Thursday morning turned into afternoon as we finally launched this expedition. Driving through the Mojave along interstate 40 in it’s scorched, iron-varnished glory at a startling 113 degrees, requires a specific sound track and DJ Sam didn’t disappoint. After 6 hours we began the cool climb up on to the Kaibab Plateau and its amazing forest of juniper and piñon pines. We stayed in seriously kitschy Williams, amid the neon and chrome of old Route 66. The Royal American motel is by far the worst motel I have ever stayed in minus the bed bugs we encountered in Rhonert Park on the way to summer camp last year. Lesson learned: book ahead. Distance driven, 450miles.
In the morning we passed through Flagstaff, Seligman and Holbrook, took the long desolate back way into the Petrified forest and up into the amazing blue mesas and canyons of the national park. The sky grew increasingly dark as we wound through the Anasazi ruins of Puerco Canyon and across the painted desert toward Gallup. Right on the New Mexican boarder we drove through the heart of an intense summer thunderstorm. At one point cars were pulled off to the side of interstate 40, as lightening struck repeatedly across the crest of the hill half a mile ahead of us.
Eventually the dark, torrential system dissipated as we reached Albuquerque for supplies. We drove north to Santa Fe for the night and found ourselves up near the Tesuque Pueblo, at an awesome Hilton on the grounds of an Indian Casino called Buffalo Thunder. Hmmm. Still the Tesuque Indian Reservation is gorgeous country. Another 430 miles driven.
The final 186 miles from Santa Fe to Cimarron was easy along an empty winding two lane New Mexico highway, the 58. Apparently the state government is not big on investing in their rest stops, every one that had ” facilities” was closed. Eventually we turned off that road on to the even smaller, rougher hwy 64. The junction has an oversized and rather astonishing Truck Stop/souvenir emporium with four immaculately restored classic cars in a corner filled with life sized cutouts of about 20 Marilyn’s, a half dozen Elvis’, & one James Dean for good measure I guess. The cars were stunning.
The road to Cimarron winds through farmland, thousands of acres of grassy paddocks dotted with strange cholla cacti and groups of horses or cattle. Sam even saw a pair of antelope. Slowly climbing to above 6000 ft and we can feel the altitude.
We turn on to the 64 and we are in Cimarron, the home of the Iconic, storied scout Ranch of our dreams. We check in to our sweet hotel and settle in as a summer thunderstorm pours rain down on the desert for hours. We eventually drive over to the famous St. James Hotel and have a lovely dinner. The hotel and restaurant is filled with scouts and scouters preparing to hit the trail or spend a week at the Training Center.