April 4 found us heading out through the glowing monuments in the valley, warm with the morning sun. The view changed constantly from lush grassland to desert to crazy boulders stacked upon each other to bone- white stone plains. We stopped at the famous Four Corners where the Navajo have placed a special plaque to honour the unusual connection of the four states mentioned above. The classic photo shows someone’s foot at the center point and consequently, standing in all four states at once! It is quite remarkable that the states meet at such a picturesque point of coloured rock and canyon! The land was aquired by the US from Mexico at the end of the Mexican-American War, 1848-1863. Although the Four Corners are goverened by the Navajo Tribal Council, the land is also home to Hopi, Ute and Zuni tribes.
After a day’s drive, we wound our way down a dusty, washboard road to a lovely campground a few miles outside Aztec New Mexico. The park was surrounded by cliffs that met the San Juan River whose banks were lined with grasses, Mesquite bushes and gnarled Cottonwood trees. We spent five nights in the peaceful setting, hiking, bird watching the Doves, Finches, Ravens, Vultures and delightful Bluebirds. Folks were fishing on the banks and wading in the shallows, fly-fishing. Dixie loved the area, especially her swims and self-massages in the grass.
We visited the ruins of a Pueblo Settlement near the city of Aztec. The House of the Ancients was constructed in the 12th Century. Some sections are three stories high and the West ruin alone contained 450 rooms. Some in tact plaster and 900 year old roof timbers remain in some areas of the structure. There is evidence of different construction dates in the various exquisite masonry. Ruins of the old Kiva stand beside the fully reconstructed version. The Kiva was used for special ceremonies and standing in the solemn structure, one could imagine the sounds of human voices, drums and flutes during the spiritual occasions.
Our last night was restless as high winds which had swirled up the dust in the afternoon, continued to howl and bring rain until morning. When I raised the blind to take Dixie out in the morning, I could not believe the snow pelting down and clinging to the foliage. Dixie went crazy, romping and running about like mad. We had a less than enthusiastic reaction as we packed up and headed through snow and slush on a tense journey south towards Albuquerque. Luckily the snow turned to rain and gave way to sun as we got close to our campsite at Coronado RV Park in Bernadillo. Each campsite had its own Hopi-style picnic huts, great hiking on sandy paths and smooth river rocks near the Rio Grande River. It was a great place to wind down after a stressful journey.
Explored Old Town Albuquerque where they have some great old buildings, a lovely bandstand, beautiful double spires on the convent, all decorated with spring blossoms and bulbs in bloom. The shops are a bit too touristy but we managed to find a spot for a delightful lunch of scallops and buffalo burger and crazy salad. Our morning of sun changed while we dined and we found Dixie looking unimpressed when we returned to the car to find her covered in snow under the open sunroof.
The Hopi Museum and Cultural Centre was an incredible building inside and out. Displays of Hopi lifestyle showed basketry, pottery, tile production and weaving. Life sized murals adorned the museum’s plaza. A great show of painting and sculpture portrayed various contemporary Hopi artist’s concept-maps of their heritage. We have been looking everywhere for a Navajo or Western-inspired blanket for our bed. Our hunt ended here and our new “blanky” adds a splash of colour and memories of our travels to our bedroom.
April 11 was sunny and much warmer as we headed east, parallel to Old Route 66. After many flat, see-for-miles hours, we set up camp at Amarillo Ranch RV Park in (you guessed it) Amarillo Texas. A great southern gentleman, chauffeured us in the 1970’s limo with bull-horns mounted on the grill, to the famous Big Texan Steak House. The restaurant is decked out with western gear, has a shooting gallery and on-site brewery. The wise owner moved the restaurant here when Route 66 was usurped by the interstate and he has an old west hotel on the property too. He challenges clients to order and consume a 72 oz. steak, potato and salad within one hour and get it free! Apparently, one person in eight actually eats the whole thing! GAG! Some of their other specials are one-pound slabs of chocolate cake, jalapeno fudge and bacon-flavoured lollipops. We opted for manageable portions and still ended up with a large take out container of leftovers. A fun place!
We did some touring and shopping the next day. Cadillac Ranch was our first stop. In the 1970’s, a farmer hosted an art installation where ten old Caddy’s were buried fins-up. They have been moved to their present location and are famous for drawing graffiti aficionados to arrive with spray cans and add their mark to the site. The surrounding fields are littered with empty paint cans, an art installation in its own right. Amazing, are the 1 and 2 inch layers of paint revealed on some of the car bodies. Dixie enjoyed her leash-free sniffathon of the site, noting that paint was not the only item that had been sprayed on the vehicles.
Gander Mountain proved to be a great sports equipment and clothing store where we emerged with a shopping bag of treasure. I was lucky to find some Cowgirl boots at Cavender’s Boot City. I’ve been on the search for a pair for some time but since I broke my foot last year, I’ve had trouble getting my foot into the boots I choose. I went up half a size on the advice of an expert. I love my purchase but can’t help wunderin…do them boots make ma feet look beeg??
Jack Sisemore runs an RV Sales and Repair Center but his real passion is for the history of the Recreational Vehicle and its development over the years. He welcomes visitors to see his collection of RV’s, camping equipment and motorcycles at no charge. The fabrics, coolers, food items and games for each era have been preserved and help visitors feel the magic that each family experienced on their camping adventures. The Jack Sisemore RV Museum is well worth a visit!
The Quarter Horse Museum is an exquisite building housing a wonderful collection of the history, physiology, health and heroism of the Quarter horse. Fabulous paintings and sculptures are beautifully displayed. It would be easy to spend hours looking at all the information about the Quarter Horse and people who ride and adore these great animals.
We ended our day with a drive-by of a few gas stations, drive-ins, businesses and old signs somewhat sad and decrepit along an old section of Route 66. We did not see not much evidence of anyone getting their kicks around here. A beautiful Texas sunset concluded our day.
April 14, we drove out of Texas making a few stops at some Route 66 gas stations and sites. In the lonely town of McLeary, we enjoyed the Devil’s Rope Museum’s outstanding displays of barbed wire, fencing machinery, barbed-wire sculptures and tools! A Route 66 room showed some old gas station artifacts as well as a complete soda shop. By chance, the entrance fee was waived as an 80th celebration for the special couple who own and curate the museum were turning eighty years old! Free cupcakes too!
We drove into Oklahoma for the first time and yes, we were belting out a number of tunes from the musical! The red earth and green fields of cattle country lead us to a great small town campsite where we stayed for two days. The quiet spot with geese nesting beside the ponds and grassy walkways was a remnant of Route 66 in the town of Sayer. We enjoyed two lazy days there