Going Round In Circles
I’m on the road at 10.45 am driving back through Albuquerque because the app is using the Pre-1937 alignment of Rt 66 initially today. This firstly goes south-west then north-west and is roughly double in distance of the later alignment that went directly west.
I think quite a lot of the later alignment is I-40 today, the original road having been lost to the mists of time. Hence the app using the Pre-1937 option that I assume is original road. The alignments meet up near Mesita, roughly 40 miles west of Albuquerque.
The motel was good although I’d think twice again regarding its location. It is right on the western city limits of Albuquerque, and without El Vado’s food and drink facilities it would not have been that good a choice.
Just after setting off for the day’s drive, the app has another meltdown in the middle of the city. First it sent me in a loop around a block. After a couple of circuits I just carry straight on and it gets its act together again. But within yards there are some road closures for roadworks and the app then again keeps trying to send me round and round a couple of city blocks in a ‘circle’. I eventually ignore it and just follow my nose south. Finally a few hundred yards further on, it sorts itself out.
There’s not much of interest driving out of the city apart from a Dairy Queen. The road is a 2 lane highway passing through small communities and farmland, that’s it. South of Albuquerque, Los Lunas is a reasonable size town and it’s here that the route alignment turns north-west.
Out In The Countryside
I’m soon out in the open countryside with some low mountain ranges as a backdrop. It’s not a desert as there are tufts of bushes and vegetation scattered across the landscape, but it’s not far from one. It’s very barren with no settlements, just Rt 66 and the railroad. It’s flat as a pancake with occasional bends but mostly there are many long and straight sections. It’s actually a nice drive and the scenery is good. Meeting up with I-40, I’m directed on to it for a short section and then I’m soon off again onto Rt 66, heading generally west after Mesita.
The next section of road is a great drive, twisty and curvy, not too many inclines but I travel through some neat rock formations. It’s difficult to stop and take photos though as there are no turnouts and the road is so twisty. The route continues through the rocky hills, and there are some roadside attractions like the Budville Trading Co. in Budville, which is in reasonable condition. Now this is a proper ghost town. There are some more further up the road towards Grants, with other buildings and signs that aren’t in such good condition. I wonder how some of them are still standing.
It’s sunny and hot today with an almost cloudless sky. I stop in Grants to eat lunch under the canopy of a closed modern gas station, out of the heat. There are quite a few signs and motels along the main road through Grants. As usual the road became 4 lanes when entering the town and it stays that way for a good distance on the other side as well.
There are hills in the distance that provide a scenic backdrop now. I stop at the wonderfully named Continental Divide and visit Souvenirs Inc with its Indian Market. I buy a couple of Indian mementos to take home. The Continental Divide of the Americas, as opposed to this small village in McKinley County where I’ve stopped, marks the point at which waters flow evenly to the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. EZ-66 states that it is not, as often claimed, the highest elevation on Rt 66.
Souvenirs Inc, Continental Divide, NM
Sign outside Souvenirs Inc
The Heart of Indian Country
I re-join I-40 W at the Continental Divide for another 10 miles or so. After this it’s back on Rt 66 and I track the Interstate most of the way into Gallup. I pass the Hotel El Rancho and then the app tells me to turn left for some reason – but I can’t find a way in. I’d sussed out a potential bar for dinner pre-trip but didn’t see it as I drove in so I re-trace my steps, and eventually find it.
Gallup is sometimes called the “Indian Capital of the World” for its location in the heart of Native American lands, on the edge of the Navajo reservation, and the presence of Navajo, Zuni, Hopi, and other tribes. Other names include the “Heart of Indian Country” and “The Heart of Indians”.
Goodfellas Sports Lounge is a few hundred yards before the hotel. But there is a strange message posted on the sign outside the place that makes me think it might be closed. So I pull up in the lot and it is open. It’s a good job I do go inside and enquire about food because the only thing they serve is pizza slices. Not what I thought. I discover later on when in the bar that the owner’s son set up a food truck out back a while back and ran it as an ‘in-house’ operation, serving customers in the bar. He also designed their website which still lists all the food they used to serve. Some time later the son fell out with his Dad, took the food truck away – and all access to the website! They now cannot change it, hence the current ‘misinformation’.
“A Bigger Bang” *
I’d seen a back way into the El Rancho parking lot at the back of the hotel on my way to find Goodfellas. Leaving the bar, I turn left then right, then right into the lot. There is then a huge bang and the car shudders. I have very badly misjudged the entrance and the right front wheel has hit the sidewalk kerb stone. Within 30 yards the car’s computer says to add air to the front right tyre. Uh-oh… looks like I’ve punctured it.
By the time I get parked and inspect the damage, the tyre is completely flat. Bugger. Idiot. Thanks for tempting fate Sally. The only good news is that I am safely parked in the hotel’s lot. I call Roadside Assistance. I’m told there is a temporary spare wheel in the trunk and that I’m supposed to fit, and then drive to a Firestone or Pep Boys tyre depot for a repair or replacement. I am told that this will be free because the LDW insurance I have covers punctures. I did not know that. But I need to get to a depot first.
However, it is 82º outside in the sun under a clear blue sky and I do not feel like getting hot, sweaty and dirty changing a wheel. Not when I took out roadside assistance insurance in the UK that covers me for such incidents. The phone operative tells me it will cost $75 to get someone out to change the tyre. So I tell him to arrange it. I will have to pay the recovery guy today and claim the money back when in the UK. I’ve no problem with that.
The estimated time before the breakdown truck arrives is 60 to 90 minutes. Which gives me time to check-in and maybe do a few things before the wheel gets changed around 5 pm hopefully. Thankfully I was early into Gallup, the ‘mishap’ happening at 3.45 pm. I’m in my room by 4 pm. But just 10 minutes later, my phone rings. It’s the recovery driver: he’s in Gallup – but at the wrong hotel. So much for a 60 minute wait, but I’m obviously not complaining. The driver says he’ll be with me in 5 minutes. By the time I walk downstairs, he’s in the lot!
Off To Firestone
I ask him how long it will take to change the wheel and he says 5 minutes. And he’s not far off that estimate either. I’m soon signing his paperwork for a completed job and then swiftly drive out of the lot to the Firestone depot up the road. I’d asked the Assistance operator if there was a tyre outlet I could use in Gallup and most thankfully there was. Next question I asked him – when is it open ‘til? 7 pm on a Saturday! Wow. Everywhere in the UK would likely be closed by 5.30 pm. Knowing this, I was then hopeful that even if the recovery truck did take 90 minutes to arrive, I might be able to get the tyre changed tonight.
I arrive at Firestone at 4.30 pm. It’s very busy. The manager verifies all the details with the Assistance people by phone but tells me it’s going to be 60 to 90 minutes before I get serviced. I ask whether I could drive away and come back, but he says it would be better to leave the car. He tells me it’s about 1½ miles back to the hotel. Too far to walk in this heat I decide. So it looks like I’ll have to sit it out here. At least I planned ahead and brought some books with me to read.
But then as he’s finalising the paperwork he mutters something about one of his mechanics wandering about doing nothing. “I’ll get him on it now”, he then tells me. I don’t quite believe this because, if it’s true, I’m sure he’s bumped me up the queue of the locals waiting for work to be done. Maybe because I’m a tourist? Who knows. But sure enough, a few minutes later I see the car being driven into the garage.
About 5 minutes later a lady comes out and tells me the tyre can’t be repaired, so they’ll fit a new one. “It should take about 20 minutes,” she says. It does. Extremely lucky chap that I am, I’m driving away from Firestone with a new front right tyre just after 5 pm. I’m somewhat unbelieving of the whole episode. I’ve wasted just over an hour but was incredibly fortunate to get it sorted so quickly. Memo to self – look out for kerbs. 😉
Hotel El Rancho
Back at the hotel, continuing to feel very grateful for the way my self-inflicted problem turned out, I walk up the road to a liquor store to buy some cold beer to celebrate.
The hotel had ignored three emails I’d sent months ago asking if I could get a room fridge or whether breakfast was served, as their website didn’t say. So I was in the dark about these matters on arrival. Now with no food to speak of at Goodfellas either, I need dinner as well.
I go to the restaurant and ask to see the menus, Reception having told me they do serve breakfast. The menus were OK and I decide to have both meals there, to make things easier. So at just gone 7.30 pm I go down for dinner. On being seated the server tells me the kitchen is very busy, with some large tables in the restaurant and an event on. So if I don’t want a long wait, I should order quickly and he’ll try to rush it through. I choose a half rack of ribs and good to the server’s word, they do arrive in double quick time. The meat falls off the bones and they are very tasty.
Goodfellas For Beer and Chat
After dinner, I walk up the street to Goodfellas around 8.15 pm. There’s a good crowd in the place and I sit at the bar between a local lady and an obvious tourist. The bar lady is quite chatty and the guy to my right turns out to be French. He’s also doing Rt 66, with what looks like his brother, to his right. They’re on motorbikes and it turns out we will all be arriving in Santa Monica this coming Friday. We chat about various things, including my trip to the Tour de France earlier this year. It’s not constant chatter but regular chats over the course of an hour or so before they leave. “See you on the pier,” I say as they depart.
I exchanged a few words with the lady to my left every now and again, but she was mostly talking to her friend. The bar lady also keeps up a decent dialogue as well, and in fact she does all night. After the French guys left a couple about my age arrive, the lady sitting next to me. He’s Mexican and she’s Native American. We start to talk about her culture and background.
I’m sensitive again, as with Matt in Santa Fe, of the various issues but she explains a lot of things, helping me to understand a lot more. I’m sure we talked about other stuff but it was the American Indian details that interested me the most. One third of Gallups’s population has Native American roots and it was good to meet this local lady and learn more about her culture.
Time flew by because it’s 11.15 pm when I leave to go back to the hotel. It was a varied day today on the road, some nice scenery but fewer roadside attractions. My cock-up with the car could have put a damper on things but I really dodged a big bullet there, albeit for some stress and aggravation whilst sorting it out. It was a very good evening though, I enjoyed the bar and the people I met.
* A Bigger Bang by The Rolling Stones (album)