We were going to go up to Taos from Santa Fe this morning, and spend the night there before heading on – that is, until I found out late last night that the natural gas to the entire town had been shut off.
The one motel I called that would accept a dog didn’t say anything about the gas, so I said I had heard the gas was shut off, and did that mean they had no heat or hot water. “We have heat, but no hot water,” was the answer, so I declined to go on this trip.
As disappointing as it was to have to skip Taos when I was so close, it also gave me the freedom to head west again, and I didn’t realize until I was driving west on I-40 just how happy I would be to get back on the road.
I was taking in all the vastness of the high plateau, surrounded by mesas of that amazing red sandstone, and ringed by tall mountains further out – all under a blazing blue sky. The red cliffs against all the dry sagebrush and snow were something else.
I was reminded of seeing tumbleweeds the other day as I drove through West Texas, and realizing how happy I was to be driving again, I said out loud, “I’m a tumbleweed!” I am. Tumbleweeds go where the wind – and fate – take them. That’s what I feel like I’m doing. But the other thing about tumbleweeds is they are so exuberant about where they are going – they seem so happy and carefree.
Since I have never given this car a name, I christened him “Tumbleweed” today, although without breaking a bottle of any kind of bubbly over his hood. So, here we are, the three tumbleweeds, heading west for more of the great southwest, and on to the Pacific!
About forty or so miles west of Albuquerque, I saw a billboard for a historic Indian village or some such thing, but what caught my eye was a sign tacked on the side that just said FRY BREAD in big red letters. It was after 12 and I thought I should try this regional “treat” while it was on offer, so I took the next exit to find it.
The exit took me past the turn to Old Laguna Pueblo and as I kept going, I thought maybe it was the old pueblo I should have turned to for the fry bread. Back in Maine, Fry Bread is the equivalent of fried dough, and I’m sure it’s not good for me, but I wanted something greasy, yeasty, maybe loaded with butter and honey or powdered sugar. I wanted to try FRY BREAD!!
I never found it – whether the sign was old, or I didn’t drive far enough, I’ll never know. What I did find was an old adobe church. When I parked and got out to take pictures, two Pueblo men were shoveling the steps and the courtyard.
I asked for permission to photograph, which was graciously granted, and I also asked how old the church was. “Oh, I forget,” said one man. “Maybe the 1700s… I’m not sure.”
Continuing on, we started seeing billboards for THE INDIAN VILLAGE at the CONTINENTAL DIVIDE. How exciting was that?! I kept my eagle eyes peeled for the exit so Max and I could get out and get a photo on the Continental Divide:
My intention on starting out west from Albuquerque this morning was to go to Winslow, Arizona (remember the Eagles’ song about it? “Standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, got seven women on my mind…”) but I started seeing billboards for El Rancho Hotel and Motel in Gallup, NM.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, the name jogged something loose, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Turns out to be that famous motel built in 1937 by D. W. Griffith’s brother, that drew many film stars of the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Seems they all used it as their headquarters when they were in the area filming…
We arrived about 2PM, and I went inside to see if they allowed dogs, and if there was a room available (and affordable!). They did, and there was, so we are on the second floor of the main lodge in the Betty Grable Room, with Jimmy Stewart on one side, Fred MacMurray on the other, and Dale Robertson across the hall!
The lobby is an impressive two-story lodge style with big beams, a massive fireplace, lots of chairs and couches, Navajo rugs, and autographed photographs of famous film stars everywhere. There’s a sweeping double staircase to the second floor, and a balcony around three sides.
I’ve never stayed in a hotel that was on the National Historic Register, nor have we stayed in anything so swank on this trip! I ordered lunch from the restaurant and brought it up to my room. Every time we walk down that sweeping staircase I imagine what it must have been like back in the day, with folks like Hepburn and Tracy, Jackie Cooper, John Wayne, and Humphrey Bogart wandering up and down…