As we rode up the 25N, we felt a little bit like we were in the twilight zone, each of us privately musing over our recollection of US geography and wondering how in the world Las Vegas could be on our route. Hadn’t we left that back West, miles ago? But sure enough, sign after sign kept pointing towards Las Vegas. Turns out there is another Las Vegas, in New Mexico, although this one doesn’t come up in the first five pages of a Google search, if you just search for Las Vegas instead of Las Vegas, NM, but it should given its colorful and storied history.
Las Vegas was established in 1835 after a group of settlers received a land grant from the Mexican government. The town was laid out in the traditional Spanish Colonial style, with a central plaza surrounded by buildings which could serve as fortifications in case of attack. Las Vegas soon prospered as a stop on the Santa Fe Trail. Historian Ralph Emerson Twitchell once claimed, “Without exception there was no town which harbored a more disreputable gang of desperadoes and outlaws than did Las Vegas.” Among the notorious characters were such legends of the Old West as: dentist Doc Holliday and his girlfriend, Big Nose Kate, Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, Mysterious Dave Mather, Hoodoo Brown, Durango Kid and Handsome Harry the Dancehall Rustler. A number of films were made in this town, and Patrick Swayze, American actor, dancer and singer-songwriter, had a ranch in Las Vegas.
After grabbing some New Mexican grub in Vegas, we headed out into the fierce winds, like 2 bugs on a bull. The wind was blowing around 45-50 mph. and pushing us back and forth all over the highway. Sometime during the ride, the plastic cradle for the GPS which was mounted on the front left side of the bike broke off. Luckily, Chris was able to grab the GPS before it fell and smashed to bits on the highway. We pulled over at a rest stop to get a reprieve from riding in the winds. Chris latched his helmet onto the front left pannier as he had done hundreds of times before, and the rack supporting the pannier sheared completely off and fell to the ground with the pannier.
Thankfully a friendly family traveling in their RV came over to chat and gave us some rope to help strap the box to the rear left pannier. It’s important that the weight on the bike be properly be balanced and distributed so as to ensure the maximum safety while riding. We were already having trouble riding in the wind but after having to re-position the left front pannier to the back, we were wobbling back and forth in the wind.
With miles to go until Denver, Colorado, we were trying to make good time to reach our couch surfing host, Paul Cornelius, but had to ride between 45-65 miles per hour. This slower place made it easier to spot the antelope dotting the plains as we drove by. The sun set gloriously against the mountains, and we still were hours from Denver. We threw on more layers to help beat the wind-chill and pushed on until we arrived exhausted at Paul’s doorstep. Paul opened the door before we even dismounted from the bike and came out to welcome us. Although our stay with him was short, he took the time from his busy schedule to visit with us and share stories about life and travels around the world. He’s traveled all over Central and South America as well as lived in Europe and will be leaving shortly on a back-packing trip to Asia and Africa for the next 2 years. The next morning we lucked out and found the coolest guy on the planet with more tools that I could care for. We’ll be fixing the bike here in Denver and get on the road. Stay tuned!