The Rocky Mountains really has been our destination since we began 4 weeks ago. The mountains are where we feel most at home (and a major reason for leaving Berlin where it is very flat). Hence the excitement at the prospect of arriving in Colorado.
After leaving the motel, we crossed into New Mexico almost immediately. All industrialisation vanished and we were left with wonderfully huge, empty plains. We left early and it was cool. It made me realise how suffocating the previous day’s ride had been in Texas. For a short while we turned onto a tiny road that wound through rocky outcrops, very reminiscent of the cowboy films we used to watch when we were kids. It was the most enjoyable riding we have done in the US so far. We saw no other vehicles but we did see a big, shiny, red snake slither across the road.
Crossing the border into Colorado, the plains became even more empty and beautiful with distant mountain views. This is the first time I have been able to imagine Native Americans living in the landscape. You can see why this land was so important to them. It is now one of the most sparsely populate areas of the USA. It struck me how sad it was that the tribes were driven off when the land snow standing empty and unused. I saw a Pronghorn, an unusual antelope type critter that once was almost extinct and several deer.
We spent the first night at a state park campground on Lake Trinidad. The nearby town had a hint the old west (as do most of the towns around here). The campsite was baking hot with little shade when we arrived but the cloud soon came over and the rest of the day and night was punctuated with rain and thunder storms.
I keep emphasising how friendly the people are but really, here in Colorado, they are, almost overwhelmingly friendly. On the campsite, one guy brought us a fresh tomato he had picked that morning and two couples invited us into their RVs when it was raining. The park ranger had a long chat about the benefit of alloy wheels on the Tiger. We met two separate British ladies who are now living out here and chatted with them. We also met a guy on a coffee stop who wanted to chew over the problems of the US education system and recommend an Indian pueblo for us to visit. Even the state trooper who nicked us for speeding was friendly as he doled out the $170 fine (which should have been more but for his discretion).
I have to say that I am desperate to get to the mountains. We were forced to stop shot, in the town of Monte Vista, yesterday due to a forecast storm. We enjoyed an unplanned hotel night, a meal out at a Chinese restaurant and a comfy bed.
As you ride west here, into the mountains, they seem to keep getting further away. It is quite frustrating. We should get there today. We are already at 7600 feet though and have been over 8,000 (about 2400m). The altitude creeps up on you here. We have not slept as high since we trekked in Nepal in 1997. I have noticed some symptoms of mild mountain sickness, like fatigue, headache (made much worse by drinking only one bottle of Budweiser) and irritability. They should ease off.The bike is also suffering a little, with both a water and oil leak and it is labouring more with the thinner air. Today we will be riding up to about 9,000 feet (about 2700m) which we have done in Europe, crossing high passes but not for extended periods of time.