Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Day Two, Williams, AZ to Gallup NM

This was the first day I actually rode in formation. Our trek for today would cover 226 miles about half of yesterdays 400 miles. You think that 226 miles is nothing, but riding in formation, and I was lucky to get in the third or fourth rank of the second platoon, and maintaining the prescribed distance with the other riders requires constant attention and tiny adjustments of speed. The people in the back have the most trouble because of the accordion effect of the formation. Each variation in the speed of the lead riders, the adjustments of the followers to keep the pack dressed up, is amplified by the distance back in the pack. We usually rode two up, meaning side by side with two to three bikes length between ranks in the column. There were six platoons which changed in number daily. If there were 300 bikes each platoon would have about 50 bikes in it. The platoons each had leaders but the members of a given platoon were just the luck of the draw. This made it more difficult to develop unit cohesion and the like, and made it harder to get to know your fellow riders. On the other hand it would be a challenge to have everyone be in the same unit, though, I believe, it would be worth the trouble. This is the eighteenth run so it stands to reason that the organizers have pretty much worked out the major kinks and come up with the most efficient method of moving this many motorcycles across the country. Anyhow, you can never let go of the throttle and this increases the tension on the body a great deal. Riding a motorcycle is a kind of isometric exercise at any rate but not being able to relax your right arm really takes a toll after several days of several hundred mile days. For me this was my fifth day of motorcycling. I have heard of guys riding coast to coast in 50 hours in what is known as the "Iron Butt" contest. Maybe when I was young, but not now, no way Jose. This is truly a test of mind over matter for me and my fellow travelers and is a kind of self sacrifice for the stated purpose of keeping the focus of our people and their representatives on the sacrifices of veterans, on the prisoners of war and the killed in action as yet unaccounted for especially in Vietnam. It is indeed a high honor and a distinct privilege to participate in this homage to our comrades in arms past and present in the struggle for liberty.

So today we met, were served breakfast by our gracious hosts, the people of Williams, Arizona, and mounted our machines and rode east on I-40. If my memory serves we were in Gallup and headed into the Red Rock State Park by four p.m. or so. This is part of a larger region known as the painted desert and as early as A.D. 300 was inhabited by the Anasazi people. From 1700 the Navajo inhabited this region. Also, the Zuni and the Hopi people figure in the history here. The Conquistador Coronado, it is said, sought here for the Seven Cities of Cibola and the ancient sky city known as Acoma is nearby. This is supposedly sacred ground for these peoples. The ceremony in which we participated was called a gathering of the warriors and the gourd dance songs were the same as those of old. About fifty people sat in a ring on the floor of the natural amphitheatre and performed these songs. There was a flyover by a Pavhawk from Kirtland AFB. Tomorrow would bring another encounter with a helicopter. In an adjacent area we were treated to Navajo tacos which were ground meat on a large thick taco like bread topped with cheese and vegetables. One was all you could eat.

I sat next to a guy wearing an ancient green beret of the US Special Forces. He said he lived nearby and when I remarked how the beret looked like it might be original issue he said that it was presented him by President John F. Kennedy. The Special Forces were started by President Kennedy. This man had seen service in Vietnam, obviously. Brother was sitting across from me and to his right were Sizzmo and husband Terry. I had an opportunity again to remark that we deserved better leaders than we had and that there was not a strategy that would lead us to a clear cut victory over our current enemies and how this was how it was in Vietnam. The Green Beret said he had personal knowledge that when we got the word to pull out of Vietnam a team of Special Forces was poised in North Vietnam to enter Hanoi and overthrow the North Vietnamese government. I stated it was my understanding that the congress of the United States in ending funding for the South Vietnamese government was the final factor in ending our involvement. As is playing out now, those who sought, in the 1960s, to appease our enemies, with their allies in the mass media, eventually gained enough political power to have their way. Sizzmo and Terry had nothing to add to this conversation but the Green Beret and I seemed to be of one mind.

I left Red Rock a little earlier than brother and checked us into the Red Rock Inn in Gallup. The proprietors were Indian (from India). I always take this as a bad omen as my experience over the years is heavily weighted on the negative side when it comes to the way they manage their properties. It turned out to be not all that bad except that the clock was wrong which fact brother and I failed to correct. This had dire consequences next morning. Naturally, the Inn did not provide a computer for internet access. This should be standard, a PC in a public area that guests can use to check their email, etc. A lot of places have them, but a lot don't too. They almost always tell you that there is wireless available in the room and to use your own laptop. My response was it is not really feasible to carry a laptop on a motorcycle. And there was no hot tub. Oh, my aching back. I didn't bother looking for a masseuse this time. Slipped my mind, I guess.

In walking around the parking lot I spoke in passing to a gritty lady unpacking her Harley. Her nickname was "Skid". I learned later that had a pejorative meaning. Interesting. She rode with us all the way, I believe. At least I saw her frequently and spoke to her on several occasions. One of the younger riders seemed to have snatched her up. Poor choice of words, I know! Also, I noticed three New Mexico Highway Patrol motor cycles. They were BMW "R" bikes, not sure which one, but similar to this.

Dinner having been seen to, showers had, voice mails checked, gear properly seen to, it was time to relax. Brother goes to bed at 2000 hrs or earlier, and till then we squabble and quibble over the TV remote. I think I was asleep by 2130 or so, which is too early for me, so, naturally I woke up early. I looked at the clock. It read 0545. I woke brother up cause this meant he was late and his cell phone alarm failed to go off. Well, might as well go downstairs and get us some coffee, right? There was no coffee, but I did see the clerk and bit my tongue so I would not snap her head off for the oversight. I went back upstairs and brother was looking at the TV to check the time and said the clock was wrong, that it was really 0445. Oh! That explains it all, why it is still dark out. Well, OK. That is what you get for making me go to bed so early! We were already up, too late to go back to sleep now. I made coffee in the room. Brother got around and was gone in 15 minutes as usual. He needed to be with his fellow road guards.

I got it together and packed my gear in my own good time and checked us out of the motel. Saw Skid again. Really tough looking, weathered face, skinny. I suspect if she stood sideways and stuck out her tongue she could pass for a zipper. While packing my bike and readying my communications gear, I wanted to monitor the road guards today on the FRS/GMRS radio, channel one, the New Mexico HP guys came down and left just when a fourth member of their group rode up. Turns out they were our escorts and would be with us most of the way across New Mexico. Later, I tried to take their picture as we were gathering back at Red Rock for the mandatory morning confab, but brother's camera wouldn't work. He had asked me to take pictures, a task laid on him by his wife, and I certainly tried, but for every ten or fifteen tries I think I got one picture. Hopefully he will get these few successes to me and I will be able to post them here eventually.

While we were meeting, an Indian (medicine man? shaman?) was going around with a feather thing, it had about 20 feathers in it, they looked like hawk feathers of some kind, and "blessing", or putting a spell of protection on some of the riders. He went down the ranks of bikes touching each one and mumbling incantations with his head down. This was thoughtful and a further example of the kindred spirit the veterans on the run had with the Indians of Red Rock. I suspect he was Navajo but have no way of knowing though I spoke to him. He said he was the brother of the master of ceremonies of yesterdays gathering of the warriors. He was a veteran and while he did not say so I have a strong suspicion that he had been WIA as he walked with a limp. I hoped he had put a good "spell" on my K1100.

Well, I have gone on long enough now. I'm sure you are tired. I am. Let me figure out the links thing for this post and put it up on the net. This journal is a far cry, I know, from a truly elegant travel log I only have so much time and energy to devote to this project and am doing it completely from memory. I didn't make any notes along the way and didn't even have the intention to do this on my return to netnationhood. I have fancied that it might be interesting to do a journal while traveling. I like the genre. The first travel book I can recall reading was John Steinbeck's Travels With Charley. Charley was his dog. I really enjoyed it. John and Charley traveled from East to West across the whole USA, as I recall. I don't have the book to refresh my memory but I do remember enjoying it as much as, say, his Grapes of Wrath. Excuse the digression.

So, tomorrow we go to Angel Fire and brother and I spend the night in the splendiferous Gold Pan motel while the main force stays at the main resort in Angel Fire. Those poor suckers don't know what they missed. See you.

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