The Historic El Rancho Hotel
The first night of our “Most Excellent Adventure” was to make it to Gallup, NM, and to stay at the Historic El Rancho Hotel. Jim had made reservations for an ADA-accessible room in this ancient hotel which had hosted stars of old westerns from way back when movies were black and white.
When we arrived the parking lot was full. I dropped Jim off and went to find a spot. I found one around the side, a short walk without luggage. When I got to the desk, the manager was not there. A sign said, “Be right Back”. The Security guard said that he went to the second floor to close the door of the ancient elevator so it could function again. Not sure how long that takes but 20 minutes later, he arrived. He looked up our reservations, took our credit card.. and nothing. He said he would figure it out in the morning. So we headed off to our ADA room.
I moved the car back to the front, grabbed a large luggage cart and proceeded to unpack our more than ample amount of luggage. Note to self: Rethink packing next time. This amount of stuff would never fit on a plane, which was one of the reasons for driving. Once unpacked, I left the car to struggle with the double doors which were closed. Whatever happened to valets and bellhops? Thankfully, someone took pity on me and opened the doors. I could see that this place was not going to be even 3-stars. No matter, there were still plenty of guests. The more you can save on amenities, the more you make. There is a limit to “historic” and “authentic” however. More about this when we reach La Posada.
Of course, like every other “Historic Hotel” every room had a name. I think ours was “No Way, Jose”. It was the size of a shoe box and as cold as a refrigerator. When I inquired as to where the heat was, I was told that it had been a warm day and the Air conditioner was on. Apparently, the Central Air unit was either heated or cool throughout the building. Oh. boy, that was the last straw. We declined our historic adventure at the El Rancho and moved to a Garden Hilton with a modern ADA-accessible room and twice the price. But we were tired and happy to be comfortable. What we had nostalgically recalled about our previous stay at the El Rancho Hotel no longer fit our needs. Just a small warning. The El Rancho is great if you still like camping out. I think they call it “Glamping” but in a historic hotel, just as it was when it was built, literally.
Onward to Mesa Verde
Leaving Gallup NM, it would take approximately 3 hours to Mesa Verde leaving us 2 hours to see everything there is to see at Mesa Verde National Park before heading to Durango CO to take a nap before dinner. Durango is only 1/2 hour from Mesa Verde making it quite convenient as we were going to hop on the Durango to Silverton Train the next day. Another post on that is to come. Thunderstorms were forming and the weather looked iffy.
We arrived at the Mesa Verde Visitors Center just about lunchtime and the weather was holding. A potty break and a quick overview of the visitors center gave us the information that we needed. The Mesa Verde Ruins were located at the top of the mesa, some 23 miles away. Half of the way were switchbacks to the top of the mesa and then smooth sailing to the sites.
The road that we had wanted to take, Mesa Verde Top Road, was closed due to road repair. We believe this would have given us a view across the canyon of the Cliff Palace. Instead we headed down the open road to the end where the Cliff Palace sat in the wall below us. We had been told there were picnic tables with a view of the ruins. The Ranger must have been thinking of a different Cliff Palace or perhaps the road not taken. Nonetheless, the weather was holding so we lugged our picnic lunch up a short way to the tables, had our usual cheese, cracker, and summer sausage lunch with wine.
After lunch, we packed up and headed down the trail as far as we could go before we ran into stairs that Zippy, Jim’s electric scooter, could not navigate. So, I was able to head down a bit further to get a glimpse of the Cliff Palace and manage a shot for him. After all, that is what we came for. I still recall vividly, hiking to the Cliff Palace with my dad at about the age of 16. What an amazing place. I wish we could have gotten closer. Perhaps a tram like the one they want to put up at Machu Pichu would do it. :-)
After taking a quick pic, and headed to catch up with Jim, we headed back to the car and got there just as it started to rain. We thought we might try the smaller ruins back where we came from. Spruce House was situated on the other side of the canyon, so we thought we might get a better view. There was a small museum there as well. The rain had stopped just as we decided it was never going to stop and we proceeded to the viewing area with our binoculars. The Views from across the canyon were great. Thus, we were able to declare our visit to Mesa Verde a success and headed on to Durango to continue on to our next adventure.
Next up: The Train from Durango to Silverton