300 miles down and we have already seen tons of amazing things.
First up: Grants, NM
A mining town by nature, Grants offers a feel like any other mining or factory town where the mine or factory in question shrivels up and dies. Basically, Gary, Indiana. That said, there are a few fun things to see in town.
The Mining Museum is free unless you want to experience one of the only underground faux mines in a museum which is a mere $3 a person. I have to say, it’s totally worth the $3 if for no other reason than the sudden unexpected case of claustrophobia that you don’t know you have. The fact that we were the only ones there on a Saturday morning probably didn’t help the sense of fear we both shared. It was like My Bloody Valentine. Luckily, there were no serial killers. And, if there were, they kept to themselves, which makes for a pretty shitty horror flick.
There’s also an abandoned motel right on historic Route 66 that is so creepy you can’t help but wonder if it’s a crack house or a scene from Chernobyl.
Then there’s El Malpais. A true sight to behold. Otherwise known as the New Mexico Badlands, El Malpais is natural rock formations that are truly breathtaking. Included among these sights is one of the largest natural rock arches in the US. Even better is that you don’t have to hike for days to get a great view.
Word of warning though. If you have a juniper allergy like me, I highly recommend you choose ANY other time of year than spring. Apparently El Malpais is a veritable juniper forest! My eyes are so puffy and itchy, I swear I rubbed them with sandpaper and poured nectar from a poison ivy plant.
Most people would say that the best part about Gallup, NM is watching it disappear into your rearview mirror. During the day, I beg to differ. Once the sun goes down, there isn’t too much to do except meander around Walmart or loiter at McDonald’s.
During the day, though, we had quite a bit of fun.
Apparently, Gallup has a fetish for public art and wall murals like Albuquerque does in hopes of finding some sort of persona or identity. We found at least a dozen beautiful murals, many of which are marked with plaques and outlined in a map available all around town, but especially at the visitor center in Route 66 in Downtown. Also, at El Rancho Hotel, I found a room visited by THE DUKE!
The McKinley County Courthouse is a pretty attractive building, too. At least from the outside. As was the El Morro Theater (built in 1928). Again, from the outside. We showed up on a Saturday, so the streets were curled up worse than the dead legs of the Wicked Witch of the East.
After much running around and at least two full fledged failures in trying to find good eateries in Gallup that weren’t chain stores yet still open at 4pm on a Saturday, we pulled into the first restaurant we saw and parked. We were too damn hungry to care. Aurelia’s Diner doesn’t look like much from the outside, but inside it’s a 50’s style diner complete with bright red, white, and chrome motif and plenty of nostalgic paraphernalia to make even the geekiest of us jealous.
To top it all off, the server was willing to deal with my ever so common “You know what’s good here! You decide FOR me!” Most servers grumble and demand I give them a straight answer. Devon brought me a steak burrito made with fresh homemade tortilla, smothered in DAMN hot green chili, and a side of the greasiest and tastiest fries EVA!