Monday, May 28, 2018

~ Shadows over La Joya, New Mexico ~

This Memorial Day was spent attending the annual Bishop Mule Days; something I've done for years supporting the packers from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

But before I get to all the cowboys, cowgirls, horses, and mules, I wanted to remember and honor my uncle Valentin Moya on this Memorial Day.

World War II impacted the Moya and Griego families of La Joya dearly. 

Our mother’s youngest brother, Valentin Moya was born on July 8, 1922 in La Joya, New Mexico and died on July 18, 1943.  He joined the Army as a young man, and likely lied about his age in order to be accepted.  He was part of the 43rd Infantry Division which, in June and July 1943, was in the South Pacific area where they had just landed on Rendova and New Georgia Islands.  The objective here was to take the Munda Airfield occupied by the Japanese.  It was captured by the US Army forces after 12 continuous days of fierce fighting and fell on August 5, 1943. 

The official Army records factually tell us that  “…at about 0125, 18 July 1943, the US Navy LST-342 (Tank Landing Ship) was en-route from Guadalcanal for Rendova Island (to capture Munda Airbase) and was torpedoed without warning by the Japanese submarine RO-106.  The stern portion of the LST-342 was blown off by the torpedo explosion and sank almost immediately.  The actual location was south-east of New Georgia, Solomon Islands in position 09º03'S, 158º11'E (about 50 miles southeastwardly from Rendova).  [Your uncle] Valentin Moya and 31 other soldiers died in this attack.  There were only three (3) survivors…” 

Our mother loved Valentin deeply, and was often sad because she did not know Valentin’s final resting place.  This simple, little fact eluded her for nearly 65 years. We now know that Valentin, along with 36,285 soldiers missing in action, is honored on the “Tablets of the Missing” at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Philippines.

Robert Griego made a video to honor our uncle Valentin Moya and dedicated it to Nancy (Moya) Griego, as her final closure to this chapter in her brother’s life.


On this Memorial Day, there is another person I'd like to highlight - my good friend, Jim Harvey who is 82 years young today.  In the day, he was the number one packer at the annual Mule Days competitions; a real cowboy.  We rode many miles together in the backcountry of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.  He taught me everything I know about horses and mules.

Jim Harvey at the Bishop Mule Days.  82 years old today

Jim Harvey and Bob Griego

Jim handles security at an important gate at the Bishop Mule Days

Here are some pictures from this years Bishop Mule Days:

These cowboys are from Tombstone, Arizona and aim to keep the peace

NPS packers

The NPS brass

My good friend, Nick Knutson - top hand of the SEKI packers

Nick Knutson getting ready for his rodeo

I think I may have ridden this horse years ago

Memorial Day draws lots of people, so the Lone Pine Campground was full, except for one spot which I grabbed.  Honestly, I prefer the wide open spaces to the hustle and bustle of a packed campground.  So with those thoughts, I gave up site #10 and headed for Horseshoe Meadow where I had camped years ago with my good friend, Scott Ruesch.   

The elevation gain is substantial and the snow on the ground persuaded me to return to lower elevations.  And that's when I spotted an isolated dirt road where my adventure began.

My bike fully loaded weighs about 1,000 pounds.  A fully loaded bike that hits sand on a narrow dirt road often loses.  Before I knew it, my bike went down at only 1-2 miles per hour.  It took all of my strength to lift it back up and then it only got worse.

You see, I tried to turn around and my rear wheel sank deep into the sand.  I had left the Lone Pine Campground because there were too many people and now I was alone.  Alone and stuck.  In moments like this, it is best to relax, take deep breaths, and to accept consequences.  Nobody to blame but me.  I was stuck, but stuck in one of the most beautiful spots on earth.

That evening I dug out as much dirt and shrubs from under my bike and set up camp, knowing that this was going to be home for tonight.

This lonely dirt road was fine until I hit sand

My rear wheel was buried up to my saddle bags.  I dug out as much dirt as possible for my big push in the morning

Stuck in the sand but what a view tonight

My million dollar view looking towards Mount Whitney

My Yamaha Road Star is a work horse ~ It has never let me down


  1. My wife and I were out driving around and ended up in La Joya. I saw the headstone for PVT Valentin Moya and thought I'd look him up. Beautiful cemetery and a nice little town. Rest in Peace Private Moya!

  2. Thank you, La Joya is the village of my birth. Our uncle is at peace!