A Blast from My Past

May 9, 2013

Cimarron State ParkMy saddlebags now have their own story to tell. Oh, if they could speak, especially the left one. It has bear claw marks on the top of it from where a bear tried to get into the food I had locked inside. It has gravel indentations from where the bear pulled my motorbike over on it’s side – the opposite side of the kick stand, so you know it must have been strong. Other than superficial damage, no harm done. Mr. or Ms. Bear had to scavenge elsewhere last night. The picture at left is of the small lake by my campsite.

I wound my way out of Cimarron Canyon State Park towards Taos on another frosty morning.Cimarron Canyon The road was quiet but for the sound of the mountain stream that ran to the north side of the road. The canyon walls seemed to want to reach out and invite me to stay.  But I had to Ramble On, as Jimmy Page and Robert Plant said. I stopped for breakfast at a small café in Eagle Nest, just over the pass from Cimarron. A high mountain valley reached out to the north of a lake that reflected the abundant clouds that have become familiar to me here. While I was eating the waitress pointed out the window and said, “Oh look!  Snow flurries!”  Great!  I’ve dealt with so much rain, wind, cold and snow that I have to admit it’s made me grumpy at times. Tonight, once again, I’ve had to bail out to a hotel because I was getting rained on while the wind pushed hard from my left across the mountain valley in Santa Fe.

But let me briefly return to yesterday, the day I spent lounging (and doing my laundry) in Cimarron. I was fortunate to grab a few shots of animals that I thought I’d share.

 I saw two large herds of deer – one in the early morning and one later in the day.



Pastured horses

Pastured horses

Pastured horse

Can anyone identify this bird? It kept wanting to eat my food at my campsite. Pretty, but pesky!

Pesky Bird

Not pictured was an antelope that startled me yesterday while I was taking a leisurely ride around the valley. Suddenly, I noticed the animal sprinting alongside me by the road. I was going about 35 mph, so this thing was going fast. It was looking for an escape route from the fences on both sides of the road. I guess it probably jumped over one of them eventually. I would have loved to have seen that! I saw an eagle or hawk with prey in its talons. Powerful!  And this beaver dam and the small pond behind it.

Beaver Dam

Beaver Pond

The area was alive with wildlife. I was also told that elk are seen regularly. The scenery remained picturesque on my drive to Taos and beyond to Santa Fe. Here are a few landscape pictures.

The road into Eagle Nest

Eagle Nest

Leaving Eagle Nest

Leaving Eagle Nest

On the road to Santa Fe, looking back toward Taos


Rio Grande canyon along Route 64 to Santa Fe

Rio Grande Canyon

Looking down on some young rafters


And then I came along this gem. It was the highlight of my day – a blast from the past. I passed this museum, thought twice, turned around and was sure glad I did. I had a long talk with the owner, Johnnie Meier, who moved to New Mexico 30 years ago from Orlando, Florida.

Johnnie Meier

He came to do science, he said. He went on to say he had pretty much done everything he wanted to with science, so he dedicated himself full-time to collecting primarily old gas station memorabilia from the 50’s and 60’s. I discovered some old bicycles, cars, pink flamingos and children’s toys amongst the yards full of old gas tanks and signs. The items that have been restored by him are displayed inside in all their neon glory. I kept seeing things and saying, “I remember that! (a gas pump showing gas at 29 cents a gallon) I used to ride one of those! (a tricycle) The old lady down the street used to put Pink Flamingos in her yard! (plastic Pink Flamingos)”

I’ve included two parts of a conversation I had with Johnnie. He talks about how he came to New Mexico, why he collects and how, as well as his association with the Route 66 New Mexico Association, which he eventually became president of. I invite you to listen to these audio recordings while you view the pictures.

Enjoy this tour of Johnnie’s Classical Gas Museum.

Welcome to Johnnie's


Selling a sign

Coca Cola

A Valentine Diner!

Valentine Diner

John Deere





Phillips 66

Light Me Up

Gas Pumps

29 cents a gallon

“In Rust We Trust”: johnniev@roadsideculture.com

Johnnie in Neon

Johnnie’s night watchman

Night Watchman

Thanks, Johnnie, for a memorable day – and the recommendation on that Green Chili Burrito I had down the road from your place!


To Durango, Colorado, tomorrow to visit my friend Bill.  I may be back, New Mexico…


All content Copyrighted © Stephen Tavella

8 thoughts on “A Blast from My Past

  1. Steve, that’s a Steller’s Jay. We don’t have any here in Missouri, but you are in their range right now. Beautiful isn’t he? You are fortunate to see one. I’ve always wanted to see one up close. Keep the photos coming. We are loving your blog.

    • Ton, as soon as I get internet access I’ll send you the larger format versions of the photos you want. I can’t send the larger formats from my iPad. Glad to hear you’re enjoying the pictures!

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