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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