Friday June 8, 2012
We got an early start getting out of Grants NM. The first stop was the local Post Office to send a carton of souvenirs home. While there I asked the clerk about the building. It turns out that the Postal Service did in fact build it to complement the area with a Spanish stucco building style, accent tiles and neon piping!
We headedv out of town on a nice stretch of old 66. In Milan we found Bowlin’s Old Crater Trading Post. This was the first of what would be many trading posts we would see today. The white stucco building is boarded up but the murals of Indian life on the outside walls are still quite attractive though fading.
As we headed into Bluewater mesas began to be in view, We got to see the 1955 Bluewater Motel, now closed. The signage is partially intact and a number of vehicles are on the property. The sign has a lower panel for Melco Used Cars. The place did not look active and may be entirely defunct. There is a while building just west of the Motel that may have been a restaurant or service station, it’s a fair sized building with large awning roof over the entry. I need to research what it may have been.
In Prewitt there was the Rattle Snake Trading Post, building. Down the road was the Tomahawk Bar It was all spiffed up with traffic at 11:00 AM. I think I had mentioned earlier, the bar is the last place to fail. This continued to be a wide open gently rolling sparsely developed stretch of 66 with mesas always in view. It was pleasant driving but did have some traffic unlike other legs where we were alone for long stretches. Train traffic was ever present along the parallel track.
The amount of intermodal freight in stacked containers and piggyback trailers is astounding. Mixed in would be the occasional train of coal or livestock cars. We saw very few of the box cars that make up much of the trains in Maine.
In Thoreau we found the old Red Mountain Market and Deli and Jonnie's Inn, elevation 7200 feet. It looked like it was quite a place in the day. Next Door was Herman’s Garage. The building started out in Grants in 1935 as a Standard Oil station moving to Thoreau two years later. It looks like one of the steel panel stations that shipped flat and were erected on site. We visited one like this in Illinois. The station still has old pumps on the island but is closed. There were lots of cars around and life out back so the place is not exactly abandoned.
Down the road was another abandoned Indian trading post. Some mural work could be found but stucco is starting to fall from this wood building as the roof has failed and water is getting in. I have not been able to identify this one. Across the road is a unique Tee Pee shaped silo.
In Continental Divide is the continental divide, elevation 7275. It is from here on RT 66 that water will flow either to the Pacific or Gulf of Mexico. The theme is familiar with two Indian trading posts, Indian Village and Indian Market though this time both were stocked and busy. We got Gasoline, Ice and souvenirs. They had a nice shot for photographing the scenery and props like a Conestoga wagon. Both were colorful buildings with lots of red, yellow and white. Nearby were some unique RT 66 signs including a BEGIN sign for a segment.
Down the hill was an old Whiting Brothers Motel. They had been a big lodging and fuel provider in the region on 66. The rusting road sign rises from the valley to be seen from afar. The beige stucco string of units is still open for business. An adjacent filling station is dormant. Back up on the main road are two red white and blue USA rockets made from tall staged posts. Route 66 people are notorious for attention getters. They don’t have a monopoly on gimmicks but they do elevate the art form. Commercial or not, folk art is everywhere.
Gallup NM has a route 66 commercial district that is extensive and doing quite well. The Road Runner, Arrow Head, Blue Spruce, Lariat and Desert Skies to name a few were doing well. Very few derelict properties were spotted speaking to good business or prompt redevelopment. The area businesses were predominately vintage places.
Two places stood out from out brief visit. One was Earls, established 1947. The place looked neat and busy and made a good stop for lunch. When we got out of the jeep and walked around we realized that the sidewalk was lined with Indian craftspeople selling their products, mostly jewelry and leather crafts. We sat down, ordered lunch and while waiting craftspeople came to the table showing what they had to offer. We ended up getting some nice and unique gifts for folks back home. I had Earl’s special sandwich a modified club made with grilled ham and a special sauce. It was pretty good.
The next highlight was the discovery of the El Rancho Hotel. It is famous as being the place where stars stayed in the day with rooms named after famous guests that had stayed there. This was on Lorna’s list of places to stay but got scratched when we saw it would be a mid- day visit. She did get wound up when she saw they had a restaurant we could have eaten at instead of Earle’s! We did the next best thing, she went to their gift shop while I loitered in the majestic lobby getting pictures. I did get a shot of the Doris Day room.
Manuelito brought us to the Chief Yellow Horse Trading post and the Arizona border. The state line runs through the property including a line painted on the store floor! The shop in in the face of a massive cavern and curiosities abound with props and odds and ends like a yellow rhinoceros and a big brown cobra snake posed to bite. They had petrified wood for sale. Legend has it that Yellow Horse got shut down by the government for misappropriating the stuff. Apparently he had a stash and his son is now selling that and other mineral oddities for $2.50 a pound. Lorna snagged some specimens.
Next door, fully into Arizona is Lupton and a bizarre string of trading posts and truck stops. Found there is the Tomahawk Indian store featuring the world’s largest Tee Pee, a steel fabrication that houses….. you guessed it….. the gift shop. Above the Indian Village Trading Post at the end of the strip a nice mural was painted on the rock wall backdrop. Lot’s to look at. It was a good spot to get a mid afternoon ice cream bar in the 96F heat.
Houck was home to Fort Courage made famous in the TV show F Troup. This was a little bit of a let-down. It was neither a real fort nor a TV set. It is actually another Indian Gift Shop wrapped in a decent effort to masquerade as the fort. Fences, a water tower (Upright under grown gasoline tank) and 2 serious guard towers with painted cutouts of guards out there are enough to lure you off the road. More interesting was the closed Pancake House restaurant sharing the parking lot. I remember seeing pictures of these but never visited one. The round building sort of resembles a stack of pancakes and the handsome brown and orange sign towers over the place.
From I-40 we could spot the Querino Canyon Bridge. This is a 1930 269 foot bridge towering over the canyon. It’s on a dirt stretch of 66 we chose not to drive. I took some pictures while out in the breakdown lane of the I-40 bridge. Remind me not to ever to that again! It’s of Warren Deck Truss design with 3 spans. The 2 support towers are steel posts and cross braces. Once again this is a big bridge spanning a dry creek in the valley.
In Sanders we found the yellow bridge over the Puerco River. It’s closed to traffic on an abandoned stretch right near an I-40 exit. The two spans are of the Pratt Pony Truss design that includes outboard side bracing of the trusses.
The next stop was the Painted Desert / Petrified Forest National Park. The 28 mile loop ($10. / car) wound though colorful shale mesas and led to petrified wood deposits that could be viewed but not taken. It was a nice visit with good photo ops. There were also some Indian ruins with petroglyphs. . I did get some pretty nice pictures in the late day light. The park actually spans I-40 with a bridge near which a Route 66 turnout has been created to recognize the old road. Lorna spotted a lizard out on a rock that I got a picture off as well a deer we met near the exit gate, this isn’t out local white tail deer I’ll tell you. I’ll refrain from a total description of the park, plenty is published.
After leaving the park we headed down a looooooong, straaaaaight, flaaaaat road that led to Holbrook where we would eat and check into the hotel. When we got to the town I went to the GPS and realized our room was in Winslow, 30 miles away. Fortunately I-40 made beeline to it was it was only a 30 minute goof. We did see enough of the town to know that we need to double back tomorrow, more on Holbrook tomorrow.
In Winslow it was a late meal at Denny’s and then we checked in. By the time the pictures were downloaded, sorted and backed up I barely started this posting and decided to crash. I’m committed to having continuity so were getting a late start today while I capture yesterday. Today will be another long day touring but there are several significant stretches where I-40 is gone and we will be on I-40.