99 miles to El Morro


On Wednesday, May 9th, we woke early from our roadside camp just about 10 miles south of St. Johns, AZ. It was a chilly morning to be riding and the landscape was stark. We rode non-stop into downtown St. Johns looking for whatever it had to offer. The entire downtown was either vacant, for sale or completely deserted. The heart of the town seemed to be a pair of gas/convenience stores directly across the street from one another.Odd, this town isn’t even a hundred years old and it looks like it just barely hanging on for its life. We bought coffee and sat on some church steps and ate our breakfast.  We watched as a group of high school honor students dressed in all types of costumes came by on an early morning festive harassment march through town. We thought we were getting our usual amount of looks but they stole the show that morning. No one seemed to notice us.

Desolate area south of St. Johns, AZ

Downtown St. Johns, AZ

We took the long road out of St. Johns

Our last hours in Arizona were filled with open range and long roads. We had one more landmark to look forward to, a junction called Witch Well. This would be where we turn and cross into New Mexico, clip a corner of the Navajo reservation and then begin our ride across the Zuni Indian Nation.

Taking a breather in Witch Well

Wind mill in Witch Well

Good bye Arizona! It has been a glorious few months and we have been awed and astounded every day. See you manana!  We quietly crossed into Mew Mexico. A few horses, cattle and sheep dotted the landscape. Our route was low on traffic except for a convoy of amusement park trucks heading east. As we rolled into Zuni Pueblo we turned right onto Pia Mesa St. and headed into the heart of the pueblo to re-supply at Halona Plaza the the only supermarket in town. All the people we chatted with were very nice. The store had everything – well worth the stop. By this time it was 3:30pm and we were not sure how much farther we going to ride. After loading up on groceries the weight was back on our bikes but now we had yummy vittles to carry us forward for the next few days.  We dodged rain all afternoon and we’re lucky to not get wet as the isolated storms were dumping all around us.

NM 53 heading east

Approaching Zuni Pueblo

One of the many light rain showers that missed us

Natural Arch on the Zuni reservation

We stopped occasionally for snack breaks and sanity checks. We  kept on riding east on NM 53 and the traffic disappeared. We rode into and through the small village of Ramah. Not a whole lot going on here but there was a small cafe and Post Office. Leaving Ramah we crossed a a satellite section of the Navajo reservation that was riddled with packs of barking, chasing dogs. For the most part they stayed out of the road and Debi would yell at them to keep them at bay.  As the afternoon turned into early evening the sun was slowly setting and the light seemed eternal. As the sun set we decided to ride on to El Morro National Monument to either stay at their campground or the El Morro RV park. We weren’t sure. The campground at the monument was on our map and could be seen with satellite view on google maps but there was no information about it on the website.  When, after dark we came upon the entrance to the monument we decided to try it first before riding another mile onto the RV park. The campground was open and was only $5 a night, had water but no showers and wasn’t the least bit crowded. Perfect. It was 99 miles to get here and were looking forward to a day off! We stayed up late and celebrated with salmon and rice.

Sunset near Ramah, NM

Thursday, May 10th, we woke to a sunny morning with birds all around singing to our delight. We had a leisurely morning and then locked our bikes to a tree and walked off to the visitor center to see what was shaking and to do a little hiking. Hiking always feels good after riding a bunch of miles because it uses different muscles and slows us down. The trail system at El Morro is not large, maybe 2.5 miles total but it is definitely not to be missed. We walked out the back door of the visitor center and headed toward inscription rock and an ancient pool of water that drains from the box canyon above. El Morro was a crucial water hole for travelers for the past few hundred years.  While they lingered, many signed their names into the rock. Before travelers came through Ancestral Puebloans lived on top of El Morro.

Campground at El Morro National Monument

Rock formations viewed from campground

Near inscription rock

Petroglyphs on inscription rock

More petroglyphs

hiding in the warm rock wall

Trail up to the top

Budding Oak leaves

Cool stonework on one of the many trail switchbacks

Epic cloud day

Looking across the box canyon from the top

Little trees – Little clouds

Looking down into the box canyon

Carved stone steps on the trail

Round Kiva


The staff at the visitor center were exceptional. Thanks especially to George who gave us great advice and made a call for us for the riding conditions we would see in El Malpais. That night we had a camp fire and cooked some sausages over it.

Sunset at El Morro

Next, we ride through El Malpais on the Chain of Craters Back Country Byway on our way to Albuquerque.  Stay tuned and thanks for following along.

Bryan and Debi


17 Responses to “99 miles to El Morro”

  1. See you soon!

  2. 2 karensar

    Beautiful country you are in right now :) talked to Jaime this morning and she said she would be sending you an email soon since you’re getting closer now :) Loving the story of your journey…stay safe and stay in touch :)

    • 3 thrubike

      Thank You so much Karen!

      We really appreciate your gift. We miss all of you down there. We will stay in touch for sure!

  3. 4 Kate Cross

    Thanks for showing us so many of the sites in our country!

    • 5 thrubike

      Everyone is welcome – we really enjoy doing it!

  4. Thumbs up to fantastic pictures and dialogue. We anxiously await each new post!

    • 7 thrubike

      Thanks! and thanks for following along we really appreciate it!

  5. Christ….I feel like I was on a peyote trip looking at your pictures of El Morro! Cool Snake….and Box Canyon..clouds and trees..i think that was the first real picture of a box canyon i’ve ever seen. Dont think I’ve actually been in one. My favorite line of the whole adventure was…..” As the afternoon turned into early evening the sun was slowly setting and the light seemed eternal.” :)

    • 9 thrubike

      Ha Ha! We are loving this part of the country for sure! Big sunny days and thunderstorm afternoon are becoming the norm! Hope you all are well up there!

  6. Those were beautiful images. I am a New Mexican and I live in Santa Fe. Nice post!

    • 11 thrubike

      Thanks! We are quickly falling in love with this area – Santa Fe is just wonderful, so livable. Thanks for checking us out!

  7. Reblogged this on My Voyage Through Time and commented:
    These are beautiful images- must have been a lovely bike ride. One of my friends in researching family history in St. Johns, AZ. I have always wanted to visit El Morro- and experience the magic of Inscription Rock. New Mexico is a beautiful place- thank you for sharing our amazing sunsets, rock formations, clouds, petroglyphs, and history with the world! Keep biking!!!

    • 13 thrubike

      Thanks for re-blogging! We really appreciate it. It so beautiful out here.

  8. 14 Miranda Lewis

    Thanks for the beautiful pictures of my hometown, Zuni. I’m glad to hear you were treated kindly while there. It’s interesting to hear your perspectives of the place, I tended to take the landscape for granted while living there. Now that I’m an A:shiwi abroad, I miss it so much. I agree, the way from St Johns to Zuni does have long roads. I call them Twilight Zone roads – isn’t this road done yet??!! I offer one humble correction, you drove past Pine Hill (with the barking dogs), a satellite section of the Navajo reservation, not Acoma. Did you meet Frannie at El Morro? She’s my cousin :) safe travels!

    • 15 thrubike

      Hello Miranda, thanks for you comment. Your hometown was just beautiful-we marvel at the rock faces and cliffs here in the Southwest…we don’t get these kinds of views where we grew up in the Northeast. Thanks for you correction as well, we’ll fix that :)

  9. 16 Dad

    Congrats on the success of your trip to date! Really great pics!


    • 17 thrubike

      Thanks-we’re having a great time in west! We’ll wandering in Northern New Mexico for the next week and then crossing into Colorado.

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