Previous Installment: Moving to Vegas: So long, Texas
We were now in New Mexico, a place Dad and I had never been to before. We both grew up and have mainly existed on the East Coast. Sure, we’ve been to other places, but we never drove cross-country through them. We were absolutely not prepared for the beauty that unfolded before us.
At first it was like driving through an old Warner Brothers Road Runner and Coyote cartoon, except that this scenery was real and there were no Acme instant holes or rocket roller skates to be found along the side of the road next to coyote carcasses.
Interstate 40 runs a relatively straight line through New Mexico. There are plenty of hills and ridges, and cresting each one offered up a new and stunning view. It was really incredible to watch the composition of each valley change. Drive fifteen miles and the rocks go from craggy and pebbly to flat and striated. Each valley was different, as if God had made thousands of valley prototypes, each a little different than the others.
I was actually looking forward to twelve hours of this scenery and my mere words here cannot come close to conveying the unique beauty of this place. If you ever have a chance to drive I-40 anywhere in New Mexico and Arizona, take it.
Speaking of Arizona, we got to America’s 48th state in good time.
It was amazing that even though New Mexico’s valleys were each different, and Arizona its own different valleys, each state seemed to be based on totally different architectural concepts. In other words, New Mexico’s valleys are different, but still have a unifying theme that makes them identifiably New Mexican. Likewise, Arizona’s valleys are all distinct, but uniquely Arizonian. Again, it’s hard to describe. Do yourself a favor and make the drive. You will not regret it.
You won’t regret it but your truck might. Take a car. Our truck was great on the flat lands. It was convenient to get to the max speed of 70 MPH, set the cruise, and not worry about Officer Friendly stopping you for going too fast. Once into New Mexico and Arizona, though, we realized how much hills slowed our tuck down going up and sped things up going down.
Most of the hills were what we called 55 MPH hills. Going up, we would slow down to around 55 miles per hour and then hit the crest. It was annoying, but manageable. There were a few 50 MPH, 45 MPH and 40 MPH hills. There was even one 35 MPH hill where we passed 6,000 feet in elevation while climbing it. Not even the turbo on our diesel truck was helping much. We were slow. And as slow as we were going up the hills, we were not as fast going down. I’m not sure why there was a gravitational differential, but we rarely got above 75 going down hill. That was perfectly fine with me, however. The one stretch where we hit 80 was a little scary and intense. On the next steep downgrade, I made sure the brakes helped us stay below 75. This may have been an adventure, but I didn’t need that much adrenaline.
Like I said, we were now in Arizona. Along the highway I saw a sign for Winslow and, probably like 95% of everyone who sees this sign, immediately had an “Eagles” tune playing in my mind. We eventually drove through Winslow, Arizona. In fact, we even stopped to fuel up the truck in Winslow. For the record: I only had one woman on my mind (Sheri) and nobody in a flatbed Ford slowed down to take a look at anything. Obviously we had no opportunity for anyone to say maybe or find out if there sweet love was going to save us. At least all this disappointment was set to a catchy tune.
Actually, the tune was way too catchy. I’m not sure if Dad had any reaction to the Winslow sign or Winslow itself. I was too busy trying to get the catchy tune out of my head to discuss it with him. Plus, on the off chance that he had escaped, I didn’t want to plant it there for him. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Eagles, unlike The Dude. Even so, listening to bits of “Take It Easy” playing over and over for hours will make you crazy.
The rest of the drive was uneventful. Lots of scenery to soak in. The only big decision was whether to push on and arrive in Las Vegas around 1:00am or stop around Flagstaff, AZ and call it a night. Sure, we could have pushed on to Kingman, AZ very easily, but as close as Kingman is to Las Vegas, we would have had to finish the trip. So it was decided to stop around Flagstaff. Actually, we found a coupon for a place in Williams, AZ, which is about fifteen miles west of Flagstaff.
What a great choice!
Williams is up in the mountains I’m not sure of the exact elevation, but this was late August and it was genuinely cool at night. The hotel we stayed at had an indoor hot tub and pool. Dad and I poured a couple of scotches and floated like manatees in the hot tub for about twenty very relaxing minutes. It’s amazing how a long drive, which is essentially sitting for a bunch of hours, can tire you out. It’s even more amazing how twenty minutes in hot chlorinated water and a couple of ounces of scotch can alleviate that weariness.
After our soak, it was time for dinner, and on the recommendation of the front desk clerk we went downtown to “Cruiser’s Café 66”. We unloaded the Crown Victoria from the trailer so we would cruise into town in style.
On the way there, the road was blocked by two stagecoaches and about 100 people milling about watching some sort of Old West reenactment. The only problem with this was, they were blocking the main drag, and no detour signs were posted. Williams isn’t a big enough place to really get lost in, but a few orange arrows letting the uninitiated know where to go while the stage is being pretend-robbed would be nice. Oh well. We went over a block, took a left, went two blocks, took another left, then a right, and were back on track. Much easier to find than Ramadas in Louisiana.
We eventually pulled up to Cruiser’s and it looked like an old gas station that had been converted into a restaurant with ample car theming. The front area where the pumps used to be was full of crowded tables. In one corner, a young man in chef’s clothing was tending to various pieces of meat on a large grill that was an oil drum in a former life. Some of the pieces of meat were really large beef ribs. I also recognized chicken, sausages, steaks and other yummy bits.
Dad and I had arrived.
There was no patio seating unless you wanted to wait a long time. Dad and I were hungry, so we opted to sit inside. Our table was by a window and we had a great view of people walking by on the main drag. We soaked in Williams.
Despite how tasty the beef ribs looked, Dad and I decided that was too much work, so we both opted for rib eye steaks. They were absolutely delicious, and the service was excellent.
After dinner, we drove around for a few minutes, saw what we think was the entirety of Williams, and went back to the hotel. There were no stagecoaches on the way back, no pretend robberies, and nothing to impede our progress.
That’s a good thing.
I was tired and needed some sleep. When we arrived back at the room, I got undressed, read my book for about ten minutes falling soundly asleep. Dad was already asleep when I got into bed.
Next installment: Moving to Vegas: Arrival