December 17, 2007 GMT
Arizona & New Mexico

Em really did not want to leave Vegas, the town had even won me over - it was a great few days. Em is really quiet on the back as we ride out of town and back into the desert on route to Kingman to the south. This route takes us over the Hoover Dam which is impressive yet not as big as I imagined. The Dam has heavy security, I guess to protect against a terror attack, we had to ride through a security checkpoint before crossing.



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Hoover Dam


Its real hot as we continue through the baron landscape, theres not a lot to see for mile after mile except the odd native indian settlement.


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As the light fades and the temperature drops we reach the town of Kingman and we book into a cheap motel as there are no camping areas anywhere.


That evening Em is unwell, she looks terrible and has pain and cramps everywhere, given the alcohol of the last few days and the fact that we had been riding all day in excessive heat, I guessed she must be dehydrated. I prepare several rehydration drinks and put her to bed, she still looks unwell and its not like her to complain, so I am worried when she asks where the nearest Doctors may be.


After another drink, she drops off to sleep and I programme the GPS with the local hospitals co- ordinates, just in case. Its only at times like this that you realise just how remote your location is, its a rough night as Em tries to get some sleep, while I try to stay awake to watch out for her.


Thankfully come morning Em is looking and feeling much better and we give each other a ticking off for not watching our water intake.


From Kingman we ride east towards the town of Williams which is the crossroads
town to the south of the Grand Canyon South Rim.


The view from the road continues to be baron red rock with tufted grasses, until finally as we near Williams the landscape changes to more trees and rocky outcrops.



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Before finding the campground we take a look around the town, Williams is the town where the Grand Canyon Railway rolls out from and is also famous for being on Route 66. After grabbing lunch at a place resembling Faulty Towers, we ride out to the campground and get settled in, as we plan to stay here for a few nights.



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Next day its another hot one as we reach the Canyon and try and find somewhere close to park, neither of us wanted to walk too far in this heat, not in our bike gear.


As we get close to the viewing areas and take our first look, we cant help but feel a bit disappointed. The park wardens are carrying out a "controlled burn" of the areas on the North side of the Canyon, the resulting smoke had settled into the Canyon and was somewhat destroying the view.



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Grand Canyon South Rim


I could feel another one of my moments coming on- where I tear the warden off a strip for not telling us 20 miles down the road and taking our $20 that we might not see much and might want to come back another day. I manage to let it go and hide my disappointment from Darren.

I would just like to offer this information for anyone else travelling through America's National Parks - Always ask before you pay for entry what is open/ closed and if there is anything happening in the Park that day as they WILL NOT tell you unless you ask. This can seriously affect your enjoyment particularly if you have a short timescale like us.



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Just as well we had viewed the Canyon from the North a few weeks ago, as today the view really was restricted.


Exiting the park, we had an hour ride back to Williams where we ate in an authentic Route 66 diner before returning to camp.


We decided to give ourselves the next day off from riding, so much of the day was spent on washing clothes, updating blogs and sending emails.


Next day we left knowing that we had a higher mileage day ahead, with little to see but more dry rock and sand it could prove to be a long day to Holbrook campground. After about two hours however, I noticed a sign by the side of the highway advertising "Meteor Crater Site" and after a quick chat we decided to take a look. The site is about ten miles from the main highway and as we park up I notice another BMW GS in the car park, at least we wont be the only ones walking around the museum in motorcross boots.


This detour proves to be a well spent couple of hours, we sit through a film on when / how the site was created and what happened to the meteor on impact. We then took a look at the crater and you see why this place is known as the most intact preserved meteor crater site in the World.



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Nasa trained the astronauts from the Apollo missions here, and you can see why.

I was particularly touched by an exhibit which detailed the life of Eugene Shoemaker - an astrologer who always wanted to go the moon. He was unable to due to a medical problem and knew that his dream of going into space would never happen. After his death he was cremated and half of his ashes were placed in a capsule along with a poem by Wiliam Shakespeare. This capsule was put on the moon via an orbiter that crashed to the surface, his final resting place meaning that he achieved his dream. It is still there and he remains the only person to be buried on the moon.


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We never did see the other biker, as we rode out the GS was still parked up, maybe the rider had signed up for the crater rim walk - something we passed on given it was 85 degrees.


As we neared the town of Holbrook the main road was littered with signs to various prehistoric sites in the area and the odd plastic dinosuar reminding me of Vernal, Utah.


Thankfully the town had a bit more going for it than Vernal, the campground was a good one and even had a food wagon on site that did all you can eat pancakes for $1.99, jubly. We stayed for two nights and while there, visited the Petrified Forest National Park which was just two minutes down the road.


The area of the park is a very strange landscape , difficult to describe but I will try, originally this area was a massive prehistoric forest interspersed with large rivers. Those mighty trees fell into the rivers and eventually were buried in the sediment - fast forward a few million years and with erosion, these same trees, now fossilised into granite, were exposed to the surface. Meaning that today, you can walk around the trees and see the amazing detail on the trunks.



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As we continue to ride through the park, the landscape looks like something out of Star Wars, with unusual rock formations and vivid colours.



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The rocks are very precious as they are so old, once they are polished they look beautiful.



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There were many lovely examples made into book ends for sale by the National Park itself, which we found rather odd. If you get a chance to visit here you must look at the letters board. This board contains many letters (mainly from children) returning stolen chunks of wood and apologising for taking them. Alot of the letters claim to have had bad luck ever since taking the items and that they brought them bad luck - Very entertaining reading!


On leaving the park everyone has to pass through a checkpoint so that the warden can check to see if you have stolen any bits of fossilised tree. Before the area was made a national park, Americans from all over were taking huge truck loads of petrified wood away each year - hence the reason why there is so little of the forest remaining, but at least whats left is protected.


With our panniers given the all clear, soon enough we were back at camp and started to do some route planning for the next few days. Now originally the plan was to head south from here to Tuscon Arizona to get the bike serviced, before crossing into Mexico around the beginning of November.


However, after meeting up again with the Texan couple in Cody, they had expressed an interest in joining up on the trip through South America. They had also invited some good friends of theirs on the trip, meaning that there may be up to four bikes, that would now head south from Texas just after Xmas.


This meant that Em and I would have to be careful of the budget until Xmas, thankfully the Texans had invited us to stay with them for a while to try to save some money and to give us a break for a couple of weeks.


So now the plan for us was to head east to Arlington in Dallas, Texas, but there were a couple of places that we wished to visit on the way to break up the journey.


The next day we head south down routes 60, then 70 which both turn out to be great roads, after a full day in the saddle we arrive in Benson Arizona.



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Booking ourselves into the campground at Benson, meant that we had just a short ride to the following days destination - Tombstone. That night we rent the movie Tombstone so that I can explain to Em the story behind the gunfight at the OK Corral. Being a bit of a closet western fan, I am really excited next day as we ride out toward the town.


Before too long the sign "Welcome to Tombstone" appears and almost immediately I look left to see "Boothill Graveyard" this is cool. After riding down the main street, Em spots a sign for the carpark and we turn off onto a mud gravel road, as we do so we look right and straight down the middle of historic main street Tombstone.



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Main Street Tombstone


I quickly park the bike and we lock as much of our clothing to the bike as possible, its unbelievably hot as we start to walk down main street. Past the Birdcage Theatre, then the Oriental, until finally I spot the OK Corral, this place is better than I had expected. I was ready for something looking more like Disneyland, but instead the town is largely authentic, if anything the buildings need work to help preserve there history but instead they are just left as they are, giving the place a very real feel (and smell).



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Yes this place definately smells authentic! There are flies everywhere out here and as Darren says it looks run down and doesn't take much imagination to take you back in time to the famous gunfight times. The shops are mainly touristy in the town, but the Oriental Hotel/ Saloon is a really good shop with an in house seamstress making costumes from the tombstone era in the 1800's. They have all the accessories too- hand made hats, gloves, basques, boots, belts, antique jewellery even wedding dresses!



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We take a look at the gunfight spot and watch a re-inactment of what happened with local actors playing the parts of the Earps and the Clantons, the OK Corral itself was really interesting with lots to see and the local guide brought all the stories to life.



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Gunfight at the OK Corral


A top day out and well worth the 300 mile detour.


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I'm your huckleberry


Back at Benson we try to get something to eat on the way back to camp, unfortutetly Benson is another of those towns where food is scarce, unless you want something fried then smothered in cheese. Thankfully we find an ok Mexican which seems fitting as we are only a stones throw from the Mexican border.


About 10am next morning we ride out of Benson onto Interstate 10 and into New Mexico, for about four hours of playing with the trucks and 4x4's, I still cant get used to being overtaken at 80mph by an 18 wheeler. Stopping for lunch at Las Cruces, we get chatting to some fellow bike travellers, these guys are riding older Harleys and have the greasy paws to prove it. Just one bag is bungied to each bike, they too are on their way to Texas, but they dont know why yet - a true roadtrip, nice meeting you guys.



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For the next few hours we ride through the biggest, widest valley I have ever seen - White Sands Missile Range. Once again the war on terror means we have to pass through quite a major checkpoint to proceed. A young squaddie stops us and asks where we are from (theres a ruddy great Union Jack on the front of the bike) "England Great Britain" I reply "Germany?" shouts the soldier, "Great Britain!" I shout again, I might as well have shouted Afganistan as he clearly still didnt understand as he waves us through..


After stopping the night in Alamogordo we ride through the nothingness that is Area 51 and Roswell. Home to all things alien, we expected the town to have a bit of a UFO feel, it did a bit I guess with crashed UFO's in the sides of buildings, but basically was just another town in the middle of nowhere.



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Alien sighting


After a coffee in an alien cafe we leave Roswell and head east for the Texas border. You can see where the stories of UFO sitings come from, honestly we rode for 3 hours without seeing anyone or making one turn or stop, with nothing to look at around you - your imagination kicks in, in my case dreaming of a bend in the road.



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Posted by Darren Homer at December 17, 2007 06:54 PM GMT
 


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