"The New Mexican Eating Trip"
Day Five, Friday – Disappointment in Gallup = Fast Food in Flagstaff...:

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The Route of Day Five

Friday morning saw us once again in the car, this time heading west out of Albuquerque on the 40. It was a beautiful day, if still a little on the cool side. Winds blew clouds from west to east as they fought with blue for the sky. Flowers bloomed on alongside the road - and even the few miles of construction we hit a few miles outside Alburquerque didn't really slow us down all that much.
A pretty day in New Mexico
CloudsRain Flurries

We were being set up.

As we drove along, considering places we might visit on future trips ("Ice Caves, what's that?") and watching the occasional rain storms off in the distance (and, even more occasionally, on us), I planned out the last "eating" in New Mexico we'd do for the "New Mexican Eating Trip": The Ranch Kitchen in Gallup.

We discovered this place in 2002 on the "Thattaway" roadtrip and thought it was quite good. Well, we were going to be through Gallup at about lunch time (and hadn't actually had breakfast), so it seem the perfect place for a stop.

We got off the 40 a bit early in Gallup (basically, at the east end of town - the Ranch Kitchen is at the west) and drove Route 66 until we got there. Buildings thin out dramatically in Gallup as you head west, so as we approached our destination, things around us were pretty empty...

...which allowed us to see the snow now blowing across the road quite easily.

Oh, we didn't recognize it as snow at first (hey, we're from Pasadena - snow's that white stuff they put on mountains), but it became pretty obvious that "hail" didn't work as a descriptive. It wasn't falling hard, but it was falling. I got a little worried. I have effectively zero experience driving in snow (Pasadena, remember?) and while I've always brought snow-chains "just in case" on these road trips, "just in case" has never actually come up and the case they're in still has the same zip-tie seals it had on it when I bought them ten years ago...

...the case is also a bit dusty.

Anywho, this wasn't something I could really do anything about and it had snowed on us last time we were in Gallup without any problems (of course, that was overnight - and it was gone by an hour after sunrise...), so we continued on.

Snowing? Then, we reached the Ranch Kitchen - and a big disappointment cropped up. It was closed. Not just "not open for the day" closed, but judging by the signs we saw, closed as in "out of business, for sale" closed (ironically, their website was still up until at least May of 2005 - even more ironically they now seem to have reopened, closed again, and now may be a Chinese place!).

Now we were at a bit of a loss. First of all, we had been definitely "up" for Ranch Kitchen food and, secondly, we were by now quite hungry (as mentioned, no breakfast). Oh! And it was still snowing.

Fortunately, our getting off the Interstate early now showed a benefit. We'd passed a few places that looked interesting on our way in, so turned around and headed for the Dine Grill which was ironically right back within a block of where we got off the freeway.

Dine Grill (and John's Meat Market - it's a duel-use place...;)) turned out to be, well, definitely not bad, but not as good as Ranch Kitchen had been - at least, with what we had (lamb stew and "Navajo" taco and - of course - fry bread). It's certainly a place worth eating at when you're in town, it just wasn't a place worth driving all the way to town to get to.

As we ate, it continued to snow. It was basically just barely cold enough for it, so it could drift a little. But not much piled up and the road stayed more or less clear - if wet. This alleviated some of my worries.

Worries came back online, though, when we had to actually brush snow off the windshield upon leaving the restaurant in order to see, but I just adjusted my belt and off we went.
And more Snow!

It continued to snow on us - occasionally quite a lot - as we headed west into Arizona. Fortunately, the snow continued to melt almost as fast as it fell. About ten minutes past the border, the snowing stopped. Then, ten minutes after that and what had been a white blanket reduced to a few white patches here and there.
Which quickly melts...

We were passing the ever-present "Indian Trading Posts" that line the 40 (as they lined the Route 66 it replaced) and eventually saw one listed as "Chee's Trading Post." Well, we couldn't pass that one up - "Jim Chee" is a character in the Hillerman mysteries we both like - so with that bizarre reasoning, we pulled off.

Actually quite a nice little "trading post" and we spent almost an hour there, checking out the touristy knick-knacks and petrified wood and books - even bought a few things. Eventually, though, we had to get back on the road. Flagstaff was still many miles away and the afternoon was wearing thin.

And, while we'd been inside, it started snowing on us again!
Dee Dee checks out a hogan at Chee's

Once back on the road, it stopped again, however, just as quickly. We kept passing through bands of snow and rain all the rest of the way until we nearly reached Flagstaff and began to hunt for our hotel.

Wasn't too hard of a hunt - as the freeway we were on at the time (the 17) actually drops you off right on Milton, which is where our motel was. Pulling up we discovered that the San Francisco Peaks behind Flagstaff were pure white from top to bottom and even our hotel still had some "flocking" on the pines out front. And it was starting to get really cold.

Cold enough that we weren't interested in any sort of searching around for a place to eat - or getting out of the car once we got there - and instead just pulled through the drive-through of a Wendy's we'd passed on our way to the motel. It was...unimpressive. They were slow, the food was cold (even factoring in the fact that it probably cooled ten degrees just going from the drive-through window to the car - it got down to twenty that night) and it seemed..."eh" after all the good food we'd been having...

...but then, it would be hard for it not to have been, wouldn't it?

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