WINDY AND BUSY! That’s the only two words to describe New Mexico on the western side. Thank goodness this state has preserved a good bit of the original road, and we’re able to abandon I-40 and get away from all the semis. Truckers don’t seem to appreciate motor homes very much, and they’re not shy about crowding the right lane when they pass. Couple that with the stiff wind that often blows across the valleys, and I’m relieved when we drive onto old Route 66 (NMRT 333). Most of the way, we simply drive parallel to I-40, but hardly meet another oncoming vehicle. For many of the miles, this “Road of the Common Man” drives as well or better than the freeway.
Gallup is the first city of any size we come to. We could have chosen to drive the “Neon Route” downtown, but since it’s daytime, we opt to visit the famous Route 66 Hotel, El Rancho. Good – no, GREAT choice!
During the 1930 – 1960s decades, Hollywood stimulated a great interest in the Old West. Just about any star who was “somebody” filmed at least one Western movie, and dozens of stars stayed here while they did the shoot. Today, it’s a destination, not only for its beautiful historical ambiance and authentic rooms, but because of its location in the heart of Native American country and its proximity to natural and Native American monuments. Stay at this hotel and take day trips aroung Route 66 to magnificent Monument Valley; the Navajo Reservation; the Pueblo of Zuni; the Sky City of Acoma or the Hopi Mesas. If you prefer ancient ruins, explore Canyon de Chelly (pronounced de SHAY), Chaco Canyon, or Mesa Verde.
It’s a very rare business that would build or even maintain a lobby like this with its two staircases that rise above the lobby in a graceful half-circle, half-log steps and stone side walls. Built by movie magnate D.W. Griffith’s brother and now owned by Armand Ortega, the hotel also preserves nearly all their original furnishings and details. This entrance reminds me of Tevya’s song from Fiddler on the Roof. Tevya wanted to be so rich, “There would be one long staircase just going up…And one even longer coming down!”
Staff here are exceptionally friendly and invite visitors to meander up and circle the mezzanine to scrutinize all the star’s pictures. They’re grouped by films they performed in, and I’m guessing there are close to 100 films. El Rancho played host to such notables as Ronald Reagan, Jane Wyman, John Wayne, Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, Kirk Douglas, Lucile Ball and Desi Arnaz, Jackie Cooper, Howard Hughes, Gene Autry, Lee Marvin – and the list goes on and on. It’s a Who’s Who of Hollywood in its Golden Age.
While upstairs, I go into the hallway beyond and find several doors open, so I sneak a peak into some of the accommodations as they are being cleaned. Rooms are realistic to the time period, but not luxurious; clean, basic, and comfortable, but small when compared to a modern motel. All of them are named for the star who actually stayed there. Humphrey Bogart had a single room, but Spencer Tracy’s was a double with two beds.
Does anyone polish or shine their shoes anymore? You can get yours done here.
There’s a fabulous collection of authentic Navajo Rugs, turquoise and silver jewelry, and pottery
in the gift shop for purchase.
“Old West” is serious business at El Rancho. Furnishings are original and timeless.
Steaks and Mexican food reign supreme at El Rancho!