U.S. Continental Divide

June 5 - 6

Now that we are safely into Colorado, we can retrospectively look at our 800 mile trek through New Mexico.   New Mexico has 1/5 of the population of Ohio (2 million vs. 10 million) but is three times the area.  The federal government owns a tremendous amount of the state for military installations, federal labs, national forests and parks whereas the own a very small part of Ohio.  Perhaps the most unique part of New Mexico is that for every dollar that the federal government collects in taxes – it spends $2 in New Mexico, making it the number 1 recipient of federal budget dollars.  An estimated 11% of the state's total employment arises directly or indirectly from military spending. The state hosts three air force bases (Kirtland Air Force Base, Holloman Air Force Base, and Cannon Air Force Base); a testing range (White Sands Missile Range); and an army proving ground and maneuver range (Fort Bliss - McGregor Range). Other federal installations include the technology labs of Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories.

New Mexico has 1/4 of the average rainfall of Ohio, but this figure is misleading.  In the southern part of NM, which is desert, most of the rainfall occurs during the two rainy seasons when it comes down in a deluge.  Making matters worse, the northern part of the state has fairly normal rainfall evident in the aspen forests, the lush grass and the presence of standing water. New Mexico's GDP is about 1/6 of Ohio's ($645 billion vs. $113 billion) but a significant part of this is from the government.  Some other stats on New Mexico vs. Ohio:

New Mexico Ohio
Median Household Income $36,043 $42,240
Percent below poverty level 19.3% 12.5%
Total tax burden per capita $2,103 $1,963

Now for what happened today.

We spent the night of the 5th in Monte Vista Colorado after falling far behind schedule dealing with the snow blocked pass.  We got into some nasty soft sand and shortly thereafter into some deep gullies.

Frank Floyd completed the trifecta of motorcycles upside-down – wheels up (no injuries).  This was the only photo I was able to get.

Frank did the same thing yesterday along with Roger Hansen.

I don't think it's possible to find a sign or piece of sheet metal that doesn't have a bullet hole in it in both New Mexico and southern Colorado.

We stopped at a lovely diner called "La Garitas"

During lunch they were playing John Wayne westerns in black and white on an old TV.

They had numerous signs -

And one to which Wal-Mart could aspire:

Most of the ride on the 6th was through high meadows -

Several times we traveled passes over 10,000 feet and one pass over 11,000 feet.

The story of Alfred E. Packer occurred in the spring of 1872 in this area.  In January, against advice, Alfred and several other prospectors headed up into the snow packed San Juan Mountains to look for gold.  In April when Packer returned to town, he had a significant amount of cash – he later confessed that his companions had died fighting amongst themselves and he survived the winter be eating one of the men.  The following summer five decomposed bodies were found – one had been killed by a bullet and the other four by blows to the head – all had their flesh stripped from the juiciest part of their thighs and from the pectoral muscles.  Packer escaped from jail and was on the lam for nearly 10 years but was recaptured and convicted for murder.  As he was sentenced it is said that the judge told him "there were only 10 democrats in Sasquache County and you, you man eating son of a bitch, ate 5 of 'em."  Some enterprising bureaucrats in Washington persuaded the GSA into naming a cafeteria after him – Packer was pardoned after serving only 5 years by a republican governor.

Marshall Pass was a spectacular ride

It was necessary to ford pools of mud and a shallow drift of snow – everyone fell!

Steve ended up tearing the second pannier off his motorcycle while dashing through the drift and catching the pannier on the edge of the ditch.  We cobbled up a way of holding it on using cargo straps.

This photo shows the GPS reading at the top of the pass.

Gerry shaking hands with his friend on the side of the road.

We were not able to make our original goal but we happily ended up at a bed & breakfast that was not open for business.  They allowed us to stay and put our sleeping bags on the beds for the extremely reasonable price of $100 for all seven of us.

We had an exquisite meal and enjoyed the proprietor's stories of the early days in Colorado and the part that this particular bed & breakfast had played in it.

There are three lessons that deal with motorcycle riding in general that we have learned on this trip (and are metaphors for life as well):

The first is no matter what the terrain or how difficult the challenge, always look far ahead and only sporadically look at what's directly in front of your wheel.  Concentrate instead on what's way ahead of you. The most common mistake while riding is to look at the road just ahead of the bike and therefore not have the time to react to major challenges in the distance.  We all agreed that in life we focus too much on the details and not enough with the broader issues.

The second concept (and it particularly applies to riding in groups) is don't worry about the people in front of you – worry instead about the people behind you - how far back they are – can you see their headlight.  This applies in life as well – successful people don't need nearly the help that struggling people do.

The third concept is that speed doesn't kill – the danger of speed is vastly overrated.  It's stopping suddenly that is dangerous.  Wise people deal with the issue of stopping rather than the issue of speeding.

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