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Black Hills Badlands Medley—Day Nine

454 miles

I didn’t set an alarm and just let the day wake me as it dawned. It got chilly in the night, so the altitude was doing its thing. I finished winding my way back to I-25 then zoomed south, now being far below the big cities of Colorado. There were not any fuel stations for a long time, and I ended up refueling in Trinidad with over 160 miles on the last tank. It was surprising how little it took to fill up, and I figured I must have been getting over fifty miles per gallon. Altitude has its benefits!

Soon I was over Raton Pass and in New Mexico. I cut southeast across the northeastern corner of the state toward Texas, but along the way, I stopped to see the Capulin Volcano for which I had seen signs. I was surprised to see a volcano in that area, and Capulin was a National Monument. As I approached the visitor center, I saw signs that this was a “fee area,” and apparently the privilege of riding to the top cost twenty-five dollars! I pulled into the parking lot, where three other motorcycles had parked up with their riders still sitting on them. They pointed to the road, saying it was closed and toward the barrier across the entrance. I said, “Just as well; I’m not going to pay twenty-five dollars just to ride to the top,” of what was a typical butte-sized mound rising about 1,000 feet from the surrounding plain that was at about 7,000 feet, and so I turned back toward the exit. Apparently, there is a field of around a hundred volcanos in the area in which Capulin sits which were formed recently, geologically speaking, about 60,000 years ago. Capulin has a crater about 400 feet deep, which would have been interesting to see, but I was on a time schedule to get home and had little extra money for sightseeing, so I moved on, after snapping a photo at the entrance sign.



The Approach to Capulin Volcano

I entered the Texas panhandle and crossed, more or less, southeast through Amarillo, then continued toward a spot just below Oklahoma, where it touched the corner of where the panhandle of Texas ran north, creating Oklahoma’s panhandle as well.

As I rode out of Amarillo, I could see a huge bank of clouds and thunderstorms stretching from horizon to horizon and oriented from southwest to northeast, perpendicular to my line of travel. About Childress, I was catching up with the front and had clouds overhead but no rain yet. I stopped there and considered a motel so I could check the weather in my room on the television and possibly avoid some rain, especially because I was wondering what Hurricane Isaias was doing ahead of me southeast of Florida, so I could plan my approach wisely. But upon requesting rates, I got a reply of fifty-five dollars. I suspected I would still be alright if I tent camped, as almost all the big systems in that part of the world move from west to east and through the night the front would move away from Childress. I’d try to check the weather the next day if I could. I found a small city park, instead, where I could camp for fifteen dollars, depositing the funds in a honor drop box and saving me forty dollars in the process. Before setting up camp, I ran back the two blocks to the main highway to a convenience store and picked up my dinner of one extra large can of beer, and “sandwich” of two pieces of provolone with a slice of salami in the middle, and a small bag of nuts.

The campground was near the local lake and activity center and was simple, but dry and adequate. There were several RVs parked up already, some with their generators already whizzing. They were all in the paved parking lot, so I left the bike with them and set up my camp a little distance away under some sighing pine trees. As I was setting up, I soon learned it was not the best choice of location, as big biting ants were all over the ground scurrying back and forth. I felt a bite on my waist that hurt more like a wasp sting than the typically mild fire ant stings we get in Florida and which I thought I might expect from these as well. I hurriedly drug the ground sheet with the tent and all my stuff in it away from the tress and into an area where I could no longer see them running about. The bite still hurt, but it looked like I was safely away from the horde. A neighbor called over to warn me, and I informed him that I had already discovered my mistake and had rectified the situation by moving.

I received no more bites as I sat in the dusk, ate my dinner, and watched the day come to an end. I crawled into my tent, back to just sleeping with my bag liner, and that evening not even in it but on top of it, and soon I was fast asleep, but not for long.

As the night went on, a wind came up, the kind of wind you often find in West Texas—strong. I woke to my tent trying to go airborne and only my weight holding it to the earth. Grabbing some tent pegs, I scrambled out to see what I could do. I turned the tent ninety degrees, so the breeze would not enter the tent through the open side windows and fill it like a balloon, and instead would be forced up and over the top of the rain fly. With nothing to drive the pegs in but my hand I managed to get two in on the windward end of the tent, and luckily, that helped. Back in the tent, the adjustments and my body weight were enough to keep the floor on the ground and the tent from filling. I took some effort, though, to get back to sleep with the walls of the tent shaking violently from time to time. Somehow, my fatigue overcame the anxiety from thinking I might be hauled off to Oz in the night, and I fell asleep and dozed fitfully until morning.

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