Today – Rt 66 and the El Rancho Hotel in Gallup NM
Since this was a trip – my kind of trip – where I had no fixed itineraries (other than to get home by 5:30 on a Friday for a dinner) – I decided to veer south 200 miles or so and stay at the Hotel El Rancho.
One of my minor regrets in life was not joining a Rt 66 tour my car club had about 10 years ago – from Chicago to California. But to tell you the truth if you are on a Rt 66 binge to me the most interesting parts are through Arizona and New Mexico. And I would divide the attractions into 3 categories: In the 1st category are places that have stayed pretty much the same – regardless of the fact that I40 took a lot of traffic from them. The second category are places that actively try to recreate the “Rt 66 experience” – they will probably have 50s music playing and at least 1 50s car out in front. All of this nostalgia is fine, but I keep thinking of a family in the 40s or 50s on “The Mother Road” – in the summer – with no air conditioning and the children crying with parents beyond irritation because they haven’t reached the destination.
Besides, on a previous time though I decided to check into a 50s motel in Flagstaff, AZ. Ya’know, to get the experience. There was a lot I had forgotten since I was a small boy about the 50s. To wit: Thin old mattresses that seem to sag to the floor. Thin curtains that illuminate every few seconds to red from the flashing neon sign out front. A rattly air conditioner in the wall that has 2 settings – freezing and off. 1 electrical outlet in the whole room – have a few things to charge – time for triage.
And on and on….
But I have noticed that the Europeans staying in these motels eat this stuff up.
It ain’t all beer and skittles, as Hizzoner used to say.
The 3rd category – are those places and buildings that are abandoned – a reminder of how things were. If you are driving I40 on some areas like Oklahoma – you can still see old 66 off to the side with an abandoned service station – or in some cases, complete towns. I think Amboy, CA is the town that Pixar got the idea for Radiator Springs in their hit movie, Cars.
I was fortunate to go through there on my last real car trip. This was before anyone was trying to “fix it up”. Amboy is a true 20th century ghost town.
As you could tell from my link, I had stopped at the El Rancho before – but just for lunch. Stepping into the hotel makes you think that time just stopped.
It was established in 1937 by the brother of Hollywood director D.W. Griffith. For several decades, it served as a base for film crews making Westerns in the area. I was told by one of the employees that when filming in Monument Valley, crews would stay there for 3 days working and living in tents, and then head for Gallup – 150 miles away – and rest for 3 days. Then go back up.
You can stay in any of a few dozen rooms all with the name of the star who stayed there at one time of another. I was given the choice of John Wayne or Doris Day; I wanted to stay with Doris 😉
I drove from Monument Valley and pulled into the hotel at dusk.
I was surprised at how small the room was for a movie star but then I suppose after 3 days in a tent in the desert this was pretty luxurious.
Upstairs – where no doubt many relaxed after dinner with a drink – are a few 100 black and white signed pictures of stars who were guests. Below is Paulette Goddard – never heard of her?
She was huge in the 1930s – and was almost Scarlet O’Hara in Gone With The Wind. David O. Selznick was on the verge of signing her but for 2 objections: She was living with Charlie Chaplin across the street from Selznick at the time. He thought the public would view both favoritism and frown on her living arrangements (this was the 1930s).
If you see her in the GWTW Screen Test, you’d swear she was Scarlet. Take a look at her from the 1930s…
These are just a sample …here’s a list of all the stars who stayed here –
Next morning I was off for the Grand Canyon. Since most of you have seen the Grand Canyon, I’ll skip that segment and show you a few things in the area you probably haven’t seen but before we end this segment a few more pictures…
I did not realize that this was the last Rt 66 town cut off by I40 – 1984?. But since they are the gateway to the Grand Canon’s South Entrance, they are doing fine.
Tomorrow….An interesting aircraft museum on the way to the Grand Canyon
Part 1 is here
Part 2 is here
Part 3 is here
Part 4 is here
Part 5 is here
Part 6 is here