Green Chiles and High Elevations

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.

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Had to stop half way through eating it when I remembered I should probably take a picture before I inhaled the rest of it.

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.

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Found this perfectly topical poem in the museum which will be with me for the rest of my life

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.

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“Charm of Yesterday… Convenience of Tomorrow”

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.

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Betsy sure looked great with those red rocks!

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!

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Crossing the Continental Divide, take 1

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.

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Breakfast with some semis

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…

Ode to a Walmart Parking Lot

The duality of life in America is perfectly exemplified by a Walmart parking lot.
A sight for sore eyes after driving all day, you cruise around to find the perfect spot to call home for the night.
Not too close, but not too far from the main entrance either.
Close enough to the truckers, but far enough so that the sound of their engines idling all night is just a soft background hum.
You claim your stake, settle down, and listen to the sounds around you.

The sounds of real life America.
Families going to shop for their groceries for the week.
Teenagers hanging out and causing trouble.
Some cars drive by with a sappy, mellow tune barely audible, and others make everything vibrate around them from their turned up bass.
Minivans, big lifted trucks, adventure rigs, RVs, beater sedans, daily drivers and everything else in between is in this lot.

Perhaps there exists no better representation of what America really is than a Walmart parking lot.
People from all walks of life, all different values, beliefs, religions, theories, economic backgrounds, families, languages, races, colors, lifestyles, genders, sexualities, identities, cultures, experiences, and infinite amount of differences are here.
They all are valid here, they are all provided the same thing.
Just a safe place to park, be it for an hour or for the night.

Yes, the experience is different for all.
Yes, sometimes it’s less safe than others,
Yes, there’s better places to park out there.
Yes, their business practices are less than admirable, to say the least.
Yes, people are constantly coming and going.
Yes, it’s loud.

But they are open to everyone.

Isn’t that what makes any country great?

Go sit in a Walmart parking lot and tell me what you see.

Wigwam to Walmart

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.

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She really could be a NPS truck. No one would even know.

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.

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Painted Desert

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.

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That’ll buff out.

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.

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What happened to kitschy post cards like this?

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.

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On the road, you never miss a sunset.

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…

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Home is where you park it.