Sunday, May 8, 2011

Destination: Warmth (or, How I Traveled to Cuba by Motorcycle)

We rolled out of Antonito a bit later than hoped, but man, there was still a harsh chill in the air. We rode south into New Mexico taking Hwy 64 to the west across Carson National Forest. It was a beautiful ride (one Mike had ridden in August before and loved) but the theme continued - cold and snowy.

Carson Naional Forest

We took a break in Tierra Amarilla for gas and found our way west past el Vado on towards Chaco Culture National Historic Park, our destination this evening. On the way Cuba, NM served up some fine lunch with amazing green chile we were hoping for (alas, no ropa vieja in the Cuban Cafe).

Cuban Cafe

We entered Chaco Canyon from the south, where there is not much happening. The towns are small and sleepy. And by sleepy I don't mean slow/tranquil, I mean kind of drab. Luckily we didn't miss the one sign for the turn north into the park.

Rough Road to Chaco-Mike

The road wasn't that bad. The worst parts were the washboard sections that shook all the plastic pieces on the TA, as well as our brains. Only one short uphill section took standing up on the pegs and some finesse to get through. It was a fun ride on into the park.

We absolutely lucked out to show up on a Tuesday and caught a night sky archaeoastronomy talk along with some telescopes out for star gazing. The talk was excellent for giving us an introduction to how the Chacoan culture may have viewed, respected, and interpreted the (day and) night skies. It was also refreshing how the information was presented. The ranger made an effort to explain that any theories on how buildings aligned with stars, or markers showed shadows by day, were simply that - theories. There is no way to fully understand these artifacts, but just a number of guesses (some better than others) as to what their use was. One example he used was of a sculpture in the desert designed specifically to have interactions with light at specific times of day and at specific times of year. A group studied the sculpture and found around twice as many interactions as the artist intended, showing that if you are looking for some correlation, you can find it. Who knows if the Chacoan people really used ALL of the markers that we find today?

Either way, the pictographs, petroglyphs, ruins, and artifacts were fascinating to see and were a sweet beginning to our ruins tours across the Americas.

On top of all that, the campsite we had in the park was beautiful!
Chaco Campsite

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