Day 12 – Route 66 Sante Fe to Gallup via Albuquerque and Grant

A nice lazy morning in our little Casita, set in the historic region of Agua Fria in Sante Fe, established in 1840. This area was set around Camino land and reminded us so much of the region we live in Monda, Spain. Driving out of Sante Fe we felt we could be in the middle of rural Spain. No wonder the Spanish settled here, they must have felt right at home.

Our little Casita in Sante Fe – home from home

We stopped for some petrol (or gas as they say round here) and not for the first time did I find that my pre-loaded dollar currency card would not work in the machines. We had to get pre-authorisation from the cashier, this was beginning to be a real pain, given how often we were stopping to refuel. I was beginning to regret not getting a British Airways American Express credit card to use out here. I would have been able to gain more air miles – you never know, we might want to come back! We still marvel at fuel prices which are around $3 a gallon, equivalent to £0.60 a litre!!!! A bit different to the average of £1.25 we left back in the UK.

Then on to get our kicks!

Heading out to ‘get our kicks’ on Route 66 the Car Stereo playing the same song by the Rolling Stones, we were getting in the mood to see a different side of America, that of the famous neon lights and diners.

We picked up the historic Route coming into Albuquerque, but as many people may know the route as a complete actual road no longer exists. So we weaved our way on bits of the old stretch to take in the ambience of a different time. Part of the road was a bit of a let down, we were left thinking they could have made more of this nostalgic Route. There were the odd diners and signs but not as much as we had perhaps expected.

But history in this part of New Mexico is never far away. We enjoyed a short drove around the old historic plaza of Albuquerque. Similar to Sante Fe, full of Indian arts and souvenirs and lovely traditional adobe low rise buildings. As we passed through we spotted three iconic vehicles from the fifties era of outrageous heavily chrome clad cars.

A few pictures from the lovely historic plaza in Albuquerque

Leaving Albuquerque behind, we headed out to Grants, another town on the old Route 66. Traveling along we saw a large Route 66 casino, but casinos for us would wait until we reached Las Vegas, so we drove on. We also by-passed the 66 pit stop and got back onto the Interstate 40.

The countryside was once again vast – stretching in every direction with flat plains and mountains in the distance. The map told me we were surround by Indian Reservations on all sides. These regions provide an opportunity for the Native Americans to live in their traditional ways. From what we could see the land was very much like their forefathers would have known it – apart from the motorway and the railroad running through the territories with the regular locomotives pulling over 150 goods carriages. These mile long goods trains are a spectacle to see when you consider the average goods trains in the U.K.

As we made our way on Interstate 40, we started to see our first glimpse of red rock formations and were reminded of our forthcoming trip into Arizona tomorrow.

Then we had an opportunity to leave the Interstate and cruise along the original Route 66 Highway. We stopped at a traditional Indian craft shop. To our amazement a few minutes later, a number of American classic cars from the era of Route 66’s hey day pulled in. Chris was like a boy in a sweet shop again, drooling over the Thunderbirds and Mustangs from the 50s and early 60s. When asked which I preferred, I said ‘the blue one, because it was my colour, but I liked the red one as it was classic with the white roof, but the black one looks amazing, I just cannot decide’ – not the answer the car club enthusiasts were perhaps looking for!

I will leave Chris to give you an update on the cars in more detail in another blog for the petrol head fans amongst you. He told me that most of the cars were older than him, to which I replied ‘yes, but they look in better condition’. He wasn’t amused!!!

So another song, ‘Fun, fun, fun’ in relation to a ‘T-bird’ by the Beach Boys was added to our USA playlist. We are building this as a memory of our travels. More of that in another blog!

At the same place we also noted that we were on the Continental Divide:

Back on the I40 heading to Gallup all we could see for miles in the distance was either to our right, rugged red rock hills or to the left wooded hills covered with fir trees. We were obviously heading for a change in landscape as we came towards Arizona.

Another great day of lovely scenery, some traditional ‘New Mexico enchantment’ to enjoy, and a great cruise on Route 66 where Chris got his ‘kicks’ when he saw all the classic cars.

Gallup

Staying at a motel on the Highway 66, we plan to have dinner at famous El Rancho hotel, the place where the Hollywood Actor’s stayed when filming westerns in this area. A few names that have stayed here include John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart and Jane Fonda to name but three of the dozens mentioned. A condition of the hotel publicising the Mamés is that they stayed there while filming nearby, not just passing through ‘getting their kicks’!

They have named burgers after some of these famous past residents. Chris had the John Wayne burger, never any doubt! The hotel is full of photos of famous faces the various Hollywood eras. I confess to not knowing many of he faces, but felt in awe seeing a signed photo of John Wayne who was one of my childhood heroes.

At the hotel launderette I met a really interesting guy from the the Navajo reservation. He was working on the railway in this area. He was telling me about how grateful he was to his family that he speaks both languages (his native and English). He said they still raise their own animals which they slaughter in the traditional way. He was telling me all about the traditional stews they eat back home. He could have been giving me stories a tourist wanted to hear, but I do believe he was genuine. He highlighted some places we should visit the next day on our travels into his reservation when we stay at Tuba City between Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon.

So tonight is our last night in New Mexico. It has been a great opportunity to practice my Spanish! So for last time

Un Saludo and hasta lluego

Tomorrow we enter Arizona, the thirteenth state so far on this trip.

Ax