Day 25 – 26 Meeting New Friends

Santa Fe, NM – Holbrook, AZ

310 miles

I’m taking a rest day in Santa Fe before making my way over towards Santa Barbara to meet one of my closest friends, Jonathan. It’s such a pleasure to walk around the streets of Santa Fe, touristy as they are, and see the jewelry shops, the Indian markets, and the art galleries. Of course, what Santa Fe also has are chiles. Lots and lots of wonderful green, red, hatch, and poblano chiles. As I said before, this might be my favorite city in America to eat, and I haven’t been doing much eating over the last few days.

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As many of friends know, one of the banes of my existence is breakfast. I generally don’t like American breakfasts. I don’t much care for eggs.  Pancakes feel like a dessert.  And cereal with milk leaves me feeling not-so-fresh feeling. I much prefer Vietnamese pho (clear beef noodle soup) to start the day, or a Japanese breakfast of sticky rice, poached salmon and pickled vegetables. However, when you add green and red chile to the mix, a Southwestern breakfast might be the best thing a guy like me can find in the States. Did I mention how much I love eating in Santa Fe?

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I did my first breakfast at Café Pasqual’s on Don Gaspar Avenue and my second at Tia Sophia’s, a local joint on San Francisco Street. One of the nice treats at breakfast are fresh sopoppias, which are puffy Native American fry bread usually served with fresh honey. So tasty with good chicory coffee.

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For dinner, I went to Coyote Café for what might be my best formal meal of the trip. I sat at the counter in front of the stoves and ovens and got to rap a bit with the chefs. They steered me in the right direction. I had this amazing crab and seared tuna salad to start, followed by grilled shrimp with sweet corn polenta and creamy poblano sauce. Ridiculously amazing.

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I took off the next morning heading towards Albuquerque. The going was a little tougher as my windshield now completely collapsed at 30 mph forcing me to hold on a little tighter as the bike gets up to speed. One of the nice things about being off the trail is meeting people again. As I headed towards Arizona, I stopped at a Shell Station to do some long awaited maintenance. As I topped the bike off with fuel and oil, a young man named Robert approached me and asked if he could polish my windshield for a little spare change. I said yes without thinking too much about it, and soon he was asking me about my trip and the places I’d been. We started conversing and he explained that he and his wife were trying to get back up to Patterson in the northern part of the state. Their car broke down and they had used the last of their funds getting it fixed. Now, he was washing windows to make gas money.

I really don’t know why, but there was something about him that touched me. He was a young kid, down on his luck. We talked a little bit more about my life, and he admitted that he wished he made some better choices in his own life. I gave him some small career advice and also wrote down some websites that he might look at to gain some better employment opportunities. Finally, I decided to give him $20 which I think got him most of the gas he needed (before you jump on me, I watched him fill his car up – the $20 wasn’t used for meth) and he was so grateful that he washed the rest of my bike for me. He seemed so appreciative for the little bit of help I gave him. But most importantly, I felt like he really just wanted to be heard. We all need to be heard once in a while.

I pushed on from Albuquerque crossing the Arizona border at about 5pm in the evening (I thought it was 6pm but I crossed into PST) and started looking for shelter. I found a KOA Campsite right off the main highway at Holbrook which looked perfect to me. Being sand and moth free, I was eager to get camping again.

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Dinner that night…

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A little less gourmet, but no less good!

The best part was I met Jean-Jacque and his charming wife Eve who were camping two sites down from me. They were both French citizens who were driving historic Route 66 from Los Angeles to Chicago in a rented minvan. What a cool trip!

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Jean-Jacque first approached me to ask about my motorcycle. It turns out that he owns a BMW R1200GS of his own and loves his bike the same way I love mine. He and his wife really wanted to tour the US on motorcycle but the rental fees for motorcycles in the states are astronomical. We ended up having breakfast together where he explained that he worked for Paribas Bank in their offshore division and is currently stationed on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. We talked for a while about the joys of motorcycling and how it forces you to see the places you travel in three dimensions, as opposed to being behind the two dimensional windshield of an automobile. After several rounds of pancakes and my insisting on them eating at Gibson’s Steakhouse in Chicago, they generously invited me to come down to Guadeloupe stay with him in December.

As Bill Murray said in Caddyshack, “so now I have that going for me”.

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