From There to Here, But Mostly La Posada

The last hamster woke from the dream. A week later the movers came. Three days after that, 1-800-Got-Junk took away the oak sleigh bed I couldn't give away. The next morning, following a hard night on carpet and on me, I set sail in my unsold 2001 Ford Focus hatchback for the asphalt waves of I-40.

Eight years, two weeks, two days in Las Vegas.

(If you've landed here in search of information about La Posada, you may want to jump ahead for slightly - only slightly - less rambling.)

I made myself pull over to see the once-mighty tourist trap of Santa Claus, Arizona.

Santa Claus, AZ

I don't like stopping on road trips; I feel like I'll lose the momentum of safe travels, and the car suddenly won't start or a tire will be punctured for my folly. Never mind that I had no schedule to follow, empty credit cards, a fully charged cell phone, and the kind of AAA membership that tows you for 100 miles - I couldn't bring myself to explore. Besides, I really did want to reach La Posada before it was too dark to appreciate the winter gardens.

I'd stumbled upon La Posada when looking for pet-friendly hotels, ideally ones with a bit of character. That was when I'd envisioned having to tote one or two or maybe even four hammies across the country.  I really wanted to stay at the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, but you can't see availability online, and I didn't want to be tied down with reservations.

So, I kept looking, and then I found the rejuvenated Fred Harvey railroad hotel that is La Posada in Winslow. After that, I didn't want to stay anywhere else.

The ride was expected to be about four-and-a-half hours. I'd crossed into Arizona without excitement: the new bridge that put an end to driving over Hoover Dam also prevents drivers from seeing any scenery (as it probably should, at that height).

The sky was bleakly grey, keeping me from any photo temptations in Kingman where I stopped for gas.

Just a winter sky. I didn't think much of it.

And so, as I said later to Mike, it was all rather nifty when I started seeing snow alongside the road. Snow! Other than one day in Vegas and one afternoon in the El Cajon Pass, I hadn't seen snow since the Christmas Eve Miracle back in south Texas almost a decade before. I've always loved snow.


(I debated posting that photo because I didn't want to get into a big, defensive explanation of my method for taking the rare picture without taking my eyes off the road. Believe me or don't, and feel free to perhaps fairly judge me for taking one hand off the wheel, although maybe not if you've ever reached for the radio dial or adjusted the seat belt while driving.)

(And yeah, I know it's sideways.)

In Williams, right around where you exit for the Grand Canyon, the snow started flurrying across the windscreen. By this point I'd been slowed down behind a truck in the right-hand lane, trying not to stray out of the grooves worn into the frozen muck and slush.

Still, best not to do this.

(Okay, we're going to start pretending that sideways is a feature. Why are the pics that auto-rotate elsewhere no longer auto-rotating here? I don't know. I'm lazier than I am sorry, sorry.)

Soon the left lane became a snowy extension of the shoulder - at first avoided by all, then shredded into our faces by the wheels of the brave (or impatient).

An extra hour passed.

The first time I started spinning out (and in those forever seconds, began to see not my life pass before me, but an endless future of keeping the car from going off the left side of the road, the right side, the left side...), it took a lot longer that I'd like to admit to remember to TAP TAP TAP the brakes.

The second time I was ready and thus avoided the perpendicular pendulum of earlier, but one thing was clear: I needed to get off the road. Visibility was shot and controlling the car was tense and arduous.

Luckily - and I say that sincerely with hand to chest - the first exit to Flagstaff was less than a mile away.

No part of me was moaning inside for being a mere sixty miles from La Posada. That came later, when I was cozy at the Woodlands Radisson, wondering whether I was just a huge wuss. Sure, I'd grown up in Michigan and had seen a lot worse, but let's face it - we'd moved right after I got my learner's permit.

Within moments of exiting I-40, though, I had to wonder if I'd made a big mistake. I'd just traded a dangerous highway for... well... a lot of white.

Where was the road?

As I told it to social media later, I just shrugged and tried to keep the car between the trees. Surely a road was underneath somewhere.

Not just any road, either, as I'd realize after crawling along to turn in at what appeared to be a hotel and managing to grind through the snow to join the car-like white lumps, but the Mother Road. Yes, I was on Route 66... and staying at a Radisson. Don't tell anyone.

All I'm going to say about the hotel are two things (until I feel like Yelping, anyway):

1. The people were extremely friendly. They didn't answer the phone for room service (after I tried getting delivery everywhere else), but they were very friendly.

2. Vegetarians who don't care for Japanese fare are bizarrely out of luck. The hotel has two restaurants - one with a range of American fare, and another that's like a Benihana. There is one vegetarian dish on the regular restaurant menu, and it's a Japanese noodle dish with "seasonal vegetables." (AKA "broccoli and carrots." I asked.)

No outside restaurants could deliver food because of the snowstorm. (Ha! Not a wuss after all!) The following day was already declared to be a snow day for schools. Oh mercy, I thought. Please don't trap me in the otherwise-cool Flagstaff in the one hotel where I can't get a cheese fix.

Eventually I went down to the lobby and talked the (very nice) restaurant guy into giving me a cheeseburger without the meat. "So... like... a grilled cheese?" "Yes. A grilled cheese would be great!" "Okay. We can do that. I had a grilled cheese for lunch."

Short version: I got a sad bun with nuked Swiss stuck to it. It was so gross. Luckily I also talked them into giving me sides from two other dishes - coleslaw and bleu cheese mashed potatoes. The latter was decent. I ate all of the above while watching Knight and Day, and I fervently hoped that the roads would be good enough to get out of Flagstaff the next morning. All I needed was one hour. I was supposed to be dining in La Posada's Turquoise Room, darnit!

Oh, that cheese bun was sad. So, so sad. A special seven-dollar sadness.

I didn't take any photos of the snow that day because it was dark by the time I was settled (and had called Dad to bark laughter at his email that morning about all the good weather for the drive). The next morning (by which I mean noon, because Mike doesn't get home from work until after 2 a.m. my time), I forgot to snap photos but did do a shaky clip before hopping into the car.

(Pitiful, yes. Excuses: cold, eager to travel, history of not taking 20 extra seconds to do something right when not emotionally invested.)

During my sequestration I'd learned all about and - live highway traffic maps from Arizona (including webcams) and New Mexico, respectively. The Arizona highway was in good shape (as was Flagstaff - blue skies and plowed streets), but around Gallup waited 36 miles of bad driving, ranked just one level below the previous night's report of "don't do it unless you really have to."

Oh, well, gee, I guess I'd just have to spend a night at La Posada after all. Sure, it's not even halfway to the New Mexico border, but... yeah. Good plan!

I wish I'd taken more photos the last time I was on this stretch of I-40 (either 1990 or 1993), because I'd love to remember how things had changed. Did I even see the Twin Arrows last time? (And how can I complain when I didn't stop to take photos this time, either?)

One place I almost sort of kind of maybe remember, possibly, is the dome at the side of the road in Meteor City. (I did stop at Meteor Crater 23 years ago.)

Meteor City - Gift Shop

Very soon I was exiting into Winslow, having noted that no ads for La Posada joined the billboards encouraging me to fill the trunk with kachina dolls and 2/$12 Navajo blankets.

Winslow was not looking her prettiest on this bleak-y day. I mean, really not. The town was once poised to be the hub of northern Arizona, where the planes all stopped over, where a highway had to be divided for the first time in Arizona's history because of all the traffic, where Fred Harvey built a beautiful hotel serving consistently good food to accommodate the rush of train passengers as he changed America's leisure travel scene and expectations, where I had no idea about any of this as I sat - debating - in the La Posada parking lot... the grim look of the place under the February sky made me feel like I might as well try to get a little closer to the New Mexico border before tucking in for the night.

La Posada - Driving In

I mean, it was probably a nice hotel, but perhaps not really a destination unless you were stopping somewhere around there anyway. And besides, I'd already seen the famous corner.

Winslow - The Corner (Closer)

(A little less appealing when zoomed out.)

Winslow - The Corner

Obligatory clip for the Eagles-impaired (cued up to the second verse and everything, because that's just the level of service you can count on here, sometimes):

I wondered to myself if maybe I should call the Wigwam Motel and see if they had anything for the night. At least I'd be 30 minutes closer to Texas, eh? It wasn't even that Winslow wasn't exciting enough for me (it was) or La Posada wasn't impressive enough (I had only seen the parking lot, and it seemed nice), but I was feeling pretty guilty about stopping after only driving for an hour. Dad was looking forward to my arrival, and an extra night at a hotel could buy a bunch of other things. Was I really thinking about safety, or was I just stuck on an idea that may not even be All That?

I looked across the street - good ole Route 66 again - and contemplated both the modest townscape and the dark clouds.

A handful of snowflakes blew past.

Screw it. Going in.

I still wasn't quite sure until I passed through the doors and turned left into the reception area. Oh. Wow. This. Is. Cool.

(You know it was, since I didn't take a picture. The only photo I have was taken from a different door and it only shows the gift shop - not the attractive historic doodadery that makes up the front desk area.)

La Posada - Entrance to Reception and Trading Post

(Ignore that photo, actually. It's a terrible introduction to La Posada.)

The woman at the front desk was extremely nice (I'd find over the course of my visit that they all were). I'd already scoped out the room possibilities via the website and Flickr, and I'd decided on either a whirlpool room or a deluxe room, depending on what was available. I mentioned that, and the young woman said she'd show me a few of the rooms.

Okay, visiting the rooms beforehand is something I'd only read about in books, books where the innkeeper or butler or castle owner usually peppers his sentences with phrases "I trust" and "to your satisfaction" and ends them with "m'lady" or "your majesty."

After I heard a few of the names, I was honestly fine with just going on faith. See, I'd made a little spreadsheet (OF COURSE I DID) as I'd viewed the rooms online, and the one I kind of liked the best was the Emilio Estevez room, which was available.

I know.

I know.

When one stays at a classic hotel of yore, a location rich in golden Hollywood history, one does not usually think of Emilio Estevez. The man is talented, but for me he will always be the guy who - according to a Rolling Stone article in the mid-80s - had a lot of fun helping Demi Moore with her earwax while they were dating, and that is (alas) not a euphemism. The crap I remember... thank goodness for blogging, may I now never think of this ever again.

But the desk staff didn't notice my weak protests, so off we went to three east wing rooms: the Sam Maloof (a deluxe), the Lauren Hutton (deluxe with standing balcony), and the Emilio Estevez (whirlpool only). The latter two were up the stairs. I did the Charming Fat Thing of asking extended questions about the room so I could catch my breath before we traveled on. La Posada doesn't have an elevator, but I didn't mind the steps. (I just knew my hearty exhales might alarm the young woman if I didn't disguise them. 'Tis the life of the so-called weak-willed and selfish fatty.)

In the end I chose the Emilio Estevez after all. The view wasn't as nice as the Lauren Hutton, and it did mean hauling my heavy luggage to the upper floor, but there was just something about the cozy layout. I also liked the location: at the end of the gallery hall, by itself.

La Posada - Room 241 (Emilio Estevez) - Interior

La Posada - Room 241 (Emilio Estevez) - Another View

La Posada - Room 241 (Emilio Estevez) - Books

La Posada - Room 241 (Emilio Estevez) - Sink Outside

La Posada - Room 241 (Emilio Estevez) - Basin

La Posada - Room 241 (Emilio Estevez) - Whirlpool Tub

La Posada - Room 241 (Emilio Estevez) - How Deep Is Your Tub

La Posada - Room 241 (Emilio Estevez) - Mural Above Whirlpool Bath

La Posada - Room 241 (Emilio Estevez) - Showerhead

La Posada - Room 241 (Emilio Estevez) - Faucets and Sitting Area

La Posada - Room  241 (Emilio Estevez) - Exterior

All Set

(My car key, a World of Warcraft authenticator, and the key to a room at La Posada. What else does one need?)

Mary Colter's original hand-painted windows are just outside the door.

La Posada - Painted Window (Original)

Amusing signs were about. (One further down the hall said the door could only be opened in an emergency, and curiosity was not an emergency.)

La Posada - One of Many Amusing Signs

The view, with the train depot at right.

La Posada - Room 241 (Emilio Estevez) - The View

They say that the gardens may eventually extend to that side of the property.

Aside the tracks are two privately owned railroad cars.

Winslow - The Doctor's Train Cars

Photography of artist Tina Mion's artwork isn't allowed, so no gallery shots. The photo below was taken just outside of that hallway, showing the way down the main lot of step with an original mural (one of three to survive) above. (I blurred out the painting on the right.)

La Posada - Original Mural

Everywhere were cozy spots and arty decor to examine.

La Posada - Corner Piece

(I tried to take two shots - one exposed for the window and one for the interior - to blend, but that didn't end well. Points for trying to do more than point and shoot, though, right? Well, you will just have to imagine the sweet little owl statue just outside the window.)

The mural is worth a second look:

La Posada - Original Mural (Closer)

The "ballroom" beckoned:

La Posada - Ballroom

But the reading nook was my hands-down favourite.

La Posada - Reading Room

I'm usually tongue-in-cheek when I speak about the "vibe" of a place, but at La Posada there was just a restful, welcoming, homey-but-not-in-your-business feel that I've not encountered even at other wonderful, beautiful places where exploration of the entire property at any time is encouraged (Grand Californian, Queen Mary).

I was surprised by this sign, though:

La Posada - Surprising Sign

I'm sorry to report that I violated this rule. I actually hesitate to mention it here because a life-ban from La Posada would genuinely break my heart, but I had brown glass bottles of Bundaberg ginger beer in the car which might've frozen and exploded if I hadn't brought them in, and once they were in... well, nothing in the gift shop (in any gift shop) can really beat an ice cold Bundaberg.

Down the steps below the ballroom and reading room is the sculpture hallway, once the orangerie. (I assume the paint job is an homage to that.)

La Posada - Sculpture Area

The owners are people after my own heart.

La Posada - Shrine to Dear Pet

La Posada - Window to Sunken Garden

I think part of what appealed to me was being in the midst of a juxtaposition of snow and southwestern colours. This was new to me. I also loved feeling the coolness as I walked past windows. I wasn't cold, but I wasn't stuffily insulated from the outside. It was all a piece, a sense of wholeness and integration.

As I reflect now on my brief stay, I liken being there to being part of a work of art that was immediately attractive, but only through continued interaction did I truly come to appreciate it.

That, of course, sounds like fa-la-la-farty horseapples, but it's true.

I was staying upstairs in the east wing, which was where - if I understand things correctly - the Santa Fe railway company removed all the rooms and replaced them with sterile offices. I imagine dropped tile ceilings where bored men in short sleeves and wide ties could toss a pencil up and make it stick... until it inevitably fell into someone's styrofoam cup of Sanka.

According to the woman who'd shown me around, the west wing was converted into doctor offices. I don't know if the rooms there have their original walls or not, since all the rooms I saw were in the east wing. I suppose I could've gone up the steps here to look at the west wing, but I didn't even think of it. Duh.

La Posada - Stairs to West Wing

On the left you can see a bit of one of my favourite paintings on exhibit, one called "It's Always the Butler." I didn't mean to capture it here, and hopefully enough is obscured to not step on any toes, especially since it can be seen fully on Tina Mion's site.

Copies of some of the works are available in the gift shop, but I didn't see any that were bigger than 8x10, and that was too small for my decor urges. Oh, and then I'd have to go buy a house to properly display it. Real estate is always the problem with me and art.

I've been trying to figure out why I was so willing to respect the No Photography rule here, but why I chafed at the same rule in the shops in Alaskan ports. Probably I'm just a hypocrite being (mis)guided by a sensitive inner calculator of shared values or aesthetics, but being asked not to take photos of paintings inside of a private hotel feels a world away from being asked - sometimes with exclamation points - not to take photos of merchandise that is visible from the public street. This reasoning doesn't stand up in court, but it's all I've sussed out on the matter so far.

La Posada - Another Informative Sign

Yes, I was among like minds indeed. And I'm really sad to say that I didn't pause to look for/through a copy of Private Varnish, because I thought the two railway cars owned by the local doctor (seen above) were an anomaly, not something that enough people did to warrant a hobbyist magazine. Anyone can have a jet. I want a chestnut velvet sleeping car with a soda fountain and subdued brass fixtures.

La Posada - Faithful Companion

La Posada - Outside the Dining Area

La Posada - Train Cars

Coffee and hot chocolate are available in the morning, ice water and apples otherwise.

La Posada - Refreshment Corner

La Posada - Painted Interior Window and Snacks

This window opening out onto the hallway is but one of the features discussed on the DVD. I didn't buy the DVD (yet), but I did get captivated into watching it while waiting for my order from the Turquoise Room.

La Posada - Madonna and North Entrance

In the course of sensory overload when first entering, I actually didn't notice the Madonna (above) right away. It has its own detailed history (discussed on the DVD), but the short version is that it's a masterpiece of New Mexican tinwork.

When you check in to La Posada, you get a lengthy booklet that provides a self-guided tour - extra copies of which are available for $3. (Good for people who stop in to La Posada just to tour it.)

I wasn't wearing a jacket, but the outside lured me just the same.

La Posada - East Wing and Lauren Hutton Balcony

I know this is La Posada - or any property - at its bleakest, and when I first saw these photos I thought, no, I can't put them online. They'll give people the wrong idea entirely. But they're part of my happy memories, so up they go.

That's the Lauren Hutton balcony visible. My room was a little more to the right, facing the other side.

La Posada - Entrance Sign

La Posada - Entrance in Winter

The front grounds were all pretty flat originally. The new low area on the right is a garden in warmer months. (It was roped off during my visit, but there was little to see at this time.) Back in the day, the front door (formerly the back door, but this was flip-flopped when highway travel began to overtake rail travel) was only a few steps off the ground.

The second floor above the entrance is where the long gallery is located. (Hey, you can almost make out the little owl statue perched just to the right.) My room was all the way to the left, against the unseen far wall. On the first floor, you see the arched windows of the trading post, formerly the dining room.

I followed the path to the little gatehouse leading to the Sunken Garden, both original features.

La Posada - Path to Sunken Garden

Snow cats awaited me. They would not be petted.

La Posada - Snow Cats

Staff told me that the cats aren't fed, but they come around anyway. Cats know.

La Posada - Sunken Garden

La Posada - Javelina

Metal sculptures around the garden amused me. You know I've taken an extra-"bleh" photo when I whip out the "Vintage" action in Photoshop - guilty, guilty - but sometimes I do just like it. I used it a bit below to highlight the solemnity of the memorial for Needles, the owners' dog who was around during the early days of the restoration (I was told).

La Posada - Needles and Madonna

La Posada - Path Lantern

La Posada - Winter Foliage

(Shallow depth-of-field is a cheap trick that impresses fewer people with every passing year, but those of us who grew up with non-ironic rounded-corner snapshots of muddied colours have a lower bar than you young whippersnappers born into the prosumer age.)

La Posada - Gator

La Posada - Looking Into Sunken Garden

La Posada - Snow Beyond

I have long missed the muffled quiet that comes with snowfall.

La Posada - Birdhouse

When in doubt, follow the cats.

La Posada - Follow the Cats

La Posada - Giraffe

The cats were not down with this plan.

La Posada - Tabby Glare

La Posada - Delicate Cat

Not having my jacket, I stopped here and turned back. I wanted to put some gas in the car and see a little more of Winslow.

La Posada - Camel and Car

Directly across from La Posada is this ruin:

Winslow - Former Valentine Diner

That's a Valentine diner. If you don't know what a Valentine diner is, such ignorance is easily fixed.

Winslow - El Gran Garage

"El Gran Garage" is just a little further east, also across the street. It's where the Fred Harvey people stored the fancy cars that took tourists out to see the sights of the southwest. Today it's the studio/exhibition space of artist Paul Ruscha. I don't know actually who that it is, what with knowing pretty much nothing about art. So, if I point out that Winslow seems to have an astonishingly sharp art scene developing, I'm probably not even appreciating the half of it.

I was sad for Winslow when I arrived, easily picturing nothing but a struggling decline ahead, but by the end of my stay I could really see this little town becoming a cultural maelstrom for more than just Route 66/Eagles enthusiasts. Think "undiscovered," my hipster friends. Hell, they have passenger Amtrak twice a day and an airport designed by Charles Lindbergh. I'd say Winslow is about one carefully cultivated annual festival away from becoming more of a suggested getaway and less of a passing-through.

(Look, just read this.)

In case I didn't get enough of derelict motels of yesteryear during my years in Las Vegas (and I'm not sure I did, since most that were there when I arrived were torn down by the time I left), Winslow topped me up.

Winslow - LZ Budget Motel

Winslow - Desert Sun Motel

(There's a distinct feeling of woe that comes over me whenever I see an old motel with a filled-in swimming pool out front. What once lured station wagons into making sharp right turns is now just so much more parking lot.)

Winslow - Motel

But some places are embracing the past and catering to the nostalgia. I would've liked to have spent more time at Earl's.

Winslow - Sleeping on the Corner

Winslow - Ron Paul, or Judge John Lamb

Car gassed up, I decided not to try Darryl's Root Beer Stand. I do love root beer, but the reviews I could get to load up on my phone indicated that it was more of a walk-up place, and the weather didn't put me in the mood for that.

Entering La Posada again, I found a possible explanation for the cats.

La Posada - This May Explain the Cats

No sooner was I back in my room that I remembered that I should go get my external hard drive out of the car (and cold), something I'd neglected to do in Flagstaff (and I still haven't have the nerve to see if it sustained any damage). Of course I didn't bother with my jacket once again, it being such a quick trip to the car (and me loving "brisk" air).

So of course that's when I noticed that the southern grounds between the hotel and rail tracks were actually worth a look. Ooo.

No jacket, only my phone for a camera, out I went.

La Posada - South Entrance Doors

La Posada - Gates to Railroad Tracks

Once upon a time, these gates welcomed train passengers looking for a decent meal or even a pleasant room with the promise of western-themed excursions.

La Posada - South Side

The southern grounds are divided into two sides, this being the dog-friendly side. I met two beautiful Standard poodles out here, being walked by "a friend of their owner." I wasn't told who the owner was, but I was told that the dogs lived at the hotel, and I saw their minder take them into a room off the upstairs gallery with a door marked by a hand-drawn skull and crossbones.

La Posada is such fun.

I would've liked to have known more about the light detail above the railroad gates.

La Posada - Railroad Track Gates, Insect Detail

On either side of the gates were chairs, including incredibly comfortable rocking chairs, suitable for watching the trains go by. (I think I read that about ninety trains come through every day.)

La Posada - Comfy Place to Watch Trains

La Posada - Rockers and South Side

The Turquoise Room doesn't offer room service (although the front desk had told me they "sometimes" did), but they were happy to make me my food to go. I don't have a problem eating alone (Gift of the Only Child, adds +5 Rich Inner Life and another +5 Social Oblivion), but being content and fed at leisure in my lovely room while watching TV or reading or internet-messing had more appeal to me this night.

As mentioned, I watched the restoration video while waiting.

La Posada - Watch the Restoration Video

To the left of the Turquoise Room is a little bar, about the size of a private dining car, and able to be further privatized with little gates for a special supper, if you desire.

La Posada - Bar Entrance

That's one of La Posada's patron saints. (Either San Ysidro or San Pasquale.) A painting of him used to be in every room in the original hotel. Old black and white movies played on a discreet television mounted in the corner.

La Posada - Turquiose Room Beyond

Even when I had a delicious breakfast in the back of the Turquoise Room the next morning, I never did see some of the features mentioned in the guide. Apparently I'm blind. (Oh hey, here's a nice photo of the trains going past on a sunny day.)

Did I remember to link to the Turquoise Room website? It's only on Condé Nast's "Best of Food," offering "superb meals the likes of which you won't find anywhere else in northern Arizona" (Frommer's).

This is starting to sound like an ad. C'mon Shari, kick in with some of your trademarked over-wrought nitpicking. It's what you do.

Yeah, well, not when it comes to the Turquoise Room.

Now, I kind of hate to share photos of my dinner because it was in take-away containers and I didn't even bother to bust out the real camera, but again, the memories!

La Posada - Breads (nice surprise with to-go items)

The box of bread was a nice surprise. Every bit was tasty, but I recommend the flatbread. I savoured that at length.

The piki with hummus (made with Tepary beans and garnished with sunflower seeds) was even more of a surprise. I don't really know what piki is - feathery green papery stuff - but it tasted great, and apparently it is so complicated to make that they don't even include it in the Turquoise Room cookbook because you may as well not even try unless you're at least half Hopi.

La Posada - Piki and Hummus (to go)

(Of course the internet is full of tutorials. We'll see how hard it is. Maybe.)

Oh yeah, I do have a nitpick. (Whew. Call off the pod-sniffing dogs.) The next morning, when I asked the waitress about the restaurant cookbook (which isn't sold at the trading post next door, perhaps to avoid people just flipping through to find their desired recipe then sneakily taking a photo), I asked if the recipe for spicy egg rolls was included. She assured me that it was. Made with three kinds of rice, for me they were the highlight of an already amazing "killer" vegetable plate.

La Posada - Killer Vegetable Plate (to go)

Well, you know where this is going. Got to the hotel in Albuquerque that night, started to read my shiny new cookbook, and found no spicy egg rolls. Dang.

(Pause here to get on social media and ask The TN for the recipe. Obviously I can't share it if they send it to me, but I'll update here with their response when/if it comes.)

For dessert, warm prickly pear cactus and spice bread pudding, served with strawberries and cream.

La Posada - Prickly Pear Cactus and Spiced Bread Pudding with Strawberries and Cream (to go)

Emilio Estevez should know that I fell back onto his bed and kicked my legs in delight. Too good.

Night came, with Skype and enough time passing that I was grateful for the noon checkout.

I woke and hustled down to breakfast, got the cookbook (which Alex the waitress took to the kitchen for Chef John Sharpe sign), packed up, and reluctantly turned over my key. (I'm not the only one. When you check in, you have to initial something saying you'll pay $50 if you fail to do so. I was told that some of the locks are original, and it's a pain to get new keys made.)

I didn't dwell on leaving. If I couldn't stay forever, I might as well go.

The drive was uneventful. Hi, Gallup. Hi, New Mexico. I remembered the stateline souvenir stand from 23 years ago. 

Not long after I entered New Mexico, a funny thing happened. I was thinking about why I felt extra tired. Didn't I have a relaxing time at La Posada? Minimal driving the previous day? Nearly eight hours of sleep?

Then I suddenly remembered. The nightmare.

Around 4:30 a.m. I woke up from a dream that I can't remember now, but I do remember that it took place at the hotel. Mike was still connected to me via Skype on the iPad (that's how we do these things).

Like I said, I don't remember the dream, but I remember the fear. I remember being too scared to even turn on the light by the bed and vanquish the demons, and I sure as hell wasn't going to look into the mirror opposite the nightstand. (Why would I? I don't know, but it seemed like an especially bad idea.)

Mike asked what was going on. "I had a nightmare, and I don't want to tell you what it was."

I thought speaking of it might cause the dream to become more real, and since I'd finally awoken from the effort of trying to scream, I just wanted whatever happened to fade as quickly as possible. I thought of trying to run out of the room and whatever horrors it hid, but what might be waiting in the wide hallways outside?

"I have to get out of here. I just have to last until sunrise, and then I'm going."

But instead, I got Mike to talk to me of distracting things, and I fell back asleep.

And so I woke with sincere and deep remorse that I was leaving, and I didn't remember the dream again for hours.

Am I suggesting that La Posada is haunted? No, although I've seen one group online who feels that it is... but I wouldn't be surprised if they feel that way about every historic hotel.

I used to be interested in such things and more "open minded," but I've become a much more aggressive skeptic than the average bear over the past couple of decades. All the paranormal sensationalism on certain cable channels, and all the "ghost orb" photos on the internet, have left me pretty disgusted.

But, something about La Posada tapped into some part of my brain and central programming decided to screen a horror flick at the REM theatre that night.

Why? I don't know. My bad dreams tend to be about frustrating scenarios and mild anxieties, not otherworldly terrors, so even having that kind of a nightmare was a shock in itself.


The Route 66 casino was on the right side of the highway, so easy to pull off and see, and I was amused to see the "twin arrows" replicated around the parking lot, but it had been a windy and tiring drive, and I was ready to get to Albuquerque and settle down.

I'd chosen Hotel Albuquerque for its proximity to Old Town. Old Town has three close-by lodging options, two of which are right next to it, and one of those is a B&B (and I fear the intimacy of B&Bs), so Hotel Albuquerque it was. I'd checked that morning and saw that all three categories of room were available.

Therefore, I was really surprised when I approached the front desk at 3 p.m., asked for a king if possible, and Lauren told me that the only king beds they had left were in junior suites.

"Oh, I'll just take a regular room then."

"Actually, we're out of those, too. We only have junior suites."

"Really? Wow..." (my eyes went wide as my aw-shucks face started to form) "...there were so many room choices available when I checked online this morning. Huh." (Now I made my "darn, I sure wasn't counting on this face" of deep contemplation which, if you know me, is actually my "pass the warm casserole for the wake because you're dead on Yelp" face.)

"Maybe I can move someone."

And maybe Lauren did upgrade some lucky visitor to a junior suite for that night. Maybe that happened. But when I got up to my room ten minutes later (delayed because I rolled my luggage back to the car and moved from the front parking lot to the side, as suggested), I hopped online and tried to book a king room at Hotel Albuquerque for the night. Then I tried to book two queens.

In each case, I was able to get to the screen where you enter your credit card number.

Explain that, Hotel Albuquerque. Either your website is broken or your front desk staff is dishonest.

The rooms very nice enough but ordinary, and it was hard to pay more for that than something beautiful at La Posada, but it's all about location here, and the location is very good. Hotel Albuquerque's lobby is lovely, though. I'll give them that.

The restaurant and gift shop personnel were both quite friendly. Kudos to both. I took another meal up to my room. (If you know anything about New Mexican cuisine, you'll understand what I mean when I say that I chose "green.")

I was just too tired to go to Old Town, though. Maybe the next morning.

But, the next morning I was up late again (well, it's that or not get to talk to my husband - which someone needs to explain to my Texas peeps when they ask why I sleep odd hours) and only drove around Old Town a bit.

Wait. First I had to liberate my car. Yeah, see, I'd parked in a spot next to the side entrance, where I'd moved the car after check-in. When I walked out in the morning, flags surrounded my car and the handicapped spot next to it. Although no one was around, apparently construction was in progress.

What could I do? I gently unhooked the flag cord and started moving it to the side, planning to back out then put it all back.

"Miss, you can't be here. it's roped off for construction."

I laughed. "I see that. I'm just getting my car out of your way."

"I know. I came to help you."

"I can't even imagine how my car ended up in here!" I laughed again - he seemed like a nice guy even if his opening remarks were a bit odd, considering. I wasn't upset that the hotel had roped off my car into a construction area, but it was a little bizarre.

"Well, maybe you were tired when you parked it."

Uh, what? These were legitimate parking spaces when I arrived yesterday. There was even a van already parked in the handicapped place. Did he think I drove through the flag barrier the day before and then, what, replaced it? *confuzzle face*

Now I just kind of wanted out of Albuquerque. It wasn't any one thing, and I would've liked to have looked inside the church, but as I drove around Old Town the parking spots were full, plus I didn't want to leave my stuff in the car.

And also - not to disparage a place that I bet I would've really enjoyed if I'd spent more time there - as far as I could tell, it was just the church and strips of shops. Unlike, say, Old Town in San Diego, with a really spacious walk and many, many buildings to visit. Old Town Albuquerque surely has it own charms, but I was just really aware of the freeway, the gas stations, the endless retail, and my own desire to get going toward Texas. The timing just wasn't right.

I'd considered stopping in Tucumcari. Maybe something would pull me in. It wouldn't be an efficient stop, but would I ever drive this highway again? Ever even be in New Mexico again? Ever be in a state other than Texas again? Australia is so far away.

I exited, gassed up, and headed into town to tool around Route 66. I did take photos, but they were awful. Like, too awful to share. I mean, can you get any lazier than this:

Taken from the abandoned property next to the famous Blue Swallow Motel (closed for the month) as I twisted around in my seat.

Maybe I'm just not as madly fascinated with retro motel culture as I used to be? Nah, I think I'm just bad about making the most out of pit stops, at least when on my own.

I passed the signs for Stuckey's (Stuckey's!) and the other Las Vegas (part of the original itinerary, which I semi-regret abandoning), and then - voila - Texas. Windmills and flat land and funky cow smells. All those years living in Texas, and here came my first trip to the panhandle.

I completely missed exiting for the Route 66 midpoint in Adrian. By pure chance I saw the famous row of Cadillacs (smaller and further away than I expected them to look from the highway) in a field of snow.

I exited in Amarillo to go to the Sleep Inn, one of best-rated hotels on both Yelp and Trip Advisor (in a city without a single boutique hotel of hospitality property of character, if online travel sites are to be believed), but the intense rush hour traffic wouldn't let me over into the correct lane. So I had to do a U-turn, sit through several sessions at another light where an accident was, make another U-turn, sit through several more sessions at the original light (but now in the correct lane), and finally I was pulling into the parking lot at the Sleep Inn.

God, it was depressing.

One chain restaurant after another. One chain hotel after another. The freeway shoved between.

I was not seeing the best of Amarillo, nor even the best of these chains. (My snobbery is that I like to try new, special things, not that I have any objection to La Quinta or Olive Garden. Mmmm endless bread sticks and salad.)

I wasn't even really tired.

Was it Thelma who said to Louise, "Let's just keep going"?

And so I did, hoping I'd make it to Childress on the farm-and-market state highway. Instead, dark came thirty miles sooner as I entered Clarendon. The Best Western "Plus" there looked quite nice (and it was), so why not?

Fact: Clarendon was sometimes known as "Saints Roost" because of its pious culture. It was originally a colony of Methodists.

The hotel was next to a Sonic and a Pizza Hut. I brought a box of "pizza sliders" back to my room. They were okay. If you were trying to please people who want three different toppings without spending more than $10, they'd be a boon.

This paper towel back in my room amused me:

The next morning in Rhome, thirty minutes away from Fort Worth, I found a gas station with a car wash. All the gunk from the snowstorm outside of Flagstaff was washed away.

I called my Dad from his driveway. "Where do you want me to park?" "Are you here?" "I am."

And so I am.

That was ten days ago. Here's Spot, first among my parents' cats.

Spot on the Steps

"More when I know more."

25 February 2013 |






Carnival Elation (2009)
Carnival Splendor (2009)
Carnival Spirit (2010)
Carnival Spirit (2011)
Carnival Splendor (2011)
Norwegian Pearl to Alaska (2012)