Santa Fe, the never ending story

The multitude of brown buildings that comprise Santa Fe are fast disappearing in our rear view mirrors as we accelerate towards the gap in the thunderstorms at 9 am in the morning. We are leaving after an unplanned week in Santa Fe. We had no idea we would find another reason to stay a little longer day after day; would we ever leave? Let’s roll back to last Monday and see how this unfolded……

Rising above the sound of the wind beating against our helmets as we travel south on I25 in New Mexico, the ‘chain death rattle’, that sound we have heard before in Peru indicating that the chain is stretching fast, warranting a daily adjustment every couple of hundred miles/kilometres. We had hoped it would last until Vancouver but it was not to be. When we checked the milage on Streak’s chain, last replaced in Dubai in September 2014, we calculated that it had done an amazing 28,500 miles / 45,000 kilometres – wow!!! – when we heard the an average chain lasts around 15,000 miles / 24,000 kilometres. We have done well.

For some time, Anne has had problems with low speed braking, with a juddering effect that was finally diagnosed as a warped front disc. Outside the normal tolerances by over 100%. Another eye-watering priced present for Anne’s birthday list, why are motorcycle spares so expensive? With the chain and sprockets installed and front disc on order we will spend a couple of extra days here renewing our acquaintance with a city we spent time in on our way from Texas to Colorado in June 2015 on our last RTW trip.

We are staying is the same hotel, the Doubletree near to BMW Santa Fe, 6 miles / 10 kilometres outside town we used the last time we were here and with ‘Streak’ in the shop as they say here, we will use the Santa Fe Trails bus service. This service is very reasonably priced especially for the over 60’s, only a dollar for the whole day. Anne will benefit shortly!

Riding the buses for a couple of days gives us an insider’s view of a world that, as motorcyclists, we only see as advertising written on the side as we pass buy. Conversations, friendships, generosity are all part and parcel of an interesting world that we are clearly not part of.

“Someone just posted, never thought I’d get out today” says one passenger on his cell phone next to us, another shares her written poetry with others to read and misses her stop, a third opens a new packet of cigarettes and offers them around, ‘take two’ he says to one man. Constant conversation between passengers who obviously know each other well fills the bus. There is a virtual community on the buses and this includes the drivers. Sadly this community also includes some who appear to have substance abuse problems, but that notwithstanding, a great experience for us in a country that is based around the automobile, to see how another group of people interact.

As we start to relax, we have both found that the last two weeks riding have taken a toll on us physically, with a few persistent aches and pains emerging. Our bodies not have not taken to kindly to elements we have exposed them too. Spending time in one location, the easily paced days, comfortable hotel rooms and good food did have me questioning the reason for this RTW adventure and whether I would not be happier on a beach somewhere in Mexico or the Caribbean for the next few months. While I wrestled with these thoughts for a few days, Anne mentions to me that she has been questioning whether she feels like chasing the sunset for the next 5 months. As we discuss the options, we both agreed that the journey continues unless one or both of us really feel that we do not want to continue, same as the last trip. I suspect that these thoughts will resurface for both of us from time to time, but that is all part and parcel of the adventure.

Anne wants me to see the works of Allan Houser, a famous native American sculptor, so that accounted for another day spent in Santa Fe. The visit is covered in a separate blog entry by Anne but I did find it amazing to see how much one man could accomplish in his lifetime.

With Anne’s birthday looming, I was still looking for a location to the west where we could spend the weekend, go somewhere warmer, Las Vegas, mountain cabin (burrrrr… in this weather!) but nothing seemed to make sense so yes a couple more days in Santa Fe were the answer. We enjoy it here so why rush somewhere else?

We spend the time in town seeing a small show of Mexican lowrider cars, a special category of cars that started in Los Angles in the late 1940’s and early 50’s. From sandbags first loaded in the boot/trunk to today’s sophisticated electro/hydraulic systems, the aim, by modifying the suspension and chassis, is to be “low & slow”. The cars were also decorated, paint and trim, to reflect the Mexican culture where the drivers came from in contrast to the then “Anglo” culture prevalent in the USA at the time.

1960’s cars, crazy suspension, Santa Fe

How to create a little ‘lift’

1950’s Chevrolet Impala Lowrider

When one sits in the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, the vision that surrounds you is that of a French Church. This is made more believable when you are told the architect is French, Antoine Mouly, and that the stained glass windows are from France and the altar, organ and other fittings are from France and Italy. The most interesting aspect of the chapel, and the reason for its fame, is the double helix spiral staircase which gives access to the Choir loft. The architect died while the chapel was under construction and upon the chapel’s completion it was realised that no staircase had been built to access the choir loft some 20 feet / 6 metres above the chapel floor. Since the chapel was small, a normal staircase would take up too much floor space, and the Sisters of Loretto, not confused with Mother Thersea’s Sisters of Loreto order, whom the care of the church was entrusted to, did not appreciate the proposal of using a ladder in their habits! All the local carpenters do not have a solution to the problem, so the nuns decide to pray to St Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the ninth and last day of their prayers, a unknown carpenter arrives and offers to build their staircase. We understand he worked with only the most basic of hand tools and spent three months building this amazing self supporting staircase then left with out asking for any payment. The nuns believed that their prayers to St Joseph had been answered and who can doubt them. It should be noted that the staircase originally had no handrail, which both the nuns and I found a little unnerving. The handrail was added a few years later.

Loretto Chapel staircase, Santa Fe

On our final day in Santa Fe, we visit Canyon Road, famous for a variety of art galleries and a must see place for visitors. We wander along the street and nothing catches Anne’s eye to entice her in until we see a large gallery space that appears to be setting up. We are invited in and meet Kiyomi, Joseph and Jesse who are preparing the gallery for its opening next week. They have created a great exhibition space, perfect for an Aboriginal art exhibition? Who knows, anyway we learn that a series of five marble sculptures will be craned in at 6 am on Monday morning, yes you guessed it, we are staying another couple of days to see this. Will we ever leave Santa Fe?

Mural in Santa Fe

A central hotel location would be great for this early start so on the way home we stop at the Hilton and ask what rate they would do for us. We are greeted by Haley who, I think after hearing it is Anne’s birthday says she will match our Doubletree rate. We are moving to a great location. Little did we know she had given us one of three apartments in the restored historic building adjacent to the hotel with our own lounge, dining, spa bath and two fireplaces! Are we so lucky or what?! I think I want a fireplace in the bedroom at home, it looks great, but have no idea where it will fit.

Lounge in our upgraded hotel ‘room’!

We do get up early, hard to do in such a comfortable location, our apartment, and go to see the statues being unloaded and installed with great precision by an enthusiastic group including the galley owner and the sculptor. Both show great pleasure in seeing the works installed.


Carefully does it….

Three down, two to go.

This rounds off a memorable week that also saw us visit Ghost Ranch, where Georgia O’Keeffe painted, stopped while riding to avoid a ferocious dust storm and listened to Native American drumming in the centre of Santa Fe.

Indian drumming and chanting, Santa Fe

Georgia O’Keefe’s studio, Ghost Ranch, New Mexico

Crazy wind gusts north west of Santa Fe

The Santa Fe story ends for us, but the journey continues….

– Anthony

13 comments on “Santa Fe, the never ending story

  1. Love the story. It is good to just stop and rest if the next leg feels too hard, suspect this recharged the batteries!


  2. As Always such an interesting blog . That staircase is just beautiful – love the ” little gems ” you find . Happy travelling.Lots of love xxxxx


  3. Great experiences – love that staircase and the story behind it. I can see why you would stay there longer – looks like a picturesque and relaxing town.


  4. Santa Fe! I had thought naïvely that you were going to cross the North American ontinent in a straight line east-west. Little wonder, having travelled such an extra distance, that you have questioned whether to continue or not. But, as usual, you have met lovely people, seen beautiful sights both natural and manmade (The Nuns’ Stairs!), all recounted so vividly. xx


    • So did we when we started. They keep having this ‘snow’ stuff which has us turning in a southerly direction, although we are still going west the elements are delaying our northward move, which must eventually happen.


  5. So glad you took time out although sorry to hear more expenses than you expected for Streak. I never got the opportunity to go inside the Loretto chapel so thanks for the fabulous history. May your ability to get great hotels at motel prices continue!


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