Thursday, May 16th
A hundred and eighty odd miles from Moab, UT to Farmington, NM yesterday. We rolled into town kinda late and after we’d checked in to our hotel, showered and gotten sorted out it was already 9:00 pm. So we ended up at the local Outback Steak House for dinner which, as it turns out, is sort of locally famous for good food and service. Go figure. Once we were seated, the waiter came over, sighed, explained that he’d been on his feet for several hours, and…sat down at our table to take our order. Not kidding. I fell in love with the kid immediately.
We took advantage of the unexpected face-to-face to interview him briefly. He’s enrolled in local community college studying speech pathology and about to transfer to a bigger school in Texas. We learned from him that the main (only) industry in town was oil, and that most kids he knew went straight to work in the drilling fields out of High School. We asked him to join us for dinner but he wisely refused. And he turned out to be a great waiter. Prompt, attentive, polite, organized. And our 10 oz. T-Bones were excellent. Thank you, Yelp.
I have to say we’re both taking advantage of remarkably reliable cell service to use our smart devices (iPhones and my iPad) for pretty much everything. At the advice of my friend James Birmingham, we’ve been using Tripadvisor to identify good, cheap local lodging which I then book directly through the selected hotels’ web sites. Bill is using Yelp to pre-screen local eateries. Google maps can be frustrating sometimes but it’s mostly getting us where we want to go. I downloaded a free altimeter application to track our vertical and it seems to be pretty accurate based on comparisons with occasional signage on the ground. The weather app reminds us that, from now on anyway, it’s probably not going to rain. We’ve downloaded some great podcasts and Bill has a knack for buying music to suit the landscape. Chet Atkins, in particular, has been a revelation. To quote Patrick O’Brian’s “Lucky” Jack Aubrey: what a marvelous modern age we live in.
Woke up this morning to 5:30 on the hotel alarm clock and…immediately rolled over and went back to sleep. Woke up an hour later to find Bill gone and also that said hotel clock was one hundred and five minutes slow. Hmm. Threw on some pants and wandered out to the lobby for some coffee. Nada. When it dawned on me that Bill had probably taken the car to explore, panic set in until I realized there was a McDonalds next door. Never happier to be an American than in that moment, I’m ashamed to say.
The McDonald’s experience in Farmington, NM was unique. There was a long line at the drive through and a patient queue at the single register inside. I was the only visible non-Native American on the premises – employees and customers combined. I realized only then that I’d put on the filthy pants I hiked Arches in yesterday, still had on the shirt I’d worn to bed and was sporting some world class bed head. And I haven’t shaved since we left Connecticut. Oy. So, super self conscious all of a sudden. But I’m an addict so…coffee.
At the counter, a very short woman took and filled orders in the exact sequence we presented to her. I was about sixth in line. So even though I only ordered a coffee, I didn’t get mine until everybody in front of me got theirs, including one girl who ordered a whole carload of food for folks waiting outside. Suddenly I was transported to England where they invented fair play. And I was actually charmed and genuinely happy to wait, except I had the shakes by the time my order came up. And it would’ve been nice if I hadn’t looked like I’d spent the night under a bridge.
After oversleeping this morning, I took a mulligan on the daily exercise pledge; nothing breeds failure like…failure. Bill turned up eventually, we showered, packed and checekd out right at the 11:00am deadline. Then we drove about a mile down the main drag and straight into a Jiffy Lube. I’m not a religious person at all but I had to pray on this one. Changing the oil in a rental car is like cleaning your hotel room before you check out. It might qualify as stupid and it is definitely counter-intuitive. But this particular vehicle (more from Bill later) tells you when it’s time to change it’s oil. Every time you start it up. Nag, nag, nag. We’ve gone well over three thousand miles already on this trip and who knows when the oil was changed before we were handed the keys. So no doubt it was due. You’re welcome, Enterprise.
After the oil change we found a great little diner and fueled up for our drive. West back through Shiprock, NM, then South to Gallup where we picked up I-40 West for our overnight in Flagstaff, AZ. Most of our New Mexico mileage was inside the Navajo Reservation and it was really bleak. Dusty, deadly dry and only very occasionally populated by tiny shacks and trailers. There was some evidence of ranching but what other commerce goes on there was hard to discern. When we stopped for coffee I was dying to make some polite inquiries but I just couldn’t figure out how to pose the questions properly. What the hell do you people do out here for God’s sake? I’ll Google it instead I guess.
Tonight, dinner and maybe a prophylactic trip to a laundromat. Tomorrow, the Grand Canyon. Bring it.
Random notes from today: 314 miles from Farmington, NM to our hotel in Flagstaff, AZ today. We may or may not have stopped at Knife City in Sun Valley, AZ where Bill may or may not have advised me not to purchase a switchblade and where I may or may not have heeded his advice. Whether or not that happened, we could use a chaperone about now. We hopped off I-40 just East of Flagstaff and took an extant section of old Rte 66 into town. Just to say we did it. Cool. As soon as we got on Rte 66 there were immediately pine trees all around us. Surprisingly cool here this evening. Sweatshirt weather. And not a cloud in the sky.