Took me a little longer to get out of the Farmington, NM area than I wanted. I'd been told the Aztec ruins were a must-see and since they're only about a half hour outside of Farmington and sort of on the way to Hovenweep National Monument, Utah, decided to check it out.
The Indian hotel clerk from Mumbai, was thrilled to chat about my travels in India and gave me good advice on how to get the best fares. Basically go around Christmas time. I asked him if the Aztec ruins were worth a stop. He hesitated and said they're worth seeing once. Turns out, thats about right... and, only if on the way. "Must-See" is a bit of a stretch, but the information was very good. They have a rebuilt Kiva there that's still used in Hopi ceremonies. It's actually a Hopi site and not Aztec. When the explorers discovered it, they were reminded of the Aztec ruins in Mexico and the name stuck.
Got a tip from a park ranger about a rode from Cortez, NM that cuts through the back way to Hovenweep. I was nervous since this road wasn't on any of my maps, or Google. But it was indeed there and a magnificent ride ta boot! It's basically the old country road to the airport, but I didn't see any airport. Just twisty roads that followed a shallow canyon and rounded the mountain all the way to Hovenweep, Utah.
I saw a white horse in a grand landscape along the way just before Hovenweep and wanted to get a shot, but as soon as I stopped and pulled off my helmet, my head was engulfed in a swarm of gnats. Decided I'd keep an eye out for another white horse along the trail and let this one go.
Turns out these gnats are a prominent feature of the area unfortunately. The park ranger called the constant swatting of gnats the "Hovenweep Salute". Luckily there was a little wind that cut them back a good deal and they all but disappeared by dark.
Had a sweet camp spot and slung my hammock right in the campsite shelter and sipped wine looking into the Milky Way. Just before sunset and getting my camp set up, a park ranger gave a good talk on the rim of the canyon about the ruins and petraglyphs. Turns out one of the attendees was also a Facebook "friend" I'd never met. He was a volunteer at the park and I technically still haven't met him, but it was cool to share space in a small world.
The next morning I was using a power socket in the campground bathroom to heat up water for my instant Starbucks, when another camper asked about my motorcycle, then invited me to have bacon and eggs with his son at his camp. I took the generous offer, but I think he really wanted some of my Starbucks that I shared with him. His son seemed thrilled to meet the guy on the motorcycle too, so that was cool.
There are plenty of reasons why many wouldn't dig camping, but one of the great things that sometimes happens, it that you meet complete strangers and swap some coffee for a bacon & egg breakfast... share stories, then wish each other a grand life. That alone makes fighting off gnats a fair trade.
Most of the impressive Hopi ruins at Hovenweep can be seen along a trail along a nearby canyon. A pretty hike and a few images of ruins later, I was packed and heading on my way to Goosenecks State Park in Utah. I'd wrongly assumed there to be camping there, so since it wasn't going to be a long ride, I went off road in the Valley of the Gods, cranked up my headphones, ate dust, and had a blast.
Was pretty beat by the time I actually got to Goosenecks, and a bit deflated to learn that there is no camping at Goosenecks. It's a very impressive overlook of some dramatic serpentine canyon twists and certainly qualifies as a legit "must-see" stop. It's just had I known I'd have to continue riding to find camp, I might have cut my joyful off-roading in the dirt a little bit.
Goosnecks is just outside of Mexican Hat, Utah... named after a rock formation that sort of looks like an upside down Mexican hat. It's a cool formation, but it really didn't look that much like a Mexican hat to me, but I did sense some sort of power coming from it that intrigued me enough to hang out below the base soaking it up.
Still had time to make Navajo National Monument, Arizona after riding through the ever majestic Monument Valley where I found my white horse once again. :)
Will continue updating my Instagram Feed when possible.
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Ride to Live!