Champion of Nothing

Pete: The story of Styve started two years ago, when the editors of  Sierra sent me to Otero Mesa: an empty, environmentally integral part of New Mexico with strict instructions: “Ride your bike. Write about it.”

The Cornudas Mountain Range

The Cornudas Mountain Range

I rented a bike and disappeared into the desert for a week, camping on sand and riding down endless dirt roads into an astonishing headwind. You can read that article here.

While pre-reporting that article with the leaders of local conservation groups, however, I kept hearing the same name. “You gotta talk to Styve Homnick,” they said.

I did. For an entire day at his ranch, scribbling notes as he talked, growing wide-eyed and wondering if I’d found the centerpiece of my story on the final day of reporting.

Funny thing is, however, when a magazine sends you out to do a biking story, it wants a story in which bikes feature prominently. I couldn’t work Styve in until well past the middle of my piece.

But Styve loved the story and we kept in touch over the next few years, throwing around the idea of doing another one. Last spring, realizing I’d be driving through New Mexico with a couple of days before I had to be anywhere, I called him up and left a message.


Styve Homnick

We spent three days together this time, talking with Mescalero tribal members, rehashing his history with the tribe, shooing his dog, Laya, out of the room when she panted too loudly and the mic picked it up, apologizing to Laya, and then, finally, hiking around Alamo Mountain together.

Though this story is decidedly “about” Styve, if you want more information on the biology of Otero Mesa, the best source  is Kevin Bixby and Walt Whitford’s paper The Last Desert Grasslands. Pages 9-11 were particularly helpful.

For information on the archaeology of Alamo Mountain, Deni J. Seymour is the unquestioned authority. Her paper PASARON POR AQUÍ (They Passed By Here) is a great place to start.

One Response to “Champion of Nothing”

  1. Jill Howard says:

    Time off work sick, I was trawling the net and happened across this amazing podcast, it was seeing Styve’s name that caught my attention, there could only ever be one Styve Homnick, and I’d met him when i was at art college in 1979!
    I was an outspoken 19yr old art student and he was a crazy 30yr old drummer and blues harp player, and on rollerskates….. stone mad but so, so much fun and inspiring. We had some crazy days while he was on tour with Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.
    Then summer was over, like a hurricane the years have torn through, and yes he’d crossed my memory a time or two but, just recently, Googling a gloomy wet and windswept scottish afternoon in the highlands, by a cozy crackling fire, a million miles away from New Mexico and Otero Mesa…… 30 MW crops up!!
    Thanks Pete, what a great story, and a great way to travel and share the world, guess I’ll never make it to NM, barring a major lottery win!!!, but for thirty minutes you transported me there, and to meet up with a very, very special guy I thought I’d never ever meet again.

    If you’re crossing the Atlantic any time, come and record a 30Minutes West Highlands!! Scotland maybe tiny in comparison but it is beautifully formed! Green,wet,wild and rugged, in fact the World Mountain Bike trials are held here in Fort William every June!! I too am a bike addict, but mine had an 1100cc engine and was made in italy by Ducati! How I’d love to ride it out into the New Mexico desert!

    Thanks again


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