Our plan of being on the road before the sun cleared the eastern horizon fell a bit short. We pinned this on a fitful nights sleep punctuated by skunks at the window, hallway noise, and an odd, intermittent whine from outside.
Still, we managed to have breakfast, showers, and loading out of the way by 7:00 and by 7:30 Clinton was fading fast in the rear view mirror. To make up for lost time we sucked it up, jumped on I-40, and set the cruise control.
The first break of the day came at Shamrock in Texas. We reveled in the surprising cool morning, explored the restored Magnolia station near the market, and topped off the tank ($2.85 per gallon).
An itch on my calf ignored that morning was now a burning, rapidly swelling, angry red circle. Calamine lotion from the first aid kit held the itch at bay and the adventure of being on the road served as enough distraction that I was able to ignore the dull ache.
The culprit remains unknown but my leg, more than a week later still, has a faint red circle the size of a silver dollar. Another odd souvenir is the loss of the hair from that side of my calf!
We rolled west on Route 66 to McLean, jumped on I-40, and then turned south at exit 124. We had opted to skip a visit to Jericho on the first leg as a result of rains and storms. I was very interested in the legendary Jericho Gap but even with the Jeep we were not looking to experience it at its most infamous.
As it turned out we still got a taste of the muddy gumbo that made Jericho famous even though on our visit the morning was sunny and warm. The road, county road B, had yet to dry from a recent rain and as a result we left deep ruts as we drove to the haunting ruins of Jericho.
An electric fence separated the road from the primary ruins but there were others on the south side that we explored. We also used the opportunity for a long walk through the lush Texas countryside along the old road.
Jericho is worth a visit. However, use some common sense as it would be very easy to get in to trouble if the road was muddy, especially with a vehicle designed for pavement rather than mud slinging.
Again, I tried calling “Croc” Lile when we made Amarillo. Again, I received the same cryptic recorded message about network problems.
We picked up Route 66 at exit 57, Bushland, made a pit stop in Vega, and paid for that privilege by topping off the tank ($2.90). We shared the pump island with a riding lawn mower and some folks from Rhode Island that were lost, lost, lost as the thought they were in Oklahoma having followed U.S. 54 into the Panhandle of that state from Kansas!
At the New Mexico state line the first glimmer of sadness tinged our adventure with the realization that our delightful journey was fast coming to an end. To combat that feeling we again turned to Route 66 at San Jon.
It was on this leg of Route 66 that my reflections turned to the beauty of the southwest. On occasion we have discussed relocating to Alaska or Montana and on this trip talked about how nice it would be to have a place like Spencer.
When we stopped at this old station west of San Jon, and walked the rutted road hand in hand, our love for this raw and wild land was felt with such intensity that without a word we knew this was our home. This is where we belong. This is where our heart is.
Our next breather came with a pit stop in Moriarty. For reasons unknown I have always felt comfortable here even though my associations with the town have most always been in the context of breakdowns.
The remainder of the days drive, but not the day, was relatively uneventful as our destination was Albuquerque. The first adventure of the evening was arrival in Albuquerque on Friday evening at 5:00. Please feel free to use your imagination here.
There is a cluster of motels at Coors Road just off I-40 in Albuquerque that I can recommend for a good nights rest at a central location. In particular we choose the Quality Inn, under sixty dollars including tax.
The rooms are clean and spacious. The staff is friendly. The location is perfect – close to I-40 if your in hurry and don’t want to battle the street traffic, close to Old Town and other sites if your visiting.
After checking in and unloading the Jeep we set out for some exploration and a celebratory dinner as this would be our last night on the road. We drove south on Coors Road to Central (Route 66), and turned east.
It was nice to see the El Vado was still with us even though its fate remains uncertain. The brightly lit, southwestern styled arch commemorating Route 66, filled me with ideas for Kingman, and Old Town was still a delightful oasis.
We settled on the Village Inn near the motel for dinner. It seemed to be a haven for local families and we have always found the food to be excellent at a reasonable price.
As is our custom, over dinner on our last day on the road, we reflected on the trip, laid plans for the final day, and began building dreams for the next grand adventure.