Western Swing

Shiprock, or “Winged Rock” in translation from Navajo.

Our sojourn to New Mexico began with a long but uneventful trip from Philadelphia. Our flights were on time and thankfully not interrupted by some asshole objecting to mask requirements. My guess is that all of the publicity around the negative consequences of such behavior may have helped to curb some of it. As in, want to fly again in the future? Better behave. Also probably helped that our airline, American, still isn’t serving any alcohol on flights. Both flights were, however, packed. No more of that leaving the middle seat open. But one Pro Tip. Before flying we bought masks from Graf-Lantz. They are cloth but can be supplemented with paper filters available from the company. They were comfortable for the eight or so hours of our trip. And for eyeglass wearers, fogging isn’t an issue. We recommend them.

We were a bit concerned about picking up the rental car given the stories of how much the companies had depleted their fleets during the initial COVID surge in 2020. But even that was more or less normal.

Our first stop was the Los Poblanos Inn and Organic Farm in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, which is north of the city. It’s an exceptional property that features a number of different accommodations, but no traditional main hotel. It is still a working farm with a huge field of lavender that the owners turn into proprietary products, including all of the bath amenities. We stayed in the Girard Suite, named for Alexander Girard, a renowned textile and furniture designer who also accumulated a noteworthy collection of Native American folk art. The objects below were in the room; replicas of course, but evoking what he collected. Click on the link to learn more about him. Pat will likely have more to say about the property later, but our suite was very cool. Rustic and modern at the same time, having originally been built in the 1930s, but very spacious.

On the night we arrived the hotel was doing a “pop-up” bar in an area that normally was used to host weddings. After that we went to the on-property restaurant, Campo, which was simply outstanding. I actually regret not doing the Facebook thing and taking a picture of the food. Southwest influenced, of course, but also in the farm-to-table mold.

After a leisurely morning we set off for our next destination, Farmington, NM, which is in the northwest corner of the state. It’s in the Four Corners region, about 45 minutes or so from Durango, Colorado, a future stop on this tour. We opted for a somewhat circuitous route, traveling first along I-40 to Gallup, which is of course mentioned in the song “Route 66,” made famous by Nat King Cole but covered by hundreds. The interstate parallels 66; for East Coasters it is similar to the way I-95 replaced US 1. We basically went to check out the El Rancho Hotel, which in its heyday hosted numerous Hollywood stars from the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s when they were filming Westerns in the area. It’s kind of kitchsy now, with numerous photos of long-dead stars on the wall, but it is on the National Register of Historic Places and it was refurbished by the current owner. The link above gives you a good background. John Wayne is the most prominently featured former star, not surprising given his association with the Western genre. But any number of Hollywood types have rooms named after them, including Jane Fonda. She at least is still breathing as of this writing.

The sign kind of says it all.

The rest of the drive was through the western part of the state that covers part of the tribal lands of the Navajo Nation. It’s very desolate, but also very familiar for anyone who saw any of the Western movies that Hollywood used to churn out. But the sad reality is that the Native Americans consistently got the shaft as America expanded in the 1800s. There is a lot of poverty in the region, and it’s striking how little commerce seems to be happening. It’s also notable how much greener it gets once you leave the tribal lands. We did pass two traffic stops by Navajo police, not the NM State Police, so that was interesting. With the wide open spaces and largely straight and flat roads, the urge to lead-foot it is hard to suppress. Note to any future travelers: there is a large number of trucks on I-40 as it is a main East-West route. The road though Navajo territory was lightly traveled.

On the way to Farmington we had to detour to take take the picture that opens this post. Shiprock is sacred to the Navajo and basically all you can do is pull off one road and to get close you would have to walk a good bit of the way. Given we were in a rental car we weren’t inclined to drive as far as the folks in the image below since there wasn’t a road to speak of, but it is an impressive sight nonetheless.

One comment

  1. I think impressive is too mild a description of Shiprock — its amazing I like the room with the red carpeted stairs – that is really cool sounds like you made a good choice of accommodations and dinning mom

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