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I was itching to take a long ride for the past couple of weeks, so yesterday I decided to hit the road. It was a beautiful day in New Mexico so I decided to head north into the majestic mountains of Northern New Mexico. Central/ Northern New Mexico finally had measurable rain on Saturday, so Sunday morning felt like a crisp fall day.

The morning was beautiful and from the previous night’s rain there was the distinct and unforgettable smell of wet sage, cedar and pine—a smell that pierces the brain, creating deep seeded memories.

As many you know NM, particularly, the Jemez and Bandelier National Park were ravaged by wild fires in the early summer. I wanted to see the damage first hand so I headed from Albuquerque on HWY 550N to HWY 4N into Los Alamos.

Once on HWY 4N, I could visualize the previous night’s storm as the road was shaded red from the traditional red dirt throughout the Jemez Pueblo. Alongside the roads were large puddles and small finger valleys carved by the rain.

I stopped for lunch at Red Rock where the natives serve up the best Indian Tacos… It was filed with Pinto Beans, Red Chili and all the fixings---always delicious. I talked to the Natives who prepared my lunch about the fires. They kept describing how bad the smoke was and how frightened they were for their families and their lands. They described the redness and smokiness of the sky and how they thought their livelihood was coming to an end as they have never seen anything like it before. They are so appreciative of what their lands offer: game, crops and water---basic life necessities.

I get back on the bike and begin to go deeper into the forest. The land is green and there’s plenty of vegetation. Almost looks as if there was not a fire. However, as I approached the Cerro Grande in the Valles Caldera…the forest began showing its scar. Once lavish/green mountain tops and valleys filled with centuries old pines and aspens as far as the eye could see, now look like black out of place upright timber.

It was odd to me that so much had burned and how the fire traveled. In spots it burned the entire mountain, yet in others it was just a burn scar around the base of the trees. In the areas that didn’t get as hot or burn as deep, the initial stages or recovery are beginning with green ground vegetation--- however, the mountain tops and valleys that burned hot are an eerie deep black color with no signs of growth.

Because of the rains, there has been flash flooding throughout the area. Alongside the road you can see all the soot and pushed over trees from the flood waters. The Jemez River is colored grey and reflects the ash.

I was saddened to see such a wonderful area created by nature was now turned into black scars (from human error). I know in time the mountain will recover, but unfortunately, it will not recover in my lifetime. What surprised me more is the power of fire and water….it can be devastating, yet at the same time it brings new life.


Fortunately, I was lucky enough see the majesty of the forest while growing up and have a new appreciation for the little things that nature has to offer. The area is still beautiful albeit less….but still plentiful.

As I worked my way out Los Alamos, I took HWY 84N into Tierra Amarilla. It was a beautiful ride…the canyons and flagstone ridges reflected a sandstone brown/red. The sky was blue with few clouds. It was postcard perfect--- so surreal.
As I worked to Tierra Amarilla; the valleys are green and the various vegetable crops are maturing for the fall harvest. There was very little traffic which made the ride nice.

I pulled alongside the road to take in a view of the vast valley and encountered a herd of cattle. One of the largest bulls I had ever seen (brown and white), with a massive head, eyed my wing as if it were a black cow….I almost felt that he was going charge, but he just snorted made sure it was safe….then the rest of the herd followed. Fortunately between the bull & I was fencing, so it made me feel “somewhat” safe, yet I didn’t want to test the bulls temperament.

I continue down 64 through the mountain pass…I’m enjoying the I-Tunes with my helmet visor lifted with oakley’s. I’m paying attention in this area because there’s a dog in the area that jumps out barking when you least expect it (I’ve encountered him before). I was anticipating the dog, but as I passed the residence, no dog. Perhaps the owner smartened up and kept it confined in its’ yard.

I was relieved that the dog wasn’t there...So I let my guard down and began singing Bruce Springsting in my helmet…And my singing was so good it attracted a wasp. It hit perfectly on the side of my helmet between the glasses and side of my face. I calmly pulled to the side of the road to gently remove it….but it was too late---I was stung on the side of the face. This is the 1st time that I’ve ever been stung and I was surprised that it didn’t hurt as bad as I expected.
 

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And next?

You left me in suspense. Let me guess:
The stinger caused your eye to swell shut, and then the dog came out and you ran over it, then the owner came out with a gun and took a shot at you. Is that what happened? I've got 15 minutes left of my lunch time - what happened next? LOL:popcorn:
 

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Discussion Starter #3
A few of the pics along the way. Sorry about the quality--taken with my cell phone.

I'll continue the story later....

George_3[1].jpg

Gorge2.jpg

Mountains_1_-_Copy[1].jpg
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I pulled the stinger out of the side of my face focusing on nothing but the stinger. The singer had a nice curvature and at the end, I noticed the venom and what appeared to be liquid plasma still attached at its’ end. After massaging the wound, I put the gear back on and head on. Despite one of the many things that Northern New Mexico personalities are know for; wild west antics, vigilantly justice and crazy behavior (shoot an ask questions later), the dog nor the owner with his gun appeared. Perhaps I caught them both on an off day, but once again I still left the area scared. It was once the dog---now having to mentally grapple with the memory of the wasp cemented a permanent memory bank…

As my adrenaline began to kick in the cheek pads in my helmet began to feel tighter. I could feel the swelling on my right cheek, and the venom working its way along the side of my face while I begin to feel an ache in my ear. Although I was in pain, I pressed on. The only thing keeping me going was the ride itself and the true feeling of freedom.

I was taking in all the scenery, the smells, and felt at ease, alive and was very appreciative of what life and nature has to offer. Maybe it was a combination of the wasp’s sting and adrenaline, but it’s once of the few times that made me feel fortunate to be a motorcyclist.

Part III later.
 
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