The Ultimate Summer Road Trip Day 3 (Morning to Late-Afternoon)
Monday, July 26th
We awoke refreshed in the parking lot of Clines’ Corner, New Mexico on Monday morning, before the sun. After a trip to the gas station facilities, and with two gas station coffees in hand, we hit the road for another exhilerating day on historic Route 66!
Following the old road took us to the presently named Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway, and to Sandia Park, NM where we encountered the long anticipated (by me, anyway) Tinkertown Museum.
Sadly, we were so damn early in our arrival that the museum was not yet open for business. We debated waiting, but the call of the open road proved too strong, and with a fond look-about, we were off again.
We should have waited.
The rain started in again with a vengeance, and about the time we hit Albuquerque traffic, it was coming down so hard I could barely see to drive over a crawl. Several incredibly estupido drivers around us had near-misses that kept my heart in some adrenile soaked place in the back of my throat for miles. We then hit a massive traffic jam just on the outskirts of Albuquerque, and spent an hour creeping to an off-ramp. Upon entering the city, I pulled over at the very first opportunity (a McDonald’s), so ready to hand the steering wheel over to the much calmer, and far better driver who is my husband. My one true love casually informed me that I am not one with my vehicle. Once I learn to become one with my vehicle, I too, will drive through frighteningly fast traffic (in horrendous weather) with the same aplomb that he always exhibits. I’ll work on that. In any case, that is how we ended up having an Egg-McMuffin for breakfast instead of some exotic New Mexican cuisine that morning.
Interestingly enough, the cashier at the McDonald’s had to “buzz” you in to the bathrooms, which were always kept locked. That was new.
The rain had stopped by the time we came out of MickeyD’s and we followed historic Route 66 (Central Ave.) through Albuquerque, goggling at the sights of the city and stopping here and there to get a better view. I was excited to see the Tewa Motor Lodge, which opened in 1946 to welcome motorists along the Mother Road. The motel was built in Pueblo Revival style with rounded parapets, irregular massing, battered walls, and projecting vigas (wooden roof beams). It is located at 5715 Central Ave. NE, and is still in operation as a motel.
We had to stop downtown by the KiMo Theatre to see our very first example of Pueblo Deco Architecture.
When Jack Rittenhouse’s 1946 edition of the Route 66 guidebook was published, the post-1937 alignment is the route he mentions. Today the post-1937 alignment of Route 66 leaves Albuquerque on Central Avenue, crosses the Rio Grande, and climbs Nine-Mile Hill to join Interstate 40. So did we. 19 miles west of Albuquerque at the Rio Puerco River, we saw an old steel truss bridge to our right.
For more photos from this section of the trip, please see http://www.flickr.com/photos/misty_bee/sets/72157624958104278/with/4990962119/
The way west from the Rio Puerco Bridge on Route 66 led us next through the Laguna Indian Reservation lands. We came to a road that led up into the Laguna Pueblo, and debated visiting. On the one hand, we really did want to see a Pueblo. On the other hand, the sign at the entrance road, with its extravagant warnings and talk of “all personal property subject to confiscation” threw us off a bit. My husband pondered the many ways that “all personal property” could be interpreted. The ban on photography was a consideration as well. I’m not entirely sure that I am physically capable of not taking a photograph if I see something particularly photogenic… what to do, what to do….hmmm..
Meh. We drove on.
At some point we left Laguna Indian lands, and entered the Acoma Indian Reservation lands. We passed the exit to the Acoma Pueblo, where ancient SkyCity is located atop a 350 ft mesa. This one we didn’t debate visiting, as we knew there was an entry fee associated with a trip to SkyCity, as well as a camera fee, and for all we knew, a restroom fee as well. We were trying to avoid as many fees as possible on this particular road trip, so we took on pass on this one.
The way west next led us through Budville, (home of the now defunct Budville Trading Post and a very closed Cafe), and then to Villa De Cubero. Sitting at the far edge of Acoma Indian Reservation lands, Villa de Cubero dates to 1937. The town was first occupied by Indians from San Felipe and was once a famous stopover on Route 66 -including a tourist court, café, and trading post. The tourist courts were so popular that Ernest Hemingway stayed here when he was writing Old Man and the Sea, and Lucille Ball stayed here after leaving Desi Arnez.
Today, all that is left is the trading post, where we stopped to use the facilities. There were no facilities, sadly. However, there was an interesting collection of local “snacks”, that although they looked as if they had been sitting on the grimy shelves for about 25 years, did sport interesting variety, such as jerkey covered in walnut-sized pieces of hot chili. My husband had some. It made my eyes water just to smell him eat it. There was also a really, really, large selection of domestic beer available.
Three short miles from Cubero is San Fidel, NM. Long past its prime, San Fidel has an operating post office, church… and an art gallery. Gallery 66. US, owned and operated by Mary Trask.
Mary was very gregarious and possessed of absolutely delightful vulgarities (she and my husband have that in common 🙂 ). She invited us in to show us her gallery (amazing) and her garden grounds (beautiful). She told us many, many stories about life on the reservation in San Fidel (regrettable), about her neighbors (most of whom sound certifiable) and about many of the activities she was forced to witness on a daily basis (criminal). She filled us in on a recent local event that had bowled her over -it sounded a lot like a game of golf, played with live rooster heads. Well, live before the tee-off, I guess. She allowed us the use of the restroom in her own house, as well as showing us her artist studios on the grounds, and explaining the different varieties of cider she makes there from her trees.
My favorite part of this visit was the piece of artwork Mary showed to us, one that she had been working on for a long time. A part of the design included the labels from a particular brand of crackers called “Mary’s Gone Crackers” .
The “Mary’s Gone Crackers” lables were interspersed with Route 66 icons. She explained that people were always asking why she hadn’t finished it yet, and she told them she was afraid if she finished it, it would come true.
Mary’s Gone Crackers on Route 66.
Mary plans to release a book about her life in San Fidel on Route 66 someday. I plan to buy it.
Duly heading Mary’s warnings to watch out for drunk drivers on the next mile or so of road, (apparently, some locals are very fond of getting liquored-up and proceeding to drive back and forth, up and down, the two mile stretch of town…) we carefully headed west again. Shortly, the route brought us to the Continental Divide. The Continental Divide has been the site of numerous trading posts down through the years. In his1946 guidebook to Route 66, Jack D. Rittenhouse says “the divide is marked by a large sign and there are several establishments located there including The Top O’ The World Hotel and Cafe, Great Divide Trading Company, and the Continental Trading Post and grocery.”
Our last stop in New Mexico was the town of Gallup (Native American Capitol of the Southwest), close to the Arizona border. On Gallup, Rittenhouse comments “Gallup is a great Indian trading center, to which they come for supplies and from which Navajo and other Indian wares are shipped. It is also famous for its great Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial held annually just after the middle of August.” The Navajo Reservation borders Gallup to the north and the Zuni Pueblo is to the south.
Of course we had to stop for dinner at El Rancho Hotel, temporary home to Hollywood Stars in the 1930’s – 1950’s.
This pretty much completed the New Mexico portion of our Route 66 road trip; next stop -Arizona!
More photos available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/misty_bee/sets/72157624837889493/