Days 23: Sunset Crater and Durango, CO (Ryan)

After Grand Canyon we headed for Durango, CO so that we could see Mesa Verde National Park and the cliff dwellings there. As long as I’ve known of the cliff dwellings in southern Colorado I’ve wanted to see them. I’m fascinated by ruins and ancient dwellings…actually let’s be honest, I like anything old! I’m told that when my parents were in Europe with my grandparents my dad did most of the driving…anytime there was a castle the car just “turned” and they had to stop. I guess I come by it honestly.

As we got north of Flagstaff we passed a sign for Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. I’d never heard of the place, but since I’d never seen a volcano I figured we should turn in and check it out (plus they had ruins there too!). The lava flows looked like freshly turned earth but were over 800 years old, probably almost 1000!

Looks like freshly turned earth!

We hiked up a crater trail across from the lava flows (if you go there, skip that trail, it’s a heart attack trail and has no good views). Overall this is one of those off the beaten path national parks/monuments that well worth the time to visit if you’re in the area. Plus you can see Wupatki National Monument (ruins!) at the same time. It was a pueblo occupied some 800 years ago. They were able to farm because of water runoff from the lava (lava really doesn’t absorb all that much water).

As we headed out from the national monuments we could see beautiful vistas of the painted desert

Painted Desert

We rode through a significant amount of the Navajo Nation (watch out for gas stations that have really old school pumps, got bad gas at one) over the course of the day. We road past several road-side stands when Beth tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to stop at one. They were making and selling jewelry for very reasonable prices.

Lady making Jewelry

Roadside Jewelry market in the Navajo Nation.

While Beth was looking at jewelry, I went up the rode a mile or two to the next gas station to hit an ATM (thank you PNC for refunding ATM fees) for the cash we were inevitably going to need. I also gassed up while I was there. When I got back on the bike I had a few minutes of panic when it wouldn’t start. Turned the key and nothing happened, no lights, no cooling fan, nothing! Worse I realized that Beth’s phone was still in the tank bag so I had no way to contact her. I met a fellow motorcycle traveler, but he was the “I buy a new bike so I don’t have to worry about this stuff” type so he couldn’t help. Interestingly he was a German who had been working in Mexico where he bought a Buell on  clearance when they were discontinued and now he’s touring the States. After messing with the key and fiddling with everything I could think of that might be wrong I started looking at ways to hot wire the key (this bike like most motorcycles has an on/off key and a separate ignition on/off switch). When I looked at the bottom of the key cylinder, I noticed it was cammed away a little bit and that there was a broken zip-tie. I pressed up on the bottom and immediately everything came on. It looks like there is supposed to be a spring-loaded cap over it which maintains pressure. It also explains why the parking lock has never worked. I added a few new zip ties of my own and down the road I went.

Heads up if you haven’t been through Four Corners for a while it is now a charge per person to enter. We decided that seeing the four man made boundaries wasn’t really that important.

As we continued we could see monument valley off to the north about 12 miles. We neared Durango when we were greeted with a fantastic sunset (unfortunately that meant after dark riding and cold). I think at this point we’d now covered around 5000 miles.

Sunset on the way to Durango

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One response to “Days 23: Sunset Crater and Durango, CO (Ryan)

  • Bill Provenzano

    I sure have enjoyed the blog so far and glad you all are having fun. As I read through it, memories of my trips throughout the west just start rushing in. Keep the rubber side down and from the sounds of it, you might want to periodically check all your welds!

    I still have some pieces of pottery from my trip to some ancient ruins only the locals went to in northern New Mexico.

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