Wednesday, November 24, 2010

California Here I Come....... Part 2

My brother is waiting for his sister to show up, so I had better move on with my trip westward.

I left Socorro, headed north on I-25, took a cut over to I-40 using NM 6 to avoid going thru Albuquerque. It is known as the "Pre-37 Hwy 66 section. It is the time of snowbirds and hunters as I counted 47 RV's heading south on I-25 between Socorro and Los Lunas - I did see one Casita and one Scamp travel trailers in all those units. The drive on NM 6 gave me a view of BNSF freight trains stacking up waiting to go through Albuquerque and points east. The five I saw made quite an impressive sight. The highway takes you through part of the Isleta Reservation and comes out onto I-40 about 35 miles west of Albuquerque near the Laguna Pueblo Mission. I always loved seeing that white Mission perched on top of the little hill.

As a family, we use to live in Gallup for around 8 years and we made many trips back and forth between Albuq and Gallup - son and daughter were born in Albuquerque. So from Exit 126 to Gallup I saw many segments of Hwy 66 that were very familiar as well as segments of the new Interstate, at that time, that was taking place. One had to drive through Grants and Gallup in those days - often a driving nightmare for the traveler. Now Grants has 4 exits and I lost track of Gallup's.

As I was getting closer to Gallup, I saw a sign for Earl's Family Restaurant which brought back some memories as we use to eat there when we could afford to eat out. I chose to have my lunch there on this day. The Restaurant is 4 times bigger and located across the street. I had a very friendly waiter who knew some friends of ours from those days and said they come in 2 or 3 times a week but they weren't there today. Around the entrance are vendors selling authentic crafts. During my mealtime, they come into the Restaurant and walk around the tables hoping to see some items. Some things I saw were very beautiful, some had reasonable prices but I wasn't in the mood. I later learned that these vendors must be registered with Earl's, wear a badge, and their items must be made of real stones, material etc. At this time, not to sound insincere or biased, but I was impressed with the work ethic of the staff at the Restaurant, none were white - very unlikely 40+ years ago when we lived there. Sure there are still those that ask for a handout and have other problems, but not anything like when I lived there. It was a much cleaner downtown. And safer from the many trains going through town, as there is a big wall between the sidewalk and the railroad tracks going through downtown and no more open crossings to accidentally get stuck on.

I went downtown to see if our friend Louie was at their place of business. Sure enough he was. He called Diane and she would come downtown to see me. Meanwhile, Louie showed me around the expanded business: City Electric Shoe Shop, which has been in the family and in Gallup since 1924. I met his oldest son Tony, who is in business with him now and has brought a hand made moccasins business in with him as well as a tooled leather belt making department. When Diane came in we went to a local coffee shop, caught up on families and then went over to Zimmerman's to see their newest acquisition along with it's improvements. I remember the store being quite dark and now it is bright and open. It was so good to see them again and know they are doing great. A nice break in my trek across the State.

I got back out on I-40 and headed westward towards my next nights stay. It either had to be Holbrook, Winslow or Flagstaff. I made it as far as Holbrook, checking in at a Holiday Inn Express (other choices but was tired & knew this would be clean). I had budgeted around $225 for lodging on my westward trek and now out of $160 left, the $129 took a big chunk out of my allotted amount. The next morning, when returning my door card, I complimented them on a very nice room and breakfast and my only complaint was the smell of hamburger and french fries (thought of Mickey D's) when I first entered the room the evening before. It quickly dissipated after walking thru the room several times. My room charged was reduced and now was left with $60 left for my next night's lodging at Needles.

I enjoyed the trip across Arizona, stopping at Flagstaff touring the NAU campus there. It was ASC (AZ State College) when Jim and I were students there. Was a waste of time as only recognized Old Main and the Observatory! Won't do that again. Somewhere a few miles west of either Holbrook or Winslow, there is an old campground located on the old 66 highway. It has tepees, a trading post and the camping area was across the street. As I drove by I could see the old buildings and each campsites "tepee" picnic table shelter all filled in with weeds and sagebrush now. Use to drive thru there when I was in college. Even Twin Arrows (think that is the name) is there. Ahhhh, memories.

I stopped in Ashfork, which is the Flagstone Capitol and Seligman
and looked at all the Hwy 66 stuff. Had to have a real A&W frosty mug of root beer while there too.

I spent the night in Needles and just under the budgeted amount I had left. It was a couple hours drive to Barstow and knew I wouldn't last that long. Okay my fourth day was critical to me. These last couple of hours driving in California on these busy freeways was why I said I would never drive in to see my brother. Okay, I know - never say never. Okay, I made it in one piece, made only one wrong turn - took the I-215 instead of staying on I-15 to CA-91, but I made it. Went straight to my brother and sister-in-laws house. Oh wow it was so good to see them. It had been soooo long. I was finally in NEVER, NEVER LAND.

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