adventure america

A Guy, A Car, and A Camera: Do Not Enter

Wednesday, September 04, 2013 Kenny Muzzey

A few years ago, I was overcome by this feeling. A feeling that I am sure everyone can relate to in some way. A feeling of stagnation, being in a rut, needing a change of pace, a change of scenery. Wondering to myself, 'what can I do mix it up a bit and escape these doldrums?' The more I pondered, the more I realized that I had not really seen too much of this great nation. I have resided in Illinois all my life, took a few trips to Wisconsin now and then, and the occasional trip to Florida. My friends and I always talked about taking a road trip.... 'Why not?!' I thought to myself. In a matter of three days, I planned and executed my trip, based purely on a whim of spontaneity.

Due to the excessively short notice, I ended up traveling alone. I really had no complaints about this situation. An excited nervousness had overcome me the morning of my departure. Packed and ready to go, I ate breakfast and started on my way. Over the next ten days, I would see some of the greatest things I have ever beared witness to. And to this day, I still talk about the things I saw
 and experienced on this journey.   

As I cruised down the interstate, windows down, the dry Summer air blowing through my car like a hurricane; I looked over and realized what time it was, roughly quarter after one.  Lunch time!  I thought to myself,
'Great!  I will pull over and get something to eat and top off my tank.'  It was just a short while ago that I had entered New Mexico from Texas.  I was arriving at the town of Tucumcari, and as my car gently coasted onto the exit ramp, I eyeballed what was around to eat.  


Seeing a local sandwich shop, I thought it would be a nice change up from the greasy fast food I had been eating all trip. Reluctantly, I signaled and turned right onto South 1st Street. Shortly after gassing up I stopped by the shop and had a hearty meal. Having satisfied both my stomach’s and car’s insatiable appetite, I popped my trunk and began shuffling through my camera gear. My next destination, Tucumcari Mountain; she was mine for the taking.

I got back on South 1st Street, heading South, to see what was up the road. Suddenly, I slammed on the brakes, kicking up a cloud of red dust as I noticed off to my right an erected plaque. I quickly pulled a right turn and into the ‘parking lot’ that was a bunch of red dirt and gravel. The plaque turned out to be a little information sign that was obscurely placed, telling about attractions in the area. This was not what grabbed my attention however. 

What I had become very interested in was a very narrow winding dirt path that took a sharp bend around some mountainous terrain. I thought to myself, ‘Should I? Should I not?’ Finally coming to the conclusion that I would. ‘What are the odds that I will be back here again?!’ I thought to myself. After scouting the area around the entrance to the dry, cracked, dusty path cautiously looking for anything that read ‘No Trespassing’ or ‘Do Not Enter’, I saddled up and went for it. Camera in hand I slowly accelerated up the rough terrain. At a mule’s pace I carefully continued down the tortuous path, a steep drop on my right side, a steep cliff on my left, and barely enough room for my car alone.

Click. Click. Click. Sounded my camera as I shot the mountain off on the distant and the dusty horizon.  It was almost surreal the amount of dust blowing around in the air; it gave the whole scene a dreamy sense. I had come to a sharp bend in the road and slowly started around it. Startled I stopped dead in my tracks. What I saw in front of me warned me of danger. A small red and white sign reading ‘DO NOT ENTER USE OF DEADLY FORCE AUTHORIZED’, I thought to myself, ‘Where the Hell am I?!’ I finished up snapping my final photos and shuffled back to the safety of my car. Backing up slowly and cautiously to a point where it was just barely wide enough for me to make a thirty-point turn about, I stopped and started putting away my camera equipment into a pack resting on my passenger seat.


I had just gotten everything away and situated when I glanced in my rear view mirror, behind me sat another car. I silently exclaimed ‘Shit!’ to myself and nervously started down the long and winding road. I checked my mirror again; the driver of the other car had put his window down and started urgently gesturing for me to pull over. My mind raced, ‘What to do?! What to do?!’ I carefully slowed to a stop and with the greatest amount of caution and stuck my head out the window. The driver had raised his hands and started cupping them around his mouth in what seemed like slow motion.

‘You left your sunglasses on your roof!’ the man yelled. I laughed to myself while simultaneously breathing a sigh of relief. Jumping hastily out of my car to snatch them off the roof thanking the mysterious stranger. He chuckled and told me ‘Yeah, I saw them up there and did not want you to lose them!’ I smiled, and again thanked him. Seeing my plates, the man inquired as to where exactly I was from and what I was doing in New Mexico. I explained to him that I was from Chicago and started following Route 66 with my destination being Flagstaff.  The stranger stated that he was originally from the Quad Cities, near the Iowa/Illinois border, and also mentioned that he had family near Chicago so he was familiar with the area. Soon he explained the sign, telling me that tourists would often times follow the dirt path all the way up to his house, park, take pictures and then start hiking up the mountain. This was a concern for the man and a great nuisance so he posted that sign and since then ‘Hasn’t had a problem.’ Following this, he told me what roads to take, and where to park if I wished to hike up the mountain, advising me that ‘You’re not supposed to do it, but people do it all the time.’  Again, I thanked the kind man, he wished my luck on my trip and we went our separate ways….

From there, I spent some time camping in the Grand Canyon.  And following that, I was northbound to my next destination.... Yellowstone National Park, where I experienced three of the most breathtaking events of my life...  

Tune in next Wednesday to read on....
~Kenny Muzzey~

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