With the hot sun coming up early, we decided that we better hit the road before it got to hot to handle the Route 66 desert heat! With average temperatures running above 100º, we wanted to enjoy the “chilly” morning ride.
We pulled out of Albuquerque and headed west. There were a lot of things that we really wanted to see on this leg of the ride, so there was no time to waste!
Shortly after departing, as we were cruising along enjoying the route 66 desert heat, we came across some old ruins along the hillside. I have no idea what the history behind this them but my mind ran wild with possibilities. We stopped and took some pictures then we jumped back on our bikes to see what else we could find.
We continued to follow Route 66 as it left the I 40 behind. Around a few minor curves in the road and we dropped down into Laguna to grab some gas. Back onto Route 66 and off we go.
A couple miles west of Laguna is the Sky City Casino. If you want to give away some money or eat at a mediocre buffet, than this is the place for you! After that quick stop, we continued and came across an old abandoned gas station just before Rote 66 crosses over the I 40. It is pretty cool to look at the old buildings and very easy to imagine what this area must have been like in its heyday.
Uranium mines and ice caves…
Once we rode into Grants New Mexico we saw signs for the mining museum and decided to stop. They built a replica Uranium mine and then built the museum on top of it. This was just to cool. As you go underground, each station depicts a different step in the Uranium mining process. Many of the tour guides actually worked the mine when it was being used during the cold war. It didn’t take long to go through it and was certainly worth our time.
We decided to get off of Route 66 for a 25 mile “side trip”. We headed down highway 53 towards the Bandera Volcano and Ice Caves.
Once we arrived we went into the gift shop to pay for our entry. As I was waiting for my son, I glanced out the window and saw a small humming bird using the feeder, how cool that they come that close to the building…then I looked a little closer and realized that this was not a humming bird, it was a giant wasp! I asked the people there about them and they informed me that those were Tarantula wasps. These things actually hunt and eat Tarantulas! I was both in awe of that and somewhat freaked out by it. I tried to get a picture, but it flew away before I got the shot.
Putting that behind us, we began our 1/2 mile walk to the volcano. Along the walk there were some cool things to see. The shear power that the volcano must have erupted with to create this incredible site can only be seen at the end of the trail. We hung out for a few minutes and then decided to walk back down and then over to the ice cave.
After walking the 1/2 mile back to the gift shop, it was an additional 1/4 mile to the ice cave…needless to say, we were sweating profusely by now!
The ice caves did not disappoint. With a temperature that never exceeds 31º, it was very refreshing to to stand there.
Back in the day, the ice caves were only used to harvest ice in order to keep the beer cold…not a bad idea.
We hung out for about a half an hour and decided to go brave the heat again. Jumping back on the 53 and then picking up Route 66 Route 66. Just before we got to Prewitt was passed the “Swap meet 66”. This old building was surrounded by car parts and hubcaps from models of cars that spread decades.
As we took off from the Swap meet 66, we noticed some dark cloud formations off in the distance but did not give it to much thought since it was so far away. We continued on to the Continental Divide. This is the line that divides the flow of water between the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. From this point on, water would be flowing to the Pacific.
We pulled in and took a quick picture of Sock Monkey on one of the signs and then began to look around. We found a hogan behind the store and played around for a while. Another picture with Sock Monkey and a quick shot at the wagon and we were off again!
There was so much beauty to be seen that we found ourselves stopping frequently just to take a few pictures. The natural formations throughout the desert are more than I can describe.
We finally got back on the road for more than a few minutes headed to Arizona.
We rolled into Gallup New Mexico and stopped at the Rex Museum. To be honest, this museum is incredibly small and rather disappointing, so we didn’t stay long. Next stop, the Hotel El Rancho, this place did not disappoint!
We took a picture with Sock Monkey out front and then headed in. Walking in we felt as though we had stepped through a time warp. Many Hollywood stars stayed here while filming westerns in the glory days of motion pictures. People like John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, and Ronald Reagan laid their heads here to get some sleep in between takes on the set.
We walked around the lobby area and enjoyed the period correct decor. This place is a must do if you are in Gallup.We jumped back on our iron horses and continued on our way towards Arizona.
With the passing of a quick 20 miles or so we hit Lupton, Arizona and stopped at the Yellowhorse souvenir shop. This place is nestled at the base of some beautiful cliffs on the Navajo Reservation and there are many different things to look at. Me personally, I bought a new blanket that would later come in very handy on another ride!
We wrapped up our visit to the Yellowhorse and once again headed west. Those ominous clouds that we noticed earlier, were now getting much closer. As we continued on our way, the rain began…it came down hard and heavy. To say that it bothered us would actually be a lie, it was so hot that it felt really good to have the water cooling us down. What we didn’t know was that it monsoon season in Arizona, some locals informed us of that further on down the road.
On our way to Holbrook, we decided to side trip into the Painted Desert/Petrified Forest. We rode in and began to take in all of the sights. The scenery in this National Park just cannot be put into words that would do it justice. We stopped frequently to t
ake pictures and attempt to capture just a portion of the beauty…and yes, Sock Monkey made another appearance!
As we took the loop through the National Park we continued to stop and enjoy the majestic scenery.
Soon the loop was done and we were back on Route 66 heading to Holbrook. Once we made it, we took a pit stop
at the Wig Wam Motel. Again, if you have seen the movie Cars, they had a version named the “Cozy Cone”.
The WigWam perfectly captures the 1950’s road trip Americana. They even have classic cars parked in front of the “rooms” to add to that old time feel.
We continued on in order to keep pace with the schedule we had. Jumped onto I 40 and off to Joseph City to see the giant Jackalope! This is the kind of tourist trap icon you just can’t pass up! We all took turns jumping on the back of the Jackalope and taking it for a “ride”.
Next we were off to a town made famous by the Eagles…you guessed it, Winslow Arizona! This is a town that knows how to take advantage of the popularity it garnered from the Eagles singing “Take it Easy”.
From gift shops to a mural of “a girl in a flatbed Ford slowing down to take a look at me” this was a cool place to walk around.
With only a few more miles to Flagstaff, we were off again.
As we continued down the road (with the Eagles now playing in my head) I knew we were looking for the Two Arrows. This would be our sign that Flagstaff was just a stones throw away. It had been an awesome day, but it had also been a long day. We were all looking forward to some much needed rest.
With that, we hit Flagstaff and found another KOA. We built a fire, roasted some hot dogs and reminisced about all of the things we had taken in. While tired, we were also looking forward to hitting the road again in the morning.
Until next time, keep the shiny side up!