wine by the color

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

It's been three whole days at home and you know what that means ... time to hit the road again.

I'll admit I'm not eager to make the drive to EWR for the 23rd time this year. It's been a long year, I'm more than a little burnt out and the weather here is currently stunning, which makes me less than happy to fly to a state that has averaged 99 degrees during the past five days.

But speaking of that part of the country...


After leaving the Painted Desert two weeks ago, I headed east for the Land of Enchantment.

Admittedly, my first impressions of New Mexico weren't very enchanting. Because I stayed at the Painted Desert so long, it was dark by the time I arrived in the state. The moment I drove across the state line, the clock on my cell phone went forward an hour.

The prearranged plan called for me to stay in Gallup, N.M., which is apparently famous for being both on Route 66 and in the song "Route 66." What it is now is a glorified truck stop.

Upon arriving in Gallup, the first priority was food. I drove up and down Route 66 for 20 minutes before realizing that my supper was going to either include the phrase "Would you like fries with that" or come from an eatery with this sign:

Obviously, I went with this. But I made damn sure to stay away from the seafood. And the Mexican. And the Greek, steaks and ribs. I figured I couldn't go wrong with cheese ravioli. When they first arrived, they were meat-filled, but the extremely apologetic waiter who spoke broken English quickly rectified that. And the house chianti was surprisingly good for $3.50 a glass.

And that leads us to the lodging. I couldn't find a Marriott property so I needed to find an alternate. I won't name where I stayed, because I'm sure every hotel along this stretch was the same -- sketchy -- so why single this one out.

I think the worst feature of the hotel was that the door opened to the outside, essentially right onto 66. That made me nervous enough to block the door (after double locking it) with the large chair in the room. Other unusual moves included putting my sweatshirt on my pillow (lest some unseen creepy crawlies were festering) and wearing my flip flops while showering.

That said, the hotel did have free wireless. Barricading the door vs. easy internet access. It's a toss-up.

But that is the last negative thing you'll hear me say about New Mexico.

For New Mexico is indeed enchanting. The drive from Gallup to Albuquerque/Santa Fe is simply stunning. This is the view for most of the drive:

I decided to visit Santa Fe first, then return to Albuquerque. I had no real plan except a) visit Santa Fe and b) visit Albuquerque.

En route to Santa Fe, my plans were almost derailed when I saw the following mileage sign:

Santa Fe 41
Las Vegas 103

Despite having visited 43 of our nation's states, I am still not the most geographically astute individual. It seemed logistically impossible but it said Las Vegas, and I thought, well, now that would be a worthwhile side trip.

Fortunately, that thought quickly passed. Fortunate because the Vegas I know and love is in fact more than 630 miles away. In the other direction. Apparently, there is a Las Vegas, N.M.

Upon arriving in Santa Fe (nickname: The City Different), I drove through town for a while before arriving at the Plaza area. I wandered through some galleries and boutiques before deciding it was time for lunch.

I came across this place, which was completely deserted except for the bartender. This is the mango chicken with a black bean empanada. This is the "before" picture. The "after" picture features an empty plate. Really, really good.

It was also accompanied by Blue Corn's Honeymoon Wheat Ale, which reminded me that one of my least favorite parts of growing up is the lack of opportunities to enjoy a midday cocktail. Just sidling up to a bar in the middle of the afternoon and throwing back a few is such a simple pleasure. Consider that added to the to-do list once my season ends.

From there, it was back down to Albuquerque, another charming city. While there, I chatted with some local candymakers, made a beaded bracelet, enjoyed another local brew and took a leisurely walk through some of the beautiful architecture.

I enjoyed New Mexico - simple, friendly and beautiful - so much that when I walked out of my hotel the next morning and found a completely flat tire on my rental car, it didn't bother me one bit. The fact that a local garage arrived to fix it within 35 minutes only served to strengthen my impression of the state.

Enchanting indeed.

I will be back.


  • At 9/26/2007 5:16 AM, Blogger Michael said…

    Let's open up a restaurant in Santa Fe
    Oh, sunny Santa Fe would be nice...

    Never been. Sounds lovely.

  • At 9/26/2007 10:18 AM, Blogger freakgirl said…

    I think I saw the Blue Corn Cafe on a Food Network show once...some of the restaurant's recipes are on the FN website in case you're ever inclined.

    I can't wait to go to New Mexico for a vacation. The geekboy misses it so much.


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