The other day I received a wonderful message from amazing artist Neil Hannum on Instagram. He wanted to draw Betsy in all her glory from a picture I took in Gallup, NM in front of the El Rancho Hotel. I was thrilled, to say the least. I’ve been interested in an illustration of Betsy for a while now and to have an artist I admired come forward and be interested in such a project from their own end was so incredible, and inspirational, and validating as well!
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Neil also asked me to write a poem for the piece, and I obliged:
An old Ford truck
Will never get stuck
In any place
You cannot embrace.
Hit the open road, rely on luck.
To see more of Neil’s work, check out his Instagram. If you want to purchase some of his original art you can find that on his Etsy store. You can also commission him to illustrate your rig in the same style!
After a fun night at the Wigwam Motel I was ready to roll once again. But first, tacos and beer at Romo’s Restaurant in Holbrook! I had a great lunch while using some free wifi, I finished off a blog post, and set off for Petrified Forrest National Park.
I followed Route 66 to the North Entrance, but I would suggest from Holbrook heading toward the south entrance because it all the cool hikes and views of petrified wood were on the other side for the park. From the South Entrance you can drive up through the whole park and rejoin Route 66 by exiting at the North Entrance.
Petrified Forest National Park holds the only remnant of Route 66 on National Park land. An old 1932 Studebaker sits where the Mother Road once ran nearby. The line of telephone poles you see, traces the original route through the entire park.
Something about being in this spot gave me some really strong emotions. I walked around this Studie, strolled over to the telephone poles, lined them up in my view from either direction, and squinted. It was like the ghosts of everyone who’s ever traveled through that spot all hit me at once. Even before Route 66, the pioneers going West for the gold rush, and the cowboys and rancheros. Countless human beings have taken this trip. All of their hopes, all of the dreams, all of the expectations for what was out west just waiting for them. What did their lives look like when they were traveling? What happened to them? Did all their dreams come true? Did they find new dreams? Were they happy out west or did they regret ever making the daring passage? Did they make it to their planned final destination or did they let the journey take them for a ride?
There I was in the middle of my own pilgrimage on the route and the spirit of all those that came before me was there with me too. It was that feeling of anticipation before you make a big life changing decision. You’re excited but terrified all at the same time. You’re scared to start, but you know you must. It felt like that times a million. It felt like I was feeling that feeling for everyone that had or has yet to come through this point on the road or in their lives.
To say the least, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I can’t even write about it without getting weepy.
And just like that we had crossed our 2nd National Park off the list!
Now I was eager to make it to New Mexico before the end of the day. I had decided Gallup should be my goal for the night. Two National Parks and three states would be under my belt before I went to sleep that day.
I rode a great stretch of dirt Route 66 just as the sun was setting and came up on a rest area in Lupton which is right on the state line of Arizona and New Mexico. I briefly considered setting up camp there for the night, it was pretty dark and quiet there, but I knew I just had to get into New Mexico before I could call it a day. So I pushed on to Gallup.
When I got into town, only a short drive away, I instantly regretted not staying in that lovely and quiet rest area. The only place I could find to safely park Betsy overnight was a Walmart parking lot. I parked Bets near some big ol’ semi’s and huddled up for the night, after eating some pretty bomb ramen. I soon learned that the big semi’s just idle their engines the entire night through. I mean, I guess I could say it was kind of like a fancy white noise machine that fancy people get because their fancy houses are so expensive and well insulated that they can’t hear anything except their own thoughts and the existential dread that comes along with that which keeps them from sleeping at night.
In the end, I knew this trip wouldn’t be complete without sleeping in at least one infamous Walmart parking lot…