Day 11: August 4, 2012
More Cars & Sky City
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I'd noticed the Route 66 Diner when I passed it yesterday so I backtracked just a little to have breakfast there. It turned out to be a full-on Elvis & Marilyn place but the food was good and so were the waitresses.

After breakfast, I ventured a few miles off Route 66 to visit the Unser Racing Museum. I think the standard drill is for a docent to give a short introduction before letting visitors roam the museum if they chose. The museum wasn't busy and I enjoyed Jim's stories and knowledge so much that I kept him around for what amounted to a personal tour. Many thanks, Jim. I really enjoyed it.

There are cars from the Unsers days at Pike's Peak on display along with those from the Indy 500. The yellow Novi that Bobby Unser drove is one of my favorite cars in the museum. It comes from a day when the Indianapolis 500 still had room for innovation. There had been room for innovation at Pike's Peak, too, and one of the Unsers' innovations was including crush walnut shells in tire treads. I was unaware that each year a lady gets all the Indy 500 drivers' signatures and incorporates them into a quilt that she gives to the winner. Her name is Jeanetta Holder and apparently she is still continuing the practice which she started in 1976. I feel kind of dumb not knowing about that.

The 1923 Sterling truck is at the center of a story that might reveal something about Al Unser. When Al was growing up, the truck belonged to a neighbor. As a successful adult, he tried to buy it several times. The owner refused until his death and even, in a sense, beyond. Al approached the family but was told the entire property was being sold "as is" with everything left where it sat. So Al bought the entire estate just to get the truck. Then he spent another chunk of money to restore it. Jim didn't know the exact significance of the truck to Al but he did know that Al likes to drive it. At one point the truck was used as an attention getter in front of the museum. It was driven out each morning and back inside at the end of each day. On most days, it was Al who did the driving -- both ways. I hope I'm not reading too much into it but I'm thinking that the truck has a bit of a Citizen Kane Rosebud feel. There's a sign in the cab of the truck showing that, unlike other museums, the prohibition against visitors driving the cars is not absolute. There are exceptions.

West of Albuquerque, Route 66 is buried under I-40 for several miles but some two-lane eventually resurfaces. That's Owl Rock in the first picture. Even when I know it's coming, seeing it pop out from behind a rock tower is still a surprise. Budville is just a few miles beyond with the Midway (a.k.a, King's Cafe & Bar) just a few yards beyond that. There I got a surprise. In 1999, John and I had stopped at the Midway and had a fairly long chat with Mike, the owner. I've stopped here, I believe, twice since then but Mike had not been around. Today his son, Anthony, was tending bar and, after I told him of my previous visits, said his dad might be coming in before long. Sure enough, Mike appeared before my beer was gone and, although he didn't really remember our 1999 stop, got a kick out of the story and was happy to pose for a picture. That's an old friend I hadn't expected to meet.

In the afternoon I made another side trip. This time I headed a dozen miles south to visit Acoma Pueblo. The pueblo sits 367 feet above the valley floor and is often referred to as "Sky City". Established around 1150, Acoma is the oldest continuously occupied community in North America. The first picture was taken on the drive south. Tour tickets, which include a camera permit, are purchased at the visitors center. At scheduled times, a small bus carries tourists up the road shown in the second picture. Only a few people live here full time and they do so only a year at a time. Places like the cemetery and church interior are off limits to cameras. The church, actually the San Esteban Del Rey Mission was built between 1629 and 1640, and is certainly interesting. An exterior shot is here. Something our guide called the "Acoma National Forest" stands among the buildings. It consists of the only tree on the mesa. The streets are sloped and uneven and one particularly clumsy member of our group did slip and fall. I'm going to be OK, though.

These pictures were taken on the drive back to Route 66. The middle one looks back at the pueblo from a roadside overlook.

The day ended at el Rancho in Gallup, New Mexico. It was built in 1930 and has lodged many Hollywood stars. I stayed in the Jack Oakie room between Lucille Ball and Doris Day. John Wayne was across the hall. Check out some of the furniture and the logs on the stairs.

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