It was with bittersweet feelings that we said goodbye to David and Alison. Witnessing the mass ascension of vibrant colored hot air balloons, riding the train to Santa Fe, petting alpacas and feasting on succulent Southwestern food were all experiences of a lifetime.
But, the highlight in Albuquerque was surly time spent with family. Several times, thoughts of our parents (Howard and Nita Belle Bland and John and Madeleine Hudson) crept into my mind during this visit. I truly believe that they would be pleased at our ongoing family contact.
Route 66 is absorbed into I-40 for much of the route today. However, we managed to forsake the fast-paced highway for scenic towns along the way. Our first stop was Gallup, NM for lunch at the El Rancho Hotel for lunch.
Built in 1937 by Raymond E. Griffith, it was a favorite with movies stars for the beginning. By the 1960s, no fewer than 15 movies had been shot there, using the hotel as headquarters. The movies included Sundown, Streets of Laredo, and The Hallelujah Trail.
The hotel is enormous and resembles a huge ranch house with its solid Western furniture, mounted moose heads and Navajo rugs. As a contrast to this step back in time, a man was sitting in one of the old leather chairs working on his computer. Apparently, the hotel has wi-fi! The massive wooden staircase leads to a balcony with signed photographs from the likes of Rosalind Russell, Humphrey Bogart, Jack Benny and Ronald Reagan. Alas, the ladies’ restroom reminds one of a bygone era. Polly and I sat down in the charming restaurant where the sandwiches and burgers are named after movie stars like Doris Day, Errol Flynn and Burt Lancaster. The “Mae West” is described as “stacked beef or ham”. I had the Jack Benny, while Polly chose the Roy Rogers.
When Polly asked for sweet tea, a couple nearby overheard her. They are from Mississippi and had been looking in vain for sweet tea. Strains of Ray Price, Hank Williams and Patsy Cline serenaded us as we enjoyed our movie star lunches. Have you figured out the significance of today’s title? It is the slogan across the top of the hotel entrance.
It was hard to leave Holbrook without checking out a few more vintage motel signs from the Route 66 era.
Leaving Holbrook we decided to try following the old Route 66 that seemed to parallel I-40. Alas, we seemed to be lost for a while. And the 4 maps in my lap were of no use. But all is well that ends well. We finally found an entrance to I-40. And then we reached the Arizona state line.
Spontaneous decisions often turn out to be hidden treasures. We saw the sign for the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest. So we turned off as each of us commented that we remembered coming here with our parents in the 1950s.
The Painted Desert Innbegan as a lodge around 1920. In 1935 the National Park Service purchased the lodge. President Franklin Roosevelt utilized the Civilian Conservation Corps to overhaul the building.
The inn opened in 1940. Falling into disrepair, it was scheduled for demolition in 1975. But due to public outcry it was saved and designated a National Public Landmark in 1987.
Finally, we walked through the Crystal Forest, with its exquisitely colorful petrified logs that once held glassy amethyst and quartz crystals. Before thoughtless visitors hauled off many of the remnants, it gleamed more brightly. Now there the signs everywhere warning folks not to remove the petrified wood.
We had decided earlier in the day that we would try getting a room at the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook since it had been on our list of “must sees” from the beginning. (It was known as the Cozy Cone Motel in the movie Cars.) Since there are only 15 rooms and it was late in the day, we had our doubts. But, as we pulled up to the motel, the “vacancy” sign was still lit. Some things just work out. We had passed a van shortly before arriving at the motel. We got the last room. If we had not passed the van we would have missed the room. It was meant to be.
It was built by owner John Lewis’s father in the 1940s. He allowed seven other motels around the country to be built using his plans. But, each had to be equipped with a radio that played for 30 minutes for 10 cents. We did not see the radio. More on the Wigwam Motel in tomorrow’s post.