By: Maryanne Erikson
Saturday September 13, 2014
Acoma, New Mexico to Winslow, Arizona
What an action-packed day of beauty at every turn! I told Jen this was one of those times I could have been snapping pictures non-stop all day. We started out at the Sky City Casino, run by native Americans – a dry facility – something I had never encountered before. The weather was cool, but we could tell from the forecast it was going to be in the 90′s in the afternoon so we dressed accordingly.
From the very beginning of the drive, we were wowed by the New Mexico landscape. There’s a reason artists have flocked to this region to paint – something about the contrast between the gently rolling plains dotted with sage brush and the craggy adobe colored stone outcroppings and emerging red mesas – it’s a constantly evolving tale of geological evolution that keeps my mind in a perpetual state of wonder. “How did all this come into being?” And then “boy do I wish I could come here and paint”!
Our first stop was an Indian Trading Post at the Continental Divide. This was just one of many that we saw today, but it was special (not just because they had a ladies room with two toilets next to each other with no wall in between?!!) because it was right next to the marker for the line that goes vertically through our nation: water flows to the Pacific on one side of this line and to the Atlantic on the other side. Pretty amazing! We all did a little shopping (another fun past time on this trip – how many Route 66 shirts will I come home with? – or do I really need yet another Route 66 shirt?)
We loved hangin’ with our new crew – they are truly an amazing group of people. I started realizing how much strength it would take to be able to ride all the way across the US on a motorcycle – and these folks are completely chipper. I’ve never heard one of them complaining about being stiff or sore – and here we are in a car and for some odd reason I’ve been getting a crazy shooting pain down one of my legs and in my knee. And I haven’t been doing a darn thing! Maybe that’s the problem.
We stopped in Gallup, New Mexico to take in the El Rancho Hotel which is famous because John Wayne used to love hanging out here (along with other celebs) when he was in town shooting films. I used this opportunity to take lots of pics of the old motels that line the strip on either side.
I walked all the way down to the end of the commercial strip and found yet another Indian Trading Post that had a cool car outside. Thought I’d stroll in and see what they had for sale and was greeted by the sweetest couple, Tina and Pete Leyba. I asked about the car, as I’d never seen that type of pickup before and Pete chimed in that he had owned that 1960 Chevy since it was new from the factory! And the two of them proceeded to tell me that they have run this store for 50 years (part of the 6th generation of ownership) – married for 57 years. They told me about their kids and where they live – they asked me where I lived and what I do. By the time I had to leave, I hadn’t had a moment to even look at their jewelry collection, but felt like I’d made two new friends. So if you’re ever in Gallup, New Mexico, look up Leyba’s – they say on their business card that they’re “home to the World’s Smallest Kachina Doll”.
The group had lunch at Earl’s and that was a real taste of this town. The place was filled with Native Americans out with their friends and family and enjoying themselves. As we were dining, different people would come around with their wares to sell and they were very respectful if you chose not to purchase anything (a little different than Jamaica, mon). They also were scattered around the periphery of the building with sort of a make-shift marketplace and had some gorgeous jewelry for sale. We learned that Gallup is the center of the Navaho Nation and we got such a lovely vibe from these folks, gentle and kind people.
Not long out of Gallup the landscape began turning riotous colors with red mesas rising up around us and rock formations that reminded me strongly of the Sedona area. Somewhere out there we crossed over into Arizona – we never saw a sign telling us so, but knew from our GPS. Boy, how did we ever live without these devices on our phones? Ours has been a lifesaver many times over on this trip!
Our next stop was one I’ve wanted to experience my whole life. Can’t believe my Dad missed this one when I was growing up! The Painted Desert and The Petrified Forest. It’s so interesting because you’re driving along for miles and the fairly flat monotone landscape stretches in all directions with big big 360 degree skies with fluffy cotton candy clouds marching eastward. You would never ever believe what awaits once you drive through that gate into the National Park from just surveying the horizon. I’m going to let these photos tell the story – we just kept saying “wow” for most of the drive through the park!
Just west of the park is one of my favorite attractions on Route 66, The Wigwam Motel. Richard and I had visited several years ago in January and I took a lot of pics and used one of them for a painting. I couldn’t believe that the car I painted was still parked in exactly the same spot! I wonder if maybe they don’t actually run and are just props? Well they look pretty great – so what the heck.
I was sad that the Rock Shop with all the big dinosaurs outside was not open – on a Saturday? I took lots of pics of the friendly dinosaurs and once again peeked through the fence at the huge piles of petrified wood and rocks and wondered about the owner of the store and the story of the place. Like so many attractions on Route 66, a story of survival or a story of loss?
We traveled most of Route 66 in January of 2012, but I would call it an abbreviated journey because we didn’t have a lot of time to stop and smell the roses (sage?). This time around I decided to make sure to see a few of the places we passed over – between Holbrook and Winslow there was really only one place I had seen pictures of but hadn’t visited: the Jack Rabbit Trading Post! A cute spot with a gimmick – hey this is Route 66, that’s the whole point – put a giant rabbit out front and a cool sign and folks will come shop at your gift shop! I bought a few postcards and marveled at American ingenuity – that’s our roadside heritage, after all!
Winslow, Arizona was our home for the night. We thought it would be cool to enter the famed “standin’ on a corner” town on #66 to get the real flavor of the place. OK then! We were beyond shocked and saddened to see almost nothing but boarded up and abandoned buildings. The town is actually much larger than I had dreamed so we needed the GPS to find our hotel, and the route took us through some pretty funky neighborhoods as well. Thank goodness we followed recommendations from a friend and had dinner at La Posada Restaurant – the famed hotel had top notch food so our day ended on a great note. Tomorrow before we leave, we’ll have to go get that picture with the Jackson Browne statue!
Thanks for coming along on the ride. Tomorrow we will visit the Grand Canyon!