Saturday, October 28

Alamogordo to Santa Fe

I slept in late this morning, waking up to a nice sun-heated tent, a cold shower (that got lukewarm as I was finishing), and my usual camping breakfast of oatmeal and hot cocoa. My first stop was the Space History Museum in Alamogordo. It has an outdoor rocket park and five museum floors. I like the architecture of the building, modern and sort of rocket-like. (There's also an IMAX theater but I didn't go there.) The museum lives up to its name very well, chronicling (that's a funny looking word) the history of astronomy and space exploration. I crashed the shuttle on a simulated landing, so I'm not quite ready to be an astronaut myself. They have a whole exhibit on the X-Prize (won by SpaceShipOne), and on the X-Games, the rocket races that are supposed to start in a couple of years.

The museum took a little over an hour to see, and when I got out I was in for a nasty surprise: I had forgotten to shut off the bike, and the battery was dead. (Either by design or otherwise, the key doesn't need to be in the ignition for the bike to run - it can come out after it's turned on - and like all bikes, the engine starter is separate from the main power switch and the headlight goes on when the power is on...the bottom line being that it's easy to park the bike and forget to turn it off.)
Luckily, the museum was on the top of a hill. So I push-started it: 2nd gear, rolled it fast down the hill, popped the clutch at the bottom, and it started. I'm not sure exactly why - maybe because I wanted to get lunch but didn't think it would start again if I stopped so soon - so I pulled into a parking lot with the intention of letting it idle for a few minutes to get some juice back into the battery. I stopped, put the sidestand down - and it shut off. I had forgotten to put it in neutral so the safety mechanism killed the engine. So now I was back at square one, with a dead battery, but at the bottom of the hill. Needless to say I was feeling pretty stupid.
The parking lot was on a slight hill, so I unloaded the gear and pushed the bike a little bit up the hill, then rolled it down and tried to start it again. Not enough speed. I pushed it up again a little higher, still no luck. So I started to roll it back up the big hill. The bike weighs 550 pounds dry and unloaded and I'm not in the best shape after so many weeks on the road, so this was a nearly impossible task. I would push it a few feet and have to stop to catch my breath. By this point I was drenched in sweat and my throat was burning.
Then two sport bikers, Jeff and Frank, rode by, saw I was in need of assistance and stopped to help. First the three of us sprinted the bike up the parking lot hill, then (after catching our breath) pushed it fast down the hill, but it wouldn't start. So Frank offered to go get his car, since he lived close by, to jump the bike. He came back after a few minutes with jumper cables, and that solved the problem. I made sure to put it in neutral when I put the bags back on...

After that whole ordeal I was quite famished, so I went to Wendy's and devoured a triple burger combo. I used the drive-in so I wouldn't have to shut off the bike. By this point the alternator had charged the battery enough to start it, though, so I was able to shut it off to get gas.
Having lost so much time, I decided to skip Roswell and head straight to Santa Fe, around 250 miles. I rode long past dark, stopping only for gas and coffee, and finally made it to Santa Fe, where I checked into a Travelodge.