Our next part of the journey was to be leaving lovely Arizona behind and crossing the border into New Mexico. We were heading for Gallup, the capital of Native Indian Americans and the place with the highest murder rate in the USA. This is also where the annual Inter-Tribal Festival takes place, a five day celebration for the native people which was actually starting on August 5th, the day we left town.
Before we lef the state though, we had one last call to make in Arizona. A tiny little town in the middle of the desert has been made famous by a popular Eagles song, Take It Easy. The line goes ‘Well, I’m a standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, and such a fine sight to see. It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford slowin’ down to take a look at me”. Dad had made us listen to the song a few times before we arrived, so it was stuck in all our heads as we pulled up in the corner of the quiet, dusty street in Winslow. A statue of a man leant against a road sign stating ‘Standing on the Corner’ and, behind him, the windows of the building behind had painted with figures from the song. To the right was was parked a red flat-line vehicle. It was a very fun and jolly corner, compare to the rest of the empty desert town. After stopping for a few pictures, we moved on (a piece of tumbleweed had genuinely blown in front of us on the road by this point).
We were driving down the old Route 66 through the open desert, which was dotted with the occasional residence in the shape of a hut or caravan. We stopped occasionally along the way for restroom breaks and to stretch our legs. At all the cafes, it seems that soda is cheaper to buy than water – so we were drinking way more Diet Pepsi than we usually would. Along the way, I bought a soda ‘bucket’ that was actually larger than my head.
We were staying at El Rancho in Gallup – a famous Route 66 hotel where many movie stars used to stay while filming in the surrounding desert area. These included Humphrey Bogart, Joan Crawford and the Marx Brothers. The hallway opened to a huge, wood panelled reception area which was filled with Native Indian American jewellery and art. A lovely guy in a Mexican hat and pin brooch welcomed us for check-in and told us about the time he had been stationed in Portsmouth for two months, but didn’t much like it. Mum and I dropped our stuff off in our room and headed straight through to the bar, which had a proper old-school American feel to it. Mum had a local bottled beer from Albuquerque (Breaking Bad land!) and I had a traditional margarita with tequila and salt. By this point, the boys showed up and Dad explained that he had just tried to book a table for 7.30pm before being looked at strangely and told it was just after 8pm. That’s when we realised that we had moved through an hour difference time zone (and the Sat Nav wasn’t wrong in our destination time after all, despite nearly being thrown out the window!).
We went through to the restaurant and had a traditional meal of fajitas which were absolutely delicious – and the biggest servings of vegetables ever. I think people sometimes panic when you say that you’re vegetarian – they feel the need to make up for the lack of meat! On the table next to us was sat a real 6ft6 cowboy, complete with white hat, studded belt and knife in the back pocket of his denim jeans. It seemed this place was popular with locals as well as guests, as there had been a Mexican guy at the bar who tried to make conversation with us but gave up after we struggled with both accent barriers!
After a little while, I started to get such bad stomach cramps from eating so much – I accepted that America had beaten me today and I needed an early night. I went to bed in our Marx Brothers Suite, ready for the long drive the next morning to Santa Fe.