We were officially in New Mexico, the state of the first nuclear bomb, aliens and Breaking Bad.
After having ridden through a nice bit of dirt ranch roads that took us from Texas to New Mexico we arrived at White Sands National Monument. White Sands is an area with sand dunes as white as snow rising up in the middle of the dessert. We got in for free, I think because it was late in the day, and had a wander around. We met a really cool local family with the two funniest boys who talked about how creepy Ronald McDonald was. White Sands sits right next to a missile testing range and nearby is the spot where the world's first nuclear bomb was tested in 1945.
The woman at the park office told us about a free camp spot only a few miles up the road and as we are ever trying to save money we took the opportunity to camp there. There wasn't much there but it was free and no one around except prariedogs bustling around after dark. Prairie dogs aren't actually dog for those of you who don't know, they're a rodent who looks a bit like meercats. This is what they look like.
Next day we rode further west to the town named: Truth or Consequences. The story goes that this small town used to be known as Hot Springs but changed its name after a radio show named Truth or Consequences did a competition to see if they could get a town to rename itself after the name of the show. Here we decided to stay in a motel for only the second time in the US. We were lazy and though we needed a treat basically which I guess we deserved after freezing out butts off so much lately. It costs about $45 so it wasn't massively expensive anyway. After a nice and warm night's sleep, only interrupted by the rants of some crazy woman in the hallway, we left Truth or Consequences to ride through Gila National Forest which proved to be one of the most scenic rides so far in the US. The road took us up into pine forests and was so windy that I actually became motion sick! In my defense I had already been a little nauseous in the morning but this road did definitely not make it any better! So I was glad when the road turned into dirt and started stretching out a bit more. The weather was great, blue skies and the sun warming our skin under our heavy motorcycle gear. That was until we hit the snow line and the road in front of us was ice. We rode carefully over it and luckily the ice didn't last for long as we started descending again. This was thanksgiving weekend and many hunters were out and about, always dressed in top-to-toe camo gear of course. We took a small track off the road and set the tent up next to a firepit and then started collecting a massive pile of firewood to last us through the cold night. We ended up needing less than half of what we had collected but at least there will be more than enough for the next person who comes through!
We woke up in the morning to shots in the distance from hunters but we're pretty used to that by now, having camped in so many forests and it being hunting season. We just hope they don't mistake us for deers!
We crossed the state border to Arizona and rode to Grand Canyon. We always imagined Grand Canyon to be a giant hole in the ground in a big flat landscape but we were surprised to see thet it was surrounded by mountains and forest! We came in late in the afternoon so we camped just outside the park boundary and came back the next morning to take a look around. And it really is a stunning place. The sheer scale of the Grand Canyon is quite overwhelming. Carved by the Colorado River the canyon is 446 kms long, up to 29 kms wide and nearly 2 kms deep. If we had had more time there I would have liked to go down into the canyon and camp down there. Inside the canyon it is about 10 degrees warmer than at the top.
After Gran Canyon we rode south again to Flagstaff which was freezing, did our shopping at the local Walmart (which by the way has been very disappointing in the lack of freaks as seen on People of Walmart) and then on to Sedona which we thought was going to be warmer but sadly wasn't. It was getting late and so we pulled in to a campsite next to the road and found out it was $20 per night for nothing more than a spot to put your tent. We were about to head off to find another place to camp when the woman running the camp offered to cough up $10 to halve the fee. We declined but she insisted - she did not want to see us riding into the night (it was already dark by then) trying to find a place to camp. So because of this kind woman, Steph, an astronomer from New Mexico, we had a place to sleep for the night. Here we also met a really cool couple from Colorado, Jamie and Lea who were there to ride their mountain bikes around the Sedona area which is meant to be a great place for mountain biking. We all kept warm in front of the campfire of two Texans who invited us all up to have a "Dutch Oven" which we found out has an entirely different meaning here than where we come from - here it simply means baking a cake in a casserole on the fire...so instead of getting high we had a bread and butter pudding! We had some interesting discussions on guns (what else!?) and I was glad to finally have met some Americans who are anti-guns (not the Texans obviously) as travelling through the South you can be forgiven for thinking that every American is pro-gun. It seems that the closer we get to the coast again people's attitudes are changing slightly. Which is good! It was a really cold night again and Jamie and Lea very kindly gave us some heat packs to keep us warm which I have tried before. Well, now I wish I knew about these things when I was in Ushuaia! They are awesome. I stayed warm and toasty that night and Jamie and Lea gave us another six the next morning to take with us that's how cool these guys were!
Sedona was a nice area but because the weather wasn't the best we didn't hang around too long and started heading north west towards Vegas where we had an ADV rider to stay with. We rode a bit of the Route 66 which is now split into other roads so it's not the easiest to find but we did manage to get a photo taken of the Route 66 painted on the road. We were headed for Vegas, baby...
Some hilarious kids we met
Another free camp spot
Yucca plant, very common in the dessert
The oddly named town 'Truth or Consequences'
So who's idea was it to travel through the US in winter anyway???
Setting up camp
Thank god for firewood!
We never saw the sign when we entered the state so this is actually taken as we leave New Mexico
And then we cross into the next state: Arizona!
Camping outside Sedona - here with Jamie and Lea
A cold and grey day on Route 66