Goodbye Blue Swallow
A reasonable night’s sleep, I shower and dress, then retrieve my breakfast from the communal fridge. The Blue Swallow requires a very early last check-out of 10 am. Hence I’m packed up and ready to go just before then. It was a cool morning at 9 am but by 10 the sun has burnt almost all the clouds away and the temperature is in the low 80s.
Today I’m doing the Pre-1937 Alignment of Rt 66, what is known as the Santa Fe Loop. This was part of Rt 66 between the years of 1926 and 1937. The route goes up to Santa Fe, where I’m staying tonight, and then comes back down to Albuquerque. According to EZ-66, the Santa Fe Loop offers “great scenery and history.”
I drive out of Tucumcari on Old Rt 66 Blvd then re-join I-40 W for a few miles. The app then opts for what EZ-66 terms its Montoya option. This comes off I-40 at Exit 321 and stays on frontage road all the way to Cuervo. Montoya is a town about halfway along. EZ-66 also states that some parts of the road after Montoya are a “bit rough” but it seems OK to me. Maybe it has been resurfaced?
There’s certainly no breaking up of the surface. It’s a bit bumpy in places but it’s fine to drive on. There were sections in the first week that were far worse than this. Unfortunately there’s not a lot to see as I track I-40. The drive is OK, scenery average. The frontage road ends at Cuervo then it’s back onto I-40 W for the next 20 miles.
Another Auto Museum
There is a short detour into Santa Rosa where old Rt 66 is be found again through the town. Here I stop at the Route 66 Auto Museum for about half an hour. There are more vintage and recent cars here, all immaculately restored. It was only $5 to enter as well. So good value and worth seeing inside.
Back on I-40 for another 13 miles, then a right turn onto US 84 N. This is not Rt 66 for a few miles yet, until I get to the small town of Dilia. The scenery is changing though, as in the distance are some hills or mountains on the horizon.
The Other Las Vegas
The app has a side trip at Romeroville to a town called Las Vegas. NM, not NV. It’s supposed to be a quaint town with a nice central plaza and the apparently historic Plaza Hotel, so I opt to do it. I am though frustrated again by the app’s annoying habit of flagging up POIs at the last second then quickly disposing of them on-screen, especially when close together.
I miss quite a few POIs when I’m in Las Vegas. In fact I didn’t realise I’d driven through the plaza until I see a sign for it point back the way I’d just come from. So I turn around and back track, find the plaza and stop by the kerb to eat lunch. I walk around the plaza after eating, it’s nice and sunny so it’s a pleasant little stroll to stretch my legs.
There’s not much to Las Vegas other than the Plaza. So was it worth doing the side trip? I suppose so. It was only 6 miles each way – I end up back at Romeroville – and I saw some more of New Mexico. US-84 to this point had ‘overlaid’ Rt 66 but now the original road is back, albeit as frontage road to start with. It stays that way for much of the drive to Santa Fe.
It is also a very nice scenic route with tree covered hillsides and many small peaks. A nice drive. US-84 W joined I-25 at Romeroville and I leave Rt 66 for a few miles to go on it over the Glorieta Pass at over 7,500 ft but there are no signs that I saw to mark the summit. I bid I-25 goodbye and re-join Rt 66 to head all the way into Santa Fe.
“It’s judgment day in Santa Fe” *
Well, I hope not anyway. The app guides me – correctly today – right to the entrance of the car park at the Hotel Chimayo. It is only 3.20 pm and check-in is supposed to be at 4, but they let me in… 🙂
In my room I consult Maps to see if there is anywhere to buy some breakfast. I have no more ‘free’ or included breakfasts for the rest of the trip now. Most rooms should have fridges though, although I had to request one here. There are a couple of possibilities for food stores but Santa Fe Plaza, just outside the hotel, is surrounded by art galleries and other shops. Most of them are high-end pricey affairs by the look of them. The only non-tourist focused shop is a Five & Dime General Store, but that has no food.
So I set off on a 15 minute walk in the sunshine to Allsop’s Convenience Store. It’s 82º F so not too hot. I buy some juice, banana, yoghurt and nut bar. On the way there, and coming back, I see some of the Adobe architecture that Santa Fe is famous for, so it was good to have a walk.
Back at the hotel I sort things out for tomorrow and settle down for some diary catch-up. I also suss out some dinner options. It’s still only 5.30 pm. Having shorter mileage days has definitely helped this trip so far. And tomorrow is very short!
Another Mexican Try-Out
I leave the hotel at 8 pm and walk a short distance to the Los Magueyes Mexican restaurant. Claiming to serve “authentic Mexican cuisine”, and with reasonable reviews, it’s worth a shot. I thought I should try Mexican food again in a city renowned for its Mexican influence and culture.
It doesn’t start well as I stand at the bar waiting for someone to seat me. I’m there for a good few minutes as numerous employees walk past without engaging with me. Once finally seated, I am then left for about 5 minutes without being offered any drinks. When the waitress does arrive, she wants my food order at the same time. The Margarita I order is OK, but not as good as Pow Wow’s.
I order enchiladas, the waitress suggesting one chicken and one beef. I ask for the soft tortilla option, not fried. The meal again turns up inside a few minutes. Must be microwaved again. The tortillas are way too thick again, and I end up leaving half of them. Along with most of the lettuce, sour cream, guacamole and refried beans again.
Yet again though the meal is bland and turns to mush as I eat. The sour cream and guacamole just drowns the lettuce, the refried beans are almost tasteless. The meats inside the tortillas are average. And again, there is no heat or spice to the flavour. So I decide then that I’m giving up on Mexican food for the rest of the trip. I’ve tried three ‘recommended’ restaurants in different cities and they were all, frankly, crap.
I also can’t believe the accompanying elements were exactly the same for three different mains in all of the restaurants. Back to ribs and burgers I think. I didn’t see the waitress for ages after I’d finished my drink and was still eating. She did eventually come over and I got a beer. It’s really bad service in here. I finish eating and debate whether to have another beer but decide they are getting no more of my cash. I ask for the check and leave. What a disappointment.
Time For A Beer Or Two
Walking back to Santa Fe Plaza I eventually find Draft Station, a bar serving craft ales. I can’t find it initially because it’s on the second floor of a mini-mall. Maps kept telling me that “I’d arrived” but I could not see a bar entrance anywhere. Eventually I spotted the bar’s balcony from the street.
Once inside I sit at the bar, choose a brew after sampling three, and watch the end of TNF on TV. The Packers and Eagles game goes to the wire, QB Aaron Rodgers getting intercepted with seconds to go on what would have been a game-tying touchdown, if he’d made it. Not to be this time.
The bar closes at 10 pm (!) so the staff start shutting down, I drink up and head back to the hotel bar. It’s called the Low ‘n Slow Lowrider Bar. I’d asked on leaving earlier what time they closed and was told 11 pm. I arrive just gone 10 pm and there’s a real buzzy atmosphere in the place, which I like. I also soon realise that it’s full of locals, not tourists. Sitting at the bar I ask what beers they have. I’m told that unfortunately their compressor has broken so there are no draft beers available, only bottles. And some of them have run out as well…
In quizzing the bar lady as to what several of her suggestions taste like, the guy sitting to my right offers his opinions as well. I end up selecting a Dos Equis Darkers ale and very good it is too. The guy to my right is called Matt and we start talking about all sorts of stuff, but mostly soccer. He’s a huge fan and knows – which is not difficult – more about soccer in the UK and rest of Europe than I do. He claims to watch all the major European leagues on TV, and is clearly very knowledgeable about some in-depth issues and topics around European soccer.
He’s never actually been to a game though, never having visited the UK or Europe. He’s a Liverpool fan, having been introduced to them by a soccer coach he once had. He orders another beer and one for me as well. I however stop Miriam, the bar lady, just in time saying I’d prefer a whisky. Matt’s OK with that, “Have whatever you want” he says. So I have a Maker’s Mark.
Matt And My Dog
The clock moves on and Miriam calls last orders, but Matt tells me people will just carry on drinking for a while and ignore her. So I buy him a beer and have another night cap myself. Whilst we’ve been talking he’s made an origami figure from a dollar bill, which he presents to me as a gift! It’s an Indian Terrier dog.
In conversation it turns out that Matt is of American Indian heritage (this is what he called it; I thought the peoples were referred to as Native Americans, but Matt said either phrase is acceptable). We talked a bit about this topic, me being careful not to be politically incorrect as it’s a subject I don’t know a great deal about in depth. What I do know is that it is a sensitive subject and the peoples have suffered many ills and injustices in the past.
We did touch on some of the well known historical and ongoing, present day issues surrounding them in today’s US society. It’s something that clearly means a lot to him. I should mention that I reckon he’s in his mid-to-late 20s, and he told me that as he’s grown up he’s fully embraced the culture. By that he meant it’s not something he saw as being in, or for, the past. He is rightly proud of his culture and wants to make sure it’s honoured moving forward. Too right.
Part of our chat turned to what I do these days, in terms of road trips. He mentioned wanting to go to Anfield to watch Liverpool. “Follow your dreams, Matt” I tell him: “I wouldn’t be sitting here now if I wasn’t following my dream. Go follow your dreams.” It’s time for bed. We shake hands and bid each other goodnight. Great guy, I really enjoyed meeting him.
With dragging out last orders and continuing to chat, by the time I get back up to my room ready for lights out, it’s nearly midnight. I hope they didn’t keep Miriam up too late. She also was a nice lady, gave good service and we talked a bit also. A great end to to a good day on Rt 66. The adventure continues.
* Sante Fe by Bon Jovi