In the (south-western) wind

Trip Start Aug 27, 2005
Trip End Sep 10, 2005

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Where I stayed
The Cronk Hotel

Flag of United States  , New Mexico
Saturday, October 8, 2005

I've heard a lot of stories about Albuquerque and New Mexico, and I finally got a chance to experience first hand what Bill Gates and his buddies left behind in the early 80s. Well, to be honest, I have been through the area once before on my way home from Sturgis, but the thrills of a quick stop at a Shell station don't exactly fill your soul with the spirit of the old south-west. I needed more. Besides being among the most difficult city names to spell, for a foreigner at least, it certainly has a few more qualities up its sleeves. So naturally, our first stop was a bar. Not just any bar, but the Billet Grill that Doyle's family bought last year. We felt right at home. Excellent food, excellent service, lots of bikes and a live band. I made sure to get my first green chili injection as well. Those spicy devils are like mackerel in tomato sauce to Norwegians. New Mexcians just can't live without them. Since we last met at our wedding in Seattle a year ago, almost the whole Cronk family is now on two wheels. Robin Sr. has a sweet Fatboy, Linda a really nice Sportster, Robin Jr. a cool Ironhorse chopper and Ali the best looking bobber I've seen in a long time, made by Proper Chopper. I have to admit I'm very impressed. Charmi still prefers a real horse to an iron horse, but the real ones are probably much harder to handle when it comes down to it! Even though my last encounter with the real deal was a salami-wannabe in Legoland, Denmark, I did at least buy myself a mighty fine cowboy hat while in town. Maybe I'll wear it to church on Sundays...

For transportation, we rented a HD Road King from Big Dog Motorcycles next door to the Billet Grill. The stock pipes on the rentals always frustrate me to no end. Luckily, the embarrassment somewhat fades away as the miles roll by, and you start feeling like you're riding a motorcycle and not a lawn mover.

We had booked the best room they had at the "Cronk Hotel", and the service and room were exceptional. Robin and Linda live in a very cool adobe house in the Rio Grande Valley. Aside from the restaurant business, they also run a large stable located on their property. Charmi, Doyle's sister, spends a lot of time helping out with the horses when she's not busy with her new job as a physician assistant at a local prison. By the way, she promised to sneak us out the back door if "The Man" decided to lock us up. We managed to stay out of trouble this time around though. I hope she takes rain-checks though.

After a few days in Albuquerque, we loaded up the bike and headed north for a week on the road. First stop was in Santa Fe for breakfast, a city built almost entirely with adobe houses. Then through the low rider capital of the south-west, Espanola, to Taos. Taos reminded me a little bit of Santa Fe, and the fruit company that Doyle's grandfather started used to have an outlet up there. We had a long day in front of us, so even though we were riding through some beautiful areas, we unfortunately didn't have time for any longer stops. We passed Angel Fire, Eagle Nest and hooked up with a long and boring stretch of I-25 that eventually took us to Jannic and Tracey's house in Colorado Springs.

I like Colorado Springs. It's located by the foot of the Rockies, is big enough not to get boring after a few days, and then you have Jannic and Tracey's cooking. They spoiled us with some awesome grilled chicken and Margaritas mixed with Norwegian St Halvard liqueur. Must be a local favorite. Brian's baked beans also hit a home-run.

Doyle and I snuck off in Jannic's brand new Chevy truck the next morning with cameras dangling around our necks. It was time to blend in with the tourists. We missed the train to the top of Pike's Peak, and ended up in the Cave of the Winds instead. Thanks to Mr Lame tour guide, that wasn't exactly the highlight of the vacation. But wandering around the small town of Manitou Springs was cool. A woman I know was hopping from coffee house to coffee house with a big grin. Funny how history repeats itself, isn't it.

The weekend was coming up, and we were all heading to the "Rally in the Rockies" in Ignacio the next day, about 300 miles west of Colorado Springs. Brian, Jannic's friend, trailered his beaten up Electra chopper along with Tracey's Sportster. Jannic and I rode and ate bugs. Rumors have it that it can snow at some of the mountain passes in Colorado this time of year (early September), but we got lucky. The 10 000 foot Wolf Creek Pass was kind to us as the afternoon sun turned everything deep yellow and we descended back down to lower altitudes on the west side of the Rockies.

The Rally was a little unorganized at first, but we eventually found a good spot to pinch our tents in the main camp area. It was quite a bit smaller than Sturgis, but I've heard around 40 000 bikes normally show up. The food was pretty good, everything from some great breakfast burritos to big-ass, smoked turkey legs. Lots of band on the main stage next to two huge bonfires to keep us all warm. It can get pretty chilly up there at night. On Saturday, we all rode into Durango (Lucky Luke's home town). Doyle and I continued on to visit Mesa Verde National Park. It's a huge area with countless, spectacular cliff dwellings. Well worth the trip.

After a couple days at the rally, Doyle and I saddled up again, left the others behind as they were going back to Colorado Springs, and steered towards Silverton, an old mining town high up in the Rockies. I'd done highway 550 before, but was happy to come back. We passed through Ouray and finally called it a night in Telluride, a now famous skiing town. We were lucky enough to get the last room at The Sheridan Hotel. The annual film festival was this same weekend, and we mingled with the Hollywood crowd. I'd love to come back here in the winter. Very cool place.

We had gone as far north as this trip would take us and turned south again towards warmer weather the next morning. My rule of thumb is that you can't do a road trip in the U.S. without visiting one or more of the parks in the Arizona/Utah area, so the Road King wagged its tailpipe and brought us to Bluff outside of Monument Valley the following night. We'd stayed in Bluff before. It's a tiny little place, in a gorgeous setting among red bluffs with a great outdoor restaurant, The Cottonwood Steakhouse.

Riding into one of these parks always fascinates me. It's like trading places with one of the rovers on Mars. Everything is so different. Monument Valley may not be the most spectacular of them, but is still beautiful. I did notice that the place unfortunately was getting a little bit more commercialized. Large road signs advertising for new businesses along the road were popping up. The people that live in the area obviously also need to make a living, but they've gone a little overboard trying to lure the tourists to tap their brakes and part with some cash, if you ask me.

We spent our last night on the road in the small town of Chama in northern New Mexico. They gave us the special biker rate at the motel, and we hung out with the locals in the restaurant/bar across the road. We hadn't planned to come to Chama at all, but some really dark thunder clouds on the horizon made us change direction which eventually took us there. Turned out to be a fun night. Often the best stops are those you don't plan.

Back in Albuquerque, we spent a few more days with the Cronks. Robin Jr. took me to a shooting range, we feasted on some fine food, strolled around the historic old town area, went up in the Sandia Tramway, and the women, including Betty, went for a spa day and came home smelling like flowers and exotic oils. To top off two great weeks, the last night in the city called for a visit to a real cowboy bar, appropriately named "Cowboys". The State Fair was going on, so the place was packed. My Corona infused eyes hadn't seen that many Wranglers and boots all in one place ever before. Man, I should've taken those swing lessons when I was younger. We spotted a brave man dancing swing with two women at the same time! The bastard even made it look easy!

All good things must come to and end. Our time was up, and we could practically hear the cat yelling at us all the way from Seattle. Thanks to all the Cronks for making our stay so enjoyable!

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