Saturday, February 13, 2016

Traveling across NW New Mexico

We spent Sunday night in Farmington, NM.  Funny story, on our way from Mesa Verde Marcus asked me to call the hotel to tell them we will be late (8 or 9pm).  I called, and the receptionist said OK.  Before I hung up Marcus whispered to me to check that we had adjoining rooms.  When I did, the receptionist paused and and said, "No, actually you are on 2 different floors, on opposite ends of the hotel."  What?  Well THAT wasn't going to work!  Luckily they found two rooms next to each other at least, and Marcus and I split up one per room.  It didn't work very well--all the clothes and toiletries were shared and were not in separate suitcases--but it was better than different floors so I can't complain.

Albuquerque is in the middle of NM, and Durango is in CO
(above NW NM).  You can see Mesa Verde to the west of
Durango, and Farmington to the south of Mesa Verde.
Next stop was Gallup, then Grants, then Albuquerque.
It's a special treat to swim in a hotel pool!!  ;o)
After breakfast we loaded up our Ford Transit and headed south to Gallup.  We wanted to hit Route 66 and some Indian (sorry, "Native People") shops.  The map app took us through the rez which was really cool since it seemed deserted, with no commercialism or shops along the highway.

Driving through the rez

We made it to Gallup and decided to eat at the famous Earl's Diner.

While the food was "fine," we didn't choose Earl's for the gourmet fare.  Rather, research told me that the kids would like the diner food, and that Earl's is an experience because they allow Native American vendors to come up to your table and sell their wares.  That was fun!  We bought a few pairs of earrings this way.

There were also vendors outside Earl's, which made it easy and fun for the kids to see what they might want to buy as souveniers:

(5 months later and she hasn't lost the
ring!  I can't believe it.)

After reading more than a couple of guide books, we decided on this eclectic road trip (instead of staying the whole time in Albuquerque) because I thought this would give us a good overview of New Mexico's terrain, food, commerce, and people.  I think we hit a bullseye.  Our next stop was a famous pawn shop, Richardson's Trading Company:

Most everything was out of our price range.
They had hundreds of saddles, and SO MUCH
beautiful silver jewelry!  This nice lady
found something for the kids to buy, though.
Beaded bookmarks and barrettes.  Can't
believe we still have those intact as well.
These bridles were not in the budget.  :o(
We learned that (at least historically) many Native Americans used pawn shops as a sort of bank: they could keep their valuables safe there for x amount of time and get a loan, and if they don't come back to claim their goods, the pawn shop can sell them.  I learned many, if not most, people do come back to claim their property.  But not all, of course.  For shoppers now, it is a great way to buy some really amazing and unique items.

Next we made our way east to Grants.  Grants was a boom-or-bust town for a couple of different time periods, most recently for uranium.  We wanted to see the New Mexico Mining Museum, which had a lot of recommendations in my research.

not my photo
Unfortunately, as we were leaving Gallup at about 3pm, I took a glance at my guide book and noticed that the Museum closed at 4pm!!  Yikes!  We made it there with about 10 minutes to spare...

...but fortunately, they said we could stay until 5pm!  Yay!  We first watched a video about uranium mining, and then looked around the exhibits a little.  Then we took a elevator underground to an elaborate simulation of a real mine.  It was awesome!  And the best part was that a real (retired) mining manager was our tour guide.  Talking with Jack Farley was like talking with living history.  What an experience!

Here is a really great YouTube video of the Mining Museum. The video is 18 minutes but even just the first few moments give you an idea of what it is like in the underground simulation.  The video features real miners and is very educational.

Our own guide, Jack Farley, worked his way up from average Joe miner to being the manager of 3 very large mines.  His record shows that he was a top-notch manager with an excellent safety record.  The kids learned not only about mining but about hard work, intelligence, and diligence in the workplace.

Well, that was our trip to Gallup and Grants.  After the mining museum, we made our way to Albuquerque, checked into the Residence Inn, and ordered pizza.  Papa John's (reminded me of college, I am hungry just thinking about it!).  Marcus took some kids to the pool and I packed for our flight the next day.  Our big field trip was almost over.

driving towards Albuquerque

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