Three states in a single day!
New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma. From Albuquerque, NM to Oklahoma City, OK
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Unfortunately my schedule didn’t match with the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, but I’ll certainly try to make it happen next time along Route 66, that’s for sure. Actually, the time I spent in Albuquerque matched with the New Mexico State Fair, which also takes place in the first days of Fall, but what I really wanted was to drive through Route 66, check the downtown area and then try to find some nice hotel for the night, since I hadn’t booked anything. When you go on a trip like that, where you get to spend each night in a different city, combining with the positive side of having many hotels to choose from, the best you can do, is take your time and seize the day… So, why such a stress? Like actor Robin Williams used to say in the “Dead Poets Society” motion picture:
– “Carpe diem”!
In my case, since I had my iPhone with me at all times (lol), I just had to use one of my apps, like Expedia or Priceline, to search for a hotel nearby, then sort it by price or guest rating and that was it, I could relax and be sure I would have a room already reserved at night and no needs to wait in line for checkout in the next morning. There’s one thing I found out during this trip; if you’re not in a hurry or you find yourself arriving early, you can try to negotiate a cheaper fare than Priceline or Expedia, straight at the front desk – in some cases it might work, since they don’t have to pay any commission for those companies, they can “pass” you part of that commission, by discounting it on your fare. At the same time, it may not work and you can get a no for an answer, due to the fact that, by using the high volume of reservations created by these companies, it’s worth the investment for the whole chain.
So, depending on the case, sometimes it’s worth trying. And if you find yourself driving through the countryside of America, people are usually very friendly! Curious if I was able to save anything that night? Just five dollars (lol), but come on, it was my breakfast or part of my lunch saved in the next day, let’s think that way! Funny fact, this America’s Best Value Inn had gone through some remodeling, so the rooms were brand new, great! Guess what, another family of Indians running the hotel and I felt they were looking at me, like I was a stranger or something, some crazy tourist ready to break everything in their new bedroom and run away in the next morning! That was funny, though! For fifty dollars a night, it was not bad at all. The hotel had nice guest ratings at Tripadvisor.com.
Another tip, if you’re able to, check websites like Tripadvisor.com – you can always find guest ratings. Customers usually don’t lie. There you can find out if the room and bed sheets are clean, bathrooms and bathtubs are nice and sanitized, no mildews, all among some other details that does make the difference, when all you want after a whole day on the road, is to be sure you’re going to have a good time of rest and be ready for next day’s new chapter of your trip!
Driving across Route 66, I ended up in Old Town Albuquerque. On the old days when the cities weren’t so densely populated as today, the main roads used to cut through its old centers and the Mother Road is just another example of that. I was able to park my car in one main square, where a group of kids were singing on a gazebo, I guess it was some school choir activity. It reminded me of my home country during my childhood when visiting the countryside (I’m from a three million people metropolis called Salvador) in the state of Bahia… Good memories! After listening to two songs, I decided to take a walk around and explore what Old Town could offer, some antiques stores, gift shops, cafés, etc. After buying two Route 66 themed tequila shot glasses, I sat down at a local Cafe for a real espresso, short shot in a ceramic cup, Italian style, a rare thing in America, especially when you’re not in “cosmopolitan cities”, such as New York or Chicago. For those espresso lovers like me, if you’re in the States and you walk into a Starbucks, for example, try asking for one single shot espresso in a ceramic cup, otherwise it will certainly come in a paper cup… “Come on you people”! ;-)
At night, I decided grab something at Red Lobster, as I was in a mood for some seafood, no typical Route 66 restaurants for me that evening, even though I had some nice suggestions of where to eat! Here is one nice recommendation: If you’re in doubt of where to grab a bite, doesn’t matter of how costly the place is – restaurant, bar, cafes, try checking Yelp.com or something similar. Like Tripavisor.com, clients leave their comments and ratings, which is a great way to help you finding the perfect place for the occasion. After dinner, I was back to my hotel, where I got my things ready to leave in the next morning, where I was going to drive two hundred and ninety miles all the way to Amarillo, Texas, where “everything is big”, as Texans proudly say it out loud!
Next morning, I had three stops on my way to Amarillo. The first one, in the little town of Santa Rosa – New Mexico, with its twenty eight hundred residents at the year two thousand Census. Doing my research, I found about the Route 66 Auto Museum (Route66automuseum.com) in Santa Rosa and thought it would be interesting to invest some time in there. I guess I was right, the museum is dedicated to those Vintage, Street Rods, Chromes and Classics that once were popular across the Mother Road, from Chicago to LA, from LA to Chicago, carrying histories, dreams and hopes, songs, colors and art, joy and family time to the travellers. And today, the dream is still so much alive, due to Route 66’s re-birth as an evident touristic attraction, cutting through the heart of the United States of America. Nothing seems to be more genuine and American than Route 66 and I felt so sure about that, as I was driving it everyday in this amazing journey!
I confess I didn’t carry high expectations for the museum. Santa Rosa is a small town, what else could I expect? Therefore, it was a great surprise, the museum is very interesting, with more than thirty classics, like Cadillacs, Corvettes, Buicks, Bel-Airs, etc. I was told the Museum’s owner, Bozo Cordova, does the restorations and has a garage down the road. Besides the lovingly restored antiques and vintage autos, it also carries an assortment of motorcycles, bicycles, Route 66 memorabilia, all at one place. As I came across, I couldn’t resist an iced Coke in a bottle, like old times – but “made in Mexico”? As I visited the gift shop with that in my mind, I was able to pay attention to the assembly labels on many of the gifts available and I can say the vast majority is “made in China”. In my opinion, something has to be done here and every Route 66 gift should be “made in USA”. Genuinely American, the pride has to boom it again!
After leaving Santa Rosa, one hundred and twenty miles later, I reach Adrian, in Texas, known as the midpoint of Route 66. It means a bit more than eleven hundred miles each way on Route 66, so this was the halfway of my journey! I arrived there a quarter to four in the afternoon, met a nice retired couple from San Antonio driving in a white Corvette Spider from the sixties and after a quick chat, we decided to get inside the Midpoint Café, the most famous spot in town. To my surprise, they close at four and it was five past it and the door was already locked! As we were a bit frustrated and thinking about hitting the road again, I thought about Dan Rice’s recommendation – the world famous Ugly Crust Pies from there. So I ran towards my car, pulled Dan Rice’s book out, placed the book cover on their front window and said:
– Dan Rice told me to come here, he recommended me to come here”…!
On the other side of the window I could see a smile, the doors where opened to us and I was finally able to meet Mrs. Fran Houser, owner of the MidPoint Cafe (read MidPoint’s history at Uglycrustpies.com). Curious fact: According to Melba Rigg, from the small town of Galena, Kansas (I’ll talk about her in the future), Fran inspired Disney-Pixar to create the character “Flo” in the motion picture “Cars”, since she’s a great cook and created the world famous Ugly Crust Pie, known across Route 66, filled inside with pecans, apple, chocolate, lemons… Talking about lemons, when I met Dan, back in Santa Monica, he told me:
– “If I knew I was going to meet you today, I would have brought a couple of bags of lemons here, so you could take it with you and give it to Fran, once you arrive at the MidPoint Cafe. She loves making Ugly Crust Pies with the lemons from the lemon tree I got on my backyard”!
I guess he was right, because here is what I heard, once I stepped into her Café:
– “So, where are my lemons, dear”?!
This is the true essence of Route 66 my friends, it’s made by people just like us, representing the real America and Route 66 gathers them as a big family.
With several slices of Ugly Crust Pies in my car, I decided I was not going to spend the night in Amarillo. I was going to drive three hundred extra miles ahead and make it all the way to Oklahoma City, since the pies in my car, I was going to bring it to my youngest brother Bruno, my lovely stepsister Anna and my nephew and niece, Samuel and Julia. They were expecting me to make it there in the following evening, but why not surprising them at night, just by knocking on the door and saying I had a “special delivery”? Good surprises are always the best ones; we keep in our memories forever, no doubt about that!
I still had one stop to make in Texas, west of Amarillo and meet the famous Cadillac Ranch. It was invented and built by a group of art-hippies imported from San Francisco. They called themselves The Ant Farm, and their silent partner was Amarillo billionaire Stanley Marsh 3. He wanted a piece of public art that would baffle the locals, and the hippies came up with a tribute to the evolution of the Cadillac tail fin. Ten Caddies were driven into one of Stanley Marsh 3’s fields, then half-buried, nose-down, in the dirt (supposedly at the same angle as the Great Pyramid of Giza). They faced west in a line, from the 1949 Club Sedan to the 1963 Sedan de Ville, their tail fins held high for all to see on the empty Texas panhandle. If you bring spray paint, make sure to also bring a camera. Because whatever you create at Cadillac Ranch will probably only last a few hours before it’s created over by someone else. Have fun!
Unfortunately I didn’t have time to stop at the famous Big Texan Stake Ranch (Bigtexan.com) in Amarillo for their famous “72oz. Stake Challenge” – a Route 66 legend! If you eat everything in one hour (plus some sides), you get it for free! Like I said, everything is big in Texas!
Oklahoma, here I come!
Cheers, Leo Politano.