Tailgate America: The South West. Photos by Adrian Bostock and Emily Slaco.
Â Dirt farmer.
Â This is a no fall zone.
Highway 40 cuts a blacktop scar across the weathered skin of northern Texas. A well used compact wagon, pressed into duty as a road trip wagon, shows the signs of its past life in the sparkles from childrenâ€™s costumes stuck to its cracked leather seats and small dents in the fenders. Still holding the musty earth smell of the mountains within the Confederacy, without complaint it slides through the landscape, amongst the big rigs and convoys of vehicles in the rush west. Billboards flash calls to the Lord, political posturing and a re-occurring advertisement for a â€œFree 72oz Steakâ€.
Â Virgin south?
Grid roads lead away from the Walmarts, gas stations and strip malls. The sun is low on the horizon when the wagon tips the edge of the down cut canyon. The passengers disembark from the wagon, assemble their bikes and ride off through the scrubby trees and cacti, leaving no question they have retuned west.
Days later, beyond the narrow streets lined with adobe houses, the vendors selling Pinons and endless shops filled with trinkets and local art of Santa Fe, rain taps a blue tarp strung between trees. Under the tarp the passengers are cooking. A Forest Service truck pulls up beside the wagon. A dark skinned warden in a brown and green uniform steps out of the truck and walks over to the passengers. With a warm smile and a soft voice, his accent giving away his Spanish heritage, he asks a few questions about their stay and explains to them that though the camp ground is closed for the season, they are welcome to stay the night, but must move on the next day. After which he stays for a moment to talk about the area, and the drought which has a grip on New Mexico and the prospect of this winters snow.
Â Both Santa Fe and Taos delivered long beads of stunning bench cut single track.
Along the banks of Oak Creek, below shaggy red cliffs, a cluster of buildings catering to gray haired vacationers and those looking to channel the Earths vortices for spiritual enhancement make up the town of Sedona. As the sun’s last rays highlight the peaks a small group of people sit around a camp fire, sharing stories of dirt under two wheels. Itâ€™s good here they agree. Trails sculpted by mountain bikers, trails which donâ€™t shy away from terrain, nor contrive features. Built on public land these trails are just coming into recognition in the larger community and are under scrutiny of the law. The inevitable dispute between users who would like to keep the whole thing on the DL and the users who want to make it all legit in the eyes of the law is continuing to unfold. The dusty wagon keeps silently to the outside. There is no gold in this conflict.
Â The vortex?
Â This did not go well for me, but photography is truly the art of deception.
Just north of the Mexican border, in a parking lot dominated by a coral, border patrol shines a light on the hills above, then moves on, leaving the moonless night dark. The desert smells sweet as a light rain falls. A single bike light illuminates a pair of legs, feet planted firmly on the ground as the bike is pushed slowly into the parking lot. The light stops at a truck parked next to the wagon. This is the last rider to return. There are only three people left in the parking lot, keeping a quiet vigil. A beer is handed over and congratulations are shared. This morning 75 people set out from this parking lot, a race with no marshals, no aid stations and not official timing, just a GPX file loaded on a GPS and the honor system. No entry fee, no prizes. Racing in its purest form, for nothing but glory. The wagon, silent, waits, knowing this job is not yet finished
Â What we lacked in content this installment we made up by riding a sh#t ton.
Adrian’s getting philosophical in his ramblings from the road. Zen and the art of station wagon maintenance?