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

My 60th

My 60th birthday celebrations started on the 15th February thanks to friends going away on holiday before our pre-departure and pre-birthday little gathering a month later. I know my sister will be proud of me celebrating that long!! At that gathering, everybody there wrote me a little note, and some a longer letter, which I carried with me to read today – wow, I definitely feel loved. Have a look at the amazing cake my dear friend Pat had made for me for that lunch!!  We had a number of further small celebrations with various friends leading up to our departure on this trip at the end of March. Then celebrations continued with family when we arrived in Europe – that was very special. I have been thoroughly spoilt! Even the hotel here delivered a bottle of bubbles and left chocolate coated strawberries in the fridge for me.

The most stunning birthday cake


Birthday notes written by many friends

Bubbles from the hotel

Thank you Jonathan for organising these too

So what did I get up to today? We ended up deciding to spend the day in Santa Fe. We went to a gorgeous French bakery, Clafoutis, for breakfast (thanks for the tip Mario), had a walk around town, visited Loretto chapel to see its ‘miraculous’ staircase, returned to Canyon Road, the art gallery road which I first went to back in 2005 when I was looking for venues to hold an Aboriginal art exhibition, had a long chat with the owner of a new gallery there that was just setting up for their opening next week, walked around SantabFe some more, took the bus back to the hotel, rested for a couple of hours to snack and read more of my messages and went out to dinner – thank you Mmy for a delicious meal. And I got some gorgeous yellow roses from Anthony which was a lovely suprise – I had already got my Sidi Adventure boots, new chain and sprocket and even new front disc – what more could a girl want?!

Waiting for our bus to town

It’s official – I am now a Senior!!!

Delicious meal at Restaurant Martin, Santa Fe

One of the best deserts I have ever had

How weird to think I am now 60! How did that happen?! I don’t feel sixty, definitely not in the mind anyway – in the body at times, yes, I feel it, but for now, I can still ignore it mostly so I am determined to keep making the most of it.  Because, you never know what’s around the corner, so why put off to tomorrow the fun you can have today. No regrets, whatever happens… And luckily, I once got a card saying “ageing is inevitable, maturing is optional”!!! Won’t be maturing just yet…

– Anne

Enjoying the land of enchantment in Santa Fe

After crossing into New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, and visiting the tourist centre for maps and hotel/motel discount vouchers, we get to Tucumcari on Route 66. Originally founded in 1901 as a construction camp for the railroad construction, it was called Ragtown, it then became known as Six Shooter Siding, due to numerous gunfights and finally was renamed Tucumcari. You can imagine what it was like in its heyday, especially at night with all the neon lighting.

Blue Swallow motel, Tucumcari, NM

Blue Swallow motel, Tucumcari, NM

As we ride through, I notice one place has burnt down, then a second and wonder whether the fires were lit by desperate owners wanted to recoup some of their investment after their business went bankrupt. Then we see a third. It can’t be coincidence that 3 businesses have burnt down in the space of a few miles. So sad… I decide I no longer want to follow any of old route 66 as I found too many sad deserted places. I will remember Vega where we met the 2 local lawmen yesterday instead.

Burned down Shell petrol station outside Tucumcari, NM

Burned down Shell petrol station outside Tucumcari, NM

Finally a petrol station on Route 66 which is still open

Finally a petrol station on Route 66 which is still open

The stretch between Tucumcari and Santa Rosa was extremely gusty. Good neck strengthening exercise!! More storm clouds building and moving rapidly but we manage to dodge them. We spend the night at Santa Rosa, staying at a sad motel, after sharing a huge salad at the roadhouse across the road for dinner. It is good to see a Route 66 roadhouse that has not just survived but is thriving.

It is windy on our way to Santa Rosa

It is windy on our way to Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa roadhouse

Santa Rosa roadhouse

Anthony had heard of a good motorcycling road to Santa Fe. It feels great to finally get off the main road. Our pace has now slowed down wonderfully. We have plenty of time to get to Denver for our 24th June appointment for our 24,000 miles service for both bikes.

As we ride, we are reminded of our first trip to New Mexico in 1980. We loved it then, had promised ourselves to return on day in the summer, and here we are, loving it just as much. The smell of pines thanks to the heat takes back to that first visit. Isn’t it amazing how powerful smells can be?! I want to camp!! I really want to be out there. We see more and more bikes – all going much faster than us. We get to a little village called Madrid, spot a pub with a few bikes and decide to pull over and stop for lunch. Little did we know this old mine turned tavern was a well known stopping off pub for bikers!! Today, 80 Harleys are expected for lunch (86 turned up). What a sight!! And the noise!! This tavern was featured in the science fiction comedy movie Paul.

86 Harleys arriving At Madrid's Mine Shaft Tavern, New Mexico, for lunch

86 Harleys arriving At Madrid’s Mine Shaft Tavern, New Mexico, for lunch

Love her pigtails attached to her helmet -  marshall for the 86 Harleys arriving at the tavern

Love her pigtails attached to her helmet – marshall for the 86 Harleys arriving at the tavern

At Madrid's Mine Shaft Tavern, New Mexico

At Madrid’s Mine Shaft Tavern, New Mexico

At Madrid's Mine Shaft Tavern, New Mexico

At Madrid’s Mine Shaft Tavern, New Mexico

At Madrid's Mine Shaft Tavern, New Mexico

At Madrid’s Mine Shaft Tavern, New Mexico

Typical US letter boxes

Typical US letter boxes

Shortly after leaving, poor Streak began spluttering, badly. After a while, I asked Anthony to ride it so that he could feel what I was trying to explain to him (the jerking of the bike dying and suddenly restarting is hard on the body) and so that he too could explain Streak’s problem to Denver next week. Streak was worse than ever. We somehow managed to limp into Santa Fe. I knew, somehow, we would drive past a BMW dealer, and… we did! Very helpful, a service advisor rode my bike around the block. He is pretty sure the fuel injectors are clogged. He gives Streak a good dose of special fuel injector cleaner concentrate which will eventually work itself through the injectors. After a bit of a chat, we leave for a hotel I booked while at BMW, Anthony having put its location in his GPS. As usual whenever we are in cities with an address to go to, I follow as Anthony has the GPS. Streak is behaving. Thank goodness. We get 200 metres heading back to the main road, down the hill to the lights, start going through the lights and Streak dies. My first thought is of the red car behind me – I don’t want to get rear ended and put my flashers. Impossible to restart it. I turn around to let the car know I cannot move. I am in the left hand lane as we were turning left at the lights. Awkward spot to be blocking traffic!! I push myself as best and quickly as I can off the road. A biker waiting in the traffic at the red lights spots my predicament, calls out at cars next him to let him through, parks his bike and rushes over and pushes me off the road. Very very helpful. Anthony rejoins me having had to turn back to get back to me. Eventually Streak restarts, briefly then dies. Anthony offers to ride it back to BMW.

It is now 4.30pm Saturday afternoon, they close at 5 and tomorrow is an annual motorcycle fair in town for which BMW are the major sponsors, so it is frantic. On hearing and seeing us return so soon, all the mechanics comes out to see us. They offer to take Streak and clean out the fuel injectors and hopefully get to the bottom of this problem. This will take them 3 hours but they can only do that Tuesday morning as they are closed on Mondays. So they offer us a loan bike for the week end. Wow, so helpful. They only have 1200GS, which is too high for me, so Anthony will ride that one while I ride Storm. By the time we paperwork and I go to Streak to get my overnight bag out, Ben, the chief mechanic, has already started getting to the fuel injectors. Wow, what service!!! And dedication. It is now 5pm on Saturday.

Streak is now very sick - being looked at by BMW Santa Fe

Streak is now very sick – being looked at by BMW Santa Fe

I am now in charge of navigating with the GPS for the first time!! That means riding with my reading glasses at the tip of my nose, lucky it is long, so that I can read the GPS.

The hotel I have booked is a couple of blocks away from the old town square, so after a shower and change, we go for a lovely walk around the old town, share a salad for dinner with a glass of locally brewed cider and retire for the night early. We are both exhausted after the emotion of Streak dying and riding a loan bike.

Santa Fe cathedral

Santa Fe cathedral

Statue of Kateri Tekakwitha, first North American Idian saint

Statue of Kateri Tekakwitha, first North American Indian saint

After a leisurely breakfast and chatting to a few bikers over from Denmark, Norway and Sweden, we pack up and head for the classic Motorcycle Show in Eldorado, outside Santa Fe. We see some interesting machines, lots of custom bikes, some lovely characters.
This 6 horsepower diesel bike does 35kms/hr uphill and is one of only 2 in the US

This 6 horsepower diesel bike does 35kms/hr uphill and is one of only 2 in the US

Damian -  such a gentle soul

Damian – such a gentle soul

This biker's dog has sunglasses on!

This biker’s dog has sunglasses on!

It is a hot day, we retreat to an air conditioned restaurant for a cool drink. It is now 1pm. Do we still feel like riding out to Taos today, we ask ourselves? No, too hot and listless. Let’s find another hotel out of town, read “cheaper”, and stay here until Tuesday morning.

We stop at a factory outlet and get a couple of tops to replace our old ones – they have done well and it is now time to donate them.

Our new hotel is across the street from a movie theatre so we go to the movies for the first time this year. We saw Spy – a 007 spoof – very funny. I really enjoyed being entertained, the laugh out loud moments and loud music. You could say that we have been on sensory overload since we started this trip, having had so many experiences, visual, emotional, physical, intellectual, spiritual, cultural, culinary and olfactory but seeing this movie made me realise that I had missed a couple in particular: being surrounded by music, and being entertained by comedy – senses we hadn’t experienced for a while. We have watched movies downloaded onto our iPad which we listen through a great little speaker friends gave us before we left, but that sense of being completely surrounded by a story and music suddenly felt new. I am finding it hard to explain…

Monday comes and goes with a few walks, emails, banking, planning, chain tightening for Storm.

Some mobile homes also tow/carry boats, bikes in addition to cars!

Some mobile homes also tow/carry boats, bikes in addition to cars!

Evening storm cloud  building in Santa Fe

Evening storm cloud building in Santa Fe

Tuesday, we pick up Streak. Ben at BMW Santa Fe cleaned the throttle bodies, cleaned idle actuator & passages in the airbox, cleaned the fuel injectors and reset all adaptation values. He has gone for a good ride and all is well with Streak. We ask where to go to pay for this service. There is no charge. No charge?!?!?! Absolutely no charge. I cannot thank Ben and Teo enough, or recommend them highly enough.

Teo and Ben from BMW Santa Fe - such helpful guys!!!

Teo and Ben from BMW Santa Fe – such helpful guys!!!

We leave Santa Fe for Taos and Streak is purring beautifully.

– Anne