WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: Wanderlust 2000.17 - Santa Fe, New Mexico
Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2000 16:59:49 -0700

    "Life" on a motorcycle is an invigorating set of contradictions. It has now been one month since I planted my butt on the seat and headed east. And what have I done. Nothing and everything. Life on a motorcycle is stasis in motion. Relative movements of the operator are so tiny as to be unnoticeable. Throttle control, mirror and horizon scanning, lean adjustments ... all these are imperceptible to an observer. I just sit there, motionless, while rapidly moving.
    In previous segments I explored the feeling of a motorcycle in traffic being alone in a crowd. This also delivers the contradiction of getting there while being here. Even if a ride has no set destination, it is going to end somewhere. The idea of going to that place is what causes us to set out, yet it is being here, in the process of getting there, that we actually are seeking. For a motorcycle rider, it is process, not product by which the measure of success is taken.
    While we are in process, we are constantly balancing the contradiction of control and uncertainty. What we want to and must do to remain safe is ceaselessly adjust and modify our controls of speed, position, direction, and lean. Yet it is the uncertainty of what we will encounter around the next bend in the road that attracts us to continue. Unlike being in a car, if we could reduce the demands of attention to where we could read a newspaper or put on makeup or ... the point of being on a motorcycle would be useless. Without uncertainty, a road would be - an Interstate.
    A trip by motorcycle is not a means to an end. It is an end which in this case does justify the means. Once again, the ride is the reason.

    Early on this brilliant day the buzzards are drying their feathers on spread wings in the sun. They look like an annual collection of trophy statues on successive fence posts. The Doppler-increasing whine of my lone vehicle approaching in the otherwise silent Texas high desert is insufficient to break their solar salute. Flocks of quail do break and run at the sound, racing across the road when they could have stayed under cover where they were. I swerve to avoid a couple of them and come close enough to clearly see the little cockatiel feather over their eyes (flattened back in their rush to escape).
    It is somehow a rewarding feeling to be way out here between Van Horn and the New Mexico border and to see mountains ahead and mountains filling both mirrors. Over it all a half moon hangs as a celestial giant white button partially slipped through a buttonhole in the blue fabric of sky. This is a good ride.
    Gosh, Texas works fast. Only yesterday I suggested windmill farms. Today there is one here on the ridge of the Guadalupe Mountains. Extending for about 15 miles, it looks, through squinted eyes, like so many war bonnets amassed on the hill waiting to attack the valley.

    A number of people have suggested I publish these stories, but if I ever do set myself to the task of writing for publication, I think I'd rather form a thesis of Donut Philosophy - A View of the American Conscious As Seen Through Donut Shops. The Daylight Donuts in Carlsbad had exactly what I like to find - coffee, pastry, and a klatch. There was a group of elder ranchers chatting at the next table, talking weather, horses, and local politics. Normal stuff. Then in walked an older man of tall and stout frame, thick neck, and bald head. Unlike the others in jeans and western shirts, he was wearing a black suit closely cut and nicely fit, with a large turquoise and silver bolo neck tie.
    The klatch fell obviously silent, and I wondered of the man's stature among them. Then one crusty old timer practically hollered out, "JOHN, you preachin or goin to a funeral?"
    John slid one word onto the table as he strode by. "Fu-nurl."
    Crusty cowboy said to no one in particular, "Thot so. S'bout the only time he wears that much chin silver." And the klatch resumed.

    There are hundreds of miles in eastern New Mexico that have no beginning and no end. I started some and finished others, but they never seemed to connect. Two hours later and I have moved an inch or so on the map. Up through Roswell and into the plains I followed the Pecos River. Just off the main crossroads in Roswell is the International UFO Museum ... why isn't it the Intergalactic or at least the Interstellar Museum? Do they ascribe "alien" only to other nationalities? A mystery to remain unsolved.
    It only added a hundred or so miles to veer off to visit the grave of Billy The Kid, a few miles east of Fort Sumner, so what the heck ... I'm out for a ride anyway. At the town limit there is the sign heralding the "Authentic (Real) Grave of ...". Argh. Have we come to that where a 9 letter word is beyond normal vocabulary? Ostensibly and perhaps incontrovertibly so ... oh, excuse me: (yup).
    Everybody knows Billy's name was William Bonney, right? Yes, but I didn't know it was a pseudonym. His (real) name, according to the state historical marker, was Henry McCarty. Somehow "Hank The Brat" doesn't carry the same panache.
    Beside the grave is an explanation of why the gravesite is encased in a steel cage. Billy's gravestone was stolen in 1950, not to be discovered again until 1976, in Granbury, Texas. In 1981 it disappeared and turned up in Huntington Beach, California. So now it is bolted to the ground in shackles, inside a cage. Seems ironic he risked death to avoid jail and now his grave is jailed.
    Here is the kind of question you might find for bonus points in one of the motorcycle tour rallies ... There is a decorative wreath on Billy The Kid's grave. What is it made of? (I'll provide the answer in a couple of days. Special mention for anyone *not* from New Mexico who knows.)

    Standing in a quiet moment, looking over the plains and the Pecos Valley south of Fort Sumner, I hear a peal of rolling thunder. A few minutes later there is another, and it occurs to me the sky is completely clear, so where is the thunder. Look straight up and two planes too high to identify are mock fighting. Each time one 'escapes' in a dive, it goes supersonic and the plains feel the shudder of clear thunder made by real (but not authentic) thunder birds.

460 miles
Van Horn TX54 US62 US285 NM2 US285
NM20 US84 I40 NM3 I25 Santa Fe
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

Previous Index Next
© 1997, 1999, 2000