Here is our route so far. Four days, 197 miles (319 km): slow. But pale frail Jeffrey, ox-like, keeps going.
The road today dropped and climbed and dropped and climbed again, and again, and again. We got up to 36 mph on downhills. On some of the poorly paved, steep uphills, sometimes 3 mph was a push. Winds were calmer; what a relief!
Words and photos don’t do justice to the beauty of the country between El Malpais and Gallup, but words and photos are all we have to share with you.
We listen to the meadowlarks and to the wind, and we look and look and look.
Local squirrels have extravagant tails and tufted ears. This squirrel lives at the Cimarron Rose B&B and is comfortable around humans. At the same site, we were buzzed by hummingbirds too quick to photograph.
This roadside bull snake would eat the squirrel if it could catch it. Jeffrey reckoned the snake was at least 4 feet long.
Something dashed across the road too far ahead for Jeffrey to identify. Elk? Note the rumble strip that narrows the shoulder. Today’s pavement varied from wide smooth shoulder, to gravel on asphalt, to no shoulder at all.
This corral was built against a rock wall.
This corral stood alone on the range.
We passed from Navajo territory to the El Morro National Monument and through Zuni land.
Here’s a full frontal of the rockface you see to the left of the El Morrow sign.
To see the forest fire watch tower, look about halfway between the left edge of the photo and the rocks that resemble a castle tower.
Rocks and trees, in doses small enough to grasp.
There are rock columns toward the right and left at the base of this mesa. Formations like this are in every direction.
The people are as great as the landscape.
Nixon, descended from the Navajo and Apache nations, was to have been named Nixion, an Apache name. The birth certificate was misspelled, and as he noted with understated wit, he has had to live with the consequences. Nixon lives on a small Navajo reservation. He maintains tanks and equipment for the local water system. Like other First Nations people we’ve met, he doesn’t think it’s right to turn one’s back on refugees, who are people—as we all are people.
A couple of bystanders (one of them a former bicycle racer) admired the Sprint 26 but declined to take a spin. Nixon gave it a try. He’s our man! (He loved it.)
Outside Gallup, Sanjay crossed the highway to greet us. He’s training for a bike race in Durango that takes place above 11,000′ (3300 meters). He works with a nonprofit that helps the homeless of Gallup, a city of about 21,000. Sanjay met his wife at UCBerkeley and followed her home to Gallup (as Jeffrey followed Nancy to NYC). Earlier in his career, Sanjay worked with human rights groups, including some in Asia. Although he was biking in the opposite direction from Jeffrey and me, Sanjay’s work to give shelter (a human right) makes him a fellow traveler of us, and of Human Rights First.
Emmad grew up in the city of Nablus, in what variously is called Palestine, the West Bank, Samaria . . . for him, it was just home. Then, as a teenager, he joined relatives in Gallup. Now Gallup is home. He is a successful hotel owner, a kind man, and a philosopher. When Jeffrey told him about the Ride, Emmad thanked Jeffrey warmly for helping refugees, and gave a generous discount for rooms for Jeffrey and George. (Kangaroo puppets stay free.) Then he and Jeffrey talked about how people everywhere just want a decent life—but selfish rulers have other agendas.
Emmad said he always felt welcome in Gallup. As he should: an aspect of “American exceptionalism” is that America is the country of its inhabitants.
Nixon, Sanjay, Emmad: all Americans.
Theirs is the America we love.