If you missed my earlier post about our adventure on the Moki Dugway in southern Utah, check it out here. It was crazy!
After weaving up the side of of Cedar Mesa, we went out of our way to avoid going back down that narrow stretch of road. After weaving through Utah and the edge of Colorado, we arrived at our initial destination, Four Corners. It’s the only place in the country where four states meet: Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. The monument is run by the Navajo Nation, though the Ute & Hopi tribes are also in the region. There are quite a few vendor booths set up around the marker selling various Native American wares. Although we’d been to the Grand Canyon and a few other touristy places, Four Corners was the only place we encountered people that were annoyingly oblivious to social awareness. It was selfie-central around the middle of the marker itself; we didn’t stay long. (It was also quite warm; everywhere you stood was 90 degrees. Ha!)
As we progressed through northwest New Mexico, Shiprock appeared on the horizon. Shiprock is a 1,500 foot tall rock formation that would look right at home in Monument Valley–but it stands strikingly alone. It reminded me of the Dark Tower from Stephen King’s book series & made Samantha think of a fantasy fortress. I also visualized the end-game castle from the classic Ghosts & Goblins video game. Although it’s not accessible up-close (the Navajo Nation has restricted access due to a few rock climbing deaths over the years) we circled the landmark on county roads. South of the monolith is a tall rock wall, part of the same ancient lava flow, which from a distance looks like a sleeping dragon. It was one of the more interesting sights on our entire trip!
Our stop for the night was the El Rancho Hotel in Gallup. The historic hotel on Route 66 was built by the brother of early Hollywood director D.W. Griffith in 1937 and served as a home-away-from-home for many movie productions in its early years. Their original staff was even trained by the Fred Harvey Company. The current owners are very proud of the hotel’s heritage and the property retains the vintage charm of its heyday. Gallup is known as one of the great neon showcases of the Mother Road, so we took a little drive at dusk to take it all in.
The next day, we passed through Albuquerque and headed up the Turquoise Trail to Santa Fe. There’s a little stretch of Route 66 just east of ABQ that is a designated ‘musical road’. The rumble strip has been designed to ‘sing’ America the Beautiful as you drive over it:
We stopped in Madrid as we drove north to Santa Fe. The tiny mining town of 200 is home to a vibrant artist community and we enjoyed looking through the various shops that line the road. By the time we rolled into the City Different and checked into the Silver Saddle Motel, it was nearly dinnertime. If you’re ever in Santa Fe looking to have a great local meal, I highly recommend The Pantry (since 1948!) The folks were friendly and the food was fantastic.
That night, Samantha and I weighed our options. Although we had one more destination planned in southeast Colorado, we were both pretty worn out. We decided to call it early and drive back the next morning so we’d have a day of rest before our regular life kicked back into gear. It was a nearly ten hour drive the next day, which we drove pretty much straight through.
As we slowly made our way east, the mountains turned to prairie. stretching as far as the eye could see. I realized that we didn’t have much in the way of water or snacks in the car as our cell reception reduced to nearly zero. I hadn’t considered how desolate Highway 412 would be in northeast New Mexico. When we eventually saw signs for a gas station in Gladstone, we were relieved. The town of Gladstone was supposedly founded in 1880 by an Englishman that dreamed of creating a Utopian religious community; all we found was a small mercantile on the dusty prairie with a single farm-style gas pump. The shop itself was a combination flea market/post office/convenience store with a small grill in the back. An old timer greeted us as we came in and explored the charming shop. It reminded me strongly of my youth I spent at my grandparents’ place in rural Oklahoma.
When we finally crossed into the Oklahoma panhandle, we made a brief stop in Boise (pronounced like ‘boys’) City. The county seat of Cimarron County holds the distinction of being the only site on US soil that was officially bombed during World War II. On July 5, 1943 a B-17 Flying Fortress mistakenly dropped bombs on the town square thinking it was their intended target for a training run. Thankfully, nobody was killed as the training bombs fell just after midnight. There’s a little monument to the event near the courthouse.
We arrived home well after dark, a pair of exhausted but satisfied road wanderers. We had an amazing trip out west, seeing some of this country’s most magnificent natural wonders. It was a great way to celebrate one year of marriage and three years as a couple. Here’s to 50 more years of bliss!