After taking a fall at the highway turnoff I continued on to the ruins of Casas Grandes. The ruins were spread across a rolling field and looked like a labyrinth only the you can see easily over the crumbling stone walls, which are the color of the desert.
That afternoon the sun broke through the thick gray clouds and it was sunny and my spirits raised. It was still cold but the desperate chill was gone. That night I stayed in San Buenaventura. A small parade of school children and their parents passed along the street while I sat eating dinner. There were figures dressed as saints and a group of red frocked drummer boys beat time, mostly together, as the rearguard of the procession.
That night, alone in my hotel room, bundled against the cold that seeped into the room through every tiny crack and broken seal, I despaired about this trip. Alone and on a motorcycle and to start in the very middle of winter! Eventually sleep brought relief but until then I was cold, I was alone, and I was bewildered.
The cold broke early in the morning for a few hours but soon, riding at high speed along an open highway that cut through yellow, bush-covered flatlands and undulating hills, flanked by taller hills and then by mountains, the sun disappeared, it grew cold again, and my fingers began to freeze. I pulled over and had an idea. I wrapped the fingers of my gloves with electrical tape and duct tape, hoping that this might reduce the wind chill that was making my fingers so miserable. It looked funny and it didn’t work.
In the early afternoon I arrived in Cuauhtémoc. Cuauhtémoc is in a region of the state of Chihuahua that is dotted with Mennonite settlements. The Mennonites came from Germany in the 1800s and 1900s after first migrating to Canada. They’re very industrious and have drawn great productivity from the land. Many people really like their cheese but I didn’t think it was so great.
I decided not to stay in Cuauhtémoc as I had planned because it didn’t seem to me to have much charm besides a pleasant church. So I continued on. Only now it was early evening and the sun was getting very low and I didn’t find any hotels along the highway. It was late and very dark before I came into La Junta and found a reasonably priced hotel.
That night sitting cold and alone in my hotel room, I despaired again. I became very negative about the trip. My confidence was still shaken from the fall and I was ill-equiped for the cold, which was pushing me to the limits of my endurance. Traveling alone is always difficult at the onset. No matter how much of a loner you are it takes getting used to. Still, riding alone is always a pleasure: the solitude on the open road, the wind, and the strong hum of the engine gives a sense of freedom. But the cold makes everything difficult. It hollows you out, leaves you feeling empty. Bad thoughts are always the first to seep in where there is a vacuum.