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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Galloping Around Gallup

Left the motel at 9 for a day in town. Many of the motel signs on Rte 66 have been left at the old days rates and many, as in Grants and elsewhere, mark empty lots on which their namesakes once stood. Here in Gallup some of the motels are still there and are still in operation.

Our first stop was the Rex Museum in the old Rex Hotel building. There is no admission but rather a donation box. It purports to be a museum focused on the history of Gallup as a coal mining town. It is really a collection of whatever townsfolk donated, from old grad pictures to wedding dresses from 1900 to irons and phones of a by-gone era. We met two locals, however, and that was worth the time. Tom, a retired man who volunteers on Wed to get away from the TV, wanted to talk about the has been or want to be stars that come to perform in the local casinos. He showed us a picture of himself with Paula Abdul, whom he described as petite and very polite and nice whom he did not kiss but who gave him a huge hug. Crystal Gayle is apparently not polite. Kathryn Grayson could sing but was very private. Well, you get the idea.

The other fellow was a Native American whose name we did not get. I asked him about all these trading posts and asked where he'd recommend I look for jewelry and pottery. Told him to go to all these places would be overwhelming. He mentioned one that he said was quite pricey but recommended either Perry Null, who would give us a good deal, had an excellent selection and was a fair man. The other he mentioned was Ellis Tanner. So off we went to Perry's.

OH MY Goodness----one side of the store was the old pawn jewelry etc and then there was a case of antique jewelry. The rest of the store was devoted to newer jewelry. I started at the old stuff and a young native man, whose name I also never got, came to help. I told him I was going to look at everything since I really didn't know what I wanted. Spotted a delicate squash blossom necklace that I loved but knew it was probably more than I could afford. Continued around and met Barry who grew up in Seligmann Arizona among other places. He helped me pick out some pottery--a piece for myself and one for my cousin's daughter who marries this summer. Soon a lady whose name I didn't get joined us. She is a former teacher from Louisiana. We got chatting so much that I wasn't getting any shopping done. We talked about day trips from Gallup and Barry said he wouldn't go into Chaco Canyon without a four wheel drive truck. The other two thought that if we went in from the North it would be okay but that adds many more miles to the trip and you are still miles from help if you get in trouble. We decided to heed Barry's advice and eliminated that from our agenda.

Then we asked about Canyon de Chelly and they all agreed that the loop that includes Window Rock, the Hubbell Trading Post, the Mesas north of the Canyon etc was not to be missed. We are planning to go there tomorrow. I wish I'd learned their names--but the young native man brought out a book on Monument Valley and said we should definitely plan that for a trip someday if not this time. It is magnificent and I hope we'll do it sometime. Another side trip we are hoping to take is the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert --also possible as a day trip from Gallup. And of course Zuni Pueblo. This is a wonderful place and we are focusing on exploring it well. I hope we'll have time to truly learn about these cultures.

Barry and the lady both asked how we found Perry's and we told them about the man at the Rex. His name is Virgil, apparently! At this point I became brave enough to ask the price of the necklace and though I could have bought it I would have blown my whole mad money savings. The lady then said come back here to our retail stuff and I found a necklace at half the price. The workmanship is not as perfect as the other but since they will never be seen side by side and the memory of the other will fade I am really happy with this one. If before we leave Gallup I decide otherwise I can take this back and buy the other. While Barry was totaling and wrapping Perry himself came over. The lady asked me to tell him about my conversation with Virgil. He was very pleased and gave me a gift of a key chain with several tools in it. There is a website and I can call or email them for anything else I might like.

Having spent both money and energy we headed out to the El Rancho Hotel and Motel, originally owned by DW Griffith's brother. Many stars of westerns of the '40's and '50's stayed there and the upper balcony is filled with their autographed pictures. We ate in the dining room from a menu whose items all bear the name of a star. Bill had the Caesar Romero chicken fajitas and I had the Lucille Ball plate--a beef patty, fresh fruit and sherbet or cottage cheese--I opted for sherbet. I also had a very refreshing hot Navajo tea made of locally growing herbs.

We then wandered to the Cultural Center and gathered some brochures on the sites we hope to see and explored their small museum. In 2001 a beautiful statue of a Code Talker was erected outside the building, which also serves as the Amtrak station and Greyhound Bus terminal. In the art museum section I photographed a beautiful alabaster bust of an Indian woman complete with earring and necklace as well as a painting done by a youngster from Belen. The bust is part of the permanent exhibit; the child's a prize winner in a Statewide art exhibit for youngsters grades 5-12.

In the gift shop we met a couple from Fairfield Vt who have been on the road since Dec 14 and are doing basically the same thing we are doing. It was fun to chat with them and discover where they've been and where they are headed. They are going to some of the same places we are so we may encounter them again! I bought some beautiful greeting cards with art work by Native artists and sayings from Navajo blessings. Picked up a couple of postcards, too, but I often forget to write them!

And then it was time for Badlands to open so we went to revisit Daryl. I had a cobb salad and my bananas foster--Bill had an incredible BLT that I have to go back to try. And then it was home and an early bed so that we can get up with the sun tomorrow and head out into Arizona for our first day trip.

Good night to all for now!

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