Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day 176 - Santa Fe

Santa Fe is the oldest state capital in the US, established by the Spanish in 1610. Located on the top of a plateau and surrounded by mountains, the town is a mix of three cultures, Hispanic, Native American and Anglo, all of which seen in the architecture and contribute to the vibrant atmosphere. 
Santa Fe is an artists city, one in six residents work in the arts, private galleries are everywhere. Canyon rd is the centre of the art scene, established over 90 years ago it has galleries on either side for over a mile.
Typically colonial, Santa Fe has an abundance of churches, a plaza and compact streets that make the large US cars look like tanks. 
In 1912 the city government officially issued a unified building style, a reaction to the cities decline, the city government realised that this could be reversed by the promotion of tourism. All buildings should be based on work done restoring the Place of Governors, earth toned and adobe coloured look to the exterior and no high-rises (a bold move at that time). The unified style had the desired affect, Santa Fe has become one of the most popular destinations in the US, i can see the attraction.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Day 175 - Roswell - Santa Fe

Distance travelled (by bike): 22,050 miles

The UFO's and conspiracy theories behind me headed up to Santa Fe via Fort Sumner. Using the minor roads  i drove over 60 miles throughout the desert and passed ranches without seeing any other traffic.
The diversion via Fort Sumner was to see the grave of Billy the Kid. The grave stone is surrounded by a cage as its been stolen twice. The family owned Billy the Kid museum was amazing, not for the reason the name suggests, more for the amazing collection of random objects the family have built up over the years. Over 200 different rifles and pistols, 20 different typewriters, 100's of lanterns, the list goes on! 
Back on the road, the bike decided that it had had enough, cutting out 3 times, after letting it cool down, draining the fuel and refilling with different fuel the problem seems to have been sorted for now. 
Arriving at Santa Fe early evening I navigated through the one way streets, the architecture, colours and atmosphere are reminiscent of parts of south and central America.

the long and lonely stretch of road

the graves behind bars

Santa Fe

Day 174 - Roswell

Distance travelled (by bike): 21,660 miles

There really isn't much to Roswell, other the than the UFO museum. I thought there would be a lot more to see, I was told that the historic district was worth a look, with a few older houses i felt a little cheated, though it could be that I'm spoilt with the amount of history I've seen and my expectations have been raised. Still, the people around town were really friendly, fully embracing the UFO culture, they didn't look twice at some of the tourist wearing foil hats.
Having exhausted the sights in Roswell i drove out to Bottomless Lake park. The lakes are not bottomless, the deepest is only 90ft. It was given the name due to its greenish blue colour (created by algae and plants at the bottom), which creates the illusion they are bottomless (story 1). It was given its name when over 100 years ago when cowboys herded their cattle the tried to solve the mystery of the lakes, they tried without success to find the bottom by tying rocks to their lariats and dropping them into the lake, they never found then bottom (story 2).
After hiking around the lakes i returned to Roswell, perfect timing, as i parked up a huge sand storm blew through town, followed by lightning!

alien street lights

bottomless lakes

sand storm blowing through

Monday, June 27, 2011

Day 174 - Alamogordo - Roswell (via Carlsbad Caverns)

Distance travelled (by bike): 21,610 miles

The wild fires in New Mexico are huge, towns are been evacuated and roads closed. All trails through the national forests regional and national parks are closed as are the campgrounds. I was warned when i left Alamogordo that Carlsbad Caverns might be closed as its part of the national park, luckily it was open. 
For the first hours drive this morning i had a break from the flat arid desert that has surrounded me since Vegas, climbing up into the hills there were trees, grass, animals. A fantastic ride that ended to soon, as i began the decent to Artesia the arid desert and blisteringly hot air greeted me.
Driving to Carlsbad Caverns you could see the area had already been hit by wildfire, landscape of charred vegetation and little else.
Carlsbad Caverns are one of the worlds largest cave systems (a world heritage site) 250 metres underground. The largest cave (7th largest in the world) is 1220 x 190 metres and approx 110 metres high. There are more than 180 caves, i have no ideas how big the complex is, but the route i walked was 2 miles long. 
Glad to be out of the sun i set off on my underground trek. A truly incredible place, other worldly. Sounds carried easily, you can hear people talking from the other side of the cavern, but think they are around the next corner. This is when i realised how loudly my boots squeak when i walk!
Returning to the surface and the intense heat of the day i saddled up and drove off on an incredibly hot seat. (i'm sure i could fry an egg on the panniers) Driving north and leaving the burnt landscape behind i rode into the realm of conspiracy, the unknown and the unexplained, welcome to Roswell, New Mexico.

what is now becoming a common sight

driving through the mountians

scorched earth

in the caverns

intrepid explorer (slightly startled by the flash)