Our daughter was getting married in Colorado. We had been planning for weeks. Like all men, Jim has a special interest in the nostalgia of Route 66. We had decided to drive. The drive was only 11 hours. By the time we arrived at the airport and waited for the plane, changed planes somewhere, landed in Denver and drove up to our destination in the mountains, we decided we might as well drive. This along with the fact that the last time I flew into Denver and drove to a ski destination I had altitude sickness for 3 days.
Another reason is that we were already planning a trip out to New Mexico and Colorado in the summer to take the Durango / Silverton Train, now owned by the same people who run the “NEW” OLD TUCSON. I am not exactly sure what trains have to do with old movies, but when we finally get to Old Tucson this year, I am sure we will find out.
We had not been out of town for this period of time for years, so I planned it in the least amount of days we could, thinking that although we could make it in one day, two days would be relaxed. HA! Not. Here was the schedule.
Day1. Leave late. Arrive at Gallup, NM at the historic El Rancho Hotel.
Day2. Mesa Verde and Durango
Day3. Train to Silverton and back to Durango
Day 4 & 5. Somewhere in the Colorado Mountains for the wedding.
Day 6. Farmington, NM and the Aztec Ruins.
Day 7. Winslow and Historic La Posada Inn
Day 8. Home Sweet Home.
Sounds short and sweet eh?
So Day 1, we had no plans except to arrive at the hotel check in, and have some dinner. I am not sure what happened except that Jim had arranged an after-the-pandemic haircut to make sure that the Father of the Bride would be presentable. What was $30 before COVID was now $60! What? This man is practically bald anyway. Okay, whatever, moving on. Suffice it to say we got a late start.
We arrived at the El Ranco Hotel in Gallup, NM. We had stayed there some years ago and enjoyed its rustic, Western history. Movie stars such as Ronald Reagan, John Wayne, and Gary Cooper stayed here while making movies in the area. Several dozen framed pictures of movie stars adorn the 2nd-floor hallways. The Parking lot was full, it was a quite popular place.
But on our recent trip, I had asked for an ADA room. What we got was a room the size of a closet. The bathroom was so small, there was barely standing room between the toilet and the sink. Karen had to lug our luggage in through double doors that could not be kept open. She was a bit annoyed to say the least. What ever happened to Bellhops anyway?
When we walked in, it was freezing cold. We tried to adjust the thermostat but to no avail. Karen went to the front desk to ask about how we could warm up our room. She was told that the temperature is set for all rooms centrally and therefore nothing could be done. We left. Went to the Hilton Garden Inn down the street.
The Hilton was a very modern hotel with large, comfortable rooms and a walk-in shower with a seat for Jim. And the ability to regulate the room temperature. Although it was twice as expensive as the El Rancho, with none of the historical elements, the Hilton was delightful. It even had a good restaurant which we enjoyed for dinner and breakfast the next morning.
The next day, we drove to Durango and stayed in a Residence Inn near the center of town. We shared a two-bedroom suite with our son-in-law, Tim, who joined us there. On the way to Durango, we had a couple of hours to do a side trip to the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde. The is/was a huge housing project a thousand years ago and the ruins attest to these early Native American’s building skills… as well as their general survival skills. Amazing architecture. If you have not visited Mesa Verde, we heartily recommend you take the time to go there. The Visitor Center and the Museums are all worthwhile and explain the life of these ancient people who lived, worked, and thrived here for some 700 years, then in the late 1200’s, they abandoned this sacred place.
That evening we had a lovely dinner with Jim’s cousin Kay who is now 88 years of age. She was only a teenager when a young Jim spent a couple of summers at her parent’s home in Stockton, CA. in the 1950’s. There were many years to catch up on and the reminiscences were lively.
The next day, we hopped on the Durango to Silverton historic narrow-gauge train for a 3-and-a-half-hour ride that followed the Animus River. What a great recreational river most times of the year. At this time the river was raging. We saw few if any kayakers. In fact, the river was flowing at about the same speed as the train.
Getting Jim’s electric scooter on and off the train was a non-issue. In this regard, the conductors were very helpful. But the scooter was essential if Jim was going to be able to enjoy sightseeing in the historic mining town of Silverton, CO. For those that wish an ADA wheelchair-accessible car, there is one of these as well.
The train ride itself was interesting, despite the hurky-jurkiness of the rails which made walking up and down the aisle challenging. They had a bar with some food and drinks, including cocktails. Ms. Karen got a bloody Mary and Jim got a margarita. Very tasty.
Arriving in Silverton, we disembarked the train and headed for a nearby local restaurant. By this time we were really hungry. Karen ordered German Bread Pudding with a scoop of ice cream. Tim ordered an Italian sub and Jim ordered an open-face roast beef sandwich with gravy and mashed potatoes. The food was good and the portions were large.
The train ride back to Durango was somewhat dull, and we spent our time reading the many books and pamphlets we had accumulated. If we have a suggestion for the train people, it would be to add a bit of entertainment on this journey, at least a banjo player, and some narration about what we were seeing along the route. An interesting aside, this is the same group that recently acquired Old Tucson, American Heritage Railways. More about that after we revisit Old Tucson.
Despite that the trip back was uneventful, the scenery was gorgeous, with high cliffs, forest, and of course, the Animus River with snow on the upper peaks.
Part II Here of our trip is here: The wedding and return trip to Tucson via Farmington and Winslow.
In the future, we will share more about portions of this trip separately.