X-Country Road Trip: Day 4 – Navajo Nation and Santa Fe

Today was mostly a driving day. We had hoped to visit the Four Corners Monument, the only place in the US where you can get on your hands and knees and be in 4 states at the same time! Unfortunately, this monument, along with a number of others in the region is closed. It sits on tribal lands and is run by the Navajo Nation. The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged American tribes, compounded by vulnerabilities like poverty, isolation, and inadequate medical facilities. As a result, not only was the monument closed, but as we drove across Indian lands today we would discover everything was closed.

We decided that we would do a bit longer driving day than normal and try to make it to Santa Fe. Stops would be only for food and bathroom breaks and we’d be there in 7 hours.

As we pulled out of Page, AZ the only place to get breakfast was fast food drive-thru windows. None of the restaurants would allow people to enter yet. That should have been our first clue. The lines were long and we decided we’d find something along the way (and eat the many snacks in the car). It would be over 4 hours later that we found a Subway sandwich shop to eat lunch!

As we passed through little towns you might see a McDonalds or something, but they were all closed. We stopped at a McDonalds in Fort Defiance, AZ and it was a ghost town. We took the opportunity to walk Gus and stretch our legs. I noticed that McDonalds was still offering free wifi in the parking lot. The thought of this restaurant being closed but folks going to the parking lot to access the internet made me sad. There did not appear to be a hospital for hours, and in place of the political signs that dot the Virginia countryside right now, homes had hand-made signs saying, “Save lives, stay home”.

The scenery, however, was breathtaking. We continued to find spectacular rock formations, but also vast flat open land. The land pushed farther than the eye could see in every direction! We were on sacred land that has been home to Hopi and Navajo tribes for many centuries.

At last we reached New Mexico. This is particularly exciting for me because it is one of only 3 states left for me to visit. By the end of this trip I will be down to just one–Michigan–to have visited all 50.

As we hit New Mexico, we moved from Mountain Standard Time to Mountain Daylight Time and once again lost an hour. Our GPS literally went from saying we’d arrive a 5:30 to 6:30! We won’t get that hour back until November 1 when Daylight Savings ends.

We stopped in the New Mexico town of Gallup and decided to get some lunch at Subway. As we were sitting in the car placing our order, a giant tumbleweed literally rolled right past our car! It wasn’t out on the highway, it was on the walkway in the shopping center–like it was shopping! That’s some hard core desert right there!

This tumbleweed literally rolled past us as we sat in the car…as if it were shopping!

Scene of the Day

From Gallup, we got on I40, the major east-west highway that the Famous Rte 66 has become. We saw a sign for Albuquerque and I told Tim we needed to listen to the Partridge Family’s “Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque”. Tim completely agreed and seconds later we were singing along with David Cassidy. “Lonely little runaway, with teardrops in her eyes…”

When the song ended I said sheepishly, “You know…if you…you know, wanted to leave that album on for a while I’d be ok with it”. Tim again agreed that “yeah maybe we’ll just let it run through a few more songs…” Cut to 5 min later and the two of us have an outstretched arm and are singing away, “Heyyyy I think I love you!” We went from there to the Archies, to Bobby Sherman, and mined some ancient memories of our youth!

The drive through New Mexico marked yet another change in landscape. The rock was mostly bright red and there is clearly a lot more moisture as there was a fair amount of green too. Along I40 there are fantastic vistas of the valley.

Finally, as dusk was yielding to night, we pulled into Santa Fe. We are staying in a quintessential New Mexico hotel, La Fonda in the heart of downtown. We found a charming outdoor restaruant, La Fogata. We sat outdoors with cold draft beer and amazing food.

When we returned to our hotel we took the stairs to our 2nd floor room. We walked into the room and both of us were breathing so hard you’d have thought we just ran a 10k! Turns out Santa Fee is at 7,200 feet! This is no joke, we were gasping for oxygen! Tomorrow will be a short driving day, so that we can take the morning to explore more of Santa Fe.



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