Road Trip Guide - Page 14 - Open road, open plans continued (4)

Road Trip Guide
- Page 14
Open road, open plans continued (4)
When I stopped by the tepee-rimmed motor court, I was told they had no rooms but I was welcome to add my name to the waiting list—behind 15 others. It was my first big disappointment of the trip, but my spirits were buoyed by the Rainbow Rock Shop a half-mile away. A towering herd of colorful plaster dinosaurs — the work of a welder named Adam Luna — stood guard over the small store, which is surrounded by piles of petrified rocks.

After striking out at the Wigwam, I settled on the Heritage Inn Bed and Breakfast (heritage-inn.net, rooms from $105 a night) in Snowflake, Ariz., a town founded in 1878 by Mormon pioneers Erastus Snow and William Jordan Flake.

But I booked my room with the innkeeper without realizing just how far the B&B was from Holbrook (about 25 miles). The undulating two-lane road was surrounded by endless expanses of pitch-black nothingness, and the experience taught me a valuable lesson: Arrive at unfamiliar places before nightfall.

Albuquerque, N.M.
It took only one phone call to find a room at my next stop, Albuquerque. The House of Peace & Love (houseofpeaceandlove.com, rooms from $95 a night) turned out to be a cross between a hippie commune, artist’s studio and B&B in a suburban tract that the innkeeper described as the “Beverly Hills of Albuquerque.”

The next morning I wandered around the heart of historic Albuquerque along Central Avenue (a.k.a. Route 66). At Lindy’s Diner, I had the cowboy breakfast with chicken fried steak covered in green chile.

Around the corner, I found a pair of Navajo hair ties for my daughter’s braids at Skip Maisel’s Indian jewelry shop (skipmaisels.com).

Then I slipped into the 1927 KiMo Theater (kimotickets.com), a structure rich with Southwest architectural details, during a volunteer orientation session before I took a two-day detour and drove to Taos and Santa Fe.

Gallup, N.M.
Starting my drive home on the sixth day, I picked up Route 66 west of Albuquerque and headed for Gallup, where I spent the night at El Rancho Hotel (historicelranchohotel.com, doubles in the historic building start at about $108), billed as the “Home of the Movie Stars.” The impressive two-story lobby was filled with signed photos of Hollywood celebrities.

The next morning I had breakfast —huevos rancheros with eggs over easy, red chile and sopaipilla with honey — at the Eagle CafĂ©, in operation since 1889.

Down the street, I walked into Richardson’s Trading Co. (richardsontrading.com), where a sign on the door read “Buying Pinons.” Sue Richardson was kind enough to explain that pinons are pine nuts and let me taste some of them. The store buys the nuts in bulk and resells them.

“They’re addictive,” she said.

Holbrook and Winslow, Ariz.
Driving west, I was thinking about giving the Wigwam Motel (sleepinawigwam.com/index.html, rates start at $69 a night) in Holbrook another shot, and I lucked out — there was a cancellation.

The following morning I had breakfast — a wonderful polenta and egg dish — at La Posada Hotel, (laposada.org) in nearby Winslow, where I later spotted people standing in the middle of an intersection— 2nd Street and Kinsley Avenue — snapping photographs of a green space.

I realized that I couldn’t leave without visiting the Standin’ on the Corner Park (standinonthecorner.com), named in appreciation of the Eagles’ “Take It Easy.”

There’s even a flatbed Ford permanently parked in just the right spot for a photo op.

The way home

I drove to Flagstaff, Ariz., then to Williams, Ariz., and then my Route 66 road trip was unceremoniously over. I spent the night in Laughlin, Nev., and sped back home the next day. I’d traveled more than 1,000 miles on my trip and learned a few valuable lessons.

There will always be a hotel somewhere along the road. Meeting people makes the journey more enjoyable. You’ll see more if you slow down. And it really is possible to travel without a plan.