July 12th – Earthships and Tool Sheds

For the last time this trip I awoke to the brilliant whiteness of morning light through the high sloping walls of the tipi. Not too much time for slacking this morning if we wanted to get to our destination before dark. Gianna fixed oatmeal while I brewed coffee and loaded a bowl. Our bellies temporarily satiated, we set about repacking all the motorcycle luggage. The sight of that bike fully loaded down, bungee cords strapped in all directions, french-press attached snugly on the exterior of it all, and hoops to top off the ridiculous contraption; I had to chuckle, pretty much every time. We left the bike fully loaded at the hostel, and walked across the street to get a smoothie from the organic food store. At this point, that oatmeal had happened nearly 2 hours past. We slurped down our smoothies quickly, filled our camelbacks, geared up, and hit the road.

Our route took us over the gorge bridge again. The crosswinds were strong, but the bike stayed true in it’s path. A short while later we came upon a truly spectacular sight. Dotting the landscape with their whimsical arches and bright colors were the 60 residences making up the Earthship village. After all the research I’d done on them, it was exhilarating to see them as real structures, not just a theory on green architecture. For the uninitiated, an earthship is a kind of off-the-grid sustainable home constructed out of on-site and recycled materials, featuring rain water catchment, water and gray-water recycling, indoor and outdoor food production, solar and wind power, and intelligent natural ventilation systems. In short, they are a complete self-contained human ecosystem, capable of supporting it’s residents with no outside inputs in a wide variety of climates. They tend to use thick, curved earthen walls, and lots of arches and other self-supporting shapes. We toured a finished earthship, and an under construction one. They’re very beautiful, and I can’t wait to have my own. They offer an internship here, and I will be applying for it when it’s a financial possibility.

As we saddled up to leave the earthships, there was a definite shift in the air. It felt like a storm, and I could only hope we were riding away from it, and not into it. As we headed north and west the air got cooler still, and we could see rain falling in isolated patches on the fields adjacent to our road. Perhaps 90 miles onward, our bellies began to beg loudly for something, anything, to fuel our journey. We saw a small restaurant on the side of the road promising hot dogs, hamburgers, and pizza. We opted for Pizza. At the rate we exert energy on this trip, a thick slab of carbohydrates covered in fat and greasy meats was exactly the sort of nourishment we needed. Oh yeah, and caffeinated sugar water in the form of Dr. Pepper. Dr. Pepper would become a daily companion on the journey, providing a crucial 4pm pick-me-up. While we sat out at the lone picnic table, the owner came out to talk to us about our journey. This is a frequent occurrence for us at stops like this. The comically burdened motorcycle, and two weary, smiling hippies so clearly on a grand adventure garners the curiosity of most we encounter. The owner was a rider himself, owning a fairly late model Harley Davidson. With a look at our BMW, he conceded that for the long tour, the BMW was definitely the superior bike. With a chuckle he confessed he just liked being really loud around town. Typical Harley rider. Our bellies full of delicious processed nastiness we set off once more. Only another hour to the Colorado border.

Our space camel greedily devoured mile after mile of twisty rural pavement, winding our way ever closer to state number 3. As we turned north, the rainfall ahead became visible, and the winds became icy. We pulled over to put on our water and wind-proof layers. I switched to my winter gloves, and stashed my helmet cam to prevent it from being damaged by the water. First a flew splatters on the visor, then more, then a steady downpour. I raised the windshield to it’s more shielding position, and sighed in relief as it created the intended warm dry air pocket around my torso. Good equipment is an invaluable companion, especially when adventuring. I remained relatively warm and dry through the rain, and we eventually came out the other side of that particular downpour. “Welcome to Colorado” proclaimed a sign. The skies displayed the beautiful calm that only follows the chaos of the storm. Rays of sun shone through gaps in the clouds in divine reverence to the beauty of the jagged landscape rising up around us. While the crossing into New Mexico had been largely uneventful, the change between New Mexico and Colorado was palpable, and the spectacular vistas left me breathless.

We were delayed about an hour due to road work happening on the very small bit of road that formed the only path between us and our destination. The work was actually so slow Gianna and I had time to hop off the bike, go take a leak behind a parked cement truck, and make it back before the line moved at all. Once we finally cleared the construction zone, we continued west at a pretty brisk pace. We stopped once more on the side of the road to munch some granola and dried fruit. About 45 minutes outside of Pagosa Springs, we hit more rainfall, this time much harder than the last. The icy water seeped insidiously into every exposed crevice in our gear. By the time we arrived at the RV park we intended to camp in, we were thoroughly soaked, and cold to the bone.

Fortune once more smiling upon us, the hosts of the camp were old bikers, and they greeted us very warmly, rushing us into the warm dryness of the office. Thunder roared outside as lightning flashed and the precipitation intensified. Not wanting to send us to set up our tent in such a downpour, he offered us the large tool shed to camp in for the night. We gratefully accepted, pulling the bike into the half-cylinder structure. We put it up on the center stand, and began to unload it. I turned away from the bike to examine the space we were trying to pitch a tent in, trying to figure out how it was going to fit, when a CRASH came from behind me. I turned around to see the bike lying on it’s side on the ground. The saddle bag that had been on the bottom had come detached from the force. Apparently the ground underneath the two-footed center stand had been a little softer on one side than the other, causing the bike to sink into the ground asymmetrically. Further inspection revealed that the metal latching mechanism responsible for holding it to the bike had sheared with the impact, rendering it unusable. FUCK. Though we’d intended to only stay here a night, it looked like it would be longer, as I would have to order a new saddle bag before we could continue our trek. With help from Gianna, we picked the bike up, this time resting it on it’s side stand supported on a bit of 2×4. Dampened both in body and spirit, we finished deploying our tent, bungee cording the stake-holes to heavy things stashed about the tool shed. Not pretty, but it would work. Of course, by the time we finished setting up, the rain had stopped, but there was no way we were going to take it all down now. We walked the 100 feet to the riverbed, and smoked a bowl in an attempt to restore our spirits. By the time we were done, our stomachs had remembered to be hungry, and we set about finding a restaurant. It looked like the only things open were on the far side of Pagosa Springs, about 30 minutes away. Thankfully, only the bag had broken, and the bike itself was still in perfect running order.

We rode to the bar/grill we’d found on Yelp, only to find that the kitchen actually closed earlier than the bar, and we couldn’t be served food there anymore. Fortunately, the bar/grill next door kept their kitchen open an hour later, so we still had 5 minutes to order when we got there. Fettuccine Alfredo with chicken for me. I don’t remember what Gianna had. Finally full, it was now time to address the other prime discomfort, which was the bone-chilling cold we still felt. The restaurant had been heated, but we were still damp and having trouble shaking off that feeling of just being really, really cold.

Fortunately, Pagosa Springs isn’t named that just for fun. The town has a hot spring that has been built into a resort type of place. We’d been told that they stayed open til midnight, and we showed up at 10:40. It turned out that we’d been informed incorrectly, and they actually closed at 11. Tragedy! However, due to the short time left, they’d just let us in for free for the remaining time. Tragedy averted! Gianna changed into the swimsuit she had wisely brought, while I just stripped down to my boxers and sank into the hot mineral water. The smell of sulfur permeated the area, but in light of the bliss I was experiencing in this very hot water left me beyond caring. The place was divided up into several pools of different temperatures ranging from 99 to 114 degrees. For this night, we spent most of our time at 102-104. When they finally came around to start reminding people to leave, it was 11:30, and we had achieved the deep warmth we’d been craving. We rode back to the RV park, crawled in our sleeping bags, and drifted off into an actually quite comfortable sleep.

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