When we left Tucumcari New Mexico on October 9th, Samantha was stoked. After a restful night at the Blue Swallow, we would be spending the day crossing New Mexico and venturing into Arizona. One of her most anticipated sights on our journey was the Painted Desert, which was on the day’s itinerary. After a lovely breakfast at Kix on 66, we hit the road.
We drove straight through the Land of Enchantment, stopping only for gas before lunch time. We met up with our friends Jim Hinckley and his wife in Gallup, who were on their way to Cuba Missouri for their annual Route 66 Festival. Jim is a well-known author from Kingman, AZ and I am always in great spirits when our paths cross. He has a host of interesting stories and an excellent sense of humor. Alas, our meeting was short and soon we were both back on the road heading in opposite directions.
The Painted Desert did not disappoint. I had visited the National Park last summer on my own, but as always I learn much in my wife’s presence. We toured the old Painted Desert Inn, saw Newspaper Rock, and even walked part of the Blue Mesa trail. We departed earlier than we would’ve liked, as I’d made dinner reservations at our hotel that night, and still had a bit of driving ahead of us. We arrived at La Posada in Winslow, AZ just in time.
La Posada opened in 1930 as a beacon for Arizona travelers. It was a Harvey House, one in a series of hospitality businesses across the country catered to railroad passengers. It was called “the last great railroad hotel built in America” and has become something of a shrine for its architect, Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter. It closed in 1957 and became an office for the Santa Fe Railway for decades. It escaped demolition multiple times before being bought out, fully restored, and re-opened as a hotel in the late nineties. Its in-house restaurant, the Turquoise Room, is also well-known and counted as one of the best in the nation. We enjoyed an excellent meal (complete with a scrumptious chocolate souffle) on the eve of our actual anniversary date. Highly recommended!
As usual when I’m traveling, I woke early the next day. I let Sam sleep in and kissed her goodbye as I took a dawn drive to the Chevelon Canyon Bridge, one of my favorite spans in the entire country. I watched the sun rise over the rocks as the silent countryside slowly stirred to life.
As the Chevelon Creek below reflected the morning sky, I reflected on the last year of my life. It’s hard to put into words the tremendous impact Samantha has had on my life. She is my most passionate supporter, my smartest advisor, my best friend, and my biggest inspiration. Every day we are together, she enriches my world. I didn’t truly understand what happiness was before we met. I wake up each day as the luckiest person on the planet. Our first year as a married couple was amazing, yet I know it’s only a small sampling of the wonderful times ahead.
When I returned to Winslow, we set out westward once more. I showed her Two Guns (a derelict tourist stop on old Route 66, now little more than a collection of crumbling stone buildings) and we experienced the Meteor Crater together. I was a little reluctant as we left the interstate to see the natural landmark, but after we arrived (and walked up a ton of stairs) I was awestruck. It’s almost a mile wide! I could hear my Dad saying something like, “It’s just a hole in the ground!” but we both enjoyed it nonetheless. They have a great little museum on-site that goes through all manner of facts about the crater and its impact (ha) on the Arizona landscape.
We made one more stop before we reached our destination, but that’s a subject for another day. After another excellent meal (this time courtesy of the Station 66 Italian Bistro) we wandered the vibrant main street of Williams. It’s one of the best examples of a preserved Route 66 town; thanks to the amount of Grand Canyon tourism the town receives, it still boasts a fine selection of restaurants, gift shops, and museums. We went to sleep that night with much excitement, as the next morning we would board the Grand Canyon Railway to see the greatest natural wonder in the United States.