Beautiful morning to load up the Honda CRV for a day of adventure. Reminiscent of many years ago, when I often led our sons on Saturday expeditions to the ‘Expo’ NM State Fairgrounds. About a 20 mile round trip.. on bicycles during the off season. They naturally, being young boys still in elementary school, ‘jumped’ their BMX bikes over every curb and bump in the sidewalk along the way. In essence, they covered twice the distance that I did.
Many years ago, departing before dawn, riding through darkness and under street lights for much of the way, we often stopped for breakfast at a Hardee’s near Menaul at the Coronado Mall. Croissant sandwiches provided the energy to keep up the action. Along the way, (we took several different routes on numerous trips), there were city parks, bridges, arroyos and flood control systems to explore. The two malls, Winrock and Coronado, were an interesting commercial diversion. People being people, ‘After’ we locked our bikes securely to a strong post. The state fairgrounds has a large parking lot flea market on most Weekends. Entrance was free back then.
Adventure was the theme that Saturdays brought. Today the two riders in my ‘biker gang’, are young sons of one of those sons. One starting first grade, the other in Kindergarten. As we approached the fairgrounds, I was unsure of history being repeatable. Legalistic attitudes have changed the USA… not for the better. We parked the Honda on a side street across from the fairgrounds. Noting an open gate walkway being used by workers, we unloaded and reassembled the bikes for the little morning jaunt. These grandsons are a bit younger and unable to complete a long tour….. at this time.
Walking the bikes across the busy street near McDonald’s, into the target area of entrance, where the livestock trailers enter, proved challenging, as few cars would slow or stop for the three of us at this intersection. On this day the grounds were being prepared for the opening day of the State Fair, only weeks away.
Few of the workers even spoke English, let alone desire to challenge three ‘bad bikers’. The boys rode units they are comfortable on, Raleigh 24″ Scout for the older brother and a 20″ Diamondback Recoil for the younger. Two vintage restored bikes with multi-speeds, a couple of former derelicts from charity thrift stores. I rode my venerable long frame Mongoose 20″ trick ‘spinner’, to hold conformity among my eager followers. ‘Slime’ in the tires is mandatory, to prevent surprises.. flat tires from Goathead thorns.
We first rode through a few of the big livestock barns, then proceeded up and down the walkways between the hundreds of stalls for exhibition live stock. Shade was welcome to stay out of the sun today. I attempted to inform the youngsters of each place of importance wherever we stopped. Gradually they came to realize they had been in this place before. It is definitely different without the thousands of people, live animals and entertainment.
The big buildings, the stages for entertainment and the numerous walks and doorways kept the young riders rolling without effort, as they gazed at their somewhat surreal ambiance.
The Tingley Coliseum doors were open, so we rode through the wide open, grand entrance gap of competition horse riders, bulls, broncs, past the iron gated, narrow ‘chutes’ where the bucking broncs and bulls with riders aboard, are released out into the center of the big air conditioned arena, where the nationally acclaimed cowboys and animals put on their shows.
The moistened fine dirt in the arena, heavily laced with wood chips, was fluffed up softer for the upcoming performances and difficult for our bikes to plow through. Some official looking people were in the grandstands, ostensibly to plan what was to occur during the rodeos and professional musical entertainment that take place each evening to come.
We peddled back outside, around the iron gated corrals where the rodeo stock lounges, eat well and await their next performance. We proceeded then down a long ramp under the race track, through a cool concrete tunnel, and up, out into the infield. The boys enjoyed the tunnel and yelled for echo effect as they rode through. They wanted to repeat that experience. Some days the horse races are in action at ‘The Downs’, with the tinted-glass paneled grandstand filled with aficionados of ‘the sport of kings’.
The rows of individual stables were mostly empty on this day, except tor the race horses and others kept and boarded at the grounds. We checked out one pony eating it’s hay, while others were tethered to revolving exercise devices. The prestigious international Arabian horse show, Quarter Horse associations, Roping groups and other associations periodically throughout the year perform and compete in these large NM State facilities.
The Pueblo Indian Village (No teepees) was vacant today. Soon it will be packed with people seeking Indian Tacos, Fry Bread, stew and watching the dances performed by Southwest and New Mexican tribes, as well as southern continent Aztec Indians performing their intricately wild leaping form of martial arts dancing. All while wearing long feathers in their unique head dresses. We rode our bikes among the corridors and onto the stage before reversing our track.
The Hispanic heritage village is in fine form and ready for it’s numerous food vendors. Yes even ‘Menudo’… the breakfast of champions. The stage is a very large, thick wooden planked area, that resonates the fast Spanish dancers ‘taps’. Each dance performed in a building crescendo of colorful whirling skirts and ornate traditional attire.
Today it was eerily silent, as we rode our bikes up the ramps and around on the wooden area of performance. At one point we became separated among the structures. The ‘gang’ members are shorter than much of the stages and platforms for other attractions. A brief moment made me think ‘their mom will be mad at me for loosing them’.
The fair attracts many performers aside from the rodeo. Bird shows amaze, with trained birds doing remarkable tricks. Piglets that race around a grassy track, to get a reward upon finishing.
We even had ‘Diving Mules’ that absolutely loved their own performance. They immediately sensed and perked up their ears, when they were about to be released from their large air conditioned trailer and corral, and into the diving area. They eagerly ran up the ramp then slid off the platform into the big water tank, where they paddled to the exit ramp to repeat their fun.
They enjoyed it during the hot days, so much so, that they could hardly get around fast enough to do it again. They didn’t want to return to their corral. As expected, conforming to their agenda, animal rights groups piously declared that the mules didn’t like it.
South American musical groups with pan flutes, guitars keep up their fast rhythm while selling their CDs. Aerial acrobats entertain along side the main street. High divers, periodic motorcycle riders in large wire cages, amaze the crowds without colliding into each other.
Lions and Tigers that were retired, put on their own show, with no actual performance. They just walked around sniffing, whizzing and enjoyed each others company every few hours within the big cage. No pressure, just doing what big older cats do. They really enjoyed the evenings. White Tigers are beautiful and quite interested in the crowds. Especially little children. Maybe as a snack ;>) Food of every imaginable culture is available around the extensive food court. Eating at the fair, is tradition.
BMX bike performers put on 1/2 pipe and other demonstrations, flying through the air like back flipping birds in formation, while dismounting and remounting. Contortionists and floor acrobats along with many musical groups keep up the music and theme of fun. Of course the midway, with it’s countless games and numerous entertaining rides, is busy most of the day and especially crowded evenings, when the real ‘people of ‘Walmart’ come out :>)
The two passenger bungee launch is one ride I care not to do. It flings vomit from the riders, high into the air, as they flip uncontrollably for many cycles. At one time tractors and skid loaders dug holes and did ‘dances’, exhibits had farming equipment. Not any more, as this urbanized state fair has gotten far less rural. County fairs, such as Roswell NM, have kept the rural tradition of ranching alive.
The sprinkler irrigation was in full effect today, to bring the green grass to a depth able to sustain somewhat, it’s greenness under attack from thousands of fair goers. Water was collecting in the main street area under the tall tree canopy of fairground Main Street. Of course with little opportunity to experience actual water lying around arid NM, the boys rode back and forth repeatedly in their newly discovered ‘river’, to spray the collecting water in wakes and bow waves.
I waited in the shade and listened to some Owls in the high cottonwood trees. West Nile Virus decimated the fairground Crow flocks many years ago. Swallows inhabit most of the door-less buildings at this time. We surprised a few swallows and numerous pigeons and doves, that panicked as we rode through the long interconnecting hallways. One building had open glass doors. We rode in, to see a man washing the floors in preparation for exhibits. He pointed the way back out ,as we turned our bikes around.
The boys are now excited to attend the Greatest show in NM, the State Fair. We left with that thought fresh in our mind. Riding back out through the big barns and through the open walk gate, after a couple of hours of adventure, we again had to cross the gauntlet of traffic. One car stopped and others reluctantly obliged. We located the Honda waiting patiently beneath a large shady tree.
We disassembled the pedals and one front wheel, to load the three bikes into the small SUV for the trip back to the house. They may or may not compare notes with their dad, as to this day’s adventure. A repeat of the past, where I led the invasion of a state facility and was their ‘leader of the pack’ :>).
Enjoy life in the United States of America. One Nation under God, with Freedom and Liberty for all. Despite relentless attack, Freedom still is holding.