The 16 miles across gravel roads dissuaded us from the Chaco National Historic Park (maybe sometime in a rental car!) and we headed for the western border and the town of Gallup -- another "get your kicks on Route 66" place. One of the best preserved areas of the Route with many old signs, hotels, and other memorabilia still in tact in a beautiful surrounding of red hills and mesas.
We planned to camp, but the campgrounds were pretty dismal, and the call of a historic old hotel named the El Rancho, from the early Route 66 days intrigued us. One of our favorite guidebooks, Road Trip USA, called it "lovingly restored". It had been a real hot spot for Hollywood stars in town for the many Western movies shot here during the 40's and 50's. Each room is named after a star who stayed here -- we're in the Alan Ladd room -- and wonderful SW art adorns the walls of the generous rooms.
After enjoying some of the old time sights around town, we headed for a National Monument that spans 5 different periods of Indian history, dating back to 2500 BC. The Canyon de Chelley (Shay) is filled with fairly well preserved artifacts from the Anasazi, Hopi and Navajo occupations of the Canyon. Even though this is a part of the National Park system, Navajo's still own property and occupy farms in the canyon. It is almost as spectacular as the Grand Canyon - yet much more accessible. We drove one of the rim drives, and hiked down into the canyon (it's not the going down, it is the coming back up -- 600 vertical feet in a 1/2 mile of switchbacks!). The next day we took a Jeep tour into the canyon -- right through the river, along the sand bars, and right up next to these wonderful petroglyphs, pictographs and ruins of their homes and other buildings. A wonderful 1/2 day experience.
We can tell we are getting closer to home -- more license plates from Oregon and Washington. Today on the Jeep tour with 9 other couples, 2 of the nine are from Oregon! Tigard and West Linn!! Nice people who have second homes in the Tucson area and are still down here. In fact, one couple used to live in Charbonneau. Then at dinner, we're sitting right next to another couple from Tigard! Sure is nice to talk to people who know the places we know!!