?  Unlike my friend Cal, I had three feet of shoulder, but it is unnerving to suddenly see a car pull out and pass the other car - especially when they are tailgating and then whip out and speed up to pass.  I didn't even see them, and they sure as hell did not see me.  Again, I don't think they care. The speed limit on Hwy 64, on the Monument Boundary is 55 but 80 to 85 is the norm.

Often what happens is that someone will slow down as they see cows or ponies by the road.  The speeder behind them will speed up and pass, not seeing the animals up ahead, and the plow into the horse or whatever as it's crossing the road.

Little Donkey that must belong to somebody - or did - wanders around and knows how to get around the cattle guards in the housing where I live.  She is very tame and you can pet her.  She likes to be around the little kids that live here and they play with her, and sometimes sit on her back.  She doesn't seem to mind their play and she enjoys watching over them like a Grandma.

Ride Safe!  Thanks for coming by the Blog!

Cheers!  Bruce

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Glass and Bones of Canyon de Chelly

You could ride into the Canyon if your brakes fail - ha ha
I made a quick ride down to the first Pull-out of the Park, Gentle Readers of This Blog.  Mornings are now cold - at times in the high 30s and low 40s.  But as the soon as the Sun comes up over the mountains, things warm steadily.   Since I got a much later start, I thought just a quick spin down to Mummy Cave would be perfect.  The Titanium LeMond Arrive has sat idle for a few weeks - I've intended to take her out after work - but it's been too rainy.

So while I had a few cups of coffee and a bit of breakfast, I let the Sun start up the Day.

Needed long-sleeves this morning
Still cool, I wore my old long-sleeve yellow jersey.  All my Navajo friends and co-workers are harvesting their corn fields this weekend.  Yellow would be an appropriate color for today.  Thing was that all the flowers and bushes and growing things were in bright yellow bloom too - so as I rode I felt like was blending right in with the Day!

I sped right into the parking lot of the Mummy Cave Pull-out - I brought money because I wanted to buy a necklace for Little Egypt from one of the Navajo guys I see and talk to who sells jewelry on the sidewalk.  No one was there - I think that means tourist season is over?

Very quite and serene.  The air is clean and the sky brilliant - I walked out to the very edge.  Probably about a mile to the other side, and easily 600 to 900 feet down.  Sitting quietly I hear the echos of ravens, and sometimes a whirl of wind.  Below where I'm sitting on the edge is Mummy Cave.  I'm not sure when, but when early tourist were here (over 100 years ago) and looters, they found people buried in the ruins - the Anasazi or Ancient Ones.

Further south from here, and about a mile away in this same Pull-out is Massacre Cave.  Spanish soldiers were chasing some Navajo circa 1800, and a group of women and children were hiding in a cave on the cliff.  The Spanish couldn't get to them but they did fire at them for several hours at the cave's entrance - bullets ricocheted into the cave from off the wall and that killed most of the people.  Their bones are still in there according to the people (who do not disturb the cave) and mentioned in a book I read about the rock art written by Campbell Grant in the 1970s.

Click to see bigger image
 Some tourists did arrive as I was walking out of the trees from the edge with my bike.  For a second they looked puzzled - did I ride up from the bottom of the Canyon or something?  No way?  I told them I was enjoying a quiet spot, and riding back home.

There is a nice lookout that you can walk around on with a railing.  I would not venture too close the edge because the rocks can be loose and a fall would be fatal.  Still I see tourists, mainly European, with their little kids, sitting on the edge of the Canyon with their feet hanging over.

Glass and Bones
It had been only last week that this pony was hit by the car - now mostly the pony is skeleton covered by hide and white ribs showing.  Glass and bits of plastic still litter the road.  Navajo Police most likely dragged the pony over into the ditch.
Pony Fast Bike
Riding home, the wind came up and I had a fragrant tailwind of cool canyon rain and pinion trees.  It seemed like a large grey rain cloud followed me up the road to see where I was going - it keep me cool as I climbed.

Dave Glasgow, Tucson, Arizona
I had a photo of Dave on my phone from my Labor Day visit.  I had tried for several months to reach Dave with calls, and I even sent him a few postcards.  Finally I got some information from my friend John.  Dave had had a spill in Saguaro National Park - a serious bike crash - and was slowly recovering from a broken leg, broken ribs, and a head injury.

Dave was able to meet John and I for an evening meal, which really cheered him up.  We insisted he eat - he looked very thin - and the owner of the restaurant, the Indian Oven, who was a friend of Dave's brought more and more and Dave got his appetite and ate hardily.

John had told me that he had seen Dave a few weeks before, and he looked in really bad shape.  I called and left messages for Dave, letting him know I was driving down to Tucson.  He did leave me a message while I was pumping some gas on my drive down, and told me he got my messages - that he'd been injured - and that it was very hard for him to reach his phone.

Anyway, it was good to see him and although he's older, he's still a force of energy and enthusiasm.

Okay, thanks for stopping by the blog!

Cheers!  Bruce

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Ride on a Rain Cloud

Cruising down the mountain to Chinle
Saturday was more like In-A-Funk Day.  After my Tucson trip, I had a ton of work at the office - and the eight hour drive back Monday evening was long and I was very tired.  Saturday I actually finished unpacking all the shit I brought down to Tucson - mostly tools and house-cleaning supplies.  I had tons of laundry to do, as I worked outside in the yard, had to dig a few holes for trees I planted.  I suppose I was just exhausted.

But as you can see, I'm flying down Hwy 64, the road that runs along the Park Boundary, and quickly will be rolling into the Park HQ at Canyon de Chelly.

Listening to "Sunday Morning Baroque" on the Public Radio out of Ignacio, CO
As it was only 45 degrees (actually felt colder) I waited for the Sun to come up and warm the air before I took off.  I made some coffee and got ready for my 50 mile ride down to the Visitor Center and back.

Really just a beautiful September morning.  Not hot and not cold - just right.

Pony on the road
There was no traffic at all, Gentle Readers of This Blog.  Only a few ponies, but not near the road which is where I like them!

I always see this Lizard every time I stop for water.
As I was coming down about 40 MPH the last few miles into Chinle and the Visitor Center, a cowboy in a truck came up behind me, but he slowed so I could take the whole lane.  That meant I could really stomp the pedals, and I flew into the Visitor Center like an arrow!

While I was riding down, I could smell hardy Navajo breakfast cooking on the fires in the houses and Hogans - I was getting super hungry!  I made a quick turn and went down to the Sacred Canyon Lodge to get breakfast at the Thunderbird.

But you know, I didn't pack my Debit Card - I only had a few bucks.  Really messed that up!  I just had a Cliff Bar and sat under the big Cottonwood Trees by the Trading Post.

The Navajo women working at the Cafeteria let me come in and fill my water bottles with ice!  I told them I had forgot my money, but I'd stop in next time!

Usually there's some traffic on the road right by the Park HQ and Visitor Center, and I usually don't ride down to the Thunderbird - but I did stop to take two quick photos for you.  The HQ you don't see because there's a sharp turn and it's tricky when you stop.  I know how the T in the road is but it always bewilders tourists.

I zoom over the bridge here on Chinle Creek as I'm coming down the last few miles into the Park.  Navajo friends told me they have seen water from the Canyon take out the bridge before!  It happens every so many years they say!

Hard to imagine the Chinle Creek raging with water from the Chuska Mountains up where I live, crashing through here and wiping out the bridge - that I'm riding over right now!

The Climb back up to 7200!

 I'm actually feeling pretty good - climbing and making quick work of the first five miles back up to Tsaile and The College.

Tsaile Peak appears about 20 mile North as I climb Hwy 64

Leaving Chinle's hot and dry sandy rocks, and now feeling the cool green of the Defiance Plateau, I'm done with the hard part, Gentle Readers.  Rain is forecast for today, and I feel a cool and strong tailwind, a tailwind that will help me up the road as I ride on the Boundary of the Park.

The Rain is Coming
As I was coming up the road, probably about five miles out from my descent down to The College, there was glass and chunks of plastic on the shoulder, and you could see up ahead where someone had gone off the road into the mud of the ditch.  Then the smell hit me - there was a dead pony.  It had been hit by the car.  A horrible smell - man o man!  I recognized the pony as well.  I hate to say it, but I think it was Star's mother.

I had seen just for a second, a small herd in the trees as I came down.  I looked for them coming up the road by never saw them.  Just the dead pony as I said.  I was sad.  But I sure hope the people in the car are okay.  I saw my friend Foster this week, and he's finally doing better after breaking his ankle when he hit a pony earlier this Summer.

I was starved!  I made some more coffee and fixed up a Randonneur's Breakfast for myself.  I am going to Haskell in few weeks to the new President's inauguration - I'll see Little Egypt and Rico, who is back from Germanland.

Cheers!  Bruce