A Bug’s Life
It’s a very short drive today of around 80 miles that shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours, stops not included. I planned to leave around 12 noon, do a couple of things then head towards the Turquoise Trail. I will only be on Rt 66 for a short while at the start of the drive. The Turquoise Trail is not Rt 66 but was recommended as a much more scenic drive to Albuquerque in the Road Trip book.
I have a leisurely morning in the bedroom, not rushing about anywhere: breakfast, diary, re-pack my washing, and other ‘household’ chores’. After check-out I wander around the Plaza and side streets a bit more, seeing more of the city’s Adobe architecture.
Back at the car, I set off for Allsop’s again to buy lunch. I then drive back to a point near the hotel where I pick up Rt 66, and the app takes me on my way again. I’d checked last night where Rt 66 ran through the city and, having walked reasonably extensively around Santa Fe the previous day, just used that knowledge to get me to the ‘start point’. This works out a treat, as the app then guides me through the city’s narrow streets and then onto a 6 lane highway heading south, heavily lined with commerce both sides.
As I drive around the city, I see more Adobe buildings but I’ve seen enough around the Plaza so I just drive on. All the commerce roadside is helpful now. Because I need something. A car wash. The front grille and bumper on the car is covered with dead bugs that have met their maker as I’ve been driving along. Now we’ve all had this happen in summer. But I have never seen anything like this before.
“At the car wash, woooh” *
After less than two weeks on the road the whole front of the car is literally smeared with insect pulp. My concern is that if it’s that bad when I hand the car back over at SFO I might get hit with an excess cleaning charge. And I’ve still got nearly two weeks of more dead bugs to ‘collect’. The other issue I thought of is that if I ignored now, after another two weeks it would harden up and could prove doubly difficult to clean off.
So I researched car washes last night and found one on the road out of town. It also had good reviews. They also have a $3 extra ‘bug removal’ service. I’ll need that. I spot the Speedy Shine Car Wash on the other side of the road. There is however a central reservation with openings every few hundred years to allow you to cross carriageways, so I have to work out which one to use to get across. Once inside the place, I make my wash selection at the barriers and enter the queue for the ‘hanger’ that contains the brushes and jets. As I pull up for my bug removal pre-wash, I ask the guy: “Will all the bugs get washed off?” He nods in the affirmative.
Well, the wash didn’t remove all the bugs. When I’d driven through I pull over to view the results in the vacuum area, and the car’s front is still full of bugs. Some have gone, but not enough for my liking. Not when they’re all supposed to go for my $3 extra. My earlier thought that the critters might prove hard to remove was right. I go and find an employee and bring him over to the car. He asks if I paid for bug removal, I say yes, and he agrees that I can go through again free of charge.
Second time through it nearly gets everything off. There’s a bucket and scrubber in the vacuum area, so I grab those and remove the rest. It was quicker than going through yet again. Of course I will acquire more pulp in the coming days but I’m glad I cleared off the debris to date.
The Turquoise Trail and Albuquerque
Back on the road, there’s only a few miles on Rt 66 until I turn onto the Turquoise Trail, NM-14 S. It’s a pretty, scenic drive with some sweeping bends, a good road surface and gentle inclines and descents. Whilst good, it’s not great but probably better than the “66”option which is, I think, mostly I-25 S that is flat and featureless.
At Tejiras I re-join the post-1937 alignment of Rt 66. This continues all the way into Albuquerque. I waste 10 minutes on the city outskirts trying to fill up with gas but the attendant can’t get her system to even allow me to pre-pay $30, never mind actually dispense any gas. I walk away. Why the majority of US gas stations still cannot accept non-US credit cards at the pump is just unbelievable.
Across the lot is a Smiths supermarket where I buy breakfast for tomorrow. Further down the road, I find a gas station where I can actually buy gas. Rt 66 into the city is a 4 lane highway lined with commerce. There are still quite a lot of old motel signs roadside, many neon, and some still operating it appears. But most are not in good condition, and some are downright tatty. For these, why they don’t update their shabby old signs I don’t know. I pass through the Nob Hill district where a bar I’d identified is located. However I then notice there is still 6 miles to go to the hotel. It could mean an expensive Lyft or Uber ride. This maybe calls for a change of plan.
Monterey Non-Smokers Motel
The miles clock up through downtown, the app starts issuing weird directions, which I ignore, and I drive past the Monterey Non-Smokers Motel on the wrong side of the road. I’m then told to do a U-turn! Turning into a side road seems to be the only safe way to achieve this to avoid the oncoming traffic. Which I do, and then double-back and pull into the Motel parking lot, parking under the car port at Reception. I ask the receptionist about local eateries and she mentions Old Town Downtown a few blocks back, which I remember passing.
But then she says that the El Vado Motel about 200 years down the street is their sister hotel. They have a beer taproom plus lots of small food outlets serving a patio area. She recommends it. It sounds intriguing so I decide to wander down and check it out after settling in.
However my room key won’t open the door to my room. Back to Reception, the lady comes out and she can’t open the door either. She’s confused as to how she didn’t know there’s a problem with it. Back in Reception she gives me a key to another room. Lucky they had vacancies!
This ‘new’ room is nice, well done out, a good size. The Motel is obviously a few years old but they’ve done a good job keeping it clean and tidy. It’s one of the most mentioned and iconic stops on Rt 66.
El Vado For Dinner
Unpacked, I check out the Uber and Lyft costs to Nob Hill and think it expensive. After that I then venture out to take photos of the Motel then walk down the street to El Vado. The taproom is open to 11 pm they tell me when I enquire, so that’s good. The food offerings include burgers, chicken, Puerto Rican, pizza and other stuff, so a good variety. The patio is very busy at 5.30 pm.
I decide I’ll come here for dinner and have a burger on my return. I went into the burger ‘shop’ to see what they sell and it is very small, basically just a kitchen. The units are all the same. The whole enterprise has a nice buzz about it as well, and I think I should support it as it’s a bit of a new, niche venture. Saves the Uber cost as well.
Back at the Motel I get ready for tomorrow, then write some diary. Just before 8 pm I leave to walk back to El Vado. Into the taproom first, there are only 5 seats at the bar and an end one has a lady’s handbag on it. The lady offers to remove it so I thank her and sit down. I ask the bar ladies for a beer menu, which is a blackboard on the wall. When I ask them about the different tastes and styles, everyone sitting at the bar also offers an opinion. It looks like we’ve broken the ice!
Beer ordered, I ask bag lady about getting food. She tells me to go order at the stall I want and tell them where I am, and they’ll bring it to me. So I walk across the patio to the burger joint, Bosque Burger, and order. I’m given a table flag and then return to the taproom. When the burger arrives, a Buffalo Bacon Blue, it is excellent. It comes with coleslaw but I didn’t order fries because it was a ½ lb patty.
Banter At The Bar
Whilst waiting for my food, bag lady Sally and I start chatting. She looks older than me, and she’s obviously single now but has a daughter. And she wanted grandchildren but her daughter has never found the right man and has now run out of time. She’s got a 93 year old mother in Kentucky she doesn’t seem to get on with, or at least Sally couldn’t wait to get away from Kentucky when she was younger.
Since the taproom opened last year, she tells me she spends quite a bit of time there. I think it’s given her social life a bit of a lift from whatever the rest of her life is like these days. It might sound a bit of a doom-and-gloom conversation, but it wasn’t. I enjoyed talking to her. She had enchiladas from a stall for dinner, and when she finished she departed soon after. She wished me safe travels. And no flat tires, as I’d told her of previous trips’ car troubles. Well, she did tempt fate, didn’t she…
After Sally left there was a shuffling of folks at the bar. The bloke at the other end, Dave, is a wind-up merchant. He started with the others at the bar, who he knew, but then tried to goad me. Apparently that is, as I missed it. I was watching the baseball on TV.
But I am then dragged into the chat, and Dave treads a very fine line at time. He didn’t try it on with me again. I don’t know what he actually said, he claimed to have said something to get me to join their conversation. Thankfully we soon all settle down with some normal chit-chat.
Except Brexit keeps coming up. Everyone wants to know if it’s actually going to happen. The Yanks are fascinated by it. And interestingly, even in the middle of America, they all believe that the UK will be better off out of the EU.
Dave and another guy then start debating Trump and politics. You’d never discuss politics in a US bar 10, 20 or even 30 years ago, it just wasn’t done. Thankfully, again, they soon change the subject.
Around 10.30 pm Dave leaves. Soon after, I decide I’ve had enough beer and also depart. I say goodbye to everyone at the bar and the bar staff – who were nice and friendly too – and wander back up the street to the motel. Back in the room I watch a bit more of the college football game that had come on the TV in the bar, before hitting lights out. It was another good day and evening on Route 66.
* Car Wash by Rose Royce
Monterey Motel sign at night
El Vado Motel sign at night