The storm having quietened down, today we enjoyed a fantastic south west style breakfast at Kix on 66, a classic American diner that served fantastic food. I had a breakfast quite distinct to anything I’d had before: some ‘Tucumcari Mountain Taters,’ which were hash browns topped with scrambled egg and vegetables before being slathered in ‘red sauce’ and ‘green sauce,’ both of which involved chilli. Hash browns in the US are quite different – and frankly better – than British hash browns. Rather than being processed lumps of mush, they tend to be freshly made of grated and fried potato, and are more like what we would understand as being thin potato cakes. The breakfast below may not look like much, but it was definitely one of the best breakfasts I’ve had on the trip.
Breakfast done, we continued on down Route 66 / Interstate 40 for most of the day, heading west through New Mexico. New Mexico is one of those states I had very little concept of prior to the trip, but we were all very impressed by the landscape, which was quite majestic and unexpectedly varied. We drove not only through grassland and broken red rock mesas, but through mountains too, especially as we approached Albuquerque. Even on the sections that were interstate, it was a relatively quiet two-lane highway, so was a fun drive, although a little too heavily populated by trucks.
The Pueblo Cultural Centre
We stopped in Albuquerque, the largest city in New Mexico and a place I’d visited once before on a very brief train layover, and vaguely remembered solely for being extremely hot. It was less stifling this time, and we made our way first to the Pueblo Cultural Centre. Unlike in the east, the Pueblo Indians in this area were never forced off their land (although the museum does explain the many consequences of Spanish and then American colonisation on the community, particularly regarding the imposition of Catholicism by the Spanish and the later forcing of Pueblo children to boarding school by the Americans as an attempt to distance them from their traditional culture). They have maintained a deep connection to the landscapes of New Mexico, as well as a determination to live according to their Pueblo Core Values of love, respect, compassion, faith, understanding, spirituality, balance, peace and empathy.
As well as a museum, the Cultural Centre hosts dances, and we were lucky enough to arrive right in the middle of a demonstration of traditional dance. This seemed to be a family affair, with two brothers and their cousins demonstrating the dances while their father provided musical accompaniment. At the end of the dance, the audience were given the opportunity to participate in a (much abbreviated version) of a traditional corn dance, which involved imploring the clouds from the four corners of the sky for rain to assure the bounty of the harvest.
Albuquerque Old Town
After the Cultural Centre, we then headed down to the Old Town of Albuquerque, which had a fascinating blend of Pueblo and Spanish architecture. Albuquerque was founded in 1706 as a Spanish colonial outpost, and New Mexico itself has a varied history. It was first colonised by the Spanish, then became a part of independent Mexico in 1821 before being ceded to the US after the Mexican-American war in 1848. Whilst we didn’t have too much time there, it was an interesting place to poke around, although we were a little baffled by the presence of a year-round Christmas shop.
From Albuquerque, we continued west, and despite our rain dance, today was one day that, despite threatening skies, it didn’t storm. The landscape continued to be beautiful – there’s a reason, we’ve found that New Mexico dubs itself the ‘Land of Enchantment’ – and I’d love to come back and spend more time in this state. Definitely a hidden gem! We made it to the western end of the state and spent the night in a town called Gallup, where we treated ourselves to our first steak dinner of the trip.
Highlights: Mountain taters, Pueblo dancers, the beautiful landscapes of New Mexico.
Lowlights: Although the landscape was absolutely stunning, I appear to hardly have taken any pictures of it.
Up next: Grand Canyon…