Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Durango and the long road home......

When I think of Durango in future, it will almost certainly be set in my mind along side the colour turquoise. There will be a taste of honey on my tongue, and I'll no doubt have a hankering to throw on a cowboy hat and just slow down a little. My experience of Colorado so far has been most therapeutic. My only previous visit to this state has been the Denver airport, where I once drank a pumpkin frappuccino on Halloween and walked about 20 miles whilst trying to find an illusive departure gate. It's funny what you remember.

By this point in the trip our bodies were opting for the most leisurely activities, which wound up with us spending our final day at a lake in Animas Valley, reclined at the waters edge, sharing our picnic with a chipmunk.

Our journey back into town took us past 'Honeyville', which- amid the giant rainstorm we were caught in- sang to me like a choir of angels. I was inside that place before Forrest had even parked the bike.

To my delight there was a real beehive inside a glass case and a pipe through which bees could buzz in and out of the building, quite at their leisure. We emerged from the store an hour later weighed down with more honey than you could shake a stick at, and high as kites from all the flavours we'd sampled. Seriously though- amaretto honey? Cinnamon? Spiced apple? I challenge you to resist. My Nanna used always used to say my eyes were bigger than my belly, as I'd lie beached after some cookie raid or other. Old habits die hard. I am a piglet.

So I was becoming a little teary eyed and sentimental about this place. We were sleepy and almost ready to be home, but goodness knows I've fallen head over heels for Colorado. The cool air, every view being unique and beautiful, the lakes, the wildlfe, and my own heightened awareness and appreciation of all these things. On the flipside, I will not miss John Denver playing on repeat in my head and on the radio, as if it's the price that must be paid for being here. 'Colorado Rocky Mountains High'- goodbye and goodbye.

So it was time to pack our bags and get skidaddling. The GPS was again stating '659 miles until your next turn', and energy drinks were back in style. Somewhere in Oklahoma we snatched 4 hours of sleep, sleep-walked to the coffee machine, wondered if our brains were still knocking around inside our skulls somewhere, then hit the road for another 17 hours without later remembering a single mile of it.

But of course it isn't all yawns and wails of despair, because it was hard to suppress a smile every time I thought of what awaited us at home. Rudy, the world's biggest, bestest puppy did everything he could to restore our enthusiasm in being back here. The boy is a champ, I think I'm glad to be home :)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Shiny, pretty things (and sandy rocky things) at the Mesa Verde.

These were some of the last days before the bike went back on the trailer. Being keen to remain wind-beaten and sunkissed for as long as possible, Forrest and I rode from Moab to the Mesa Verde with Forrest acting as an on-board radio to keep me awake. Him singing with tuneless abandon, and me doing the arm dances cost us a glance or three as we passed through lights and stop signs, but oh well.... wearing a helmet is such a useful disguise when embracing your inner-crazy.

We arrived at the Mesa Verde National Park at the exact moment a giant storm came to greet us. The weather had been our friend and foe with remarkable fickleness up until this point, so donning our jackets and putting our faith in sun god, we ventured forth, only to find ourselves at the top of the mountain an hour later, shedding layers and squinting against the bright sky. Lovely.

It was fascinating to learn about the lives of the Puebloans, and to see the cliff dwellings that still remain at the Mesa Verde. The museum boasts a fabulous array of jewelry, arrowheads, pottery, clothing and all sorts of other intricate handmade items that make today's destined-for-garbage products seem hugely disappointing. The skill and the artistry of those native dwellers is pretty amazing to be able to see, staring back at you from the inside of a glass case hundreds of years later. I am not much known for my love of history (to the despair of Dad- an ex history teacher; and my husband- a history nut. Or, just a nut.), but something about the lives of native Americans really piques my interest. Plus, they made the coolest shoes, so of course I'm paying attention!

Descending the mountain as the sun was setting, I almost inhaled my tongue when somebody exclaimed 'Look, a bear!'. Basically just a dark speck to the naked eye, Eb produced a telescope- Mary Poppins-like from his bag- and all of a sudden the bear could not have been more real as padded along the edge of the forest; muscular and majestic. This is the first bear I have ever laid eyes on, and back home in Alabama I get the feeling armadillos and boll weevils may have lost a little of their novelty. A bear. I couldn't believe it.

From this point onwards, every single corner we turned boasted a new and spectacular view, with shadows from the sunset falling across the mountains. With all the resolve we could muster, we finally tore ourselves away from the Mesa Verde, and found ourselves back in Cortez, at the Main Street Brewery which does the meanest brew I have ever tasted. 'Mean' as in awesome. Like 'bad' when it means good. Y'know....

We left some hours later with promises to return in December, navigating handshakes with the charming German owner and a whole box of souvenir beer (really, Forrest? necessary?!). Wheels turning once again, it's back to Durango as we lament the soon to be final days of our trip. First though, I've got a date with the chocolate shop, so let's get to it!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Desert days, I love you a lot.

Our adventures in Moab seemed to me the kind of thing you read about in books. Whizzing around the canyon roads on the back of the bike, snapping pictures and identifying rock types- it felt as though Christmas had come early. An unusually hot and sandy Christmas- I grant you- but a gift, nonetheless.

My Father-in-law is one of those people who is useful to have around. An endless font of knowledge, and with the kind of internal compass that makes me look entirely lost at sea, Eb pretty much had our itinerary listed in the most time-effective schedule you could ever hope to achieve. The happy result of this was that during two days we did all these things:

*Visited the Canyonlands. Drove down the most treacherous canyon trail that thanks Forrest's 'hilarious' pranks and one-inch-from-the-edge driving, is sure to haunt my nightmares. Love you too, dear husband.

*Filled our water bottles from a fresh spring in the rocks (water has never tasted so clean).

*Journeyed through the Arches National Park where we encountered nature in all it's rocky, lizardy loveliness. The arches appeared to be playing musical statues, remaining frozen in one gravity-defying arrangement after another. Riding underneath a cloud-strewn sky, we got battered for 5 cheerless minutes by a fleeting rainstorm, just to remind us that we weren't infact on the surface of Mars. Then it was 500 degrees again, and we all fried.

*Also: sipped some local brews; marveled at the native art and ceramics; fell in love with the 'kokopelli' characters; tirelessly ate breakfast waffles like a hungry, hungry horse; sampled my first (and definitely not my last) affogato (gelato and expresso in a cup); sunburned my right leg, arm and cheek, which didn't do alot for my general appeal, but made me laugh out loud in the shower.

Then almost without warning, it was time to leave. So we did. Back to Durango, via Cortez and the Mesa Verde National Park. Not a moment to spare, so bike helmets on, ensure my ears are still attached to my head, and GO! Ok then.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Dessert in the Moab Desert. (sweet).

The sign welcoming us to Utah didn't arrive a moment too soon as far as I was concerned. The drive through Nevada was- to be frank- squashed and uncomfortable. All 5ft 10 of me doesn't relish sardine-like conditions. Nonetheless, there is nothing like folding up your limbs and arranging yourself in numerous inconceivable positions for 580 miles to make you appreciative of a ride on the (motor)bike after it all.

The afternoon found us arriving at the Red Cliffs Lodge in Moab, which revealed itself to be quite the scenic masterpiece. The accommodations were exquisite, but- alas- we were only passing through for dinner. Still though, as a long time vegetarian who is tentatively welcoming fish into my diet, I've got to say their rainbow trout justified my dining-bravery (I consider every unfamiliar fish consumed to be a brave act at this point...).

It turns out that this particular location has played host many of the old westerns film sets, and all sorts of other modern movies that you presume were filmed somewhere of course, but not necessarily the place you happen to stop for dinner on a scorching, sweaty, sleepy day in the middle of your honeymoon.There was a museum with all manner of movie props, posters, and proud photos of the lodge as the backdrop to Brad Pitt and Susan Sarandon and any number of many-muscled actors from the old cowboy films.

There was a winery and tipis and beautiful gardens and scenery for which no amount of superlatives can do adequate justice. I ate like I wasn't planning on moving for a week, when in fact half an hour later I was delicately coaxing my bloated carcass back onto the bike as we headed for that trusty lodging- the Holiday Inn. Holiday Inns, as I have discovered on this trip are by no means of a consistent standard across the country. The one in Moab however, was like heaven on a plate- which is admittedly a ridiculous description of well... anything other than food- but suffice to say, it is very, very nice. And with that, it's time to take a breath, throw on some evening wear (that'll be the only clean T-shirt and whatever shorts/ jeans can be found at this point...) and go out and celebrate our arrival in Moab. This, I have been looking forward to!

Monday, September 6, 2010

6225 ft above sea level. Lake Tahoe.

There seemed to be a pattern emerging concerning time, and the apparent shortness of it. Already I was perched on the back of the bike, waving to Napa in the wing mirrors as we headed east once more through the oven-like conditions of Sacramento. Onwards to Tahoe, where this time we intended to pay our dues and spend some time on those beloved, be-laked mountains.

Feeling more than a little travel-worn we arrived at Wright's Lake ready to shed our shoes, collapse on a warm rock and eat our picnic. We were becoming experts at the cheese, crackers and bottle of beer routine by now. Unfortunately as is usually the case, mosquitos had sensed the approach of my sweet-blooded self and had settled around me for a banquet. Attempting a hasty escape, I hopped towards the lake, fell off a log, sliced my leg open, laughed and cried and proceeded to swipe at every winged thing that dared appear in my line of vision for the remainder of the evening. Swiping- as it turns out- is not a fail-safe method of prevention. Next time I'm wearing a space suit.

Evenings were spent around the fire pit eating ice cream sandwiches and looking at the stars, while cuddling the family labrador and relaxing. Relaxing. (relaxing). I usually don't stop moving, so to find myself reclined on the porch deck, heavy limbed and heavy lidded- is testament to our play-hard ethic during this trip. Sleep was too easy, and mornings arrived in the blink of an eye. Family traditions die hard, with Mickey Mouse shaped pancakes to mark our final morning in Tahoe. With an afternoon to spare, I found myself getting all revved up on two small wheels- being taught by an admirably patient Forrest how to ride a Honda 100, an endearingly tiny motorcycle. Immediately I am in love. Apologies to my Mother, for this unwelcome statement...

But bikes on their kick-stands for now as it's time to head east again for a red-eye drive back through Nevada and onto Utah. This time, we had Forrest's parents and the motorbike in tow; ingredients for good times indeed. Many hours away, but worth every mile was our next stop: the Moab Desert. Rocks after rocks beyond rocks; more rocks.