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It was a short ride up to the town of Hurricane in Utah from Las Vegas. I for one was excited to enter the mainly Mormon state, wondering if I would notice any major differences. What we found out is, the people are friendly, towns are clean and roads are in good condition nothing supernatural about Utah. In fact it had very impressive landscape for a European to see. Up until now aside from the desert area in California just before Nevada all of the various types of landscape we have seen are similar to different parts of Europe. But when you get to Utah you’ve left the familiar and entered something completely new. It would be like driving to the Middle East and visiting countries like Jordan, that’s how I imagine it anyway. Hurricane was our springboard into Zion National Park, this is a must see park if you’re ever in the region check out the pictures for a better idea. Once out on the other side of the park we had to decide whether or not to drive north to Bryce Canyon or turn south towards the Grand Canyon. Due to the fact that Bryce would be a significant gain in altitude for us and temperatures there had recently been in the 5 to -5 degrees Celsius range we opted to skip it and instead hopefully visit it sometime in the future.
We spent the night in Kanab southern Utah and the next day drove to the Grand Canyon through the worst gusting winds we have encountered on the trip as of yet. Weather was again definitely beginning to play a role in our decisions for where we would head to next. We had failed to notice during our planning that northern Arizona and New Mexico are both quite high in elevation. It’s like a giant plateau averaging out at about 1800m between the Grand Canyon and Albuquerque New Mexico which is where we are now. As a comparison when we were driving through the Canadian Rockies via Jasper the highest elevation that the road reached was only about 900 metres. So everyone knows the higher you go the colder it gets and you feel it on the bike. Therefore we opted for the fastest route to Albuquerque from Flagstaff to visit Elise an old friend of mine who we promised to stop by and say hello to when we are in the area.
It has now been roughly a week and a half since we arrived. We spent the first night in Albuquerque with Bronson and Karl, two lovely people my cousin Asa put us in touch with. But otherwise we’ve spent a lot of time with Elise, her husband Chris, and baby Iris who is 6 months old. I used the time to place some orders online for bike parts and tyres which were then shipped to Elise’s address. I ordered a new front sprocket, front and rear brake pads, a new thermo switch, new front and rear tyres (MEFO Super Explorers) and, heated grips. I didn’t install the sprocket or brake pads as the current ones aren’t worn out yet but I thought it’s better to order them now than try to get them in Central America. Installed the heated grips, changed the oil, changed the o-ring on the gear selector sensor which had been seeping oil for the past 2000km but not enough to warrant a job of its own, and most proudly I changed my first front tyre by hand. It was some job for me though because I chose a tyre with an extra heavy duty side wall, it was not very flexible and quite difficult to get onto the rim. Hopefully this new tyre will last until South America, I haven’t changed the rear one yet because it’s not worn out yet. We’ll carry the new rear one for another 2000km or so before mounting it.
We have been contemplating leaving our camping gear here in Albuquerque. We noticed that in the USA that it costs 25-30 dollars a night for a tent spot in a camp ground when it costs 30-40 dollars for a Motel room and Motel rooms are far more abundant. Not only that but when I say it costs 25-30 dollars for a tent spot that is only when you’re lucky enough to actually find a “campground” that allows tents. Most campgrounds say no tents, RVs (massive campervans) only. It’s a little frustrating that these RV parks call themselves campgrounds online because when you type in a search you get a lot of hits for campgrounds but fact is most won’t allow tents. You can of course camp with your tent in National Parks but most of the time we haven’t been in or near one when we’re looking for somewhere to bed down. This scenario got us thinking and I checked with some others who have travelled through central and south America by motorbike whether they used their camping gear or not. The feedback was unanimous in saying don’t bring it, it’s not necessary. This would work out great for the ride and handling of the bike, dropping 10kg and two cumbersome bags from the side panniers can only be a good thing. Anyway the decision hasn’t been made yet, we’ll see.
Albuquerque is the home of the TV show Breaking Bad and we arrived on the tail end of a huge fan fest. I have to admit I’ve never watched the series but it seems everybody else on the planet has, Elise and Chris used to live just around the corner from the main character Walter White’s house (at least the house where he was supposed to live) so one day we went over and chatted with the owner (see pics). When we arrived Netflix were filming a documentary outside, she told us people come every day and sometimes try to throw pizzas on her roof but all in all she seemed to like the attention.
We have been on several hikes around Albuquerque including one to Tent Rock National Monument about an hour north of the city. Also as we are in New Mexico which is home to the development of the first nuclear bomb there is a museum of Nuclear Science in Albuquerque which was worth the visit. It was pretty strange to walk around it and view all of the various types of nuclear ordinance which has been developed over the years. The Trinity Site which is where the first nuclear detonation took place is about 3 hours south of Albuquerque but its only open to visitors once a year in April.
Next on the schedule is Mexico, we haven’t made our mind up yet where to enter and whether to travel down the east or the west coast. Sometime over the next two weeks we should be crossing the border, if east then through Texas, if west the San Diego or Yuma. Whichever way the wind blows.