My first real adventurer Walmart parking sleep was much better than I ever expected. I got up early and saw a few other travelers getting up as well, which made me feel like I was on the right path.
I went and got breakfast at Jerry’s Cafe, which came highly recommended by my good friend Ashleigh. I knew the moment I entered New Mexico every meal I purchased had to have green chiles in it, or what was the point? I got a bomb breakfast sopaipilla with green chiles and I honestly don’t know why they had anything else on the menu.
Gallup has a marvelous Cultural Center with a lovely museum of the area’s history which focused on the Native American culture and arts of the region. It’s free and I highly recommend checking it out if you’re passing through the area. It was a great primer on New Mexico’s rich Native American cultural influence on the area and the United States as a whole, which was the perfect way to start my first full New Mexico day.
I kept on driving the mother road down to Hotel El Rancho. The El Rancho is a hotel built in the 1930s by movie stars for movie stars. It was majestic to say the least, so naturally, Betsy fit right in.
Being in the city for so long got me and Betsy antsy to go back out in nature and do a hike for once. We headed outta Gallup and to Red Rock State Park to see Church Rock. This was my first taste of high elevation hiking and boy was it ever wonderful. I took a million and one photos and felt like I was my old self again, taking photos of every desert flower hiking in the desert. Betsy felt right at home too, as expected.
After what felt like a wonderful breath of fresh air, we kept on truckin’. All the way past the continental divide! (This wouldn’t be the last time I would cross it on this trip…) Now, I was in the same watershed as my final destination of New Orleans!
We filled up and drove on towards Grants. It was a lovely little town, but one where the harsh economic slap of the interstate super slab was sorely felt. I stopped for a quick bite to eat and got on the move once more.
There is some flawless Route 66 driving in that part of New Mexico. Just a lovely two lane country road as the train tracks run parallel. The I-40 on your right, with semis passing by and checking out Betsy cruising along the side. That feeling cannot be captured or repeated ever again and I’m completely grateful I lived to experience it.
As I drove into the first of what would turn out to be many new Mexico sunsets I knew I wasn’t going to make it to Albuquerque that night. I felt Betsy get a bit tired too, and I wanted to find a place to rest for the night. I saw that there was rest area just off exit 102 on I-40 right beside the Sky City Casino and I thought that would be a great place to spend the night.
Turned out the rest area was closed, not sure why. So I ended up posting up in the parking lot of the casino. It was well lit and loud, but I backed up into a spot at the end of the lot so Betsy’s butt was facing the interstate. I got in the camper and conked out for the night.
It was probably the best sleep in Besty I’ve ever had, which was exactly what I needed to prepare me for the biggest scare with Betsy I’ve ever had the next morning in a McDonalds parking lot…