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Route 66 Road Trip Day 11: Albuquerque to Gallup

Get your kicks on Route 66 and follow along on our 17-day Route 66 Road Trip! Day 11 was a short driving day from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Gallup, New Mexico and included a lot of roadside ruins, vintage motel signs, and our worst motel stay of the road trip.

Route 66 Road Trip Day 11: Albuquerque to Gallup

The drive from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Gallup, New Mexico is absolutely beautiful! Such gorgeous views! New Mexico really lives up to the Land of Enchantment nickname! Plus there are a ton of roadside ruins, old signs, and abandoned gas stations, etc. All the things that I just LOVE LOVE LOVE to photograph.


We passed the ruins for Bowlin’s Old Crater Trading Post. The post was opened in 1954 and closed in 1973 when Interstate 40 bypassed Route 66. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006, but it looks so worn down and slowly deteriorating back into the earth. It’s a blink and you’ll miss it type of place now. We actually sped past it and had to turn around and go back.

And then we passed the Tomahawk Bar. Maybe we should have gone inside. Sometimes you have these little road trip regrets of what could have been. I think it’s now permanently closed. 

And I love the Dead End of Route 66. We traveled Route 66 turn-by-turn which means we didn’t take Interstate 40 and then exit to see any of the big roadside attractions. No, we stayed on the tiny two-lane highways and only jumped onto the “Superslab” when Route 66 dead ended like it did here.

We got into Gallup and the tiny town has some awesome signs and neons, including one of my other all-time favorites, the Blue Spruce Lodge. The reason for the short driving day was because I knew from researching and planning our Route 66 trip that the Blue Spruce Lodge neon lights up at night and I really wanted to see and photograph it. Plus, we would have been rushed going through the Petrified Forest in order to get into Holbrook for the night. So instead, I just planned a shorter driving day.

Here’s some of the other awesome signs in Gallup:


Then we checked into the El Rancho Hotel. Now, when we pulled up, it was glorious! Check out that sign, that neon, everything! Wow! It was like visiting the Big Texan, but for real, not a gimmick. We went inside and the lobby was just as amazing. Unfortunately, the awe stopped there. I don’t mean to dissuade you from staying the night at the El Rancho if you’re on a Route 66 trip, I think you should stay there, but do your research, read the reviews! I hope management steps up and fixes things. My review of our El Rancho stay is below.

 The El Rancho advertises the “Charm of Yesterday and the Convenience of Tomorrow”, but really yesterday’s charm is a bit worn, and I did not see any of the conveniences of tomorrow. Hell, the place didn’t even have the air conditioning turned on. And it was 85 degrees outside. Which meant it was 100 degrees inside. Because of the no air conditioning, I think we had a really bad experience. Our room had a balcony, so we opened the windows and balcony doors once we were inside for the night, but the balcony is shared with the room next door and the lobby window/doors also open to the balcony, so we didn’t have any security. Also, did you notice the warning on the door? Yeah, no safe. Money, jewels and other valuables must be deposited in their central safe. Right. So I slept with the car keys, cell phone, wallet, and camera beneath my pillow. Maybe it was a bit extreme, but I’ve had my purse rifled through when I was in the room asleep, so I kind of err on the side of caution.

The bathroom is original and a joke. Tiny. Very industrial toilets. I had to stand on my tip-toes to see into the mirror. The room has very few electrical outlets, no armchairs or sofas. The furniture looks as if it was thrifted off the side of the road, and not in the same way that I do it.

The elevator is not … modern. Meaning it does not have the convenience of tomorrow. Instead it needs to be operated by the front desk staff. So instead of waiting and dealing with that, we just lugged Big Boy (that’s the name of my suitcase) up the stairs.

Did you want to use the advertised free Wifi? You’ll have to sit in the lobby because apparently the Wifi doesn’t reach all of the rooms. Luckily we were right above the front desk office, so we had Wifi in our room, but other reviews state otherwise, and I saw many of the other hotel guests in the lobby on their electronic devices.

The hotel gives you a postcard, but if you want to mail it, you better BYOS: Bring your own stamps because the front desk doesn’t have any.

I did not like that the owner has a parking spot right in front, it should be a temporary loading zone for hotel guests.

The restaurant was also terrible. The food tasted frozen, not fresh. I ordered the Ronald Reagan cheeseburger which was supposed to come with fries and a side of jelly beans, yet I received no jelly beans and I assume the kitchen didn’t have any, and they probably haven’t for quite some time. That pretty much sums up the entire hotel: Quirky charm advertised, yet not delivered. I don’t even like jelly beans, but that isn’t the point.

The hotel bar is also quite strange. We ventured into it because it was the only part of the building that was air conditioned. I ordered a soda and the Mister ordered a coffee, but he was told that they serve coffee in the restaurant … meaning, go get it yourself, not, oh let me get that for you it’s just in the next room. Another waitress then walked into the bar and thankfully the bartender asked her to go get the coffee. We then waited about 20 minutes at the bar for refills. Again, I do not see any charm of yesterday or the convenience of tomorrow.

All in all, if you’re going a Route 66 trip and you want to stay in Gallup, stay there if it is winter and you have a blanket. If it’s spring or summer, I say look into the lobby, have a drink in the strange bar, and stay elsewhere. And definitely don’t eat there. There is a Cracker Barrel across the freeway, go get some crispy pancakes!

We had dinner at the restaurant within the El Rancho and then went out to photograph some of the neon lights after the sun went down.

Here’s the Blue Spruce Lodge neon in all her lit up neon glory!

And a few others nearby:

And then we headed back to the El Rancho for the night!

STAY: El Rancho Hotel1000 E 66, Gallup, NM 87301, (505) 863-9311

Follow along on the rest of our 17-day Route 66 Road Trip:

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