Previous leg: Arizona and the Grand Canyon
We left the Grand Canyon just in time, as there were more thunderstorms in the horizon and it began to sprinkle. We back-tracked and stopped by Bedrock City again for some more 5-cent coffee and took a local-recommended route out of the Grand Canyon by way of State Hwy 64 South to Highway 180 and back on I-40.
Highway 180 cuts through the picturesque, Kaibab and Coconino National Forests. Even though Highway 180 wouldn’t be considered a “blue highway” we were glad that there wasn’t heavy traffic and that we were able to experience driving through the beautiful mountains of Arizona. We even found a radio station that played Native American music! The kids weren’t thrilled with the repetitive sound of the chanting — they also weren’t thrilled that their iPads were low on batteries (and our car charger didn’t output enough amps to charge them). This meant a difficult ride for the time being.
Our next destination was Holbrook, AZ, where we previously tried booking a stay at the famous, Wigwam Motel but ended up at the Super 8 since the Wigwam had no vacancy. Once we settled in the motel, we drove around town to see the Wigwam Motel, then counted the dinosaur models scattered around town. We finished our night with a visit to a petrified rock shop and headed back to the motel to call it a day.
Day 3: To New Mexico
It turns out that the Super 8 was not so super. The showers were mildewy, there were pretzels and peanuts under our bed, and we found a big cricket in the room. But I guess since we just needed a place to lay down and rest and get a shower, it was good for that. We grabbed our free continental breakfast and drove towards New Mexico.
Thanks to masstimes.org we headed to Gallup, NM to find a Catholic Church and attend Sunday Mass. On our way there, we stopped in the El Rancho Hotel along a cute Route 66 drag. The hotel boasts, “The Charm of Yesterday and the Convenience of Tomorrow.” What a gem this place was!
We attended Mass at the Sacred Heart Cathedral where they held a Principal Mass that had a lot of incense and chanting in Latin. It was all very interesting and solemn. The cathedral itself was simple with clean lines bit beautiful. The diamond shaped brick pattern on the wall behind the altar was evocative of its southwest roots so were the red and turquoise accents throughout the church — including the chevron-tiled floor.
After Mass we continued east and passed the Continental Divide. We thought the divide would be something more significant, but it was only indicated by a beat-up sign. Nearby were twin “rockets” that must have been some roadside attraction in front of a now-abandoned building.
Our goal was to make it to Tucumcari where we knew there were quite a few Route 66 motels still in business. Along the way, Thom spotted a little church—St. Joseph Mission Church—on a hilltop in Laguna, NM so we took a side-trip and ventured in that direction. We soon realized that were on a reservation and had a few eyes watching us. There were so many abandoned stone buildings. So we quickly snapped a pic of the church (before being asked for a donation in order to go inside the walls) and went on our way.
It became windy and wet and we were soon in a heavy thunderstorm. The biggest scare was when a tire of a big rig blew out right in front of us! We arrived in Tucumcari, NM where we drove up and down the main drag to find a motel. Although there were a quite a few Route 66-era buildings, most of them have fallen to disrepair. As we back-tracked, we decided to stay at the first motel we stopped by — the Buckaroo Motel.
The Buckaroo is unassuming but still retains it’s 1950’s/60’s charm. It is your true motor lodge where you get your key and park right in front of your room. The motel was clean and with the exception of a microwave oven, refrigerator, and television, it remains unchanged. Yes, wood panel walls and all! The staff was very friendly and it seemed like the family who owned the place also lived there.
We made bean burritos in the microwave for dinner. For some reason the burritos tasted much better than I thought it would — perhaps we were giving into the charm of this little motel we were staying in.
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The next journey: Going through Texas, Oklahoma and to Missouri.