Through the Deserts of New Mexico
From Winslow, AZ to Albuquerque, NM.
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I had been driving already for three days along Route 66 and I found myself so glad for having the opportunity for doing such a wonderful trip and so grateful for having the time and means to discover new places and meet new people, maybe this is the most important aspect of the whole journey. Driving through eight distinct different states on this Route, you just start believing people there really know each other, like they live on the same street and they all share their same issues and challenges towards keeping Route 66 so alive and real. At the same time they do share the same achievements and happiness, due to the hard work from every American, most of them of humble origins and from small towns through more than two thousand miles and in my case from Los Angeles to Chicago.
Sometimes called “rednecks”, the American people from the countryside are simple, humble, hard workers and dedicated, with a good portion of them holding up to public High School education, which even nowadays is much better than the Brazilian public education standards. Even though, being called redneck in the States may seem sometimes pejorative, it’s just like if we call somebody a “caipira” in Brazil. However, if we analyze the stereotype, it’s just like if we take a trip deep in Brazil’s countryside and then compare it with the everyday life in the country’s major cities, so you can understand what I mean. Their motto is the “do what you gotta do”, which in my point of view, translates one of the basic essences from the American people: “Always cutting straight to the point, no questions asked, if you have to do something, just make it happen, don’t waste people’s precious time as well as yours, so, just do it”. It’s one of the qualities that I admire the most from our Yankees brothers – their ability to mobilize for things, from the most simple one, to the most complex issue, they way are usually able to gather and mobilize for something is so admirable, who knows sometime we’ll get to see something like that in Brazil as well. On the other hand, I haven’t been able to see that from the American politicians lately, like during the U.S. debt-limit increase from either Republicans or Democrats… Well, nothing is perfect.
Back on the trip, I spent the night in Winslow, at the “America’s Best Value Inn”, the same chain from the night before. Again, the manager is from India, but not so friendly as my pal Dave, from the Needles location. When called “Indians”, you might think I’m talking about our Native American brothers, also Indians or “Amerindians”, lets call it like that – they’re very common in this region of America, even though it’s rare to find them across the country, like in the old times. Things are changing so fast, we now get to see Indians where once we only had Amerindians, Indians or Native Americans – a bit confusing, huh?
After leaving early in the morning, I decided to go back about 20 miles on the road to visit the famous Meteor Crater (meteorcrater.com), between Flagstaff and Winslow: The crater is the result of the collision of a piece of an asteroid, weighing 150 thousand tons at the Arizona Desert, traveling at twenty six thousand miles per hour, approximately fifty thousand years ago. It is about four thousand feet in diameter and some 570 feet deep. It’s known as the world’s best-preserved meteorite impact site, becoming a tourist venue with outdoor observation areas, a Visitor Center including a movie theater, a gift shop, and a research center. Right in the middle of the Arizona Desert… It’s something I believe that one day, we might have it abundantly in Brazil: Infrastructure, that is the name of the game!
Driving ahead I reach Gallup, after crossing the New Mexico state line. Route 66 runs through Gallup, and the town’s name is mentioned in the lyrics to the famous song – “Get Your Kicks on Route 66”, composed in 1946 by American songwriter Bobby Troup. One-third of the city’s population has Native American roots, the majority of them from the Navajo tribes, Gallup is known as the Indian Capital of the World. It has close proximity to Native American reservations, and historic lack of economic development in addition to many mine closures in the last century. As a result of these mine closures, Gallup has a large socioeconomic poor population, one of the highest in America. I see some similarity with the Native South-Americans in Brazil as well, many of them struggling to get good level education, succeed in the job market, problems with alcoholism, which means both countries were not able to overcome this issue in a effective way since the consolidation of the American territory as a country since the Gold Rush, American-Mexican War, Land Run which also originated the southwestern states – New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, California. Unfortunately I didn’t plan to spend the night in Gallup at The historic El Rancho Hotel & Motel (http://www.elranchohotel.com/). It has hosted a numerous array of movie stars including John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Kirk Douglas, Doris Day, Burt Lancaster, etc. The rugged terrain surrounding Gallup was popular with Hollywood filmmakers during the 1940s and 1950s for the on-location shooting of Westerns!
Two hundred and eighty miles later I finally arrive in Albuquerque, the largest city in New Mexico. I had been driving for miles and miles crossing the desert terrain and suddenly I find myself reaching this city with population of five hundred thousand residents, wow! Albuquerque is famous for hosting the world famous International Balloon Fiesta, the largest in the world, held every fall in early October. Since I got there on late September, it means I missed it by weeks, so I’ll try to schedule my next trip there, on time to hop on a hot air balloon ride…!
Next chapter, from Albuquerque to Amarillo, where everything is big – Texas… Ops ! Oklahoma City !