We left our very nice hotel in Santa Fe (La Fonda on the Plaza) to head west early after breakfast. It was a sunny morning and the temperature was -1C. It took a little over an hour to get to Albuquerque. ( have awful trouble spelling that name!) It’s not the capital of New Mexico, but it is the biggest city by far. It has a population of over 550,000 which is just about one quarter of the total population of the state.
We stopped there to visit a branch of an outdoor clothing shop that I have found and buy from online (Eddie Bauer). I wanted to see the range of things they stocked and to look for other alternatives that may be suitable for me. I’m rather pissed off at Australia’s Kathmandu stores who seem to think that all of their customers are short and skinny. Their sizes don’t work for me at all.
We had a failed attempt at a cultural experience when we tried to visit the Acoma Pueblo, only to find it was still closed for the season. The Pueblo is situated on top of a 111 metre high mesa, about 100 km west of Albuquerque. The isolation and location of the Pueblo has sheltered the community for more than 1,200 years. They sought to avoid conflict with the neighboring Navajo and Apache peoples who were aggressive raiders.
Pueblo people are believed to have descended from a variety of ancient cultural groups. They have a unique architecture, farming style, and type of art.. They are the only Indian groups who were not pushed onto reservations as they were seen to have existing permanent homes unlike the other nomadic groups. In the 13th century, these people abandoned their canyon homelands, as we saw at Mesa Verde, due to climate change and social upheaval. For upwards of two centuries, migrations occurred in the area. The Acoma Pueblo emerged by the thirteenth century. This early founding date makes Acoma Pueblo one of the earliest continuously inhabited communities in the United States.
Seeing that we couldn’t visit, all I could do was t take a couple of photos from a distance.
We are staying overnight at Gallup, a small town in southern New Mexico. To get there, we spent most of the afternoon following Interstate Highway 40 which is built on, or parallels, the old historic Route 66.
Route 66, was established in 1926 and is one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System. It became one of the most famous roads in the United States and originally ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before ending at Santa Monica, California. It covered a total of 2,448 miles (3,940 km).Itt was recognized in popular culture by both the hit song “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66” and the Route 66 television show in the 1960s that showed two young men travelling along the highway and interacting with local people along the way.
The main street of the town of Grants (near the Acoma Pueblo) was a section of Route 66. Grants began as a railroad camp in the 1880s, when three Canadian brothers (named Grant) were awarded a contract to build a section of the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad through the region. Its economy was supported at different times by logging and uranium mining. It has obviously now seen better days. The main street is littered with derelict buildings that date back to the 1960’s when it was busy with traffic. Now, old signs stand over vacant lots like tombstones that remember the days long gone when this town was active and vibrant.
Dozens of freight trains still rumble through this area every day. The line is part of the BNSF (Burlington North Santa Fa) company – a Texas based railway organisation. The trains that I saw looked to be about a kilometre long and were pulled by three locomotives at the front and pushed by a fourth at the back of the train.
We had dinner at the El Rancho Hotel on be main road through Gallup. Jill didn’t enjoy her Mexican meal very much but I thought my Enchiladas with red chilli were excellent. You order how spicy you want your meal to be by nominating the colour of the chilli – red is hot, green is mild and ‘Christmas’ is in between.
The hotel is listed on America’s National Register of Historic Places, as the embodiment of America’s Old West. During its heyday, the El Rancho Hotel was one of the premier hotels in the entire Southwest and became the place for the Hollywood set to stay when filming in the area. It was the definition of luxury and included many amenities that were lacking in other typical tourist hotels of the day.
Back at our more humble hotel (the Holiday Inn), I noticed a plaque commemorating the hotel’s previous contribution to a significant veteran’s activity – the Run For The Wall. Each year, up to 1800 veterans ride their motorcycles across America in giant convoys to meet at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, DC. This ride (or run) is now in its 39th year and includes veterans from Vietnam and later conflicts. My friend and fellow 85 Transport Platoon veteran, Eamon Tansy, now ives in Colorado and leads one part of this ride. Good on you Eamon!