I had to fight the urge to pack up in a hurry. There was a cool breeze blowing through the campsite; not a cloud in the sky. I washed a shirt and hung it out the dry as I walked around taking pictures. I made a note to roll my tent over next time to let the condensation on the bottom dry off before folding it up again. My electric razor seemed to be dead. Everything seemed to stop at Ute Lake: my razor, my cellphone... it was strange. I pulled out of camp at 7:30 Mountain Time. I circled the campsite, past campers I’m pretty sure didn’t pay for their overnight stay. Moochers. I pulled through Logan and headed southwest on Highway 54, crossing the Canadian River. Shortly before 9, flat-topped Tucumcari Mountain came into view. A few minutes later, I came over a rise, and the town appeared.
There was a big rest area at Exit 252. Along the highway acres of black-eyed susans grew wild. There were lots of signs for the Flying C Ranch. The highway gave a good view of the mountains. While scanning the radio, I came across a station playing the French national anthem. What the heck--? It turned out to be a classical music station. I listened to that station for about an hour. At 11:17 (Central time) I pulled off and stopped at Clines Corners (elevation 7,200 feet) for a pit stop. I spent over $9 in the gift shop. I was still an hour from Albuquerque. Above, high altitude winds whipped around the airplane contrails into a web of swirled, feathery patterns.
Past Moriarty, I saw a ranch with longhorn cattle. Big mountains loomed ahead. When I got to Albuquerque, I thought I saw new bike paths along the highway. I was still two hours from Gallup, and five hours from Flagstaff. About 20 miles west of Albuquerque, I pulled over at the 66 Pit Stop, “Home of the Laguna Burger.” Gas was $2.79 a gallon. I had driven 752 miles since leaving Broken Arrow. I got a fountain drink and ate an apple for lunch. The skies in the west started to look overcast.
Back on the highway, traffic was very busy. My electric razor started
working again; I guess I just needed to get away from Ute Lake. Black lava
rocks were scattered across the fields next to the interstate. The dramatic
landscape always takes my breath away. I passed a pink car I was sure I
passed earlier in the day. I figured the driver got around me when I pulled
over. About six hours after hitting the road that morning I crossed the
Continental Divide, 7,275 feet. There were some beautiful red cliffs off
to the north. Coincidentally, I passed the exit for Red Rock State Park.
|When I got to Gallup, I pulled off at Exit 26 because I wanted to see the famous flea market. I followed the directions I found online, but didn’t see anything. So, I pulled over at the tourist center to see where it was. The lady behind the counter said the flea market was only on Saturdays. Well, shoot. Since I was there, I stopped off for lunch at Earl’s Restaurant. I remembered stopping there with my family on our trip to the Grand Canyon ten years past. It was the middle of the afternoon, so there wasn’t much of a crowd. I had the lunch special: tuna salad sandwich, salad, hot soup and a drink, all for $10. It was very good. The streets of Gallup were lined with lots of motels. They all seemed to be doing a good business. Before leaving town, I called the hostel in Flagstaff to be sure I had a place to stay that night.|
I got checked in. There were eight bunks in the room I got, but there were some rooms that were left as they were, for just two people. I spoke to a guy named Taka, who was from Japan. He had a rough idea of where Oklahoma was, in relation to Texas. I also met Jonathan, who spent a summer traveling Europe, staying in hostels. He was starting school in Flagstaff that fall, and had been staying at the hostel while he looked for a place to live. Jonathan liked science fiction and fantasy books. One of his recent favorites was “Tilting the Balance” by Harry Turtledove, whom I met at Conestoga years back. I liked the Well World series, but he said Jack Chalker was not one of his favorites.
I found the common area, which had a pool table and foozball, as well as chairs and couches where people could sit and read. There were two separate kitchens and a laundry room I took a shower in the common area bathroom, only to discover there was on in my room. Oops. I cooked up a can of ravioli in one of the kitchens. Fed and cleaned, I went across the street to check out the Beaver Street Brewery, but it was standing room only in there. It looked like an Applebee’s on church night. So, I went next door to the Brew & Cue, a bar with lots of pool tables. I sat at the bar and got an IPA. As I sat, I talked to Eugene, a guy from the Hopi reservation 75 miles north of Flagstaff. He asked me why I was passing through. I told him about Burning Man; he’d never heard of it, but he understood the need to undertake a journey. When he found out I was from Oklahoma, he asked if I was with OU or OSU. I get asked that a lot. His lovely wife Yvonne soon arrived to pick him up. The IPA seemed a little bitter, so I tried some of the red beer they had on tap, but it seemed kind of tart. They were both pretty potent, however, and I was soon weaving my way back to the hostel. I did get a Beaver Street t-shirt before I left. Back in my room, there were five other people sharing it with me. I wrote a little, then went on to bed.