A little ways before Bandelier, I pull over at Valle Grande, the worldís largest caldera; a giant valley formed millions of years ago when a series of volcanoes collapsed. But it isnít the awesome view that makes me stop. Itís the group of motorcyclists hanging out at the overlook. There are six riders, all from Taos, out for a regular Sunday morning ride. Thereís a Ducati, two Kawasakis, and three Hondas. All very fast bikes, and the riders, mostly older guys, are decked out in leathers. One of the guys, David English, or "Bird" as he is known, asks me to e-mail a shot to a friend of his. No problemo, Bird.
Bandelier National Monument is just up the road, and I arrive around noon. Looking at my planned route, I know Iíll never reach my final destination before four oíclock, when the Capulin Volcano VC closes. So, Iíll take my time here, check out Taos, and make my way to Raton for the evening. Tomorrow, already a long day, is going to be even longer.
Bandelier is a large wilderness area, at 32,737 acres. While there are only three miles of roads within the park, there are over 70 miles of trails winding along tan cliffs, forested mesas and deep gorges. But the most interesting parts of Bandelier are the ruins of ancient cliff houses, built by Pueblo people almost 1,000 years ago. The monument contains some 2,400 sites, many of which were studied by Adolph F.A. Bandelier, a pioneer in the field of anthropology, during the late 1800s. The visitor center in Frijoles Canyon is only steps away from a trail that leads you to the impressive ruins. The Long House is an 800-foot stretch of adjoining, multi-storied stone homes, with hand carved caves as back rooms. Adolph exclaimed it as "The grandest thing I ever saw."
I take a slow ride up to Taos, and tool around the streets of this artist colony filled with square adobe buildings. They call New Mexico "The Enchanted State", and you can feel that magic power in the air surrounding the hills of Taos. Wheeler Peak, the stateís highest point at 13,161 feet, towers in the background. I head up Route 522 a couple of miles and stop at the Taos Pueblo, one of the countryís largest multistoried pueblos. But a view doesnít come cheap. The native people here charge $10 a head, and another $10 if you want to bring in your camera.
Turning east, I follow US-64 through Taos Canyon. Thick evergreen forests line the winding road as it ascends a 9,000 foot pass before turning down towards Angel Fire, a ski resort area. The road then turns north towards Eagle Nest Lake, and Iím back in the Rocky Mountains again. But just as quickly, I turn east and leave the mountains behind. A quiet sunset glows against the autumn sky in my mirrors as I near Raton, my stop for the evening.
SEEN ON THE ROAD:
The first is that the most important software Iím using on this trip is only available for the Windows operating system. I have a Windows emulator on my Macintosh, but itís a little slow, especially when I try to run Microsoftís Expedia Streets & Trips 2000. (Iíve tried all the mapping programs out there and I like this one the best) The Garmin MapSource program is also only designed to run on a PC, and without this I wouldnít be able to load the detailed information into the GPS.
The second reason I opted for something other than my Powerbook is size. My G3/300, with its incredible 14-inch display, is just too darn big. It also weighs over 7 pounds. When packing gear on a motorcycle, size matter most. And the best size is the smallest.
So a week before I started this journey, I bite the bullet and bought a PC laptop. My choice: The Sony VAIO PCG-505TR Superslim Notebook. Iíve always liked Sonyís products, and I havenít been disappointed with this computer. The size is the most startling thing about this machine. It is less than an inch thick (actually .9 inches) and weights a scant 3.1 pounds. But it doesnít give up much for its diminutive size. The machine is powered by a 300 Mhz Pentium, includes 64 megabytes of RAM, and has a 6.4 Gigabyte hard drive. The 10.4 inch active matrix screen displays resolutions up to 1024 by 768, very good detail and very important for those mapping programs. It also includes a built-in IEE-1394 port (or as Sony calls it, an I-Link) so I can plug the DV camera right in the laptop and grab those stills. Sony claims the battery lasts up to 5 hours, and I can back that up.
There are a couple down points to the machine, like the smaller keyboard and the lousy built-in speaker. The CD-ROM drive is external, and all the ports live on an external port replicator, except the IEEE and the USB. But the small size demands those external devices. The cost, at about 2 grand, is pretty reasonable.
I like this computer a lot, but donít think Iíve given up on my Mac. As soon as I get home, this baby is going on hiatus, until my next big motorcycle trip. The Sonyís size has been great for motorcycle travel, but Windows really does bite the big one. I canít wait to get back to the Mac OS, and the DVD drive, and that nice big display, and those great built-in speakers, andÖ.
Yes, I am a total computer geek. And Iím proud of that.
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| GEAR | LINKS
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