More than any other region, we were looking forward to the ride through the desert. At once a challenge and a mystery, we saved the deserts of of the American Southwest — New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, and California — as the final leg of our journey to reminisce about all we had seen and how we had changed as people. The quintessential ride through Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon was to be a beautiful conclusion to the many journeys we already had. But it wound up being nothing like the movies we had seen. We had imagined long empty highways snaking around the towering rock cliffs, red and sun-baked by the hot desert sun. Instead we learned, yet again, how fierce and unpredictable this country is. No way was this land going to let us pass through its deserts easily. Before we got home, it wanted to remind us one final time of its unpredictability and sheer power, this time with monsoon rains for three days straight across some of the driest parts of the country.
So as we left Texas behind and began our final stretch home, we were in high spirits. The morning ride through New Mexico was warm and we rode in t-shirts. We thought for sure it was going to be an easy 500 mile day. But as we ventured further Northwest the colors changed and gray clouds began to peak out over the horizon and watch our progress. We stopped at a gas station upon a hill and looked out across the nothingness of the desert. The immensity of the desert dwarfed even the largest of storms. In the distance we could see lone rain clouds blowing across the desert like jellyfish in a sea. While this truly was an awesome sight to behold, it also afforded us the ability to predict the storms and for a time we were able to dodge and leap-frog our way through some of this terrain.
But then the skies truly opened and all the power of a New Mexican Monsoon hit us. At times we were up to our pegs in water, with passing cars creating waves that covered us from head to toe. We couldn’t see, we could brake, all we could do was bunker down beneath whatever ledge we could find. But even there — beneath these little ledges, these nothing shelters in the middle of nowhere — that good old American hospitality would come find us. This hospitality found us whether it was at an old butcher shop that had been in the family for five generations or just at one of the many gas stations where a local would give us directions or advice about the weather ahead. Out in the desert there was very little to rely on, so being able to rely on the kindness of strangers helped get us through those rain-soaked days.
Nevertheless, as hard a riding days as those were, in that dim, rained-out light the desert looked like nothing we’ve ever seen before. The clouds that whipped around the desert cliffs and dove off the walls of the Grand Canyon created views that were never captured in the films. After we finally crossed the border back into California, and the sun was routinely shining, the bitter hardship of crossing the desert in the midst of thunderstorms amounted to very little compared to the final wave of that outstanding feeling of experiencing something so challenging and painstaking, yet ultimately so very fulfilling.