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Day 18 :: October 07, 2004: 01:47 AM

Tuesday, October 5th
Day Eighteen

We started the day at Gallup, NM on route 66. On our way to the Petrified Forest we had passed a teepee motel ( guests stay in teepees) a place I recently saw on a PBS show on the roadside attractions and “follies” of the 30s and 40s. The motels opposite it had broken windows and the area showed signs of serious depression which was sad.

Albuquerque was being hammered by a rainstorm, lightning and golf-ball hail just ahead of us and on the TV we heard tell of 3 feet of rain standing in the streets. There has hardly been a day when we have not seen a thunderstorm happening, though we have not actually been in one. The other side of the Grand Canyon had lightning most days and heavy rain while we got just a few spots of rain.

Gallup got just a little rain overnight. Today we spent a little time in Gallup, looking at items in the Indian Trading stores and then left to investigate historic scenic byway 53 through the Zuni Mountains. We did a little shopping in Zuni itself buying some pieces by Indian artists and then drove along to El Morro National Monument.

El Morro ...

El Morro is a huge rock in the desert where, for centuries, run off from snow and rain from the July, August and September rainy season has created a large pool of water in a dry and desert landscape. The result is that for centuries people have stopped to refresh themselves and pass some time carving their names on the rock. Some 2000 inscriptions are visible still. They range from Spaniards who came this way 15 years before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock and left their names and purpose…conquering the local tribes and converting them to Christianity to the late 1800s. Before them all are petroglyphs left by the local Indians.

Further along the road we visited the information center for El Malpais National monument – Mal pais is Spanish for badlands too but these very different. The area is made up of an exploded volcano, last eruption 1000 years ago, and the lava flow it left behind. For cavers this is a great place. When we went in to ask what we could see in a short time, the ranger was giving instructions to a man and his party who wanted to go in the caves: “go in, get used to the light level, then put on a warm jacket, acclimatize, then explore…” hypothermia can occur within minutes if not careful, the outside temp being 40-50 degrees above the cave’s. The group was going in to watch the thousands of bats leave for their evening meal. Many of the bat species have already left on migration but still thousands of resident bats would be there.

We took a short walk up to see the huge lava flow from a limestone escarpment, along the road was a natural stone arch but we had seen many this trip and it was getting late and we wanted to camp out as this would probably be our last chance.

We passed Albuquerque in the dusk – telescopes dotted the hills outside the town and drove till after dark. The sky was awesome. Again we saw lightning to the south (on our right.) we could make out large mountains around us as we drove up and then down into lower altitudes. Between Albuquerque and Santa Rosa where we camped, we stopped at a rest area where the facilities had a board so you could post your approval or disapproval of the rest area by pushing the relevant button. The restrooms were clean enough but I did wonder what to press after going in here and seeing the sign: this restroom is under video surveillance….

We had passed the 5000th mile of the trip just a mile or two after el Morro...we got our first gas under $2 a gallon since before Yellowstone 2 weeks ago and we were making eastward progress.

We camped in the dark at the Santa Rosa State Park under a glorious sky but with heavy dew even before bedtime. There was only one other tent on the site (the RV park had half a dozen campers.)

We ended the day with mileage of 5270.

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