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