Rides, Rallies and Events Recap

Touring America's Southwest - A Biker's Diary

Written by  May 31, 2005

For some years I have wanted to take a trip to America’s Southwest on my motorcycle, and shared this notion with Jon Watkins, my friend and riding buddy, a couple of years ago. He was way ahead of me, having already thought the plan through and even gathered some information about the sites and attractions there. Jon and I have ridden together for years, and have traveled this country from rally to rally, mountaintop to beach, and lots of places in between.

I am a some-time photographer and a full-time computer geek, and Jon chases computer hackers for a living. An unlikely pair considering the miles we’ve ridden (no place to plug in the laptop – hell we wouldn’t take 'em anyway), but put some leather on us and point at a stretch of road, and we’re gone before you can say… well, anything. Jon always leads, I always sweep. I’ve followed him for more than 20,000 miles on my Harley-Davidson Heritage, and I can tell you exactly what the back of a Fat Boy looks like (the bike, not Jon.)

My concept of this trip matched Jon’s exactly. Get there as fast as possible, ride whatever direction the wind blows, and take lots of pictures. I wanted to add some of those scenic vistas to my portfolio, and I have a special fondness for old buildings and ruins. I also shoot glamour, and posted a notice on one of the modeling boards that I was coming out that way, and if anybody wanted to shoot while I was out there we’d hook up.

With only a week to spend, we didn’t want to waste half of it getting there and back, so we opted for the rare choice of trailering part way to make up time. Another rare choice for me was to keep a travel journal – something I have never done before. I share it with you here. What you will read is my nightly round-up of the days activities, and with the exception of correcting a few partial thoughts and some parenthetical background info, you’re getting it word for word exactly as I wrote it.

Friday, June 25th, 2004

Left today for our motorcycle trip across the desert. I had prepared the guys at work with the fact that I was planning on leaving at noon, and left about 12:15. Jon rode his bike over to my office, and had loaded it in the trailer before I got out there, so we just jumped in the truck and took off. I hope my truck makes it, but with two bikes in the trailer we’re sure not to get stuck somewhere.

We’re headed for Grand Junction, CO, about 800 miles away, and we are planning on leaving the trailer there and heading off on the bikes. We wish we had the time to ride the whole way, as we did to Myrtle Beach two years ago, but as we only have a week we decided to trailer to the starting point and go from there.

Leaving my wife Christy and the kids at home makes me sad, but I’m looking forward to the ride. One really sad thing was that my youngest daughter Amanda (age 13) got up at 6:00 a.m. to see me off, but I had already gone. Made my heart sink to miss that, but made me feel good at the same time. Got to the office at about the time she got up, and at around 9:00 I called the florist and sent her some flowers.

During the first hour of the trip, Jon and I conferred and reassured ourselves that we had no plans whatsoever. Just going to ride and ride – no particular time schedules. During that conversation we discussed what to do with the trailer in Grand Junction, and wondered if there was a Harley dealership there. Called Troy at work on the cell phone and told him our plans, and asked him to look it up on the Internet. Not only did he do that, but he also called them to ask if it was okay. They said it was, so we’re happy.

Five hundred miles of ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! I drove the first 500 miles, and barely had to turn the steering wheel. Damn, Kansas and Eastern Colorado are flat! Filled up three times at over $40 a pop. About 50 miles to Denver, Jon took over the driving, and thank God he did. Hit rain and the Rockies and dusk all at the same time. I was white-knuckling the passenger seat, but Jon was cool… except in Brekenridge, where he drove over the sidewalk on a traffic circle.

Anyway, about 100 miles to Grand Junction we switched back. We were both tired, but determined to get there tonight. Got into a lively discussion about photography and it woke us both up. Cruised into Grand Junction at about 2:15 local time, which is 3:15 at home. 15 hours. Must remember that for the return trip.


Why are these hotel parking lots full, and what the hell is “Country Jam?” Apparently it’s a four-day festival of country music singers, and is the biggest thing to hit town all year. Thousands of visitors, and all the hotels are booked solid for 2 hours in every direction. So much for “no plans whatsoever.” Maybe we should have made reservations for at least the FIRST night. We stopped at several to no avail, but finally found a dive for $90 bucks a night. However, we can’t park the truck and trailer there, because the lot is too small. That’s what we get for trailering out here, dammit. Knew the road gods would get us for that one. The owner, a woman with a thick accent we found out was Polish, said there was another place down the road, apparently belonging to her relative. “He’ll have some rooms, but only if he’s awake.” So we went there, “The Frontier Motor Lodge,” and rang the bell. After a couple of minutes, a man with a thick Polish accent came to the desk looking like he was sleeping VERY soundly before we woke him up. He had a couple of rooms ($45 per night) and checked us in. During check-in, I apologized for waking him up, and he said, “Well…” (long pause) “it is the time for sleeping…” He turned out to be a pretty nice guy, though, and waved at me in the morning.

Saturday, June 26th, 2004

We got up at 8:00 a.m. and I went out to start putting my bags on the bike. Had to drop the trailer ramp to get in, and while I was back in my room Jon came out and saw the ramp down and nearly had a heart attack (stolen bike in February). We went to the Harley dealership at about 9:30, and they were already open. They told us it was okay to leave the trailer, and we unloaded the bikes.

On the road by 10:00 a.m., and we headed for Utah. The high plains were scenic as we rode down I-70, and we could see a large mountain with snow on it off in the distance. It must have been about 65 degrees out, because I was sleeveless and a bit cold, but after about an hour I noticed I wasn’t cold any more. We exited I-70 on Highway 128, and headed toward Moab, UT. Jon had heard this was a very scenic run. The road was small, but rode well, and our speed was around 45 MPH. We were descending gently into a valley toward the big mountain, and stopped part way to take a pic of it. When I got off the bike I realized why I wasn’t cold any more. Must have been around 90 degrees, and the sky was completely clear with the sun beating down. SUNBLOCK!

On we rode, and after coming into the canyon that 128 went through, we passed a recreation area full of people, canoes and rafts on the Colorado. At this location, the river isn’t very wide, and is without much in the way of trees along the side of it. I have taken many a float trip on the Current River in Missouri and enjoyed the green hills above me, but I’ve never seen such a bleak stretch of water as this. As we rode on, the highway wound with the river and there were tall bluffs on both sides of us.

This place is beautiful, albeit, barren. After about 20 minutes of this, I noticed on the other side of the river, way up on a bluff was a VERY tall ladder. It went up about 100 rungs, and ended on a relatively flat spot about three-fourths of the way up the bluff. It didn’t look ancient, but like it had been there for 50 years or so. We went by, but I decided I wanted a picture, so I caught Jon and we turned around. Got that pic, and a few more, then on we went. Who the heck would be brave enough to climb up or down this ladder hanging off the side of a cliff?

Stopped at a turn-off for “Onion Creek,” and rode a dirt road for about a mile until we found it. Good thing they call it a “creek,” because you could literally step over it. Pics.

Got our first glimpse of the mesas with spires that this part of the country is famous for. The beauty here is breathtaking. As we rode for the next couple of hours past every kind of rock formation you could imagine, it crossed my mind that if any single one of them was located elsewhere in the country, it would be a tourist attraction on its own. There would be concerts and picnics in its shade, and hiking and climbing on it. People would drive for hours just to see it and get a picture. The town would be named for whatever shape the rock was, and they’d sell tee shirts and souvenirs. Yet, each is only a small part of the landscape here – one among thousands in every direction as far as the eye can see. Every configuration was represented, from spires to smooth, flat-faced bluffs several hundred feet high, to mountains, to a single rock as big as my hometown. I wondered if all of them have been climbed at some point in the past, but surely, with this many, there are one or two upon which no man has trodden. As the day wore on and the sun changed, each one changed its personality – from a stark, blank behemoth to a craggy, brilliant painting full of character, shadows and colors. I could have spent weeks here photographing the changes from one vista alone.

As we neared Moab, UT, we saw a sign for Arches National Park. We opted first to stop on Moab for some much-needed liquids, and I bought two Gatorades. Fueled up and turned back toward Arches. Didn’t take long.

Two miles outside of Moab was the park entrance. I wondered where the hell the park was, because there were bluffs lining the highway on both sides of us. We entered the park ($5 fee) and followed the road in.

Switchback, switchback, switchback, and up the face of the bluff we went. Now I know. The road we’re on is quickly making its way up the bluff by zigzagging back and forth up the side of it. Reached the top after about 3 miles of this, and we were on a plateau that spreads out for 100 miles in every direction.

The 18-mile park road goes by some of the most-interesting formation we’ve seen yet, but I still have not seen any arches.

After another nine miles of this, that issue was solved. We came to the end of the road and found a parking area full of vehicles and people. Everybody was walking a trail that lead away toward the arches, so Jon and I joined them. On the way across the lot we saw a car with a thermometer stuck to the window that read 120 degrees. No way, but I bet it’s 95 degrees at least. Good thing I’m wearing leather and motorcycle boots… ahem.

Through a crack in the bluffs that could be considered a hallway, we walked on pea gravel and sand for several hundred yards. This had better be good.

It was. There were beautiful arches at the end of the trail. I stood in awe for a while, then remembered the camera and clicked away. There is no way the pictures are going to do this scene justice.

After what seemed like an eternity of walking through the heat, we made it back up the road we had come in on, and turned on a side road where a sign pointed toward “The Windows.” This is another trail end, but luckily you can see the arches all round you from the parking lot. Huge ones, 100 feet tall and small ones, too. We talked for a while with the park ranger who was interested in my camera. I asked her about the ladder I had seen on Highway 128, but she knew nothing about it. She regaled us with stories about the arches and this park, and was proud to say that she had once stood within feet of a red-tailed hawk nest full of chicks. The thought of doing this filled me with no particular delight, but the look on her face and the satisfaction she showed made it clear it was a highlight of her career. I smiled at the thought of it – you know, to each his own. Hell, I probably go on and on the same way about a computer program I have written here or there. It’s fun to talk to new people, isn’t it?

Left the park and headed back to Moab. It was about 5:30 p.m. and we hadn’t eaten all day, so we stopped in “Eddie McStiff’s” for a much-needed drink, some air conditioning, and some grub. Tried a table in the bar, but the waitress chased us out and showed us another. Asked for an ashtray, but discovered that you can’t smoke in most places in Utah. Jon wanted a Bud Light, but they didn’t have it. I wanted a Captain and Coke, but they didn’t have that, either. Four strikes and you’re out. We got up to leave and the hostess asked us what was wrong. She was pleasant (as everyone else had been), and so were we, so she told us of another bar/grill there that you could smoke in if you were a member of the “private club.” We went there and paid a $4 fee to “join,” but they took $4 off our food bill in exchange. Strange law. The drinks went down well, although we each had but two in the two hours we were there, opting instead for water to quench the day’s heat. Had a Buffalo Chicken Pizza that was good, and a salad.

After those two drinks and the food, we were getting tired… this heat really takes it out of you. So, we decided to get a room in Moab for the night. Checked in to a Ramada and napped until 8:00, and then went to a bar called Rio nearby until about 11:30.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Got up at 8:00 and ate breakfast. Packed up and hit the road by 9:30. A few miles outside of Moab on Highway 191, we passed Wilson’s Arch, which was right near the road. Some other bikes were already there, and a couple of the bikers had made the long trek up to it and were standing beneath it. Couldn’t pass up the opportunity, so we swung around and went back and got some good shots.

We got back on the road and headed South toward Canyonlands National Park. We had been told the night before that “Needles” was not to be missed, and also along this highway was “Newspaper Rock.” Got to the Needles exit and stopped at the information signs. They told a little about the park and noted that the overlook was 22 miles down this road.

Rode that stretch and it was pretty flat with no features we haven’t already become accustomed to on this trip. I began to wonder what was so great.

When we reached the loop at the end of the road, my question was answered beyond belief. We were standing at the edge of the plain that we had been riding on for miles, and before us was the most beautiful expanse of canyon we had seen so far. It stretched for miles and miles below us, and we estimated the sheer drop at our feet to be about 1500 feet – straight down! At the bottom were some more flat ground that rimmed the edge for about a half-mile or so toward the center, and then another huge, sheer drop-off that reached down to the Colorado River. We walked around the ledge (protected by a short, wire fence) and took shot after shot. One of the farthest points you can get to was a rock about the size of my house but flat on top. It looked like you could get on it, so I asked Jon to make the trek, and after about five minutes he appeared on top of it in the distance. I got what I’m sure will be one of my favorite pictures yet. Later, we switched positions, and he got the same pic of me.

Even though we had a long day ahead of us with much exciting to see, somehow we just could not bring ourselves to leave this place. We stayed for well over an hour, never seeing another human being.

After riding back the 22 miles to the highway, my bike was on fumes! I though I might have to go on reserve, and the next town was over 30 miles away. We had been expecting there to be few gas stations out here, but jeez! Skipped Newspaper Rock, which was sad to me, and headed for town. Just made it, and filled up. Took 4.7 gallons on a five-gallon tank. Jon knew I wanted to see Newspaper Rock, so he suggested that we go back the 14 miles to the turnoff, which we did. I was glad, because I am a nut about ancient cultures, particularly ancient writings – I have a tattoo of Egyptian hieroglyphs on my right arm – and I really wanted to see what the ancient people had written here.

The signs at this exit told us about the petroglyphs to be found… 22 miles down the road. We made that run, punctuated with a 10% grade full of switchbacks at the end, which we both did with the clutch disengaged – just coasted down.

At the bottom was Newspaper Rock. The petroglyphs were drawn on a big, dark rock, and they are light in color so they stand out. There were hundreds of them on this relatively small edifice. Interesting, but somewhat anti-climactic, to be honest. The images were said to be over 1,200 years old, but the language was unknown if there was a language at all. The pictures seem random and meaningless to me. No start, no end, just a gobbledygook of icons. It crossed my mind that the Egyptians had a complete, complex written language 5000 years before this, and I was somewhat non-plussed. Don’t get me wrong, the ancient Indian culture here fascinates me, but about 20 minutes of looking at this and taking pictures was enough. Monument Valley was calling, so we hit the road once again.

There had been a storm brewing above us for some time. Got a picture of the rain falling from a cloud in the distance, and the rain lines were only making it about halfway to the ground and then disappearing! Interesting pic. However, the storm gained strength and now we paid for our round-trip to Newspaper Rock. The sky opened up with a vengeance, dropping HUGE raindrops on us. The weather at that altitude was already a bit chilly, and now we were getting wet, too, but we could see daylight ahead and we poured it on. After only about 20 minutes of this we popped out the other side, and considering the conditions here we were not surprised to discover that we were completely dry in about 10 minutes.

Stopped for lunch and finally was able to get hold of Christy on the cell phone, and for a few minutes I felt at home again. Spent the next hour missing her and the kids.

I wanted to see Hovenweep, which is an ancient village of ruins, so we left the main highway and wound our way through the Ute Indian Reservation at the foot of Ute Mountain. Saw a sign for the turn, indicating (you guessed it) 22 miles to the site. Holy cow! Is EVERYTHING 22 miles away?

Made it there on some really bad roads (gravel in some cases) but it was worth the trip. The park surrounds a small canyon about 100 feet deep, and dotted all along its edge were the ruins of structures built of stone blocks. They were built in the oddest of places, too, for example, there was one built on a big chunk of rock about the size of four parking spaces that was halfway fallen down the slope. Strangest of all was a five-story tower at one end, but it was built at the bottom of the ravine so at its top it was 50 feet or so below the rim of the canyon above.

The trail at the site was two miles, and made a loop around the whole thing. Even though our feet hurt from walking and climbing in these motorcycle boots, we made the trek. Hardest part was the far end where you have to climb down the edge of the canyon about 80 feet, then climb back up the other side, on the original rock steps, log treads, and occasionally slippery, sand-covered ramps. In places you had to squeeze through a crack in the rocks that’s not wide enough for your shoulders, so you have to go sideways, but I swear the trail was well marked and this is how you’re supposed to do it. The National Park ranger had warned us of it before we started. What a hard life these ancient people must have led.

We were glad to get back on the bikes, and as we left the breeze felt good, although we were still quite hot and sweaty. As if a reward for our efforts, we were treated to a three-minute cloudburst that really cooled us off. Three minutes of rain, and three minutes more to be completely dry again.

Rode along through the “Valley of the Gods” near Mexican Hat. This is a beautiful section of canyon that is made up of red, red rock. Looks like a Martian landscape or something. The sun was working its way down and we still want to see Monument Valley before sunset, so we didn’t even stop for a picture.

Monument Valley is in Navajo Country, and we showed up there with about 1.5 hours of daylight left. Perfect. We opted to pay the $5 entry fee to the official site, and pulled the bikes up along the rim for a good shot of them with the backdrop of the mesas. The sun was lowering, casting gold light on everything, and the scene was beautiful. On the overlook, which sits on the crest of the hills adjacent to the flat, flat plain, you could look out and see the most famous scene from this place. Three massive stone “monuments” (big-ass rocks!) appeared from the plain. As the sun continued its trek earthward, the shadows crawled along faster than you would imagine, and each moment painted another brush stroke on this beautiful desert landscape.

There was a man there with his son, and together they were taking many photos. The whole time he was telling his on to “take a reading” here or there, and to frame the shot thus and so. Struck up a conversation with him, apparently an accomplished photographer, and we talked at length about this scene and about photography in general. He was impressed with my Nikon and by the time the sun had almost set and we were leaving, I believe I had sold him on it. Nikon should pay me a commission, I swear.

Night was falling, so we headed to Kayenta, Arizona for the night. Stayed at a Holiday Inn there, and we were ready to park the bikes and cool off with a few beers each, but unfortunately there was no bar (because it’s reservation land and therefore alcohol is not allowed), so we hit the sack early.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Today our goal is to see the Grand Canyon and to make it to Sedona, so we got up and packed everything on the bikes fairly early. We stopped at a convenience store next to the hotel and gassed up, and both got a drink and a muffin to start our day.

The sky looked beautiful and we were standing outside eating, when Jon noticed a medium-sized black dog walking among the traffic of the gas pumps, sniffing for food. We watched her for some time – slipping between the moving cars and avoiding the people. She was very skittish, and wouldn’t approach anyone, and on closer inspection we noticed that she had apparently, recently had pups. She had no collar and presented no indication of being well cared for, so we decided she was a stray.

I called to her and showed her my muffin, and she wagged her tail and came to us, but would never get closer than ten feet or so. Broke off a piece and threw it to her, and she ate it quickly and looked at us for more.

So, it was a bite for me and a bite for her. Jon joined in, too, but the dog would never get close, so I threw each bite a little closer until she was about three feet away. I sat down on the ground, determined that I was going to pet that dog, but she would only smell anything I was holding but not take it from my hand. Before long she had eaten more of our muffins than either Jon or I had. Finally got her to take the last piece of muffin from my hand, and looked up to see Jon gone. He reappeared from within the store with a hamburger! We fed that to her, and while she was eating it I got to pet her a bit… Cool. But, when the hamburger was gone, so was she, and we followed suit.

In Tuba City we ran into a couple of sport bikers from Georgia. Very nice guys with a thick Southern accent. We talked for some time, and then exchanged contact info. I called Christy and my friend Cory on the phone.

Halfway to the Grand Canyon from Tuba City the sky clouded up. By the time we paid the $10 fee to get into the park, it was raining steadily. Stopped at the first overlook and lo and behold, there were the Georgia boys again. All four of us just stood there in amazement as the sight of this place. I had expected to see sheer canyon walls dropping thousands of feet to the Colorado River, but what I saw was indescribable in both words and film. Literally as far as the eye can see there were what could be described as huge mountains of rock in every shape, color and configuration that rocks can come in. Reds, whites, tans, greens, blues and blacks. There were sheer walls alright, but between them were big and small mountain ranges, flat places, spires and monoliths. As our vantage point was on the highest peak, we were standing above it all looking down thousands of feet. I was so taken by the site that I forgot about the camera, and we were there fully 15 minutes before I managed to lift it to my eye.

The rain was coming down pretty hard and we decided to head for the main section of the park for something to eat (remember, the dog had gotten most of our breakfast). We found the park “village” and sat down for a burger and our first beer in two days. Because it was raining, we stayed and shopped for a while. Wanted to get something for Christy and the kids, you know.

When the rain subsided a bit we got on the bikes and sound another overlook. Stunning. I was so awe-struck that even though I remembered the camera this time, I forgot to take off my helmet, so I stood there snapping pictures for about ten minutes until Jon finally said something about it, laughing. After I took it off and we stood there for a while, and Jon noticed that people kept walking by behind us and snapping pictures of the two bikers standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon. Hope we make somebody’s gallery! “Title: Two drowned bikers preparing to fall to their deaths.”

Even though we had spent a couple of hours in the park we wanted to spend more time, but the rain kept getting worse and the sun completely gone behind the clouds. We were getting cold, so we put on the rain suits (finally!) and hit the road.

The trip to Sedona was a bit cold, and certainly wet, but the result was worth it. Sedona is beautiful and reminds me a bit of Gatlinburg, TN in the desert. Surrounded on three sides by mountains and mesas, Sedona is kind of an “artsy” and “spiritual” (as in metaphysical) place. It is not unusual to see people walking around with rock or bead necklaces, moving from an art gallery to a psychic reader right on main street.

Stopped for gas at a Circle K and asked the attendant about hotels. She recommended the Super 8 and gave us directions. They had rooms and were very biker friendly, so we checked in. The best part was that there was a bar in the same parking lot (“stumbling distance away” I mused), so we hit the bar and met some colorful local characters. They had a band playing that night called “Fred Zeppelin” (and they were pretty good, too) and everyone was very friendly and interested in our stories from the road. I finally called it quits around 11:30, but Jon stayed a little longer. (I think it was until they ran out of booze.)

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Today is photo shoot day, and I am expecting to meet a model named Alisha Clark at 11:00 a.m. She’s coming from Phoenix (about 2.5 hours away), but I got a call from her at about 10:30 that they were just leaving. Looks like 1:00 instead.

Talked with the bartender about some places to shoot, and she marked a map for me. We spent the next three hours sharing jokes and stories. It was a great time, frankly, so I was glad the model was late.

About 1:30 “Aly” showed up with her escort and male friend, “Glyn.” We chatted for a while, and I had her sign a release, and we headed for Jerome to shoot. Jerome is pretty, but not conducive to the kind of shots I wanted, so we came back to Sedona and found some places recommended by the bartender, and a place that the model knew about.

Aly and Glyn were both exceptionally nice, and we shot for several hours until sunset. She wanted to get some bike pictures, so we did those during “magic hour” (the last hour as the sun is going down), and they came out really good. Afterward they left, and Jon and I ate a very late dinner at a nice Italian place that I was completely under-dressed for. They were pleasant, and reassured me that there was no dress code to be concerned about, and anyway, the way I was dressed was fine with them. They are used to having bikers there.

Sedona was a great town. Friendly people, beautiful scenery, clean and safe. I’ll go back there again.

Wednesday, June 30th, 2004

Today is a travel day. We rode 450 miles from Sedona to Cortez, CO. I want to see Mesa Verde in the morning, and then we’d like to get back to Grand Junction and the trailer to begin the trip back home. Fourth of July weekend is coming up and I have guests in KC for the weekend. Besides, we’re both homesick.

Did stop along the way to see the “Meteor Crater” near Winslow, AZ. I remember seeing it in the movie “Star Man” and wanted to see it in person, so we took the 12-mile side-trip and paid $12 apiece to get in. When we walked up the steps and peered over the rim, we both just stood there silent for about ten seconds and then Jon said, “Yep. It’s a big hole in the ground…” We both laughed, and spent about 30 minutes walking through the museum, then split. Kind of anti-climactic after seeing the Grand Canyon two days before.

Got to Cortez early and stayed in a Best Western motel. Again, there was a bar in the parking lot. Amazing how we can find those. They call to me. Didn’t stay up late, though.

Thursday, July 1, 2004

Woke up at 8:00 and hit the road for Mesa Verde. It was just 9 miles outside Cortez, so getting there was pretty quick. The entrance fee for motorcycles was $5, and the gate to the 54,000 acre park is near the highway, but the visitors’ center is another 15 miles down the road.

We were told that you could access the ruins by taking a guided tour, so we paid for that and it was set for 11:30. The park ranger said we would have time to see “Spruce Tree House” (one of the ruins) and perhaps the museum before our tour, so we headed up there.

This park is within the mountains near Cortez, and the road up to the site was very curvy and up and down hills. When we stopped the bikes, we were at the museum and Spruce Tree House, and the weather was getting HOT! Stopped in the museum and learned about the people and the site, and then stepped outside it and got our first look at the ruins themselves. Built within an “alcove” (a little mini-cave that makes a sort of arch) were several structures made of stone blocks. The area was shaded from sun and rain, and unless you knew the buildings were there you wouldn’t likely find them.

We had spent so much time in the museum that our tour was nearing, and the path down the hill to Spruce Tree House was VERY steep and looked like it was going to be a difficult climb in this heat, so we started back to the bikes.

One thing that struck us both was the sound of this place. It was extremely serene, away from everywhere. I could see how you could build an entire society here and keep it completely hidden from outsiders. There was only the occasional sound of a bird or a dog.

Wait, a dog? Actually, there were several barking from time to time, but I never saw one. They seemed to bark a bit, and then, off in the distance, another would answer, almost like they were communicating. And the crows! Cawing incessantly, one, then another, back and forth, here and there – seeming to come from all around us. It must have driven the native inhabitants crazy back in ancient times.

As we walked along the path back to the bikes, I heard a loud “CAW” in the trees next to me, and I glanced over to see one of the biggest surprises on the whole trip. It was not a crow at all, but a man in full Indian dress, skin painted white from head to toe, sitting in the bushes watching us walk by. Gave me a bit of a start, and he “cawed” again, but this time turning his head down the path ah