Chama, NM: A Day on the Dude Ranch

Wednesday, May 13


It’s hard to overstate what a strange experience it is to have someone come up to you in a parking lot who recognizes you from your blog. It was our good fortune though, as Bill is a fantastic guy, a true cowboy. He told us we could stay the day and another night if we wanted to, and we couldn’t resist such a nice offer.


He generously donated his morning time to showing us around the elk ranch across the highway where they raise elk for big game hunting. The cows are artificially impregnated to two huge stud bulls so the male offspring are large with trophy size antlers. The 16,000 acres territory is also a natural reserve where the owners work with the government to preserve its flora and fauna. We climbed into Bill’s truck and drove down dirts roads through the beautiful green hills. The aspens were just filling in so their white trunks contrasted nicely with the greens of the pines. Under a clear blue sky we couldn’t ask for a better morning touring the New Mexico Rockies. All throughout the ride Bill told us one fantastic story from his life and work after another.


Bill has acquired the rights for this season to take tourists horseback riding around the ranch, so if you’re riding through the southern Rockies and want a cool place to stay overnight or do some elk hunting or horseback riding, give Bill a call or check out the ranch website. Motorcyclists receive a special welcome from Bill. You might even get lucky like Inna and he will find you some shed antlers to take home along the way.


After the tour, Bill took us into “downtown” Chama for some lunch at the High Country restaurant, recently acquired by a 27 year old man who’d been working there since he was 13. The food was tasty (we even got to eat peanuts from a metal bucket and throw shells on the floor) and it had a great country western decor. We toured the other buildings of downtown and a friend of Bill’s (everyone in town is a friend of Bill’s) who runs a cafe and toffee shop gave us some Chama stickers for the bikes. Chama is a charming little town and a nicely kept secret in New Mexico. It even has a narrow gauge railroad that rivals the more famous one between Durango and Silverton.


Back at the ranch, we left Bill to do some work while Inna and I went for a walk along the property, following a creek out into the grassy hills. It was a perfect day for such a walk and the exercise was a nice break from the sitting on the bikes. After lunch we did some writing, and then headed into town for dinner, again the High Country.


It was a quiet evening watching the sun set and writing. After spending some time with their cat, Bob, we went to bed.


Taos to Chama, NM: Meeting Wild Bill

Tuesday, May 12


We contemplated staying in Taos for another day, but decided to press on towards Santa Fe and possibly beyond for today’s ride. On the way out of town we stopped to look at the San Francisco de Asis Church, an old adobe Spanish mission that was depicted in Georgia O’Keeffe paintings and numerous Ansel Adams photographs. It was quite charming.


The road to Santa Fe took us through high canyon lands and the town of Chimayo. It’s most prominent feature is the Catholic chapel, the Santuario de Chimayo. The chapel is believed to be a healing site (the dirt from the back room of the church is said to heal physical and spiritual ills) and is visited by over 300,000 visitors and pilgrims a year (30,000 during Holy Week!).


We would not have known all this if we haven’t met an Indian man who started a conversation with Matt after noting stickers on our bikes, and then told us about the vortex energy in the back room that he believed was responsible for the healing miracles. He showed us the room, told us about his own miraculous experiences with the holy dirt and recommended that we collect some dirt to take with us. So I did.


Neither of us had been to Santa Fe before. It looked like a lovely town that would be good for strolling, shopping and going out for good food. Since we are pretty much broke at the moment we didn’t feel that we could afford any of these pleasures, so we decided to keep going. We did, however stop at the Georgia O’Keeffe museum. It was a big disappointment. We found her work and subject matter amateur, and wondered why she had such huge acclaim as an artist. We were not fans of her work.


We reached the town of Chama in the vicinities of which we planned on finding a campsite for the night. We stopped at a grocery store and were approached by a cowboy hat wearing man who introduced himself as Bill. Our ADV stickers attracted his attention, and he asked Matt for his ADV user name. It turned out that Bill was following our thread on ADV. What were the chances of that? He also owned a KLR, so we struck up a conversation about our travels.


We told him we were looking for a campsite and he invited us to stay at his ranch which also serves as Bed and Breakfast and a Horse Riding camp (a dude ranch). We would be the only guests there for the night. It had a kitchen, a separate bedroom, wi-fi, cable TV, dogs, horses… did we have to be persuaded?


We arrived at the ranch and Bill left us alone to settle in. The accommodations and the setting were amazing. Two impressive trophy elk heads were hanging in the dining room, and in our room, a “taxodermy’ed” bob cat looked lifelike climbing down a tree branch as it probably (I’ve never seen one in real life) does in the wild.


We cooked dinner and afterwards had a chat with Bill about bikes, travels, cowboy living, and all things in between. We met his wife Carola, who is German and helps him run the ranch, gives horseback riding lessons and keeps things under control. The bits of stories we got to hear about Bill’s life and work were absolutely fascinating. I have never met a real cowboy in my life, and this was a real treat to be a guest of one.

Once again we were humbled by the strangers’ hospitality. We felt lucky and thankful for the opportunity to enter the lives of these people and hear their stories. It’s amazing how motorcycling (and the ADV stickers) can open so many doors for you.

Clayton to Taos, NM: Entering Indian Territory

Monday, May 11

We woke up to a gloomy morning. While packing the bikes in the motel’s courtyard we met a professional photographer Rene Heil and his wife who travel the US documenting the work and life of American cowboys. He publishes a coffee book of his work every year. Rene was very enthusiastic about our journey and encouraged us to never stop exploring and creating. We even posed on our iron horses for him. 🙂

We stopped for a filling breakfast at the only diner in town before heading out. American breakfasts are the best!


The first part of the ride took us through flat farmland, but the scenery was much livelier than Texas plains.


We were waiting to get out of the grey cold front that we rode into yesterday which made the ride unpleasantly chilly. It ended very abruptly, as if we crossed an invisible line, and all of a sudden we were on the sunny side leaving the clouds behind.


Matt was worried that our chains were put on too tight at the shop, so we stopped to adjust them on the side of the road in the sun. A small group of deer was watching us from the other side of the fence.


Not long thereafter we entered the Carson National Forest and the roads turned into sweeping twisties cutting through the dense mixed green forest and tree covered peaks. Finally, riding felt like pure pleasure again.


We reached Taos in the afternoon. Matt’s parents’ friend offered us his apartment to stay for the night. After we settled in we decided to ride up to the Taos Pueblo, an ancient adobe home community of the Northern Tiwa Indians, which is approximately 1,000 years old. I’ve always liked adobe style buildings, but had never been to a real Indian pueblo.


Like all tourist traps, you could not just admire its cool architecture, you felt obligated to stop at the numerous gift shops selling Indian pottery, jewelry, etc. We stopped at one of the shops and talked to the owner, asking her about life at the pueblo. To this day they have no (or chose not to have) electricity or running water. Pretty miraculous!


After the pueblo we rode to the historic center trying to find a place for dinner. On a Monday night we tried three different restaurants, all were closed. We finally settled on a New Mexican spot, which was okay.


Sweetwater, TX to Clayton, NM: Out of Texas

Sunday, May 10


We got an early start and followed the empty roads across the plains of the Texas panhandle. All of the small towns we drove through seemed to be on their last leg – boarded storefronts and empty streets. We did ride through some beautiful fields of wildflowers and once even an eroded canyon, but mostly it was just wide open skies and plains.


I managed to accomplish my goal of a final meal at Whataburger, everyone’s favourite burger chain in Texas, in Amarillo.


We arrived in Clayton around 6 pm. We had hoped to camp tonight, but the weather was dismal. It was 48 with a low overcast sky that spit the occasional rain drop. Inna was cold and in want of a hot shower, so we stayed at the cheapest but not cheap hotel we could find.


Houston, TX to Sweetwater, TX: Making Miles

Saturday, May 9

We left around 10 AM and headed northwest out of Houston. The terrain between Houston and Austin is old territory for me but an easy enough ride. My dad had provided us with a great route across Texas, avoiding major highways and truck traffic. Most of the time the roads were deserted. Once past Austin, the hill country is nice, but it eventually peters out and as we approached the panhandle, the land flattened out into plains. We arrived in Sweetwater, TX in the early evening and after seeing that the lowly Super 8 motel cost $90, stayed at the Motel 6 for $50. We weren’t back in our proper riding groove yet – although we covered over 400 miles we didn’t stop to take a single picture.

The Last Stretch Home

Saturday, May 9


Today we are setting out for the final stretch of our adventure, riding from Houston, TX to our home town of Seattle, WA. While we are still working out the particulars of our route, the plan is to ride northwest from Houston to New Mexico. Then we will visit Taos and Santa Fe before riding through southern and western Colorado before heading north to Wyoming to visit the Tetons and Yellowstone.

The bikes are nice, clean, and shiny – thanks Dad!

We’ve got our camping gear shipped from Seattle (Thank you, Kent!), so, weather permitting, we will be doing a good amount of camping.

We do not plan to blog about this part of the trip in as much detail as we did during the South American stretch, but we will post photos with short descriptions of our route and adventures.

So, stay tuned for more exciting updates from our Southern Exposure tour.

Houston, Texas: Two Weeks of Slacker Heaven

Friday, April 8


We spent almost two weeks in Houston, doing absolutely nothing, but sleeping, eating, lying by the pool, eating, sleeping, visiting with friends, eating and sleeping.
Not much really happened to account for the two weeks.

Matt’s parents threw us a welcome home party.
We did some BBQ’ing at home.
We satisfied our craving for Tex Mex by going to Matt’s favorite Chuy’s and for traditional Mexican at my favorite Hugo’s.
Our bikes got lotsa love: new tires, new chains and sprockets, a fixed fork seal, new oil and filters.
We continued our BA tradition of overindulging in ice cream and home made desserts of all kinds. (All the weight we might have lost on this trip was put right back on during these two weeks).
We watched the MotoGP race with Matt’s motorcycle buddies at a local pub.
And did I mention eating and sleeping?

Surprisingly (or not), but after just a few days of rest, we started missing our life on the road. It’s pretty dangerous actually. I think, once you experienced the joy of “being on the road”, being out there in the world, meeting people, going places, seeing different scenery every day, it is hard to go back to “normal” life. You become an adventure and travel addict. Thinking about spending each day at an office job seems like the biggest torture right now. I don’t know how we are going to adjust to that. All I know is that after this trip we live to travel. Whatever it takes, we will figure out a way to see and experience the world. Mongolia, Southeast Asia, Morocco, Nepal – our list just keeps getting longer.

First though, we need to get home, pay off this trip and start saving for future adventures.

Houston: Party!

Sunday, April 26


My parents welcomed us back in proper style by throwing us a welcome home party the Sunday evening after we arrived. It was held at the indoor/outdoor patio area of the tennis club my parents belong to and it was catered with mexican food and a nice beer, wine, and margarita bar. We picked a few pictures to blow up to small poster size and display. I enjoyed riding the bikes through the country club to park on the patio for people to check out.


I think we had between 20 and 30 guests including many old friends of mine from when I lived in Houston, old family friends, and friends of my parents who had been following our journey via the blog. It was really fun to see everyone, to catch up, and to tell stories. It’s one of the stranger parts about blogging the trip is that everyone already knows most of your stories. Inna and I did a little Q&A at the end, and then I finally had something to eat because I had been too busy talking to everyone to take the time to sit down.


It was so nice of everyone to celebrate our safe return with us. Inna and I are very grateful and appreciative of all of the well wishes we received, and to everyone for following along on our journey. I’d especially like to thank my parents for throwing us a great party in addition to all of the support they gave us along the way.

Houston: Welcome Home

Wednesday, April 22

The plane ride was a typical international plane ride – boring and uncomfortable. Fortunately we managed to sleep through the entire flight, skipping both meals. When the plane touched down in Washington D.C.’s Dulles airport we were ready to get off the plane. I think because neither of us had eaten we weren’t feeling too great.

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Filling out the customs form was fun – “What countries have you visited since you left?”. They need to leave more space on those forms! I had left the country with a fresh passport and now only had a few pages left. The immigration agent thought me suspicious and flagged me for extra harassment. When I picked up my bags, I was told to go wait in the special room while Inna got a pass through.


After waiting for someone to show up, I was interviewed by the customs agent. I was sure I would get grief for the three sheepskins we had brought back to use on our and my father’s bikes, but they were more interested in why I had been to so many countries. It went fairly quickly as I have a pretty good story, and to my surprise they showed no interest in my bags. I had to open them all, but the agent had no interest in digging into the tightly packed junk and clothes and let me go.


I met Inna upstairs and we caught our flight to Houston. It’s sad we had to fly to Dulles rather than direct. The bikes actually had a better flight than we did, going direct. The cost for a direct plane ticket for just one of us was the same cost as shipping 500 kg of motorcycles. Weak.

The flight to Houston was another chance to sleep and we landed in the bright sunny 70 degree spring time. Farewell fall and winter, I’m happy to have a year without a winter. My dad picked us up outside and it was really nice to see him again after all these months on the road.


Since the bikes had shipped back 5 days earlier, today was the last day they would be held without charging a storage fee from Continental. This meant we went straight from the passenger terminal to the cargo terminal. We presented our shipping papers to the agents at the terminal, and they told us we would have to clear U.S. Customs first, which was located in another building on the other side of the airport.

We drove over there, hoping for the best. One of the agents had said any shipment with a value over $2000 required a customs broker. It turns out the U.S. Customs was one of the easiest of the entire trip. I presented our titles and registrations and they were satisfied. They didn’t even go to the cargo terminal and inspect the VIN numbers or anything, trusting that the Argentine customs had done the job on their end. We were stamped and out of there in no time.


Back at the Continental cargo terminal, we presented our stamped papers and were all clear. We went outside to the warehouse, talked to the men working inside and they brought the bikes over on a forklift. I got to work unwrapping the bikes and everything had arrived in good condition. It took us about 45 minutes to get the front wheels back on, the batteries reconnected, and all the other details taken care of. The workers at the cargo terminal were very helpful and curious about our adventures.

With everything back together and all the luggage tucked in the back of the car, we were back on the road in the United States. It was really disorienting to me in some ways. We had put so much work in riding south for the last six months, and in a mere 13 hours we were back in the United States, all that riding so easily undone by modern aviation. The ride home to my parents’ house was uneventful with no broken chains.

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We unpacked, which for us is like a bomb exploding in the room. My mother came home and welcomed us back and we spent a nice afternoon in the house. The cat, Cleo, was particularly enthralled with our sheepskins. After attacking them and making sure they were dead, she settled in for a good nap. It was good to be home amongst family.


Buenos Aires: Farewell South America

Tuesday, April 21

Our last day in South America and our last proper day of the trip. It was a quiet and sad start to the morning. I was excited on a certain level and looking forward to seeing my parents in Houston, but really I couldn’t believe this long journey was really at an end, even if the bikes were already gone.

We spent the morning packing up our things, bid our farewell to Rovi, Mumi, and La Gorda, and took a remise downtown. We dropped our bags at the airport shuttle bus terminal and headed over to Puerto Madero for some sight seeing and lunch. We didn’t need to leave for the airport until 4:30 so we had some time to kill.


It was a short walk and our goal was the Santiago Calatrava’s Puente De La Mujer (Bridge Of The Woman) that Inna was keen to photograph. We were both feeling melancholy about leaving, but it was nice walking together reminiscing about our various adventures.


We had read about some of the nearby restaurants in our guide book, but couldn’t find the one we were looking for. We walked back along the canal, checking out the menus of the many restaurants along the canal. They tended to be vastly overpriced and seemed likely to not be worth it. Since I’m not much of a foodie, I bowed out on lunch so Inna could enjoy some sushi.


I didn’t mind not eating lunch, because right next door to the sushi place was a Freddo ice cream shop. After lunch we went straight over, and I had an incredible 1/4 kilo of Freddo ice cream. I got my last fill of dulce de leche ice cream mixed with some dark chocolate ice cream. I need to franchise Freddo in Seattle.


After running one more errand, we were back at the bus terminal and on our way to the airport. I wouldn’t say our spirits were high. Everything went smoothly at the airport and we stocked up on extra alfajores at the duty free. Boarding time arrived and soon we were off. I watched the lights of Buenos Aires disappear beneath us, just in a few hours we will be touching down in North America.