Route 66 - Scary Incident in Gallup

With another day quickly dying, we passed through Grants, New Mexico and then the small towns of Milan, Bluewater, Prewitt and Thoreau. As the sun set ahead of us, we made it over the Continental Divide. At 7,275 feet in elevation, it is officially the highest point on Route 66. There was nothing really to draw our attention or inspire us to stop in Coolidge, Iyanbito, McCune, or Zuni so we pressed on to Gallup where we found a decent looking Hampton Inn at 1460 West Maloney Ave. Little did we know we were about to endure the most unsettling, scary encounter we had on the whole trip.

It was dark when we checked in, but the front of the hotel was well lit and certainly looked safe enough. I did notice when the front desk clerk started talking about the safety of the hotel and that they had the police cruise through the parking lot on a regular basis all night. Hmmmm. But the main reason to stay in a Hilton property like Hampton or a Marriott property like Fairfield is because you can count on the hotel to be well-maintained, the rooms decently appointed and clean, the price to be at least fairly reasonable and you will not have to be overly worried about safety. And so I didn't question the desk clerk further - I should have.

All of the parking spaces up front were taken so we drove around to the side and parked. There was a large open parking lot that went with what appeared to be an older, rather run-down shopping mall across the way, but there was a wire fence which went around the hotel parking lot. As we were getting our luggage out of the truck, I noticed 3 obviously drunk Indians or Hispanics stumbling across the parking lot on the other side of the fence. As soon as they saw us, they made a bee-line straight at us. Sure enough, they got to the fence, leaned against it and started asking for money. I told them I didn't have any to spare and started to walk away. Youngest-daughter was already a bit scared by this, but then they started shouting at us to come back and give them money and she really started to get frightened. We went on inside, found our room and dumped off our bags. We had not eaten supper so we went down to the lobby, I complained to the desk guy about the drunks and he said he would have the police come right out. I left Youngest-daughter in the lobby and went to get the truck. I saw the drunks huddled under the overhang of a building about 100 yards away, got the truck, came back and picked up my daughter and we went several blocks down the road to a Wendy's.

When we came back, I found a parking spot directly under a light, but even so, as we exited the truck, 2 different drunks came out from some bushes on the other side of the fence and asked for money. I said I didn't have any to give them and one said, "You better give us some money." I heard a noise behind me and turned to find 2 more guys coming up at the back of the truck - on OUR side of the fence!

Although I've never needed it, I do carry legal protection with me when I travel. One of these items is a large, rather intimidating Bowie knife. Not that I'm any kind of Chuck Norris or a Navy SEAL or anything, but I did receive training when I was in the military, I am a daddy and my little girl was with me so I automatically went into full Daddy The Protector mode. These guys were all obviously drunk and kind of staggering around so I told my daughter to shut her door and lock it, pulled out my pig-sticker and waved it at the 2 guys at the back of the truck. It took about 2 seconds for their eyes to register what they were seeing and they quickly backed up then turned and started walking away. I turned back toward the 2 on the other side of the fence and saw the mouthy one was climbing over - at least he was until I took a couple of steps toward him holding my knife in front of me. He jumped down and said, "Hey man, it's cool. We just wanted some change for some beer."  I heard somebody off to the side whistle and just like that, those guys were gone out of sight like they vanished into thin air.

Of course my adrenalin was pumping like crazy and my heart was pounding like I had just ran a mile, but it appeared any danger was gone. I saw a police car pull into sight around the corner about 3 seconds later so I walked over to it and told him what had just happened. He said OK, he would call in another unit and they would get rid of them. I was standing there talking to this policeman and had totally forgotten I was still holding this large knife, but the policeman never said a word about it. He stayed there until I had put the knife back in the truck and my daughter and I were safely inside the hotel lobby.

Back in the room, it took a lot of talking and holding my daughter to get her to calm down and not be so scared. I hated those guys for doing that to her - to steal one more piece of innocence from her and to do it during our special, once-in-a-lifetime daddy-daughter road trip. After we turned out the lights and went to bed, I killed all of them. It was a slow, agonizingly painful death for each and every one there in my head. And then, exhausted but satisfied, I fell asleep.

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Route 66 - The Sad Story of Budville

Crime along Route 66 back in the day was actually pretty rare. It wasn't because times were better then than now or people themselves were better and had more regard for their fellow human beings; at least to some degree it was because in most towns along the Mother Road, the only way into and out of town was Route 66. With no other way to get out of town and nowhere to hide in the small towns, criminals just didn't stand a chance of getting away with much. In 1967 though, a crime was committed in Budville, New Mexico that shocked locals and travelers alike.

The Budville Trading Co., 2012
Budville was named after "Bud" Rice who, beginning in 1928 with his wife Flossie, built and operated a gas station, garage, grocery store, post office, and wrecker service on Route 66 west of Rio Puerco out in the middle of nowhere. He also sold bus tickets, owned the local State Motor Vehicle Department concession, and got himself elected Justice of the Peace. He liked to claim he was "The Law West of Rio Puerco" and did not hesitate to use this position to increase his business dealings. The fines he charged speeders caught in his speed trap were extraordinarily onerous and he antagonized other wrecker services by passing a law which declared all wrecks east of the Rio Puerco were the domain of Albuquerque, all those west of the Rio Puerco were his and those on the bridge belonged to whomever got there first.
Although he had a kind, generous side for kids (he often bought shoes in the winter for the poor kids who lived in the area), he was well-known for being testy with most people. He often stated to anyone that would listen that he didn't care if anyone liked him or not. One time a traveler complained about the price Bud charged for putting a new fan belt in his car. Bud simply took out his large pocket knife and cut the new belt off. When the driver complained again and asked, "What do I do now?" Bud told him he should move his car across the street unless he wanted to pay storage charges to his garage. The motorist pushed his car across the street and arranged for a friend to bring him a new belt which he installed himself the next day. Before he left though, he had to pay Bud for parking his car overnight since Bud also owned the property across the street from the garage.

On the night of November 18, 1967, after 39 years in business, Bud, Flossie, Blanche Brown, an 82-year-old retired school teacher who worked part-time at the trading post, and another employee were getting ready to close the store when a desperado entered to rob them. Before it was over, Bud and Blanche lay on the floor dead. The gunman then ran out the door and disappeared, leaving Flossie screaming, but unhurt and the other employee hiding in the bathroom. It was a gruesome scene and the site soon was being called, "Bloodville."

State authorities soon arrested a young sailor who had been seen hitch-hiking in the area when Flossie identified him as the killer in a line-up. In spite of the ID by Flossie, there was no other evidence which pointed to him and indeed, there were a number of people who said they had been with him or seen the sailor in a location miles from the scene of the crime at the time it happened. He was released for lack of evidence and the crime went unsolved for several years.

The police eventually caught a break when 3 criminals agreed to tell what they knew about the Budville murders in exchange for lighter sentences for crimes they had been convicted of. They all fingered a young drifter by the name of Billy Ray White, a man with a long criminal history, and provided numerous items of proof. Eventually, after the FBI placed Billy Ray on their 10 Most Wanted list, he was found, apprehended and stood trial.

Flossie this time identified Billy Ray as the killer and with the proof presented, it seemed sure that the accused would be convicted and justice would be served. However, the defense lawyer made sure Billy Ray was clean-shaven, wore a nice suit and looked nothing like the dirty, scroungy individual he had been when the crime was committed. In fact, he cleaned up so well he looked just like one of the clean-cut, innocent young high-school boys who attended the trial as part of their civics class. The defense pointed accusing fingers at a multitude of possible scenarios to throw doubt into the juror's minds. Did Flossie have something to do with the crime? After all, she did get married again an embarrassingly short time after her husband was murdered, and to a convicted felon at that! And why did the murderer leave her standing there alive and unharmed instead of killing her too? And if she was mistaken about the sailor she first identified, couldn't she be mistaken this time too? And what about a possible hit being placed on Bud by rival tow truck drivers? And just a few days before he was murdered, Bud testified in a Texas drug trial - could he have been hit because of that?

Less than 2 hours after beginning deliberations, the jury returned with a verdict of "Not Guilty" and Billy Ray White walked out a free man. Officially, the crime has never been solved, but Billy Ray was later convicted of robbery and murder in a small store in Louisiana, just like Budville. On June 8, 1974, he died an apparent suicide in a Louisiana State Prison after supposedly confessing to his cell mate that he did indeed commit the crime in Budville. 
Abandoned ruins around Budville
After the murders, Flossie and her new husband continued to operate the businesses in Budville until he was killed in a fight in 1973, dying just 3 feet from where Bud had died in 1967. Flossie married for a 3rd time and passed away of natural causes in 1994. After 66 years in business, the Budville Trading Post finally closed. 
After being sold, re-opened as the Budville Trading Company and closed again, the building today is probably one of the most photographed landmarks of Route 66 in New Mexico. Standing about 30 feet from the highway shoulder, it is just an abandoned, 1-story, white cement-block building with a large non-functioning neon sign in front. Its only function now is to serve as a fascinating reminder of one of the legends of Route 66.

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Route 66 - The Singing House Ghost

Near the Continental Divide along Route 66 in New Mexico
On a hill within sight of Route 66, west of Laguna, New Mexico and a little north toward the Continental Divide, lie the burned out ruins of a small adobe home and a close-by wooden-walled root cellar. Today, few people know the story.

Nobody knew for sure where the couple originally came from, but a few old-timers who claimed their parents knew them say Fort Smith, Arkansas. The truthfulness of this is in doubt though as even these folks cannot agree on their names. What is known however, is that a hard-working, but frail man and his beautiful wife were forced from their farm by the hard times of the early 1930's. Packing everything they owned in their ancient Willys flatbed, they picked up Route 66 in Oklahoma City heading west in search of a better life. In Santa Rosa, the old truck blew a rod and coasted to a stop alongside the road. With no money for a new engine, a few days later the man talked a mechanic into swapping the disabled Willys for an even older, barely running Reo. They made it as far as Albuquerque before it too died a junker's death.

The wife had a singing voice that was sweet as an angel's. She had sang in the small country church the couple attended, but she was very religious, totally devoted to her husband and wanted nothing to do with the seamy music business or fending off men's hands while working in smoke-filled dens of sin. In only a few days, however, the last of their money was gone and her husband was ill from walking the city in search of a job. Knowing their very survival was up to her, she dressed in her best and went from place to place until she found a club owner who would give her a one-night tryout.

That night, with the small club band playing behind her, she sang simple melodies in such a hauntingly clear, beautiful voice that the rowdy patrons hushed and actually applauded when she finished. The club's owner knew right away he had found a true talent and hired her right then and there.

It wasn't long before she had become the most popular singer in the region and she had earned enough money to move on. Her husband however, was still in ill health. Worse, he was demoralized by the fact he was still not working and was being supported by his wife, a most embarrassing situation for a man in those days. His wife, however, could tell the New Mexico air agreed with him as his color was better than she could remember and his persistent cough had almost vanished. He had also begun to whittle again, something he had given up several years before. He was very talented, rendering in exquisite detail the small desert animals he had seen while walking the edges of the city looking for a day's work for a day's wages.

One morning, the wife posed a question - why not build a home in the high country a few miles west? After all, he was handy with tools and could do a lot of the work himself. She could sing on weekends and help him during the week and maybe they could even find a market with the travelers on Route 66 for for his carvings.  Surprisingly, the husband liked the idea and they found a perfect building site on a hill with a view of the valley. They also found two Indian workers from the Pueblo who were experts working with adobe and the work of building a home soon began.

Every day, as the men worked and their home began to take shape, the wife sang to her husband and the workers as she worked alongside them. When the house was finished, the sound of her beautiful voice seemed to have become part of every brick and board. When the breezes blew, the windows which opened on opposite sides of the house, seemed to blow a soft, sweet trilling that rose and fell, changing timbre with the changes in the breeze. Their neighbors from the small homesteads around them often stopped by to visit and to listen to the house sing.

Winter arrived, but shortly before the first storm, the husband left his loving wife at home and drove off to deliver carvings to the souvenir shops along the highway. With a comfortable home and a great many carvings stored, the couple looked forward to a bright and happy future.

Accounts differ about the cause of the fire. Perhaps the wife tried to save her husband's carvings from a flash fire that engulfed their home; perhaps the fire was set by intruders. With no proof one way or another, it's a mystery which will never be solved. The only thing known for sure is the wife perished in the fire. The husband was beside himself with grief. After a few weeks, the poor distraught man simply wandered off alone, never to be seen again.

Only a few charred adobe bricks remain from the house that sang, but occasional visitors to the site swear  the sweet, clear voice embodied in the house can still be heard. Interestingly, when there is no wind at all, when it seems nothing in the world is moving, that's when it is most clearly heard. The soft notes do not seem to come from the ruins; they are simply there in the air, as if they always have been, and perhaps always will be.

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Route 66 - The Mystery Stone

If you follow the pre-1937 route of Route 66 south of Albuquerque, you will pass through sparsely beautiful country with a number of old towns and pueblo's. Past Los Pallidas, Isleta, Isleta Pueblo and Bosque Farms, you will come to the town of Los Lunas, home to almost 25,000 people. There are a few Route 66 reminders along here, but nothing really of note. However, just a few miles west of town, you will enter the Rio Puerco Valley. Famous in archaeological circles for being home to more than 10,000 historical sites dating back to the Puebloan cultures of the ancient Anasazi Indians, it also contains more than 50 volcanoes, one of which is Cabezon Peak which climbs to 8,000 feet high.

The Mystery Stone
Just 18 miles beyond Los Lunas on the western side of the Rio Grande River is New Mexico's Mystery Stone. Also referred to as Inscription Rock, it is an ancient petroglyph which has cast doubt on whether Christopher Columbus or the Norse were actually the first explorers in America. Although nobody could read the words on it at that time, the local Indians back in the mid-1800's claimed the rock had been there since before their ancestors came to the area hundreds of years before. The name of the mountain had been handed down to them from the ancient one's - "Mystery Mountain."

The rock is located on what the locals still call Mystery Mountain or Hidden Mountain as it is named on some maps. Near the bottom of the 5,500 foot hill on the right side of a mound of lava is a large, flat-faced boulder weighing approximately 100 tons. Nine rows of characters or letters resembling ancient Phoenician script are chiseled into the north face of the boulder. Some of the symbols have eroded away due to the effects of weather and water rushing past the boulder which attests to the age of the writing. How it got there is anybody's guess, but it certainly wasn't carried there. Nobody has any idea who inscribed the letters or why it is where it is.

Most scholars agree that Stan Fox, a linguist and Bible expert from England made the most accurate and complete translation of the rock in 1999. According to his interpretation, it is an ancient version of the Ten Commandments and reads:

"I am Jehovah your God who has taken you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slaves. There must be no other gods before my face. You must not make any idol. You must not take the name of Jehovah in vain. Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. Honour your father and your mother so that your days may be long in the land that Jehovah your God has given to you. You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not give a false witness against your neighbour. You must not desire the wife of your neighbor nor anything that is his."

Another interesting mystery is that on the south rim of the summit at the highest point of Mystery Mountain is another stone with "YHWH Eloheynu" inscribed on it. More Hebrew script meaning "God our mighty one." And on the eastern rim of the summit are symbols which, according to the positioning of the stars and constellations, have been interpreted to be describing a solar eclipse which occurred in 584 BC. That sure seems to be a bit before Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492!

Who were these people and what were they doing in this remote location in what today is New Mexico? Just one more of the world's many mystery's.

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Route 66 - High Heeled Shoe Tree

Cline's Corners
For almost 80 years, Cline's Corners has been pumping gas, selling souvenirs and feeding travelers. But where its at now isn't where its always been. Roy Cline first opened in Lucy, New Mexico, but soon picked up the building and moved it to the junction of Highway 6 and Highway 2 along the original layout of Route 66. Then in 1937. Route 66 was realigned north of his business so Roy simply picked up his building again and moved  it to it's current location. It sat way out in the middle of nowhere and did a brisk business because of it. In the early years, Cline's Corners sold gasoline for 10 cents a gallon and water for $1 a gallon because water was much harder to come by than gasoline. It is still in the middle of nowhere with no above ground water to be seen for miles, but somebody had a sense of humor when they named the road in front of  Cline's Corners "Yacht Club Dr."

Youngest-daughter shopping at Cline's Corners - she had fun.

High-heel Shoe Tree
Sometimes things you come across on little side roads can add to the pleasure of a good road trip. After making our way west beyond Cline's Corners, past a number of ghost towns and near ghosts, we came to the city of Albuquerque. After gassing up and grabbing a meal at one of the local Mexican food places (and no, it wasn't the same thing!), we drove a few blocks off Route 66 to see one of those interesting, odd little things - The High Heeled Shoe Tree. Located at 299 Gallup Ave, the "shoe tree" is in front of a private residence, the home of an artist and the creator of the shoe tree. The piece consists solely of dozens of pairs of lady's high heeled shoes nailed from bottom to top of a telephone pole. The whole outside of the well-kept home is covered in strange things, such as flower beds enclosed by bowling balls (some with railroad spikes embedded in them, others with no spikes) or half-buried bottles of different colors; a huge ball of colored cloth strips, a home-made telescope made of cast-off wood and various other objects; bleached animal skulls and sculpted wire figures.

While we were there, we were fortunate enough to have the lady of the house drive up after getting groceries. I spoke to her for a couple of minutes and found her to be very nice and charming. She said she didn't mind at all if I took pictures - "If we didn't want people to stop and see, we wouldn't have put all of this outside!" When I asked her where the idea's come from, she just smiled and said, "From the mind!" "Sorry, but I gotta get these groceries in. Take your time and enjoy!" And with that, she bounded up the steps and disappeared inside.

High-heel shoe tree
That type of stuff doesn't flow from MY mind, but I sure do find it interesting. It took a while before we were able to pull ourselves away from this weird, but engaging display. Eventually though, we made our way back to Route 66 and continued our journey west toward a sad story in Budville and a really interesting mystery stone in Rio Puerco.

Bowling ball lined bed of cactus.

A wall of the artist's home. The sign says,
"Don't Quit Your Day Job"

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Route 66 - Old New Mexico Ghosts

From Tucumcari traveling west, Route 66 lies under I-40 in places and runs beside it as a service road in other places, gently rolling along on the north side, crossing under to the south, and then back again. The landscape perfectly reflects the stereotypical desert southwest and dusty ghost towns lie every few miles like a string of fading jewels. With the weather perfect, the sky a deep blue, the bright sun shinning in our eyes, we lowered the sun visors in the truck and joined I-40 West at exit 329.

The Richardson's Store protected from vandals,
but still fading away.
Coming to the ghost town of Montoya, we stopped at the famous Richardson's Store. The store opened in 1908 and initially provided railroaders and ranchers with provision. It later expanded to serve the highway workers and travelers on Route 66.

In 1918, the state began improving the road between Tucumcari and Santa Rosa which lead to a substantial increase in traffic through town. In 1925, G. W. Richardson relocated his store across the railroad tracks to be closer to the road and in so doing, replaced the original wooden store with the current red sandstone building. This road eventually became part of Route 66.

During the 1930's and 1940's, Route 66 travelers found cold drinks and a cool picnic spot under the elm trees that shaded the Richardson Store. With a big portico out front to shade the windows and a recessed front door and high windows designed to let in light and a breeze, but not direct hot sunlight, the store was designed to be as cool as possible. Many locals as well as travelers bought sandwich makings and their favorite cold beverage to eat and relax a spell in the picnic grove next to the store. In addition to selling groceries and gasoline, Richardson also carried auto supplies, saddle blankets, work gloves, feed buckets and even windmill parts. Like a lot of other local stores in small towns, Richardson's also served as a community meeting spot with post office boxes and a postal service window.

In 1956, I-40 was built a couple of hundred yards south of the store. An interchange provided access for travelers, but the interstate caused a significant drop in business. The store hung on until the mid-1970's, but was finally closed. To protect the property from vandals, the windows were boarded over and a chain link fence was erected around it, but the winds of time are slowly taking their toll on the old girl.

Remnant from time gone by between
Montoya & Newkirk, NM.

Sorry, no more cold beer.

Interesting graffiti on an abandoned building.
Pay attention as you ride the highway through the plains here as it is full of history. For instance, it is along this stretch where you will pass over the famous Goodnight-Loving Trail along which cowboys herded thousands of head of cattle north to markets in Colorado and Wyoming.

Sad shell of the former Club Cafe - home of the best
biscuits & gravy in the Southwest.
A nice 12-mile drive west from Montoya will bring you into Santa Rosa on Will Rogers Drive. Santa Rosa itself is notorious for the vicious snow storms that suddenly pop up with regularity each winter. Supposedly, more motorists have been stranded in Santa Rosa than anywhere else west of St. Louis. If you come through here at night, it's a nice treat as there are still a decent number of neon signs which light the night sky. We came through in the late afternoon, too early for any of the signs to be lit up. Maybe on our next trip through here, we'll time it a bit better.

One of the things that is no longer open is the Club Cafe. From its opening in 1935, this landmark served thousands of Route 66 travelers and locals with good food and good service at good prices. Many proclaimed this place to have the best biscuits and gravy in the Southwest. Now for me, that would have been something to stop for! Once passed by I-40 though, traffic became sparse and like so many others, the place was forced to close in 1991.

Just west outside of town, you will pass over the Pecos River. Be on the lookout and you can see where in 1940, when Steinbeck's novel, The Grapes of Wrath was being turned into a movie, director John Ford used this spot for the memorable train scene where Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) watches a freight train steam over the Pecos River railroad bridge into the sunset.

Cerro Pedernal Peak
We had to rejoin I-40 at exit 267 to continue west. We looked to the southwest to spot the 7,576 foot Cerro Pedernal Peak. This is the site of numerous prehistoric flint mines. Ancient peoples made tools and weapons here and often would meet up with different tribes for trading purposes. A large number of artifacts, including arrow heads and tools, have been found throughout the area. Many stories of buried treasure have resulted in the summit to be scarred with the excavations of fortune hunters. Unfortunately, I was driving and Youngest-daughter couldn't manage to get a good picture so I found a public picture from a government web site to show you what you should be looking for.

Since we had to be on sterile I-40 anyway, it was a good time to make up some time. Youngest-daughter didn't argue when I suggested she relax from her co-pilot directions duties and she was soon sound asleep. I smiled and quietly sang along as I listened to the Oldies-But-Goodies satellite radio station (60's on 6) and pressed down on the gas. Exit 230 and Cline's Corners was just down the road.

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