Spirit Traffic is the story of the 10,000-mile motorcycle trip the author C. Jane Taylor took with her husband, John, and son, Emmett, to celebrate Emmett’s college graduation. They were all new riders, and it was their first trip. In May, Jane and John took Spirit Traffic back to the road on their BMW 650 GSs for a 97-day national book tour. Below is her eighth installment of Postcards from the Road, which will be published every Monday.
Related Story: C. Jane Taylor Rides 6,000 Miles on National Book Tour
The last time we rode through the Navajo Nation, we thought it was hot. That was early June 2015. That was child’s play. Today’s ride was later in the season and hotter by far, but we were better prepared with t-shirts and neckerchiefs soaked in cold water and Camelbak water bags filled with ice water (recommended by one of our Chicago hosts – thanks, Steve Goode!). Though we rode out from our campsite at Hovenweep National Monument – an international dark park and home to Puebloan ruins circa 1200 A.D. – at dawn, we were toast by midafternoon.
As we rested and lunched on Triscuits and hummus in the shade of the awning at Basha’s Diné Market in Burnside, Arizona, a Navajo elder drove up in his shiny silver pickup, opened the window of his air-conditioned cab, and asked if we were okay.
“Just hot,” said John.
The elder wanted to know where we were going, where we were from, and where we were staying. John walked up to the truck to answer his questions and visit. When he mentioned Vermont, the elder made a “long way” gesture stretching out his arm and pointing east. Then he gave us ice cream.
He and his wife had just purchased a box of chocolate-covered vanilla ice cream pops which was funny because of a conversation John and I had earlier whilst sweltering in our helmets on Highway 191. We had been riding for what felt like days through extreme heat in a particularly depressing part of the Nation riddled with dead cars, stray dogs, and panhandlers, when I said into the intercom, “You don’t see a lot of Teslas in the Nation.” He agreed.
Within one mile, a shiny grey Tesla Model Y (the super fancy kind) zipped passed us in the opposite lane. We laughed and laughed.
“You don’t see a lot of microbreweries in the Nation,” John joked hopefully.
“You don’t see a lot of ice cream shops in the Nation,” I retorted.
Thank you, Diné.
Days 44 & 45 – We visited with all six McConnell brothers and their mom in Colorado Springs. Barbara has dementia and knows none of them, but she seems to know she likes them. Together we sorted through family photos from the last one hundred years. In quiet moments, she recognized and named some of the photo subjects. She seemed to enjoy herself. I did, too.
Day 46 – Between Eaton and Cheyenne, Wyoming, a 45-mile stretch of high dessert emptiness, we encountered wind, driving rain, and lightning. We thought we could outrun the storm. Not a good call! Sorry, Mom. We sheltered at the Red Lion Inn in Cheyenne.
Day 47 – I was feted in grand style with a dozen roses, an engaged audience, and a microphone at Matt Sprinkle’s home in Laramie, Wyoming. Matt is John’s high school buddy and garage-bandmate. We had a great night of stories.
Day 48 – After an epic day of riding thanks to Butler Maps – motorcycle-specific maps that rate the twisties – we camped in Leadville, Colorado, in the Molly Brown Campground on Turquoise Lake in the Pike-San Isabel National Forest.
Day 49 – “We rode at dawn.” (This is an in-joke in the Free Rangers Motorcycle Club in which “We ride at dawn” often morphs to “We ride at 9,” and sometimes, “We ride at 11-ish.”) Another great day of astonishing beauty and great motorcycling. Route 50 West was closed so we asked the woman at the visitor center in Gunnison for route advice. She suggested Route 149, which exceeded all expectations, including those of mudslides, moose, hill climbs, extreme cold, and heat. Don’t get me wrong, this was the best riding of my life to date. We camped after a chilly, rainy mountain climb, a technical dirt road, and a herd of curious cattle in the road on the way to North Clear Creek Campground.
Day 50 – We rode through the Canyon of the Ancients to the middle of nowhere and camped at Hovenweep National Monument, on the border of Colorado and Utah. Wow! This might be the most magical National Monument or Park I’ve ever seen.
Day 51 – Extreme heat, thunderstorms, ice cream, beautiful and welcoming people … In the morning, we rode through Monument Valley (my chapter about it in Spirit Traffic is called “Monumental Assholes”) and took a photo at Forest Gump Hill, “Run, Forest, run!” We’re camped tonight in the Navajo Land Inn in Window Rock. Our neighbors are mostly rodeo riders and their families.
Keep the rubber side down, my friends.
Spirit Traffic can be purchased on the author’s website CJaneTaylor.com. It is also available on eBook, audio book read by the author.