I’ve always been mesmerized by highway signs and fascinated by the history of big highways. There’s also big nostalgia, because Dad loved highway driving and road trips. He was the sole driver on the Trans-Canada highway between Vancouver and Calgary or on US Interstate-5 to Bellingham and Seattle. How obvious is it then, that a deep yearning for open roads comes directly from my father.
The following is a part of day 8 (of 17) in our drive through the American Southwest.
We set out on a day trip from Santa Fe to Taos and Taos Pueblo, with a scenic drive on New Mexico highway NM-68, the “low road” or “river road” along the Rio Grande river between Española and Taos. With low light in the morning hour, we didn’t see it when we drove north to Taos. But on our mid-afternoon return on the low road, we found the Classical Gas Museum in the small town of Embudo. We pulled into an open sandy rocky patch, marvelling at the collection in front of rusting gas pumps and a wooden building resembling a historic gas station.
The Classical Car Museum is owned and run by Johnnie Meier who is a retired scientist and former employee at the nearby Los Alamos National Laboratory. His interest and collection grew to the point where he needed more space. Reading about the museum is one thing, but it’s no match for seeing in person his extensive collection of memorabilia, including whole and partial gas pumps, highway signage, oil cans, gas company signage, license plates, a model gas station, a working vintage Coca-Cola cooler, a classic car or two, an entire “pre-fab” diner building, and a mascot for a once thriving restaurant-chain. From within the building, it’s the glow which provides further fuel for interest, and once inside, the neon and warm illumination of symbols and signs combine for the inevitable “wow!” Altogether, it’s a broad mix of elements from mid 20th-century American history which is all about highway-driving and open-road nostalgia. There’s a saying about how someone’s junk is somebody else’s treasure, but the entire collection deserves careful cataloguing and a larger permanent building. A new museum would be fitting somewhere along the old US-66 highway. Santa Rosa, NM is a leading candidate, but other cities in the state are also possible.
For now, the museum is located next to highway NM-68 in Embudo; the coordinates are 36.209102 degrees North, 105.951658 degrees West. The museum sits on 0.81 hectare (2 acres) of Meier’s land, and the museum building is 93 square metres (1000 square feet) in size. There is no admission charge, though donations are most welcome, especially for the local animal shelter. You might want to call ahead (505-852-2995) to see if Meier is around in case the building is closed.
( Click here for images and more )
Above/featured: Welcome to Pie Town. The 2018 Pie Festival was held on 8 September.
The two words reach your eyes and enter your brain.
The questions are immediate.
What? Who? Why? How do I get there? Is there really pie?
A sense of calm eventually prevails, and that’s when planning begins. Because there’s firm promise: “oh there will be pie.”
Fast forward to our drive through the American Southwest over three weeks in October 2018, and our adventure is drawing to a close.
With morning sun and excellent conditions, we’ve departed Tucson for a long drive for which there are three goals. One, we must arrive in Santa Fe by tonight to catch our flights out the next day. Two, we have to stop in Albuquerque for a return visit and chomp on a spicy stuffed sopapilla at Mary & Tito’s Cafe before they close at 8pm. Three, we’re desperate to visit Pie Town which by design is on the way to Santa Fe. We’re on the road for over 300 miles (480 kilometres) through Arizona, into New Mexico, and to Pie Town, and that’ll be followed by another 220 miles (350 kilometres) to Santa Fe.
The car continues to roll along the paved undivided two-lane highway on a stretch of lonesome landscape with short stubby hills and tall grassy fields for company. US-60 is nowhere as famous as its northerly US-66 counterpart; both are historic national highways. As some have noted, driving present-day US-60 comes very close to similar conditions on US-66 in the latter’s bygone heyday.
The miles add up, and the hours tick by. Isolation is punctuated by farms, ranches, and small towns. We’ve made notes about the towns, because there’s always a need for fuel: gas for the car, snacks and drinks for the occupants. Small towns may not look like much on first approach, but I know the welcome greeting and warm atmosphere are in store as soon as we step inside a shop or restaurant.
Our destination in New Mexico isn’t “nowhere.”
Because there, pie awaits.
( Click here for images and more )
Above/featured: West-northwest from Mohave Point – 15 October 2018 (HL).
26 February 2019 marks the 100th birthday of the Grand Canyon National Park.
On 26 February 1919, U.S. Congress passed legislation “An Act to Establish the Grand Canyon National Park in the State of Arizona” which was signed by President Woodrow Wilson. With official designation, the national park encompasses over 1-million acres (almost 405-thousand hectares) and several thousand years of history of habitation in the area by indigenous peoples including the Havasupai, Hualapai, Hopi, Navajo, Paiute, and the Zuni who consider the Grand Canyon as their ancestral birthplace. UNESCO inscribed the Grand Canyon National Park as World Heritage Site in 1979.
The geology at the Grand Canyon, however, is much much older than 100 years. By geologic standards, the Grand Canyon itself is relatively “young” with the Colorado River carving into the rock about 5 to 6 million years ago. However, the Vishnu basement rock in the Grand Canyon is over 1.7 billion years old; “only” 38 percent as old as Earth’s oldest rocks at 4.5 billion years old. For a rough comparison, if a person celebrated their 50th birthday today for a total age of 18262.5 days, the equivalence of the basement rock forming occurred about 19 years ago, and erosion by the Colorado River taking shape only 24 days prior to the 50th birthday.
In October 2018 we spent three days exploring parts of the Grand Canyon National Park. After our drive from Flagstaff to Cliff Dwellers (via Cameron), we pushed forward to the North Rim and the winding scenic drive took us to Point Imperial and Cape Royal in time for the day’s final illumination. With a night spent at the beautifully serene Cliff Dwellers Lodge, we retraced our drive back to Cameron, then turning west to Desert View and parts of the eastern end of the South Rim. With our new ‘base’ established in Flagstaff, we drove the following day to the main entrance of the Grand Canyon National Park (via Valle and Tusayan), and we spent the day in the western and central parts of the South Rim. The 1126 km (700 mi)# we covered over the three days was 22 percent of the entire 5049 km (3138 mi) we accumulated through parts of New Mexico and Arizona.
- North Rim: Point Imperial, Cape Royal
- South Rim: Desert View
- South Rim: Navajo Point, Lipan Point
- South Rim: Hermit’s Rest, Mohave Point
- South Rim: Village along Rim Trail
Four of Mary Colter’s buildings on the South Rim (Desert View Watchtower, Hermit’s Rest, Hopi House, and Lookout Studio) have been listed as U.S. National Historic Landmark properties in the National Register of Historic Places since 1987.
(Click the upper-left arrow-window icon in the map below for the legend.)
( Click here for images and more )