We had enjoyed the peace and quiet of Fort Sumner for two nights and now it was time to get back on the road.
The first road, just side of town, was pretty straight and quiet and we rode the 44 miles to Santa Rosa (still in New Mexico) feeling full of beans and ready for a long days’ ride..
Santa Rosa was a great stop. First a drive (ride) in bank for some cash (no bank that we could find in Fort Sumner)
Next on the agenda was a proper breakfast – and, looky-here… a Denny’s right opposite the bank. Sustaining egg, bacon and hash browns, a couple of cuppas and we’re done. One last thing – fill up with fuel and, fortune smiling again, the gas station was next to Denny’s and, with a convenient right turn right onto -I-40W – the interstate west to Albuquerque. Fine – if a little busy. As you ride this freeway, for much of the time you can see the old R66 running alongside – some parts are still driveable roads – others are merely overgrown old tracks; at one point I noticed two wonderful, derelict old cars abandoned on the Mother Road – oh, my photographer’s heart so wished we could have stopped.
The approach to Albuquerque gradually became a little congested – not too much though. As we turned off on our exit to Bernalillo, I breathed a sigh of relief we didn’t have to negotiate all those flyovers!
We stopped at a gas station just off the ramp. Owned by Arabs, they charged way over the odds for the petrol.
Our next stop was Cuba. I followed the usual routine – climb off bike, remove helmet, root for my plastic bag containing paper, pen and money. Write down the mileage on the odo and the total mileage on the clock. Walk into the gas station – you nearly always have to pay upfront – give them around $15 and then I go and get drinks for the 2 of us whilst J fills up. Once done, I collect my change.
We were now on a Reservation – own laws, own police etc. As I stood at the coffee machine, a Tribal police officer came in. He collected some eats and a drink then went to the counter. The owner of the gas station said – in a serious voice, ” Officer, we cannot allow you in here bearing arms – we sell alcohol. Can you please leave the store and take your firearms out to your vehicle.”
I couldn’t make out what the officer replied – and the store owner continued ragging (it now became clear they were playing out a familiar routine) him about having his guns in the store. The owner’s wife then joined in – ” If you don’t comply, officer, I’ll have to TAZER you”.
Then I noticed this sign
J and I stood outside drinking our coffee, the owner came out to talk to us – he told us he always liked to rib the young cops.
Next towns were San Isidro, Bloomfield and finally, Aztec.
At the start of town was a small motel that looked like our type – mom and pop with direct access to rooms.
The owner came out and said he had a room. He looked like a biker – long hair, bandana and tats. And he was – once. Three years ago, he had been T-boned by a drunk driver; they were both in pick-up trucks. He had to be cut out – the drunk was dead. This guy lost an eye and a lot of the right side of his face, as well as sever damage to his legs.
We booked in, paid up and moved the gear into the room; very clean. Then we took a walk into town and found a Safeway – first one we'[ve seen in the USA, even though we know that Safeway came to the UK from the states. It was a good supermarket and we bought a salad main and a fruit salad for afters – needed some vitamins and a change from the burgers and hot dogs we usually end up with on the road.
Over on one side, a bike caught our attention – lovely bike, a Kawasaki – but very un-Kawasaki-like. We started checking it out. Nice and low, shaft drive mmm.
The owner came out – said he saw us looking at his bike on the CTV. We chatted more with him and he told us the accident had cost him everything – more than $160,000 in medical fees, more in lawyers and still, the case was unresolved. An autopsy had shown the dead driver was over twice the legal limit but, as the dead person, the law here means the survivor has to bear the brunt of the outcome. He is fighting the case still – it seems so terribly unfair and my heart went out to this really nice guy.
He had been an avid biker – nowadays, he could barely ride. Loss of an eye means that, to see over his right shoulder, he has to twist his head over enough to be able to use his left eye and leaning into a curve to the right is a nightmare – he has no sense of how far over the bike is.
In fact, this was the second instance on this day that the realities of health care in the USA is a dread for the average person. That morning in the motel in Fort Sumner, the wife of the couple had spoken to us at length. They were trying to sell the motel. Her husband had had two strokes and heart surgery. They hadn’t had much in the way of medical insurance and so, all their savings were gone and the motel, which they had built and run for 32 years, needed to be sold to help pay off their debts. What can I say? We criticise the NHS in the UK, but health care is always free and doesn’t bankrupt us.