Crossing to Colorado (3 of 4)

While I was waiting for the weather to warm up, and perhaps galleries to open – I hadn’t really decided how I’d spend the day – I did a couple of hours of computer work from my room, smiling out at the Tiger grazing beneath the tree in front of the window.

When I wandered over to the lobby for breakfast, some of the guests were discussing the great scenic roads around Taos, the Enchanted Circle. Other guests were discussing the celebration at Taos Pueblo, which was to include dancing with viewing open to the public. I knew immediately I’d seen enough galleries the previous evening, even if some had only been through the window!

I decided to save the local riding tour for another trip, and headed up to the pueblo. The young man waving cars into the parking lot waved me up by the little shelter. It was very kind of him. At the same time, that area was all gravel. Dangerous surface for someone fairly new to riding, sitting on a bike just a leeettle too tall for her. I missed the spot the first time and had to circle around, very slowly and carefully. But I made it without falling over! I don’t know why he chose to have me park there, but I was certainly grateful for the close-in spot and the shade. I thought about thanking him in Hopi, but wasn’t sure that was the right language here. When I’d attended the Kachina dances on Second Mesa, I learned that the men would thank the women who cook, saying “ish-quah-lee.” The bigger the thanks, the more “eee” on the end. So if you want seconds, it’s “ishquahlEEEEEeeeeee.” And if you don’t want her to put your shoes outside the door (divorce in a matriarchal society), there’d better be lots of ishqualEEEEEEEeeeee. eeeeee. eeeeeee.

After I got my gear off and stowed on the bike, the young man came over to explain the day to me. Turned out it was May 3, their Catholic feast day, Santa Cruz. No photography, videos, or recordings allowed in the pueblo for the whole day. The dances would start around 1pm (which I knew quite well meant “when it’s the right time, later”). Meanwhile, the shops were opening (it was about 11am) and I could wander the public areas of the pueblo. Later there would also be native food – frito pie and fry bread. Given my travel schedule, I knew I didn’t really have time for either. And I was sorry not to be able to gather some images. You can find some pictures and history of the pueblo at As for me, I began wandering through the pueblo.

Ahead and to the right was the church, and to my left was the cemetery. The overlay of Catholicism within the ancient adobe walls tugged at my heart. But as with so many conquered people, they’d retained their own traditions. I learned that the feast day of Santa Cruz was being celebrated by the First Corn Dance. This dance is done by the children, then joined by the mothers. I found a picture of a young girl ready to participate at It is a community dance, bringing people together and blessing the spring crops similar to the Maypole dances held in European cultures on May 1.

I hadn’t planned the visit, or prepared with any background information. So as I wandered, I asked various people about their art and small pieces about the pueblo and the celebration. People have lived there for over 1000 years. About 20 or 25 currently live within the pueblo walls, with the rest of the tribe opting for more modern houses nearby with running water and electricity. People who live in the pueblo have generally held the houses for many generations. I consider what it would be like, living with such simplicity. Following the traditional ways. My camera, my computer, my cell phone have stayed outside the gate with my motorcycle. And even those… in just a few lifetimes, they’ll be considered old fashioned. How did that Karen ever live following those traditional ways? Or perhaps the tales will be of Karen Coyote, creatively disruptive, making space for new ways. Trickster.

Inside the shops, the walls are cool and the light is low. I have to wait for my eyes to adjust each time I step through a doorway. The shopkeeper sits quietly to one side, welcoming me in a low voice. I ask about what they’ve made, what their relatives and neighbors have contributed. Local artists create beautiful pottery with their clay, just a little sparkle natural to it. The woman with the pots shows me the different ones for grandmothers and grandfathers, distinguishable by the traditional hair styling. I am tempted by a fist-sized bowl shaped as a grandmother wrapped in her blanket, with corn etched into the fold. But my motorcycle luggage is already over-full and the fragile clay would simply be crushed. Wasting such a lovely piece of art would just be wrong. I am reminded of the importance of traveling with less baggage.

Paintings and metal sculptures, jewelry, flutes and pipes and tomahawks, spirit arrows and animal skins, as well soaps and candles. Thankfully none of the imported junk offered to tourists in the city. A woman who makes about a dozen different things lets me know her shop will be closed by 1, and the dances will start “after that.” She has a son who is dancing. She wishes her other son were here to dance, too. He is a very good dancer. But he could only be there for the feast the night before. He had to return to college in Albuquerque. I ask what he is studying. Biology. My son wants to study biology, too, I tell her. My son is the same age as her younger son. Because she has a son dancing, she will join the mothers’ dance later in the afternoon. I will be many miles up the road, dancing my way home to my son. Our mother-hearts touch for a moment.

I walk through the central space where the dancing will take place. I would enjoy the dancing. And googlemaps says it’s 10 hours home from here. No snow on the ground (I hope), but “miles to go before I sleep, miles to go before I sleep.” I walk back out to the parking area and gear up. The fellows want to know about the Tiger. These are somebody’s sons, curious about what’s new. They will not attend the dancing. These are the warriors who guard the perimeter, keeping the traditions safe. Facing outward, protecting what is within. We stand not-quite-facing and chat for a bit about machines and traveling, seasons and dancing. Another car pulls up. They wish me safe travels. In my heart, I bless their life journeys. A-ho.

And then I’m soaring along the pavement again. Flute music rather than drumbeat of footsteps. The Tiger has a very high pitched overtone to its engine. I’d said it sings soprano. Today I like the flute analogy better. Finally I turn onto the highway, open the throttle, and grin at the answering music.

Not too long after, I left the Land of Enchantment behind and returned to Colorful Colorado.

It was another hour before I arrived in a town. I was HUNGRY! I stopped in a coffeeshop for a sandwich, but the view from across the street beckoned! I didn’t even try to resist.

With both our tanks full, the Tiger and I rolled on through southern Colorado.

Here are some of the best in-motion parts of that segment of the ride:

And did you see this sign in the video?

The S-curve was having so much fun, it fell right over!

As I headed up into the hills, I found a truck stopped in the middle of the road. Just stopped. In Colorado, that means wildlife. Sure enough, big horn sheep. I was excited ~ I’d only spotted them once before.

Here are some sections of CO-96, starting with the bighorn sheep and a friendly wave to a group of bikers.

In Westcliffe, I was ready to stretch my legs and stop for gas. A couple cruisers were lounging outside the convenience store. Somebody’s sons with bandanas and white beards and Mountain Dew. As I walked up, one said “Time for a break?” I said, “Time for chocolate!” and they grinned. We chatted when I came out, well, mostly they told stories while I ate my chocolate. About places they’d gone, places they dream of going. Stories about people they’d met. A rainy day, driving a truck, picking up a bicyclist – and his bike, and his trailer, and his dog trailer, and his dog. About the conversation, and how he remembered it still all these years later.

I realized that was not going to be where I spent the night. Partly ‘cause I wasn’t ready to stop yet, still having fun. And partly ‘cause there’s no place there to stay! Sooooo, a choice. I could push on toward home, but really didn’t need to make up any time. And I’d read in Steve’s book how beautiful Highway 50 was over toward Salida. So that’s the direction I turned.

And it was indeed beautiful! The road snuggles with the Arkansas River and I could see people enjoying it in all their different ways: swimming and rafting and fishing and camping. A totally delightful road to ride bending back and forth along the bank of the river. The low sunlight glittered off the water, dancing and laughing right along with me. I’d put the camera away for the day, but I’ll share some pictures in tomorrow morning’s installment.

After a loop around Salida, I settled on a hotel and took off my helmet to go see if there was a room. Note to self: do not pull so close to left side of portico that you can’t get off the bike and around the luggage. A fellow outside watering plants in his undershirt hollered at me, asking what kind of bike was that in a disdainful European accent. I know the Tigers are still unusual, so I smiled and told him the name, that it was a Triumph. He was quite belligerent, challenging where that came from, saying I should have a motorcycle made in Spain! I assumed he must be Spanish, although his accent was more eastern European. And I’m pretty new on the motorcycle scene… I couldn’t think of any made in Spain. What was he getting at? I puzzled searching for common ground as he headed for the hotel door. I finally told him I didn’t know any Spanish marques, what did he suggest? “You should have a Harley. Everyone wants a Harley.” I may be new, but even I know Harleys are NOT made in Spain! He broke into loud laughter, and I was quite ready to laugh with him.

The man turned out to be the owner of the hotel. He declared he would put me in the room next to the Harley people. I never saw them, although I did hear them arrive back from dinner a couple hours later. The owner was equally abrasive with everyone. The angry shouting into the phone could be heard most of the evening, all the way down in my room. Many times I heard his wife trying to calm him down. Pretty surprising considering the number of “Best Of” awards outside. Unpleasant as it was, again I thought how different it would be to live within his culture of one. To always be angry, believing he had to constantly fight to get what was due him. This was also somebody’s son. What kind of family dinner table had this son sat around? Had he ever felt heard? They had a pair of canaries in the lobby. The birds were probably deaf. In an odd way, there was a peacefulness listening to him. I did not have to fight those battles, or use those tactics. Gratitude for that blessing. His was simply a different life experience. I did not need to make it ok for him, or for any fellow travelers. I could leave if I wanted, or stay and not have it bother me. Within the chaos, freedom.

Once my head hit the pillow, I didn’t hear another thing.

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