NOTE: I have decided to start recording the various hotels, campgrounds and any other places we stay (except for friends and family) with prices and a sloppy rating system. This will help us in selecting overnights in the future – and maybe you, if you’re interested.
We left home early to get a good start on our final leg of Route 66. We had started this trip in Chicago a year ago, but due to the Covid pandemic we had to stop at the border of New Mexico.
Stayed @ Best Western Motel Dickson, TN (3.5 – USB did’t work) $113
We got up early (a mind-bending time of 4:45), showered, had some tea then got on the road.
We first stopped at Little Rock Central High School NHS. Remember you’re history book? “The Little Rock Nine”? This place is dedicated to what happened during the desegregation of the South, in particular, the nine students who had to be escorted into the school by our country’s military in order to defend their constitutional rights to a free, fair and equal education.
Afterward we stopped at David’s Burgers, a local franchise, for a burger for Alan and a grilled cheese for me. The food was good and the service was better.
Next we visited Fort Smith NHS and learned about it’s use as a prison with a frequently used gallows and a federal judge who ordered the executions of 150 people. The Fort was also a hub for commerce along the Arkansas River, and it was a sad part of the Trail of Tears.
We stopped by our hotel in Oklahoma City and checked in, then headed straight to the Cattlemen’s Café for a dinner of ribeye steaks. Unfortunately they were a bit too raw for us so we took leftovers to the hotel were I nuked them and cut them up and stored them in our cooler.
Stayed @ Country Inn & Suites (4.3) $71
Up and out by 6:45am. We made frequent pit stops. Again. My bladder is frustrating. We reached the Midpoint Café for lunch @ 11:40. Here is where we pick up where we left off last year on Route 66.
We drove “through” Glenrio, a purported “ghost town”. We saw just four or five abandoned buildings and nothing worthy of a picture. Sad.
Next we stopped in Tucumcari, NM to photograph the pretty little Blue Swallow Hotel and get a drink refill.
We drove by the Blue Hole, a swimming/diving location that was closed. Dang Covid. We also knew that there is a short Musical Highway along Route 66 and we drove west to turn around and drive it going east. We were able to hear a few bars from America the Beautiful but I just could not record it well enough to hear on the recording. Drats. Further west we reached Albuquerque and drove to the Dog House Drive-In, but it was closed today. Of course. I got a picture instead. I’m beginning to see a pattern here. From there we headed north to Santa Fe to stay the night. Dinner was from Fresh Market Grocery; a vegan wrap for me and a turkey wrap for Alan, and we shared some sushi.
The Sage Hotel in downtown Santa Fe. (3.6) $87.11
On the road at 6:30 to Bandelier National Monument. We arrived at 7:45 but waited for a park employee to finish cleaning the bathrooms so we could use them before heading out on a hike. It was 37° outside when we hiked the 1.5 mile Pueblo Trail. We saw the old dwellings in the cliff face, a caldera, and a well. We also saw ravens, a mockingbird(?) dark headed juncos, robins, some woodpeckers, a Stellar jay and some scrub jays. We took a detour on the trail and wound up standing in the middle of it while four mule deer walked around us, no more than 12 feet away. Very cool. Back at the visitor center, which was now open, we found the parking lot had gotten FULL (when we struck out on our hike there were only a few cars). We got a stamp in our book and a collectors pin.
Our next destination was The Manhattan Project. To get there we had to drive through Los Alamos Nation Laboratory, where we had to stop for a security check before going through. We were instructed to drive straight, and not to take pictures or movies. Yessir! After stopping in at the Project visitor center we saw the statues of Oppenheimer and General Groves before walking over to visit the history museum. Here we learned about the history of Los Alamos and The Manhattan Project, culminating in the dropping of Little Boy and Fat Man on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was very sobering. Next we stopped for lunch at the Blue Window Café before continuing our walking tour over at the Ray Bradbury Science Museum.
Our next destination was Pecos National Historic Park. Here you can see the remains of the Pecos Pueblo and 1717 Spanish mission church. The visitor center has great information on the history of the area so we took our time and furthered our education. We were too tired to hike the whole Pecos Trail, so we drove up to a parking lot near the old church and explored those remains instead.
At the end of the day we checked into our hotel room in Albuquerque, then went to dinner at the 66 Diner, a very cool throwback to the 50’s. A few blocks down the road from the diner was a great metal sculpture under an RV park sign.
La Quinta Inn & Suites (3 – everything is aged, could hear lots going on around us, no frig or microwave) $91.51
We slept in this morning, then indulged in a breakfast at Cracker Barrel. Along the way we saw about a dozen hot air balloons rising up off the ground – we guessed that they were holdovers from the Balloon Fiesta that was held last month.
We drove a short way to Petroglyph National Monument and I ran in and got a stamp in our book because we didn’t get one last time we were here, then we drove to El Malpais National Monument. This NPS site has a diverse volcanic landscape with geologic features such as lava flows, cinder cones, lava tube caves, and sandstone bluffs. We hiked the half-mile trail at the visitor center, re-acclimating to the 7800+ elevation.
Next we visited El Morro National Monument, about an hour’s drive away. Here Ancestral Puebloans, Spanish and American travelers carved over 2,000 signatures, dates, messages, and petroglyphs. There are two trails, both leaving out of the visitor center. One, Inscription Trail, is a half-mile trail, taking you over to the carvings and petroglyphs. The second, is a two-mile trail with a 250 foot elevation gain – Headland Trail. This trail includes the Inscription Trail but also continues to the top of the bluff for a look into the Ancestral Puebloan ruin, Atsinna. It follows steeply up the side of the mesa then along the sometimes narrow ridge, across boulders. Navigation across the top are simple lines etched into the hard rock trail that sometimes disappear. We talked to a volunteer at the park, who loaned us a trail and interpretive guide to the Inscriptions. We talked it over and decided to “just do it”, i.e.: the two mile trail plus the half-mile trail. It was a tough but exciting hike, especially reaching the top. Hiking down (we went UP the opposite way most folks went) was a series of steep, but lightly paved, switchbacks. Near the bottom we started seeing the carvings and petroglyphs. We followed these around to the west side of the mesa and on back to the visitor center. I returned the guide back and then we had a late lunch at picnic table nearby. Boy! Are we gonna sleep good tonight! We finished the hike around 3:30 and after lunch headed to Petrified National Forest National Park.
The only reason we would be able to get to Petrified before closing is that Arizona does not honor Daylight Savings Time. After leaving the park we raced up 66 to the Jackrabbit Trading Post where I picked up a jar of Cherry Ghost Pepper Jam for a friend who loves the heat. In the parking area was an old VW Rabbit with some rabbit ears attached to the outside of it.
In the last few days we have passed trains a mile or more long, stacked two cargo containers high on each car, pushed by one engine and pulled by two, crawling laboriously across the west. The shear length of them takes your breath away.
Best Western Plus, Winslow, AZ (4.0). $126.