Thursday, June 7, 2012

Santa FE - Albuquerque - Grants

Thursday June 7, 2012

I don’t think I mentioned it but a wild fire in Arizona had cast a plume of smoke over Santa Fe last night. It was waning at sundown and gone when we woke up this morning, good news for all. Driving out of Santa Fe there were quite a few worthy vestiges of the Route 66 era however morning traffic took the fun out of snapping pictures and we rolled on out of town. There were some nice Spanish style motels that would have made good pictures. The plan today is to stay in Grants NM tonight with a midday stop in Albuquerque on the way. Once we were out of town it wasn’t long before we were traveling in Indian Territory where photography, especially of the villages is forbidden.  There was a mix of forgotten properties from all races as we rolled though quiet countryside and small communities.

I think we were down in Bernadillo after we had seen an “End of Indian Nation” sign taking pictures of a water tower and the hillside when 2 police cruisers pulled up behind us. They wanted to make sure we were OK but then they saw the camera and mentioned that pictures are not allowed. When Lorna mentioned I was taking pictures of the water tower they looked at me like I was some sort of screwball. I didn’t bother to mention that the last sign I saw said we were out of the territory. I didn’t see the one about pictures either. Live and learn, we went on our way.

On the outskirts of Albuquerque we did see some nice classic places like the El Camino Motor Hotels and Dining Room. A big winged steel dragon was the folk art for the hour. Route 66 rolls right through the city and we decided to log some walking distance. We parked and bought 2 hours of time from the ticket machine.

The first thing we came to was the 1928 Madonna of The Trail, which pays homage to the pioneer women. The downtown is significant in size with a big city feel. The midday traffic was surprisingly light.  The city like many has a lot of murals painted on vacant buildings and blank walls. Some murals are in the form of tile mosaics including 3 chairs along a sidewalk. There are lot of interesting buildings and we even got a shot of the SUBWAY sandwich man dancing on the sidewalk! We made it appoint to target the route 66 path and a few related places just of the route. There were many shops actively marketing to the RT 66 followers.

We ended up having lunch at Lindy’s Diner, a nice little spot on a corner. They had a lot of classic RT 66 brick-a-brack. I had a cheese steak sandwich that really hit the spot. Instead of the usual shredded beef this was made with a thin stack of paper thin slices. Peppers and onions with cheese all toasted in the bun rounded it out. Lorna had a nice BLT that came with a fantastic pasta salad.

We spotted the KIMO and EL Rey Theaters, both active. The KIMO was especially nice.  We didn’t stop to browse but the Indian Jewelry and Crafts store looked like someplace where a lot of time could be spent. Just from the street the layout looked elegant with items like feathered head dresses. There were several gentleman’s clubs including one where couples always get in free. We even saw a genuine man’s hat store socked with many hundreds if not thousands of man's hats, mostly cowboy. They have taken a lead with electric cars with street side charging stations. We got back to the Jeep with :15 left on the ticket and headed out of town to see what was waiting on the west side.

On the way out of town it was mostly Lorna taking shots on the fly. She did good at capturing a representation of many places we just didn’t have time mess with in afternoon traffic. The Hot Dog House, a wiener emporium is one that came out good. The Western View Steak House & Coffee Shop, Mac’s La Sierra Coffee Shop with a big cow on top of the sign and the El Don Motel were some of more  the keepers. I did get to park and walk a few adjoining places with my camera. Overall it was a vibrant area with relatively few dormant places. There were signs of repurposed buildings which is good news. The styles are from another time.

As we left town a decorative beam spanned the road with a Route 66 shield, neon and art deco touches. The posts minus the over the road beam repeated several times as we left town. We were glad that we took the time to make more than a drive-through visit.

In Rio Puerco Lorna checked out the gift shop while I visited the 1933 Parker Through Truss bridge. At 250 feet long it is one of the longest in the state. It was rebuilt in 1957 and retired in 1999. It is being preserved as a landmark by the state. It was hard to imagine two lanes of opposing traffic on this narrow bridge. Also notable is the total lack of water under it. Many of the bridges I see in these parts are really there to handle rainwater surge, not constant flowing water.

Down through Correo Lorna was getting shots of the terrain. The strata varies between skewed and dead flat. Most of these shots were taken while rolling down the highway and the camera continues to impress me. The speed limit on I-40 which we had to use for some abandoned legs is 75 and few exceed it. 75 is not a fun speed with the short wheel base and high center of gravity of the Liberty. 70 is OK and 45 on old 66 is even better. Also on 66 my eyes have time to take in much more and we can pull over for a still shot, rarely with anyone else to deal with. The terrain is also much closer.

We entered Laguna tribal land and this time I found and read the sign. It read to the effect that the villages and people were not to be photographed. With that we headed down 66 and in Miesta came to Owl Rock, a lava outcrop at the edge of the road.  Shortly thereafter we found Dead Man’s Curve where the road winds tightly around a small mesa. Between the narrow road, oncoming traffic and falling rocks the title of the curve is well earned. The camera remained still for several more Laguna towns.  There was a rich mix of Indian and “white man” buildings. When we spotted one of interest we jotted down the name and description. Someone else’s photo is probably available online with no risk of a hassle. On the way we drove through a volcanic lava field and crossed under I-40 using a 2 lane box culvert passage..

This got us to Grants and our room at the Comfort Inn, just past 5:00. Very nice and a good buy. We went to The Surf Shack for a Pizza Meal we had been craving. There is a Pizza Hut be we wanted to sample something local. Salad, bread sticks and a small pizza were all good and 1/2 of the baked food is in the room fridge. This place has taken most of an old shopping plaza and become a homegrown Chuck-E-Cheese including a roller skating rink. They have an arcade, room of larger activities, party dining space and the roller rink that they bundle for parties and events. It’s nice to see local operations put stuff like this together. The place was as clean as a whistle.

After dinner I walked the main drag capturing the place in pictures as the sun lowered in the sky. This meant that the west face was usually the best to photograph. There must have been a freight train on the tracks  in one direction or the other every fifteen minutes. Some even had the double stacked shipping containers. The Main street is in pretty good shape with some dormant or repurposed places. A quick read of the town’s history shows some nice diversity.

I should have measured it, the  main drag goes on forever with 2 theaters, one the WEST in daily operation. The LUX is in OK shape but activity is uncertain. The Roarin 20’s Speakeasy, Lavaland Motel (remember the lava field?) and rambling Franciscan Lodge Motel "your home on the road” all spoke to another age. The Wayside Motel has… gone by the wayside with the units gone but the office standing. The Uranium Café remembers the local Uranium boom. Outlaws Saloon and Dance even has a band in there on this Thursday night. The Post Office apparently scoffed up an awesome art deco, pueblo style building, complete with neon trim!  The Sands and Southwest motels were doing business in spite of the 5 or so newer places here by the interstate. I will say that the small players are hard to find fast online and in this age of bedbugs and such going to a local place in a strange town is a leap of faith.

The town park has a huge iron work piece of folk-art highlighting Route 66 in New Mexico. A stream runs along the park and across the road where a water fall fountain spills back into the stream. They are connected by a sidewalk running under the bridge that carries route 66 over the steam. This works out a lot like the subway crossings we found in Oklahoma and Illinois. This helped keep pedestrian traffic out of the busy roadway. There were many more interesting places I captured.

Getting out of the car to finish unloading the SHELL sign towering above the nearby station caught my eye. It is a the common series of square boxes, each one having one big letter. The original owner must have had a 6 letter name since on this sign the blocks read S H E L L [blank].

We finally got back, logged on, took care of things, downloaded and backed up the pictures then worked on this blog. In between we needed to research some minor side trips, set tomorrow’s goal and book a room. We are now just about on schedule to finish in time without short sheeting a state. We have a 135 mile per day goal right now. We beat that yesterday, met it today and will beat it tomorrow so we are closing the gap. Each state will now be progressively less in mileage and as expected New Mexico and probably Arizona will have longer hops and more sites that are stop and go photo opportunities.

Winslow Arizona here we come!

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