Route 66 or more than you ever wanted to know about my youth.
And then we got to Gallup, New Mexico. I don’t remember why but I have always thought it was an ugly town. I had even made up a song in my youth about how awful it was. We must have spent some time there when we traveled as a family. I was hoping I would be delightfully surprised when Maurice and I arrived there but we couldn’t really find an old section of the town and it stretched out in either direction along the freeway with miles of hotels and fast food places. I personally wanted to stop driving here-I was really tired of the car by then-but Maurice couldn’t find, in the hundreds of hotels and motels lining the highway, one place that appealed to him. It was 5:30 or so, and he managed to talk me into pressing on north up to Farmington. We somehow missed highway 666-sort of an interesting if scary number-and instead went up highway 371, one of those roads which look the width of a hair on the map and is of course two lanes. I was driving this part of the journey and we passed some absolutely fantastic red cliffs as we drove along and I was sorry that night was coming because they were unbelieveably beautiful in the red light of the setting sun. We passed the entrance to a place called the Red Rock Reserve and I remembered that I had an uncle named George who so loved this region that his family started calling him Red Rock. I called him Uncle Red Rock all of his life without wondering why he had such a strange name. He was called Red by friends although he didn’t have red hair. He and his family lived in Farmington. My Dad and all of his brothers ended up in Silver City, New Mexico when my grandfather was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was told he needed to move to a warmer, dryer climate than that found in Kentucky which is how I came to be raised in the Southwest. Anyway, I felt a sudden link with Uncle Red Rock and got why he loved it so. It was such a nostalgic feeling as I drove along in the dark with the highway unrolling under the tires and only the triangle of light on the road ahead. There was very little trafic on this small road and the stars came out thick and bright along side and overhead in the black sky. We found one of those great rock and roll stations that followed us all the way up the our destination playing hits from the 50’s and 60’s and I sang along to the Everly Brothers and Elvis hearing old songs that I hadn’t heard in years and I remembered being in high school dancing to these songs or being in a car with a boyfriend listening to hear which song would be number one that week maybe announced by Wolfman Jack coming through the air all the way from Los Angeles to the radio in Prescott, Arizona, filled with the wonder and joy of that innocent time. I think Maurice slept a little while I rushed up the road filled with memories. I was almost sorry to reach Farmington.
The next morning we reached Durango, another slice of life from my past. I had gone to junior high here. I need to ask my Dad why we moved so much and why he picked the places he did. I think he was simply trying to find himself and find something that he really enjoyed doing. I remember enjoying Durango, even the heavy snow in the winter although we didn’t do any winter sports. I need to ask my mother, too, how she felt about all of these moves. Her family was in Houston, Texas and she didn’t get to see them very often. In any case, we stayed in the historic Strater Hotel on Main Avenue which was a short walk from a clothing store that my father once owned.
The hotel is fabulous and built in the late 1800’s and was full of Victorian furniture. Our room was especially lovely and we had a great dinner in the hotel restaurant which was decorated in a wonderfully warm way with stained glass, bricks and dark wood. We walked down the street to my old junior high. I don’t have great memories of junior high, really, having been very shy, a new student starting in the middle of the year, and too sensitive on top of it all. I just remember enjoying the town itself. My sister and I even had horses while here. What a lot of work they turned out to be. What were my parents thinking? My horse was named Roly Poly when we bought her, being short and fat. We were told she had a grass belly. Imagine our surprise a few months later when we arrived to the plot of land where the horses were to find a new baby colt which I named Prince. My sister had a palomino named Richard who was really wacky having once eaten something called loco weed.
The next morning I drove Maurice up the Gold Dust highway to Silverton. It wasn’t as beautiful as I remembered it as there was no autumn color left and no snow to make it less bare. It is much better to take the train to Silverton but it had stopped running for the year. We then headed back towards Arizona, making a stop at Four Corners where four states all meet in one place-Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado. It’s sort of fun to stand with two feet in four states.
Somehow in the whole time that I lived in the Southwest I had never visited Monument Valley so we decided to make a short detour to see it. Since the days are shorter now we had to rush like crazy. I hate to speed but I wanted to catch the setting sun lighting up those rocky towers while we had the chance. We just made it.
Most of the towers were in shade but one was just perfect.
We then took a small loop that took us along the base of the a few of them, really a nice experience but on an unbelievable rough unpaved road. A few Native Americans actually live amongst all of that splendor. I was amazed at the countryside of this whole area and wished I knew more about geology. You can see signs of so much that happened through millions of years-eruptions, mountains pushed up, great plunges, sinkings and fallings of stones and mountains, twistings and bubblings now in stone, centuries of run offs and erosions; it all showed here and there as we drove along. There were even occaional soft round mounds looking like elephants were perhaps growing under the ground, pushing up with just the tops of their backs and sometimes the tops of their heads showing, going to be full sized elephants maybe a thousand years from now. Maurice was all for heading on to Scottsdale to my parent’s home but I just couldn’t take five or six more hours in the car so we stopped in Kayenta which I remembered from years ago when we would stop for gas on the way to Colorado to go skiing. It was barely more than just a gas station then but now has many new motels built, I’m sure, for all of those who want to visit Monument Valley. It was interesting to look at our motel bill and see that the taxes were for the States, the city and the Navaho Nation.Then finally the next morning back to Scottsdale, happy to get out of the car but so glad that we went.