While the hot, dry and windy weather in Santa Fe is just the refreshing change of pace my family was looking for on our summer vacation given the rain-soaked Milwaukee we left, but a drought is causing severe problems for those who live in this area of the southwest. A number of wild fires burning around New Mexico, and from the parking lot our condo we can see one such fire burning just to the northeast of Santa Fe (in the photo below). The fire has already burned through 9,300 acres. While it has not yet affected our trip, during the day the smoke fills the sky over town and at night the mountains on the horizon glow orange with flames.
The fires are a particular problem because they are burning in the watershed areas. The summer monsoons are about to start, and if the fires burn away all the timber on the sides of the mountains, the coming rains will wash ash and silt down and pollute the water supplies. The problem of the drought is compounded by the overpopulated forests because we don’t allow smaller natural burns. Too may dry trees mean fires spread quickly and are harder to contain.
I feel for the locals and don’t pretend to know too much beyond what I read in the papers, but this smacks of just another flavor of the same extreme weather we left in the midwest and man’s misguided attempts to change and control nature. Unending droughts in the west, the “Katrina of tornado outbreaks” in the south, and record rainfalls in the midwest sure seem to be the extreme weather patterns many scientists claim are the result of global warming caused by man’s use of fossil fuels.
Beyond the extreme weather, we have floods in the midwest because all the permeable ground is now paved with concrete and asphalt and the record rain has nowhere to go. Out west they have huge wild fires in times of drought because they are afraid to risk letting small fires burn even in seasons with more rain as they would if nature were left to her own devices. These problems seem too big for the individual to do anything about, but once again, riding a bicycle for short trips instead of driving a car is certainly part of the solution.
I have only been here a day, but so far I have not been impressed by Santa Fe as a bicycle friendly community. There are almost no on-street bicycle accommodations and the streets are crowded with too many tourists looking for too few parking spots. I have only seen a couple of people riding who appeared to be commuting or on a recreational ride. Other than some kids on BMX bikes, the vast majority of people I have seen on bicycles seem to be living on the edge of social norms. But hey, those are my people, right? Take Santa Fe Dave, in the photo below.
This small photo does not do him justice. You would need a wall-sized print to appreciate the patina of his tattooed skin, tanned like leather from years in the desert. I loved the contrast of the newish Giant 29er mountain bike against his look, which was torn straight from the pages of a Larry McMurtry novel. I only had time for two quick snaps, and know nothing about him, but I enjoyed our brief meeting. If you happen to see this post, thanks for your time Dave.
I will be in Santa Fe until Thursday. I will keep my camera ready for more interesting bicycle culture here and report back if I see anything worth sharing. If any readers have suggestions of nearby bicycle must-sees, let me know via comments below. Otherwise I will be spending most of my time next to a margarita and a plate of green chilies.