The Route 66 journey has hit high gear as my dad and I cruise into New Mexico. After crossing the midpoint in Adrian, Texas it’s getting hotter, weirder and better with every roadside relic. We woke up to a hot and hazy Albuquerque morning and decided to spend a little time in this interesting city before putting the Mustang westward again.
No better way to start a Route 66 day than with a artery busting mexican breakfast. Juanita’s is reputed to have some of the best tacos in Albuquerque and it didn’t disappoint. I am so addicted to coffee that I insisted on drinking it while also eating their super hot salsa.
After breakfast we headed over to Old Town, the heart of historic Albuquerque. There are scores of restored old buildings, shops, and restaurants. It’s tourist central. The standout landmark is the San Felipe de Neri Church, built in 1793.
You can’t swing a dead armadillo in Old Town without hitting a gift shop selling Breaking Bad t-shirts. I’ve seen every episode. And all of a sudden, I had an idea.
Fans of Breaking Bad will know exactly where I’m standing in this picture. There was no pizza on the roof, nor was Skyler’s Jeep Wagoneer in the driveway, but I still felt like I was getting a contact high. I wasn’t the only one either. In the approximately three minutes we were there, another car pulled up to snap pictures.
In reality, there’s only one good way to get really high in Albuquerque, and it was my dad’s idea. The Sandia Peak tramway is the longest arial tramride in the world, carrying amusingly terrified passengers from a base elevation of about 6,000 to over 10,000 feet in about 15 minutes.
These people are all wondering if they are about to die. The Swiss-built tram would swing and dip when it went over the major towers. People screamed.
A little hazy that day, but the view was still totally amazing up there. A bonus of extreme elevation is that one beer feels like two.
My dad has never seen Breaking Bad, so I wouldn’t expect him to understand why I was so pumped that we saw the house. But someone on the tram was also a fan and told me that Bryan Cranston (Walter White) considered the restaurant at the top of the peak to be his favorite in town. Cool.
We could have stayed in Albuquerque all day but soon we realized the day was slipping away. We had to jump in the Mustang and make some miles. In New Mexico some of Route 66 is really just I-40, but the views are great.
There are plenty of opportunities to pull off though and grab some gears on the old road, however. We went exploring and wound our way through amazing landscapes in the Native American communities of Laguna and Cubero.
“Hey man, why don’t you take my picture?” Sure. We were just outside Grants, New Mexico.
Ahhhhhhhh! That sky!
Sometimes the old Route 66 runs right next to I-40. The speed limit is lower and sometimes the road surface is dodgy, but it’s great to be able to just stop or pull off nearly anywhere to grab photos at at any moment. The weather was disgustingly perfect and we were enjoying the crap out of this windows-down evening cruise.
Here’s another Route 66 legend: the El Rancho Hotel in Gallup. This place hosted every single pre-1950 movie star you’ve ever heard of and then 7,400 more you haven’t.
The lobby of the El Rancho is even more fun than the huge neon sign outside. The player piano bangs away and you could spend hours just poring over all the history on the walls.
We almost spent too long loafing around in the El Rancho however. We still needed to eat, and just about the only place left in town that was still serving was Sammy C’s “Rock N'” sports bar.
I wasn’t expecting much from the outside of Sammy C’s. But it turns out it’s the most insane sports bar I’ve ever seen. It’s more or less a memorabilia museum with a huge bar and restaurant shoved into it. We ate our burgers under Muhammad Ali’s robe. It’s great when you’re on the road and you just find yourself somewhere you would have never planned and it turns out to be great.
Tons more to come as we get closer to California. Stay tuned.