A fleet of houseboats and smaller crafts bobbed in the marina as the sun rose above the distant hills. I packed up my gear, strapping it to the bike. Over the past few days, I had learned how to secure everything to the seat in such a way that I had no worries about losing any more gear. As long as I didn’t have to carry another set of tires, that is.
I headed away from the lake, the morning sun at my back, and cruised my way across north-western New Mexico. Today would be a short day, less than 200 miles, and I was thankful. After so many days of traveling, I was starting to get tired.
Tonight was another camping night, and one where I’d have to cook. In Farmington, I found a grocery store and was excited it was a Safeway, the chain I shopped at regularly back home. I picked up a can of soup and a box of Mac & Cheese, and headed for the Arizona border.
I’m not a fan of most side-of-the-road tourist attractions, but there was one I had seen during my planning that interested me: the Four Corners, the only point in the United States where four states touch. I paid my fee to the Navajo Nation and went inside, where other tourists were taking their obligatory “I’m in 4 states at once!” photos. Most of the day’s vendors hadn’t set up yet, their stalls bare and uninhabited. After a few minutes, I left, able to say I had been there.
In the eastern states, you can generally tell when you cross over a border, trading one state for another. There’s a river, or a mountain range, dividing the two and shortly afterwards the landscape shifts. It didn’t work the same in the western states, and that day as I traveled from New Mexico to Arizona, and from Colorado into Utah, I could barely tell a difference. But as I progressed further into Utah, that started to change, rolling mesas transforming into canyons, and canyons into buttes.
Soon, the purple line I had followed on my GPS turned off onto a gravel road I had been excited about since early into my planning: Valley of the Gods Road. In the megalopolis of the Washington DC area, I’m used to seeing a certain type of scenery. Lightly rolling hills, plentiful trees, and meandering rivers, all intercut between the shopping centers, housing developments, and other signs of urban sprawl. I looked out now at the complete opposite of that and, alone in my helmet, I felt like an astronaut first arriving on an alien planet. I was speechless.
I spent so much time staring at the terrain around me, I didn’t notice I had almost looped back to the main road until I was nearly on it. I pulled into the next clearing, deciding then to set up my tent. A short time later, I was sitting in my camp chair eating from a pot of hot soup. I waved at other drivers as they went past, as much at home as if I was an old man in a rocking chair on the front porch of the house I had built with my own two hands. Things felt good.