Arizona Stories and Tips

Flagstaff to Gallup to Albuquerque

Winslow welcome sign Photo, Arizona, United States

I left Flagstaff with no set itinerary. I’d seen both the Meteor Crater and the Petrified Forest on the map, and decided to go to each one based on how I felt at that moment (see separate reviews).

As I was driving, I heard a radio broadcast that said "have your picture taken on a corner in Winslow, Arizona with a girl in a flatbed Ford." Winslow was less than 10 miles past the meteor crater. I’m not a big Eagles fan, but I got off I-40 and drove through the town on Rt. 66. It was a quiet town, dusty and a little run-down. I didn’t see a flatbed Ford.

Some notes from the road:

Route 66

Route 66 doesn’t still exist on maps, but it still symbolizes the allure of the road. And I’ve been driving on it much of the day, and will for many days more. I started in Flagstaff and called it a night in Gallup. Both motels are on motel rows on Route 66. I drove mostly on I-40, which seems to have replaced Route 66 as the main road. But Route 66 still goes though many towns that I-40 bypasses. The signs say "Historic Route 66." The souvenir stands have Route 66 T-shirts, baseball caps, shot glasses, etc. I’m getting my kicks.


Traveling Alone

Sometimes it seems that everyone else is traveling in couples. That makes me wistful.
But I just now stopped for ten minutes at a Painted Desert overlook. In that time I saw two separate women driving alone. One, slightly older, with Massachusetts plates, and a younger one from Michigan. Her car looked rickety--I hope she makes it to her destination—-but she had some nice-looking camera equipment.


*****

I crossed into New Mexico and spent the night in Gallup. The next morning, I wanted to go south to the Zuni Pueblo, but it was hard to find the route, especially with major roadwork going on. First I overshot on I-40, then when I backtracked, I followed signs that led me in a circle and disappeared. So I stopped for directions at the first place I found, one of the many that advertise "Indian Jewelry and Crafts—Low Prices—Dealers Welcome."

The sales clerk, a Navajo woman about my age named Rose, was very nice. We talked as I browsed, about our lives. She asked, wasn’t I lonely traveling, and living, alone. I said no, I have lots of friends. She said she gets lonely. I asked if she lived alone, and she said no, she has a husband, but—ehhh, you know. I said, I used to have a husband, and I at the time I thought I wanted him, but I’m finding some advantages to not having him anymore.

I ended up buying a couple pieces of the lower-end pottery at a good price. Rose's directions, however, took me in another circle. I decided to head east on I-40 and forget the pueblo, but I accidentally went west, and the next exit was the right road, 602 south. I enjoyed the drive, but didn’t find the pueblo worth the visit. It was small, and all I did was go into one store, which had nice things, but out of my price range, and I wasn’t in shopping mode.

As I drove east from the pueblo on 53 (which eventually leads back to I-40), I noticed some haze or dust in the distance. Soon I was driving though a full-fledged sandstorm. Dust was blowing all over the place, and tumbleweed was tumbling. At one point, about a dozen tumbleweeds were bouncing on the road, coming towards me—they looked like strange bunnies hopping down the road. Right about then, I passed a road sign that said SANDSTORMS EXIST. (The next day, the newspaper said winds had been up to 60mph.)

Soon after I got back on I-40, I took the turnoff to the Acoma pueblo, Sky City. The drive is nice—a gradual climb for about ten miles. Then you turn a corner, and come to an overlook with signs that say no photos from here without a permit. You can see across the valley and to the mesa where the pueblo is. Sky City is the longest continuously-occupied settlement in the USA. It was originally built on the mesa for defense from enemies. The valley floor is full of stunning rock formations, and cows grazing with no fences. You have to stop at the visitor center, at the foot of the mesa. To go further, you have to be with one of the tours that leave regularly until 4:30pm. I was later than that, so all I could do was browse in the gift shop. Still, the views were worth the drive. And not being able to photograph it adds to the feelings of respect and awe for the beautiful land.

From Sky City, I drove to the Sky City Casino, owned and operated by the same Acoma people. Quite a contrast. Lots of bright lights and the ka-chink of coins in the slots. It did have one thing in common with the pueblo—no photographing was allowed on the casino floor.

The wind was still high, and walking from the car to the casino and store was an experience. I had to shield my face, but still got sand in my eyes. I continued on to Albuquerque and got to my friends’ house just after dark.

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