At this point we’re on our way to Gallup (not actually related to the Poll) New Mexico, our last stop before Santa Fe. We drove past Meteor Crater and the Petrified Forest National Park, both places we stopped on our way back from LA in 1982. We’re thinking about visiting them next year. We also passed some interesting lava flow close to the El Malpais National Monument, another place we’d like to explore in the future. We arrived in Gallup New Mexico and congratulated ourselves. We have now had 2 consecutive trouble-free Tow Days.

Or have we?

After the usual RV setup process—hook up power, hook up water, extend the slide-outs, level the RV—we disconnected the Calamity from the Edmund and were about to drive to dinner.  This was the first time we’d driven the tow vehicle since we left Las Vegas. As Nan started the engine, I said—without knocking on wood, throwing a coin down a well, or fondling a rabbit’s foot—”We’ve now had two consecutive trouble-free tow days!”—then I broke a mirror, spilled salt, and opened an umbrella. Nan put the car in reverse and Calamity groaned like one of the undead. Nan drove forward a few feet. The groaning stopped but there was a steady squeak from the wheels. I got out to see if I could identify the problem. The front brake rotors looked scored but I wasn’t sure what they’d looked like when we started towing in Las Vegas. I desperately wanted to think it was only dust in the brakes. I got back in and we drove slowly away from the site, wheels squeaking steadily. We went about a mile or two, lost our nerve, and decided to turn around for home.

When we got back to the RV park Nan went to the office to get auto repair recommendations from the owner. He told Nan if he needed to get HIS car worked on he’d take it to Albuquerque. Since driving 140 miles with questionable brakes wasn’t Nan’s idea of a good time, she asked the guy where he’d take his car in GALLUP. He grudgingly suggested Pep Boys. We made an on-line appointment for 9 am the next morning.

We were at Pep Boys right at 9 and heading across the parking lot for coffee ten minutes later after getting the work order processed. As we waited in the customer lounge, we were glad we’d made the appointment on-line as they were turning people away for the day by 11 because they had such a backlog. The repairs took until 12:30 pm, about the time they said they’d be done, and we headed right for the El Rancho Hotel.

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The El Rancho Hotel was the hangout of Hollywood stars and crews making films like The Bad Man, Streets of Laredo, A Distant Trumpet, and The Hallelujah Trail in the Forties, Fifties, and Sixties. It’s a real blast from the past, with autographed pictures of the stars who stayed there hanging everywhere. The place looks like Alan Ladd could step around the corner at any minute. It has the added cachet of being located on old Route 66.

We had lunch at the hotel restaurant where all the sandwiches were named after the stars. We had some damn fine fried zucchini as an appetizer; I had the Roy Rodgers burger, jus’ a plain ol’ burger with no fancy fixin’s, just like Roy, jus’ a plain ol’ cowboy with no fancy fixin’s (if you ignore his engraved pistols with stag grips, his elaborately-tooled two-gun holsters, his hand-made boots, his fringed shirts, and his carefully-blocked hats). Nan had the Doris Day Steak Sandwich. It was a good meal.

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I’d been looking forward to picking up some cigars at the interestingly named Fu King Smoke Shop. Interesting name but stale cigars I’m sorry to report; all but one were past their prime. I did get one great cigar out of the mix, an Acid. What kind of names will these wacky kids think of next?

Gallup was an interesting city, apparently ethnically homogeneous. There were few Afro-Euro-Asian people in evidence.  We’ve seen a lot of cities and towns on this trip where the majority of people have a Hispanic background, but in Gallup the old folks in the customer lounge at Pep Boys weren’t speaking Spanish to each other. This is a city where the percentage of “Native Americans” is higher than almost any other city in the US—where the 2010 census reports that the largest ethnic bloc in the city self-identifies as “American Indian” with “White” coming in second and everybody else added together making up a distant third.

I guess this strikes me as unusual because most of my contact with “Native Americans” or “American Indians” has been when they were in a deliberately un-assimilated state: in the Seventies it was angry young men rejecting Eurocentric culture, in the Eighties and Nineties it was people celebrating their heritage at Powwows, in the Naughts it was people living their heritage in pueblos. This is the first time I’ve seen a community of “Indigenous Americans” going about their business in a strip mall environment. I find this encouraging. I’m a fan of melting-pot America.

So have we now had 2 consecutive trouble-free Tow Days? We drove Calamity around Las Vegas for two weeks without any sign of a problem and then towed her for over 400 miles without being able to hear any warning sounds—we didn’t unhitch in Williams since we could walk everywhere we needed to go. According to the guy at Pep Boys, based on our mileage it was time to replace the pads. It’s possible that this was a coincidence. I’m going to declare that we DID have 2 consecutive trouble-free Tow Days—and add another line to the post-arrival check list: check brake pad wear indicator.

Next stop, Santa Fe, home of Dylan and ‘Nica (2006 versions), Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen, (“The Motherlode of American Margaritas!”), paintings of flowers that look like vaginas, and Natural Australian halite crystallized Merino ram skulls.

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