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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sad to Part but On To The Next Adventure!

Bill started playing with the camera and Gloria and I happily posed. Too soon after bacon, delicious English muffin bread, coffee and juice ( eggs for Bill, too) for breakfast it was time to bid our friends good-bye. We followed their suggestion and went to Los Lunas and picked up highway 6 through lovely backroad scenery. Eerily, silently, two helicopters appeared from nowhere and continued down the valley. We passed a passenger train which was quite a novelty in this land of trains--freight, that is. We reunited with I -40 for a few miles and that got off to follow Old Rt 66 to Grants. Passed one of the Pueblos--Acoma , perhaps, that is called Little Bethlehem because of its similarity to the ancient city.

As we traveled through this beautiful land for another day I was reminded of a quote I'd read: " Now the highway enters upon an area of richly colored desert and mesa, upon which herds of sheep and occasionally cattle graze. The vistas stretch interminably into the distance, and the inverted turquoise bowl of the sky becomes a mingling of indescribable colors at sunset. " from a Guidebook to Highway 66 by John Rittenhouse, 1946--I was four years old and it still looks the same way!

Once in Grants we looked for someplace to eat--Blake's Lotta-Burger was it --so we passed. I munched my two pieces of English muffin bread and Bill ate cheese and we shared an apple. We cruised the main drag and looked at the old motel signs with evocative names--Desert Sun, Lavaland, Wayside, Sands. We remembered old movies like the Lux that have been replaced by multiplexes. We met several very loquacious crows announcing loudly the arrival of strangers.

We discovered a Mining Museum in the Chamber of Commerce building. Seems that Grants was once the Carrot capital of the world but in the 1950's-1960's it became the Uranium Mining Capital. I sure didn't see any evidence of prosperity in town. But we decided to explore the pseudo-mine exhibit. Before descending we asked the young lady receptionist about the roads to El Malpais and El Morro. She suggested we take Rt 53 which she said was very scenic and would " dump us out into Gallup."

So down we went a floor and into the mine, which was really interesting. Imagine our surprise when we returned to the surface to find that the girl had gone to lunch and locked us in the building! Well, we had reading material and she'd have to return sometime, we supposed. Settled in to wait, when out of the bowels of the building there appeared another lady, who did not have the keys to open the door, but who took us to a back door that opened from the inside. Off we went, grateful that we had not had to lose who knew how much time waiting for lunch time to end.

Rt 53 has been designated the Trail of the Ancients since there was a great deal of movement among the various Pueblo Indians of the area along this path, as well as Conquistadors looking for the fabled cities of gold ( a legend carried back to Mexico by travelers who saw the white buildings and cliffs turned to golden hues by the sunlight and sunsets ) ,Catholic missionaries, the wagon trains including those of the Mormons, the US Army including those who were trying out camels on the rough terrain ( an experiment that did not work--the camel being outdone by the more reliable Army mule) and the workers on an early Railroad line. Just outside Grants we stopped in San Rafael to admire its lovely ancient Church.

El Malpais means Badlands in Spanish. I should have realized that since Mal means bad in French and the French word for land or country is pays. The area is covered with ancient lava flows that make hiking or riding a horse very difficult. The sharp lava will cut the horse's ankles and will soon shred anything but the sturdiest hiking boot. At the visitor's center the ranger rushed out to greet us and talked non-stop. We were the only folks anywhere to be seen and I think she was bored and lonely. The snow had melted from the roof and formed a small ice spot in front of the door--her greeting was " Look out for our skating rink!" The cone base was larger than the sheet of ice it covered.

Shortly after leaving her we crossed the Continental Divide--it is here that rivers flow either east or west. From now on any rivers we encountered would empty into the Pacific Ocean. Not too many miles later we saw El Morro, the bluff, in the distance. All of the travelers who came this way stopped at El Morro for at its foot is a pool of clear,cold water fed only by rainfall and snowmelt. It is 12 feet deep when full and holds over 200,000 gallons of water. It is the only water in a 30 mile radius. Bill said he could well imagine how grateful the people must have been to reach it. Since there is a marvelous white sandstone series of rocks it also became a place where these visitors left their Kilroy like signatures. The earliest inscription begins Paso por aqui and dates to 1605!

Turning toward Ramah, a biblical name bestowed by the Mormons who remained here, we passed beautiful red and white striated pillars known as Los Gigantes--the Giants. Rather than continue on to Zuni Pueblo we turned north on 602 toward Gallup. The Indians even paint their TV dishes to look like pottery! In Gallup the street art is composed of large Indian pottery pieces.

Once more we were on old Rte 66 and the old broken buildings and signs remain. There are many Trading Posts selling all kinds of Native American art, pottery, weavings, jewelry etc. Gallup is called the Native American jewelry capital and I wouldn't argue.

Arriving at 4;30 we checked into our motel and then proceeded to Badlands Cafe for a delicious meal; Potato Skins
Green Chile Stew ( spicy and delicious) muy picante!
Pork Chop for me; Sirloin steak for Bill
No room for dessert!

Daryl was our attentive, friendly waiter. We drove home enjoying a breathtaking Southwestern sunset.

Today I didn't even dress--a clerical day, a laundry day, a what's next planning day. Taco from Virgie's Mexican Restaurant for dinner. TV night--NCIS etc and to bed. Tomorrow, Gallup, here we come!

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