Day 9, Monday
Ah, the end of the trip. This is always the hardest post to write because it means the road adventure has come to an end and it’s back to “real life”. I’ve done this cross-country drive three times now (FP’s done it twice). The day you arrive at your destination and after you unpack the car, there’s this uncomfortable feeling of “well… what do I do now?” Fancy Pants wasn’t troubled by such silly existential thoughts – she happily sniffed her way around familiar nooks and crannies once back in her own (Mom’s) house.
Our final day saw us waking up to a beautiful morning in Albuquerque and as we watched the local news while getting ready, we heard someone refer to the town at Duke City. Huh? Curious, I hopped onto Google and learned that Albuquerque was given its name in the 1600′s in honor of a Spanish Duke by the same name (well, he had like seven names all strung together, but ABQ was in there somewhere) and since then the city has had the nickname of Duke City. Here it is the year 2011 and it’s still called that. I think that’s pretty cool.
We hopped on the road and drove West towards Arizona. Some parts along I-40 are very pretty, with a long stretch on the North side showing miles of gorgeous long, red, smooth red rocks jutting out from a larger mountain. They look to me as if they’re futuristic space cruise ships (a la The Fifth Element) waiting patiently in port until we know how to use them. Hey, it’s been a long drive. Sometimes one’s mind gets a bit fantastical towards the end…
At a friend’s suggestion we stopped off in Winslow, Arizona for lunch. We were told to visit La Posada, a restored historic hotel located on a sliver of land between Route 66 and the Santa Fe rail line. La Posada housed one of the original Harvey Houses, restaurants located along the rail line where folks could get a bite to eat from friendly (though not too friendly!) Harvey Girls, dressed in black and white.
Apparently the food at the hotel’s Turquoise Room is James Beard recognized, or the chef was at some point, I’m not sure about all that. What I am sure of now is that this place isn’t somewhere I’d purposely stop at to eat again. I went to order the lamb posole which was supposed to be made from local Navajo-raised organic lamb, but the waitress told me that the dish was very hot and spicy and I simply couldn’t do that with four more hours to go in the car (just in case). So here’s what we got instead:
Braised Short Ribs and Coleslaw on Ciabatta with Sweet Potato Fries
Mom ordered this sandwich over the other Southwestern specialties. Although the meat was tender, there was too little of it compared to the bread and slaw. And those fries? Who ever heard of bland sweet potato fries? Well, now you have.
Crispy Pork Carnitas with Red and Green Salsas, Black Beans and Sweet Corn Tamale
Instead of the spicy lamb posole I opted for the pork carnitas. The meat was not as moist as it should have been, the tamale had been peeled back and “cut up” for me, and the black beans tasted like they were straight from a can. If anyone here knew what the words “James Beard” meant, they’ve clearly left the building. We were so disappointed we didn’t even order dessert.
La Posada’s public areas were gorgeous, a blending of the newer Southwestern design elements with homage to its historical origins. A few pictures…
Upon leaving La Posada and driving through time-ravaged Winslow, I pointed to a down-and-dirty BBQ joint and said to Mom, “We should’ve had lunch there!” Driving several more hours, we stopped at a rest stop and knew we were in Arizona when we saw this:
And just like that, the trip was over. We pulled into Mom’s driveway, walked into the living room, and were greeted by some of our extended family who are staying in the house on vacation. It was nice to not come home to an empty house (or a very hot one – they already had the AC on as it was still 90 degrees in Phoenix). I finally cooked a meal of my own (shrimp scampi) and then we took a cue from Fancy Pants who was snoring loudly on her favorite chair and we went to bed.
This is for all of you who have followed us on our journey and buoyed us with your comments on the posts and your phone calls and emails along the way. This is especially for those of you who were gracious to open your homes (and kitchens!) to us as we traveled across – staying with warm, loving friends is much better than staying at cold hotels. So….