I’m standing up, my only view is of the road in front, junipers rushing by. From this position I can’t see the bike at all. It feels as though I’m flying across the world, 6 feet off the ground. On an epic journey to nowhere.
We just left the town of Branson Colorado. It’s a town whose hayday has come and gone. The booming village of blacksmith shops, saloons, churches, hardware stores and department stores was abandoned when the rains stopped. It’s cold, windy and overcast. The town feels abandoned. The grey day casts a pallor. Empty and rolling sage brush hills stretch away to the horizon.
We break the silence and scootch on down the road, spitting gravel as we go. Pushing the emptiness back with our motors. I like the idea of living way out here. A solitary, self reliant existence. A garden, plenty of honest work to be done and very few distractions. I wish I was the type of person who could be happy out here but I’m not sure. I like the fraternity of civilization too much. The vital surge of living towns, people going to and fro, energy and action. Things to do, things happening around me. But it’s a love hate relationship. Too many cars, too much noise, too many rules, strangers and their strange habits. I guess, like everyone, we are in search of that perfect place. Our eden. This motorcycle trip is a part of that search. To explore the world and see where we fit in. It seems towns either are too big, too expensive and too self important or lifeless, ghosts of their former selves.
The motorcycles are great ways to explore. They break down barriers both between the world we pass through and the people we meet. In a car you are enclosed, the land is scenery outside a window. It passes by silently, without temperature or scent. On a motorcycle we are in the world. The earth passes by inches beneath our feet. We feel the temperature increase as the dirt changes to pavement. We smell the farms, the wind blows us sideways and when we stop people talk to us. They are curious about our dusty little dirt bikes and the mountain of gear. They ask us where we are going, where we’re from. They understand that we have thrown ourselves out into the world with no protection from the elements, no doors to lock. We are trusting in people and weather to see us through and they return that trust with helpful advice, idle chat and good wishes. I suppose it’s an allegory for life itself, what is that quote, “Leap and the net will appear?”
Somewhere through the maze of mesas and valleys is the hidden town of Trinidad. We came in the back door from an obscure dirt road. From extreme isolation we were suddenly on Main Street. A neon movie theatre, historic saloons, cafes, shops and the filling stations of Main street America. Our message of nothingness just outside the city gates is forgotten here amongst the Starbucks and McDonalds.
But Trinidad has history and charm. The 1880’s were good to this mining town on the Santa Fe Trail. Massive stone buildings fill city blocks. Huge, historic structures of rough cut sandstone. Banks, city hall, the fire station, a massive funeral home and still more haunted old buildings. Some of them forgotten but most revived to greatness. We catch views down brick streets of far off mesas, the land we left.
Trinidad is such a welcome little oasis in a land of nothingness that we decide to stay another day. We stroll to a coffee shop for steamed milk and espresso, then catch a farmers market, explore the last coal fired steam engine and wander into the historic library with it’s stained glass and antique sculpted steel book shelves. An older woman in a McDonalds uniform is sitting at the long wooden table reading the paper. We are the only other visitors.
It’s a miracle that we’re here. Riding a few miles each day for weeks brought us all the way. The slow pace has given us a more intimate portrait of the American South. Above all it is a land of genuinely nice people. They are musical, lyrical, religious, patriotic and kind. In the places we’ve traveled they are people of the earth. Hunters, farmers and folks who work outside, with their hands in the good earth.
Today we rest and let the bikes rest as well. Tomorrow we climb into the Rocky Mountains of Southern Colorado. I feel like we’re getting somewhere, really getting somewhere.