How I fell in Love with New Mexico and the Diné People by Laura Drake

My husband and I have crisscrossed New Mexico on a motorcycle several times, and I fell in love with its harsh beauty. But it wasn’t until we did a bicycle tour across the state that I felt New Mexico. A bicycle is much slower, so you have hours and hours alone on the road to notice: the huge expressive sky that can change moods in minutes; the crumbling walls of rock with striations of color from off-white to ochre; the lonely wind, ruffling the grasses. The land spoke to me in ways no other has; it left marks on my soul.

 Along the way, we learned of the rich history of The People—The Navajo. We rode our bicycles 75 to 100 miles a day, visiting ruins, missions and pueblos.

I even got to pet a wolf! 


At night, we met the local tribe. Several shared a meal with us, danced and imparted some of their rich culture and history.


I came away with a deep respect for their wisdom, how they live, and how they view the world.

I wanted to honor them in some small way, and my July release, Home at Chestnut Creek, is my attempt at that.

It features a Navaho hero, Joseph ‘Fishing Eagle’ King, a man driven by his past to preserve his culture—who falls in love with a damaged white woman.

Our ‘Tour of the Nations’ bicycle ride is a memory now, but the land and people? They’re in my heart.


Home at Chestnut Creek is the second in the Chestnut Creek series, set in the fictional town of Unforgiven, New Mexico.

Find Home at Chestnut Creek here:

To enter for a chance to win a paperback copy of Home at Chestnut Creek (US only, please), just post a comment answering this question:

Would you take a bike tour? Where would you go? 

Author Bio:

Laura has always been a storyteller.  It began on her front porch, telling ghost stories to the neighborhood kids.  They ran screaming, but kept coming back for more. If she wasn’t telling a story, she had her nose in one, bumping into students in the halls on her way to classes.

Her settings are Western, but Laura grew up in the suburbs outside Detroit.  Always tomboy, she’s always loved the outdoors and adventure. In 1980 she and her sister packed everything they owned into their Pintos and moved to California, sight unseen. There Laura met her husband, a motorcycling, bleed-maroon Texas Aggie, and her love affair with the West began. Discover more about Laura’s books on her website:

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43 thoughts on “How I fell in Love with New Mexico and the Diné People by Laura Drake”

  1. Wow!! What an amazing trip that must have been. The slow ride across NM certainly allowed you to breath & take it all in. I love the West. I would love to go to Montana, but I don’t think I could travel it on a bicycle, that might be rough, but I’d love to ride a bicycle through Virginia, N. Carolina, S. Carolina, and Georgia looking at all the beautiful homes and old plantations.

  2. No I wouldn’t take a bike tour. I am afraid to get out on the roads on a bike anymore. I bought a bike a few years ago to ride just around the neighborhood and I only road it a few times because I was afraid I would wreck it or someone would hit me with a car. So my bike is parked in the building. I think I am just to old for things like that.

  3. I’d take a bike tour if I were in shape to take a bike tour. Alas, that ship has sailed. But I would love to travel in New Mexico. Have always enjoyed the Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee mysteries by Tony Hillerman. I would like to see Taos and the pueblos.

  4. Your trip looks amazing. I think it would be fun to tour by bike, but I am not in the kind of shape I would need to be in for that kind of ride.

  5. What a trip! I think it is amazing that you and your husband take in the beauty that surrounds us like you do. My husband and I bought bicycles right after we married. He always wanted to ride beside me and much too close with me telling him not to. One day we collided resulting in a broken ankle for me. Thus, no more bicycles! That was nearly forty-four years ago!

  6. Oh my! A bike tour in New Mexico, I’m exhausted just thinking about it. I have MS, I am heat intolerant, out of shape, become exhausted easily among dozens of other issues thanks to MS. Heck I wake up exhausted most of the time. So my point is, no I wouldn’t take a bike tour, I can’t even visit places that take a lot of walking much less hiking. I lived in El Paso for many years so we did go to different places in New Mexico often and I love the state. I was actually born in Tucumcari, New Mexico. I only lived there for about a month though because my family is all from Texas. I often forget the fact that I wasn’t born in Texas! Shhhh, don’t tell because I’m a proud Texan! I do wish I could hike and bike though! My vacationing, exploring and adventures come from books!!

    • Then you might like my current series, set in the fictional town of Unforgiven, New Mexico, Stephanie!

      I’m not a native Texan (my husband is), but I got here as fast as I could!

  7. That is amazing! My husband bikes and I know he’d love a trip like that! Thanks for sharing what you learned and saw.

  8. This sounds like a lot of fun!! Hot, but fun!! For me, I wouldn’t be able to do a bike tour. However, I’ve done driving tours and walking tours before! I did a walking tour of historical homes in Quincy, FL, I did a bus tour with stops at houses, a church, and a museum in Savannah, GA, and I did a driving tour of Andersonville before.

  9. Wow I can see how this made an imprint on your soul. My husband and I used to do bike rides and when the children came along, that only kept us closer to home. Then when they hit trainer wheels we hit trails a lot. We all learned to appreciate Gods creation on a whole new level.

  10. Falling in love with NM is easy. You fall under the spell and it is inescapable. I did and live here but have not biked. I walk and marvel at the scenic wonders.

  11. I haven’t been on a bike since I was a teenager, so I wouldn’t take the challenge. But, your experience was priceless.

    I would hike on the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee.

  12. Wonderful experience. I have driven through all of New Mexico and have been enchanted with the diverse and amazing areas. Impressive and unique setting.

  13. What a wonderful trip! I would have to do my touring in a car which I have done through a tiny bit of New Mexico. I do think it is a state that is overlooked which is too bad since it has so many different scenic areas and a mix of cultures to explore.

  14. I broke my neck nine years ago and survived to walk again. Thus, I’m not a biker anymore. I do travel and camp along the way to take in all Gods handiwork. New Mexico is amazing and we have met Navajo people along the way. They are unique and I admire them. Your books sounds like a great read. Thank you for sharing such an interesting blog. So enjoyed reading it.

  15. Laura, thank you for sharing your epic adventure! I’d enjoy a bike tour in the English countryside.

  16. Wow, what an awesome bike ride you had, and yes New Mexico is Beautiful. My husband and I lived in Gallup , NM when our daughter was 6 months old, my husband was working in the uranium mines, our son was born in Gallup NM.. There are a lot of Navajo people there, I was so very impressed at how beautifully they dressed and with all their turquoise jewelry, the only thing that was a little different was how the elders would ride in the back of the truck while the young ones would ride inside the truck, but I guess that’s what they do. we lived there for a little less then 2 years, then we moved to Texas where my husband got a job much, much safer than at the mines. I have a sister and a brother that live about 15 miles from Las Cruces NM and the Organ Mountains are something to see especially when there is snow on them. How nice that you have a cabin in Ruidoso. We like to rent cabins in Cloudcroft, we love it there, it is beautiful there. Thank you for sharing your bike tour and the beautiful pictures of NM. I would go on a bike tour anytime to Cloudcroft New Mexico. Have a Great weekend. God Bless you all.

    • Alicia, The trip went from Albuquerque to Gallup! Gallup is beautiful. I love Cloudcroft – even wrote a scene in The Last True Cowboy that took place there! Done it a bunch on a motorcycle, but not on a bike – remember that HUGE hill past the casino? Not me!

  17. I would love to take a bike tour, but physically it is no longer possible. We took a trip to Alaska driving through the midwest and home through western Canada, Montana, and the Dakotas angling down back to TN. Every part of the trip we passed cyclists traveling the country. The stamina necessary in some of these areas is incredible. The Southwest would be the place to do a bike trip. It would have to be during the cooler months of the year. The land can be stark, but is beautiful in its own way. You wouldn’t have to worry about grizzlies chasing you. The snakes I can deal with (the spiders not so much). It is an area rich in culture and beauty. I am always disappointed when we go through an area without stopping to take advantage of all it has to offer. We avoid the interstates when we can. They make the areas bland and you miss so much. You may have passed through the area, but you haven’t really “seen” it.

    • Too true, Patricia. The best memories I have on a motorcycle aren’t the places we were ‘going to’, but the places I didn’t know about, in between!

  18. I am disabled and have 2 fake knees, so biking is out. But my brother and his wife go all over the world bike riding. They have the most amazing pictures. I used to love it as a kid. Thanks for sharing your journey with us!

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