Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"Bicycles Not Recommended"? Let's Talk Turkey!


Just past the entry to Mesa Verde National Park, this sign greets cyclists with a semi-friendly warning. Not to worry for us as ours was an "auto randonneuring" journey! My son, Mike, and I headed out from Seattle taking the Toyota Corolla that Dartre and I were giving him to his home near Denver. We were "randonneuring by car", and our tires were wide. Seeing this sign, I imagined that my soon-to-arrive custom randonneuring bicycle with its 42mm-wide 650B tires would do just fine on these Mesa Verde roads, but I suppose for cyclists with narrow tires this warning makes sense. But sometimes to find the mesas we wish to explore we just have to widen our stance a little.

My son Mike with his new-to-him wheels. Like bicycle randonneuring, sometimes the best pee spots are those isolated gems with wide blue skies and mountain views.

Ever since my first Hardy Boys mystery, I've always been fascinated by the Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings, and I was eager to share that fascination with Mike. Fortunately for both of us, Mike too was delighted!

Here, note the circular stone pattern with the hole in the middle and the ladder poking through.

This is a Kiva or common room. It's believed it was both a ceremonial space and a common area for the family or clan to cook, lounge, weave, warm up, etc. None of the Kivas in the Park has an intact roof, so this roof is a re-creation.

Below, Mike walks the perimeter of a Kiva. This is how they look today, incomplete without their roofs.

Inside the reroofed Kiva, one gets a deep sense of the protection, comfort and sacredness of space.

The ladder goes up through the smoke hole, and the dark rectangular opening behind the ladder in this pic is the ventilation opening. It draws in fresh air from above which is dissipated by striking the low wall between the ladder and the opening, and the smoke is drawn up through the ladder hole.

Like ancient peoples everywhere who used what was available, the Ancestral Puebloans sculpted an interdependent living from the canyons, mesas, trees and rocks.

A trio of Manos and Matates. The Matate is the long stone upon which the grain is ground. The Mano is the grinder.

For those who live in the Southwest this is all old hat. But then that is the beauty of randonnering, by bicycle or car: discovery for oneself.

For me, re-discovering relationship was really what this trip was about. This "auto randonneuring" with Mike, now an adult, was our journey of re-discovering ourselves as relating adults. Amidst grand Western beauty, the appreciation of your son, of who he has become, is deeply moving. A father-son relationship is as profound today as it was in the Kiva. Sitting around the fire or sitting in the front seat of a Corolla with time to kill, the key is being together. I loved the being together part of this brevet.

Has anything of substance really changed today over these ancient times, or are we just more technologically advanced? And in these advances, are we losing time with one another? Presence with one another?

One of the timeless father-son rituals is the father's teaching the son important life how to put food on the table, described below. See the Gobbler in the center of this pic?

Lucky for Mike, I was about to teach him that age old hunting skill: tricking a Tom Turkey into believing you are his love mate. No, really.

On an early morning walk before sunup, we heard a bird call and Mike asked what it was. I told him it was the gobbling of a male turkey, a Tom. He was somewhere in the trees and brush on the other side of this narrow canyon. He gobbled again and I instinctively gobbled back. Instantly and with the urgency that only imagined sex can bring, that Tom was paying attention. Now at this point, he figured I was a competitor in Life's game of species perpetuation. I was another his territory.

I gobbled a few more times and each time he responded with greater intensity. Then I paused, and gave a plaintive hen turkey call: yelllp, yelllp, yelllp.

GOBBLE, GOBBLE, GOBBLE, went the Tom. Hot Diggity Dog Diggity he was thinking; there is a hen over there as well as the Tom who is intruding on my territory. Alert, Alert, Alert! Stand at the ready for SEX!!!

Now when I hen-yelped again, he went crazy. And he also was moving. We could tell that. Mike was duly amazed that his Dad was talking Turkey. This was cool!

Then, sure enough, after a particularly sexy yelp on my part, if I do say so myself, that Tom jump-flutters down onto a broad sandstone bench and starts to gobble and strut and fan wide his tail feathers. His comb was bright, mating season red, and his long beard shook as he strutted.

After a few more yelps with solid, highly excited gobble-responses from him, the air was charged with sex. I found myself thinking about calling my wife, I noticed Mike began to talk about his new girlfriend back home, and that gobbler was strutting and strutting.

Then, the magic was gone. That gobbler gave an alarm call somehow realizing the gig was up, and flew. Thing is he didn't fly away from us so much, but rather, obliquely toward us. I figure he came across to our side of the canyon so he could sneak up on us as Gobblers are sometimes wont to do if there is a competitor. But every time I impatiently called, we got no response. Nothing but silence. Love--or was it just lust?--was no longer in the air it seemed.

But come to think of it, love didn't fly away. It was really surrounding us. Father and son hanging together was a loving moment regardless of old Tom Turkey. The same now silent canyons and mesas that nestled generations of Ancestral Puebloan fathers and sons held us in their magic still. That magic of interdependence. And of course the lessons flow both ways. Just as when he was a child, Mike teaches me gentleness, kindness and humility. I too am duly amazed at his presence in the quiet places.

On our way through the mountains toward Denver we came across this big mountain bike race: the Chalk Creek Stampede.

Lots of road cyclists too!

Again though, it was the quieter moments that brought the on-the-road satisfaction that eludes us in our daily lives.

Deep, grand and gracious country.


At the Denver airport a departing passenger took our photo as I grabbed a flight home and Mike took his new ride, now fully his, to explore his own canyons and mesas.

Keep it interdependent,



  1. I really enjoyed this post. I can't help but give my son,8 years old this month,an extra squeeze to the hug just before he scoots on the school bus this morning,thinking of a future time spent more as true friends than just buddies. :-)


  2. I love this post! Mike looks so happy and I can't think of a better way to spend those many hours than with your friend and child.

  3. What a wonderful gift this trip was to both of you. I loved reading it and seeing the pictures of Mike.

  4. What a beautiful post, Steve! love the pics, too. Michael had just as wonderful time as you; he's still filling me in on details. So glad you two were able to have this time together.

    keep on ramblin'!


  5. What? No compliments on my Turkey calling? You think it's so easy to call in a Turkey even if he is sex-crazed?

    Maybe that's what hadl's comment was referring to? "beautiful", she said.

  6. I have memories of a turkey hunt you went on DECADES ago, when you won a lottery at Stone Mountain. You were SO pleased with yourelf to bring home the fruits of your hunt...turkey scat!!!

    some things don't change, do they? lol