September 02, 2010 GMT
New Mexico

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Arroyo Seco, New Mexico

New Mexico appears on first impressions to be a very gentle easing into Mexican culture. The adobe houses, Spanish sounding place and street names and Mexican food make it stand out from the other parts of the USA I have visited. My first New Mexican home was in Arroyo Seco, a short distance from Taos. The narrow twisting main street is much more European in character than the typical broad, straight USA main streets.

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Arroyo Seco, New Mexico

Taos Pueblo is the oldest continuously inhabited community in the USA. Some of the buildings are believed to be over a thousand years old. The Pueblo people use an unwritten, unrecorded language called Tiwa and claim to have a detailed oral history tracing their existence back to the evolution of man.

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Taos Pueblo, New Mexico

The original San Geronimo Church was built around 1619 by Spanish priests and ‘Indian’ labour. The locals were forced into Catholicism and slavery by the Conquistadors in order to ‘civilise’ them. As more settlers moved in from the east Charles Bent was appointed Governor of New Mexico Territory and made his home in Taos. During the Mexican / USA war Bent was killed in an effort to overthrow the US Government. In retaliation US troops hung several Taos Pueblo leaders in the town plaza and destroyed the church leaving only the bell tower standing. Many lives were lost in the church, the bodies were the first to be buried next to the church to start the cemetery.

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San Geronimo Church Bell Tower Following The Churches Destruction By US Troops In 1847

The Rio Grande Gorge a few miles to the west of Taos on Highway 64 is spanned by one of the highest bridges in the USA at 660 feet (201 metres). The river continues south to El Paso, Texas where it forms the USA / Mexican border from there to the coast at Brownsville, Texas.

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Rio Grande, Canyon, New Mexico

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Vertical View of The Rio Grande Canyon, New Mexico

On a bike ride around the scenic “Enchanted Circle Drive” I stumbled across some live music playing in the park of a town called Red River. The main activity had been a Chilli cooking contest but this seemed to be over before I arrived. The music was naturally County And Western by a group from Texas. The singer, from the Texas coast was blaming the altitude for getting out of breath and needing a few moments longer between songs.

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Country & Western Rules

It was raining when I went into the town of Taos but fortunately the historic part where I was had covered walkways making it easy to remain dry and get around. The traditional Pueblo waterspouts coming from the buildings at roof height were pouring rainwater down onto parked cars so I made a mental note never to park under one. Taos, not to be confused with nearby Taos Pueblo was established around 1615 following the Spanish Conquest and has been home to an artists colony for over 100 years. D. H. Lawrence, Dennis Hopper and Kit Carson used to live here and actress Julia Roberts does live here.

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Town Of Taos, New Mexico

From Taos I rode to Santa Fe as it has a BMW dealership and I wanted to get spare filters and sparkplugs for servicing the bike through Central and South America. I’m sure I would be able to find parts when I actually needed them but it’s a lot easier when everyone speaks English and it may save me from having to detour into a major city to find a BMW dealer which I would rather avoid.

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Three Rivers National Forest Campground, New Mexico

When I started this trip in Miami, Florida at the end of March 2009 I always endeavoured to stay at any overnight stop for at least two nights in order to have the time to see something of the area. I would use the bike or walk to see the local sights which slowed the pace of travel and made the journey more relaxing. For most of this summer I have been dashing around trying and succeeding to get to everywhere I wanted to visit on the west side of the USA and Canada before my final USA visa expires which has been a bit hectic. Now that I’m close to the Mexican border I have slowed to a more leisurely pace for the remainder of my time in the USA.

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Seven Foot High Cactus, Three Rivers National Forest

The weather has been good for the last few weeks with afternoon temperatures usually between 80F and 85F (27C - 29C) and very dry apart from a couple of afternoon thunderstorms. I was worried about the heat as I got further south as the 95F (35C) temperatures in British Columbia sent me seeking the shade. That is the hottest I have experienced so far this summer and temperatures are starting to drop off now. My route from Montana to New Mexico has all been above 5,500 feet (1676 metres) which is why it has been cooler.

Casinos in the USA were once restricted to Las Vegas and Atlantic City but since a test case was won by the Native Americans against the Federal Government many of the semi autonomous ‘Native American Reservations’ are building and operating them.

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Apache Casino, Near Ruidoso

White Sands National Monument is a place where sunglasses are most definitely required. The 275 square miles of drifting dazzlingly white gypsum sand dunes that form the National Monument are in the middle of the 4,000 square mile White Sands Missile Range used for testing experimental weapons and space technology. The National Monument is closed on average twice a week while tests take place. The worlds first nuclear explosion took place just to the north of White Sands National Monument with a test explosion on 16th July 1945 by the United States Army. Just over three weeks later the ‘Fat Man’ atomic bomb was detonated over Nagasaki, Japan. My mobile phone camera couldn't cope with the brightness and under exposed the pictures I took.

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White Sands National Monument. The Sand Is Much Brighter Than Shown In The Photo

Lincoln, New Mexico once had the most dangerous main street in the USA during the Lincoln County War between 1878 and 1881. Billy The Kid was the only person tried, convicted and sentenced for his part in the violence. He was due to be hung in Lincoln on 13th May 1881 for the murder of Sheriff Will Brady but killed two guards and escaped from the courthouse on 28th April 1881. I remember the film “Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid” with the Bob Dylan soundtrack which I have at home in England on an old LP. The music has being playing in my head all day!

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This Was Once The Most Dangerous Street In The USA

From Lincoln I travelled to Carlsbad Caverns in the south east of New Mexico. When I first heard about Carlsbad Caverns I wasn’t particularly interested, a big hole in the ground isn’t very exciting to an ex coalmine fitter. However a number of people said it was well worth the visit and I’m glad I listened. It is a mile and quarter walk, descending the height of an eighty story building to get to the bottom of the caverns then an additional mile to walk around the huge chamber called the ‘Big Room’. Fortunately there is a lift to take the British back to the surface and an elevator to do the same function for the Americans.

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Mouth Of Carlsbad Caverns

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The last glimmer of daylight descending into Carlsbad Caverns

I decided to enter my last state, Texas by a series of back roads including thirty miles of dirt road. The dirt road had long sections littered with large stones and went through a number of dry creek beds making it second and third gear terrain for me, a rider without health insurance and too old to bounce down the road and expect to stand up afterwards.

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The Road To Texas

Posted by at September 02, 2010 02:39 AM GMT

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