WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: Finishers Wander 2 - Albuquerque, New Mexico
Date: Tue, 06 Apr 2004 20:29:04 -0700

("Editor's Comment": Ok, some smarties have already noticed the sending dates on these messages do not match the current date. Branson was the weekend of April 11. The messages were held until I was sure I would continue the trip, otherwise 3 days out and 3 days back wouldn't have been much to write about. By the time you read these I have already moved on ... currently waiting out the snow SNOW! in Jackson Tennessee. Now ... where was I?)

    Yesterday on I40 I kept having the eerie feeling of suppressed memory returning. I've been on this road literally dozens of times, but maybe the "finishing" aspect of this tour led to remembering the first time. As you probably know, I40 closely follows historic Route 66 and parts of the old road are still marked. What I was remembering was my first cross country trip from Los Angeles to Connecticut on almost all of the original Route 66. In the mid 1950s my parents and I flew to a family wedding and returned by car with other relatives. Four adults, an impressionable 7 year old, and a parakeet in a Buick Roadmaster with a block of dry ice hanging above the dashboard to mentally ward off the June desert heat. Physically, it did nothing. I swear I recognized outcroppings and turns in the road that I have seen many times but not really noticed. Today, coincidentally I turned into Ash Fork for gas and saw the old railroad station where I'm sure we turned off to get gas nearly 50 years ago. And I recognized the old Indian Trading Post at Continental Divide. Restrooms for travelers were not quite as savory back then - I remember my Uncle Louie saying he wanted to stand on the Divide and pee in both oceans at once. Aunt Dina was not amused.
    Not much human contact when the only stops are for gas. So why do I always seem to encounter those who can't think for themselves. (Answer: part of the adversity of travel in which to revel.) Last night I went to a corner 'convenience' store to buy a beer. This store obviously has had legal age enforcement problems. There are signs all over the place that everyone must show id for everything. Alcohol, tobacco, use a credit card? Id, no exceptions regardless of age. (Me, gray hair.) The clerk said "Obviously you are old enough but I still have to see ..." so I showed him my California id. [Side note, in case you don't know, CA will issue a separate id card on request with a license. Often places will want to hold an id as security for something and people are reluctant to give their license. The id card is an exact duplicate except it says "California ID" not "California License".] So, Him: "That's not a driver license, it is an id." Me: "Same thing." Him: "Nope, I gotta see a license." Me, without intending to be mean: "But the sign says 'id', it doesn't say 'license'. Do you want to change you mind or do we change the sign?" Faced with the concept of having to make a decision, he was so startled he couldn't figure out what to do. I went across to the other corner store where no id was required.

    In years of traveling through the desert I have never seen fog there. Mist after a rain, yes, but not white heavy suspended droplets fog. Today in the mountains around Flagstaff, there was a dense swirling fog dancing on and above the roadway. Even though no vehicle had just come through, it would jump and spin in some current pressed and squeezed by the hand of a thermal barrier. The fog lay in a swath across one valley as though it wasn't sure which way to go. If only we could see the forces of nature the way an animal smells the air, I'm sure this would all make sense.
    Climbing a long rise near Winslow, I saw each vehicle ahead of me hit the brakes as it cleared the crest. Cop, of course. But this car was in the right lane doing 70 in a 75 zone. Everyone was "cautious" about passing him. As I moved up the line, I made sure the limit was 75, made sure my GPS was steady at 75.0, and passed him. I waved as I went by, he gave a one finger wave (lifted his index finger on the steering wheel), and off I went. Four cars followed me. One less than brilliant driver then went flying past me. A few miles later he was wringing his hands at a curbside confessional. Honestly, I didn't really want to go any faster than 77 or 78. That is a sweet spot in the power range for my bike, and I can still get around 44 mpg at that speed. I've noticed that even a few mph over 80 will drop the mpg. Must be the fairing design.
    Is it me or are there fewer alligators in the desert these days. When I saw one, I realized I hadn't seen any all day. Truck tires must be made better than before.
    As I was sipping my Gatorade outside the gas stop in Sanders, a tiny town on the tribal lands, two old Navajo women came out holding onto each other for stability. One was about 5 feet tall, with a nicely weathered, aged face, and looked to be maybe 70-75 years old. The other was not much over 4 feet, and could have been her mother - 95 would have been a kind guess. Her face had seen many more winters. They slowly wobbled toward a beaten up nondescript reservation pony of an old car. I busied myself with getting packed to leave. As I waited to exit the lot the old car came clanking slowly by - the 95 year old was driving, looking through the steering wheel. You go, girl.

477 miles
Kingman I40 Albuquerque

P.S. The BMW dealer here was unable to reset the ABS. Blinky blinky. Gray duct tape has been replaced with official BMW black electrical tape. Much better.
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

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