Wednesday 1st April
Said goodbye to Angela and the two dogs this morning. She is making her way back east to Massechutsets and then down to Florida to rent a place. Until recently she had lived in Costa Rica for some years and was in the process of deciding what to do back in the US, in a previous life she had been a ballerina. We had enjoyed Angela's company and will miss her. We made our way to Amarillo (singing the song all the way) and got back on Route 66. Some of the old road had been superseded by the I-40 but we came off at various points and got back on the old road. We passed through small towns such as Vega and Adrian where the midpoint of the road between Chicago and Los Angeles was marked by a line across the road and nearby was the Midpoint Cafe. Glenrio was just before the border with New Mexico and was a ghost town known for having the last Motel in Texas.
Although the Motel building was now mostly derelict it was still in tact with all the rooms at the back, a bit like the Bates Motel but with weeds growing everywhere. There was also an empty gas station with an old car outside. We soon crossed over the border and went to the New Mexico Visitor Centre. The staff were very helpful and we came out armed with lots of information on NM. We carried on along the I-40 and got back on Route 66 at Tucumacri which is a much larger town than we had previously been through on the route. The town was originally called Six Shooter Siding and was a railroad town on the Rock Island Railroad. Route 66 was built through the town more than 75 years ago. The area is also known for dinosaur fossils and footprints and has a dinosaur museum. We intended to stay at an RV park in town but when we got there it looked half closed so we decided to go to the KOA site by the Intersate. However, the SatNav took us into a suburb of the town and we were obviously lost. Luckily a passing motorist stopped as we were crawling along looking lost and gave us directions, wished us happy Easter and went on his way. We found the site easily enough after that and parked for the night. KOA sites are more expensive but have good facilities including the laundries so I took the opportunity to do a mound of washing. There were lots of wild rabbits running about the site which Sandy found fascinating and became very animated about. On RV parks dogs have to stay on a leash no longer than 6ft, otherwise she could have run around and amused herself for hours. Tony and John went into town in the afternoon, Tony had a hair cut at the barbers, a good old fashioned short back and sides, and they both returned with souvenir Route 66 mugs. The barber recommended the Pow Wow and Lizard Lounge Restaurant for dinner. We called for a reservation and the owner said that he would pick us up at the campground. Tucumcari lights up at night with neon signs down the main road outside the vintage motels and restaurants. We were picked up by the owner of the restaurant in a small mini bus and then called at one of the old motels to collect a group of girls - they were British and on a road trip across the US. The motel had the usual front desk building then the rooms were at the back in court yard shape. The place looked dolls house tiny and really cute. The Pow Wow was also cute with murals on the wall next to diner type seating of people sitting eating a meal as if the were at the table. Sitting down it felt as if there was a person sitting by you! They were very well done and looked like real people. We had a good a meal including the green chile stew which is a regional favourite. There are more than 40 murals on walls in and around the town done by two local artists depicting things about the area. On the way home the owner of the restaurant took us on a short tour of the town to see some of them.
Thursday 2nd April
We got back on the I-40 this morning and made our way towards Albuquerque then turned off onto the 285 north west to Santa Fe. As we climbed the land became flat, grassy plains and we could see the Sangre de Christo mountains - the southern tip of the Rockies - in the distance. We were heading for the Santa Fe KOA camp on the Old Las Vegas Road about ten miles out of town. It was a quiet site set in the countryside with nice views of the sandstone hills. We had a very warm welcome from Wendy in the park office and then the problems started, our Lloyds Dollar Visa cards would not work. We had experienced problems with them before being blocked and had been assured by the bank it would not happen again. Wendy did her best to help and spent an age on the phone trying to gets the card authorised but no joy so we paid by credit card. We were setting up camp and all was going well until Tony put the auto levellers in place on the RV. This system releases four steel legs underneath the RV and the auto sensors alter the length of each leg to ensure the RV is level. They came down alright but when Tony wanted to retract them to pull the vehicle further up the pitch they would not retract. We looked at manuals, called Forest Rivers, called the leveller supplier for advise but nothing we did released the legs. Robin who worked on the park (Wendy's husband) tried to help and went to print off parts of manuals with detailed diagrams and plans, whatever we tried to reset the system it did not work. Larry the site owner said that he would come and have a look in the morning at eight. The phone signal was not good so Tony went off to the park office where the hotspot was located to phone Lloyds bank and do battle about the visa debit cards. An hour later he came back, no good, when he got through to the fraud section, after going through several other people first, he couldn't hear them because the sound on the line was distorted. Stressed and frustrated we decided it was time for a drink and something to eat. We made our way into Santa Fe and then got lost. By this time it was dark and we thought we best turn around and find something nearer home. We turned into Harry's Road House on the road not far from the RV park. The car park was fairly full but people were starting to wander out so we were hopeful. When we got inside it was still busy but we only waited 15 minutes, and we were glad just to sit down and relax. I had my first Margarita of the trip, done properly with lime juice and salt around the rim of a long stemmed glass - delish! In the bar we bumped into Wendy and Robin from the RV Park.
Friday 3rd April
Tony's birthday but no time for celebrations just yet, Larry arrived sharp at 8am as promised with tool kit in hand to tackle the levellers. After an hour or so of trying this and trying that the levellers were raised manually and it was discovered that they had tripped out a fuse. The conclusion was that because the pitch was slopping and we still had the tow bar and car attached the system didn't like the weight and decided to close down. Larry was determined to solve the problem and he had come through and saved the day. Following this success we also managed to sort out the bank and the visa cards now worked. Tony already felt as if he had been given two birthday presents but we sat outside in the sunshine with tea and coffee whilst Tony opened his birthday presents for real. John had bought him a nice hand made tan leather belt, and from me a Palo Duro tee shirt. Next we went into Santa Fe to see the sites. The city sits at 7000 feet and was founded in 1607 and for years trails from across the country ended here. We entered the town along the Old Santa Fe Trail, there is no high rise here, most of the town is built in Pueblo style which features earth coloured stucco walls with an Adobe like appearance. Even a three story car park had stucco walls. Our first stop was the Loretto Chapel with its famous carved staircase that seems to hang from the church loft.
We then moved to The Plaza a square at the centre of the town where there are dozens of Native American artisans selling their turquoise and silver under a covered walkway at the side of the Palace of the Governors. The Plaza has a range of shops selling good quality gifts, jewellery, clothing, pottery all in old style buildings.
There was a range of small restaurants some with rooftop areas or outside balconies overlooking the square. Our choice was the Plaza Cafe which had been in The Plaza since the early 1900's and was another find from the Roadfood book. I had spicy fish and chips, the spicy bit being halopeano tartare sauce. The town is also known for it's artists, galleries and museums. Our last visit of the day was to St Francis Cathedral but being Good Friday there was a service taking place, therefore we couldn't walk around. Santa Fe does have the feel of a rather unique place with the influence of it's mix of cultures and historic architecture.