The next morning leaving Coronado City Park was a bit of a challenge because we needed to hop onto Hwy 550 which would eventually lead us to Hwy 85, then south on I-25. In order to do that we had to make a u-turn shortly after we left the campground. Usually that wouldn’t be a problem but NM has weird turns off on the main road – they are curved and narrow so no way we could do that in the coach. Instead we had to drive down the road a bit, then we took a right into a road leading to a nearby casino. Smart move – that road looped around bringing us to a stoplight at the main road. Whew, problem solved!
Interstates tend to be a little boring but every now and then, something sparks our interest.Nope, we didn’t see any celebrities but we did see their trucks! A Jason Aldean truck on our way to our previous destination in Bernallilo, NM and a Keith Urban “World of Now Tour” truck on our way to Gallup, NM.
Traveling in the west, we see a lot of wind farms but this was a first – a train carrying a large quantity of huge wind turbine blades as well as smaller ones. Jeesh, those things are enormous. But after all that excitement, our attention once again was drawn back to nature when majestic red rocks once again dotted the landscape!
We arrived at our next destination, USA RV Park in Gallup, around 2:30 p.m. for our two night stay. Nice registration office with a gift shop where we were assigned to site #40. Park was well maintained and clean. Our only complaint was that the sites are set up so each coach parks in the opposite direction, not a setup we particularly like. Luckily during our stay we didn’t have anyone next to us.
The next day, we headed out to do some sightseeing using the app “Visit Gallup” on our phones. Lot to see! We drove out to Red Rock Park, a 640-acre park featuring red sandstone cliffs formed 205 million years ago.
The park has a lot to offer including two hiking trails, a rodeo arena, convention center, museum, and two well-equipped campgrounds with water and electric hookups. Note these campgrounds are not really geared for big rigs. Plus the entire campground and surrounding area is nothing but red dirt so it must be awfully muddy when it rains.
By this time, we were hungry, time for lunch. The historic El Rancho Hotel was the western home base and playground for Tinseltown glamour. Built by R.E. “Griff” Griffith, the brother of film director D.W. Griffith, the brothers encouraged early film production in the surrounding area. During the 1930s and 1940s, more than 100 westerns were filmed around Gallup. Some of Hollywood’s biggest movie makers and movie stars including Robert Mitchum, Elia Kazan, Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, Melvyn Douglas, William Holden, Billy Wilder, Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck, Ward Bond, Lon Chaney, Jr., Jose Ferrer, Kim Hunter, Troy Donahue, Suzanna Pleshette and many more were frequent visitors for the hotel since it opened in 1942. It has a fascinating backstory! Above the entrance, their signature tagline of “charm of yesterday … convenience of tomorrow” is proclaimed in glowing neon.
What a gorgeous interior! A spectacular walk-in fireplace made of brick and random ashlar stone surrounded by twin stairways made of split logs leading up to the second floor guest rooms is the featured centerpiece of the lobby.
The appeal of westerns waned in the 1960’s and the hotel fell into disrepair. After being purchased in 1986 by a well known Indian trader in the area, Armand Ortega, the hotel was restored to its former glory. It reopened in 1988 and soon after was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
For lunch we made our way to the Silver Screen dining room.
I had the W. C. Fields Burger ($14.95, a half pound Angus Burger New Mexican Green Chile cheeseburger) served with fries and Rob had the Barbacoa Brisket Sandwich ($14.95 sliced house smoked Brisket, Asadero Cheese, Chile Piquin, Onion Rings on a Hoagie Roll). Both were very good. Think it is more of the history of the place that is the attraction, not necessarily the food.
There’s also the 49er Lounge where legend has it that John Wayne once rode a horse into the bar and ordered a beer — for both him and his horse.
Leaving the hotel, we drove to People’s Park to see the sculptures, Muffler Man, and other attractions. Lots of murals everywhere throughout this very cute town.
Thinking that there would be a lot of the old style neon lights, the night before we left, we drove back into town. Except for El Rancho, there wasn’t much to see so that was a little disappointing. When we were in Shamrock, the woman at the Visitor Center had told us that neon was pretty expensive to use these days and they didn’t last very long so maybe that’s why.
Here’s our photo album of our visit….
It was fun exploring this historic town that we had passed through so many times. Our next stop was another favorite of ours! Stay tuned….