Love at First Sight (Almost)

May 8, 2013

I’ve been reading a book recommended to me by my friend, Larry Dolan, called *Blue Highways*, by William Least Heat-Moon. I’ve been thinking about that feeling that overwhelmed me while crossing the Plains. I spoke about it in a previous post. I came across this passage by Heat-Moon and thought I’d share it.

“The true West differs from the East in one great, pervasive, influential, and awesome way: space. The vast openness changes the roads, towns, houses, farms, crops, machinery, politics, economics, and, naturally, ways of thinking. How could it do otherwise? Space west of the line is perceptible and often palpable, especially when it appears empty, and it’s that apparent emptiness which makes matter look alone, exiled, and unconnected. Those spaces diminish man and reduce his blindness to the immensity of the universe; they push him toward a greater reliance on himself, and, at the same time, to a greater awareness of others and what they do. But, as the space diminishes man and his constructions in a material fashion, it also—paradoxically—makes them more noticeable. Things show up out here. No one, not even the sojourner, escapes the expanses. You can’t get away from them by rolling up the safety-glass and speeding through, because the terrible distances eat up speed.”

Excerpt From: William Least Heat-Moon. “Blue Highways.” Little, Brown and Company, 2012-04-03.

Check out this book on the iBookstore:

Welcome to New Mexico The plains continued to stretch out before me as I rode across fields dotted with oil pumps in Oklahoma. As I entered New Mexico the land remained flat, but the vegetation was quickly changing to a more arid, rocky landscape. Still, no mountains in site. But the most noticeable change in my scenery were the profuse cloud formations that swept across the horizon and enveloped me in an umbrella of cottony white and shades of gray.

The road remained straight and flat, allowing for the approaching mountains to the west to appear from what was probably nearly 50 to 100 miles away. I popped on my tele-photo lens just in time to capture a small herd of antelope that became startled and ran as I slowed my motorbike to take pictures.

Mother and Children

Antelope on the run

The few small towns I passed through had a more western feel to them. Buildings were flat-faced, rectangular and more colorful. Restaurants were serving Mexican food made by Mexicans. I had reached the Southwest. As I neared the mountains they changed from distant shadows to formations that developed features – ridges, valleys, snow! I knew at this point I was in love. Although my first glimpse of New Mexico further east provided some evidence of change to come, it wasn’t until I saw the distant mountains that I knew this was a special land. Love at first sight? Almost. But now I’m in love.

The road began to wind and twist as I arrived at the foothills. As I entered the Cimarron Canyon – the old Santa Fe Trail the settlers had taken in their wagon trains – I left the plains behind and entered a landscape of clear mountain rivers, cedar forests, buttes and rocky overhangs where I expected to see a bear or mountain lion peering into the distance. I didn’t see a bear or mountain lion, but I saw plenty of deer, hawk (one with prey in its talons!), colorful birds, and at one point another antelope that I had startled that ran along side me by the road as it looked for an escape route beyond the fences that encircled the vast ranches. More wildlife pictures in my next post. For now, here are pictures from my trip into New Mexico a couple days ago.

Oil fields of Oklahoma

Last of the Great Plains agriculture before I enter New Mexico


A dilapidated feed mill I had to photograph before leaving Oklahoma

Feed Mill

Old New Mexico

Old New Mexico

Finally, Mountains!


Snow-capped mountains

Snow Caps

Zoom lens on snow

Foreboding clouds

Inside Cimarron Canyon

Inside Cimarron Canyon

My campsite in Cimarron Canyon

Cimarron Campsite

The stream behind my tent

Magical water

I’m on the road to Santa Fe today, where I’ll park for the night. Friday to Durango to stay with my friend, Bill Fleisch, who I met during my time in Afghanistan.


All content Copyrighted ©  Stephen Tavella

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