Natural Bridges NM to Farmington, NM

Natural Bridges National Monument to Farmington, NM

Sunday, July 9, 2006 … 0 Camper Miles – Total 3,218

63 deg in morning, mid 80s by afternoon, mostly sunny

We were on road by 8:00 that morning, heading down Rt 262. The terrain changed, considerably, as we passed through the Ute and Navajo reservations on our way to Hovenweep. We saw a considerable number of hogans on the Navajo reservation. They were usually associated with contemporary houses and were probably mainly used for ceremonial purposes. Things were much more level here and we saw a fair number of oil wells, something that we haven’t seen for a while. Unfortunately, we also saw lots of litter on roads as we drove. We’ve noticed this elsewhere on other reservations, mostly beer and soft drink beverage cans & bottles. Why this is so is a mystery to us.

Our first stop for the day was at Hovenweep National Monument. Hovenweep features a number of ruins grouped around so-called Little Ruin Canyon. These are the main surviving structures of a large number of other structures concentrated at the ends of nearby small canyons. The structures were completed in the mid- to late-1200s and generally consisted of a number of connected dwellings grouped around a ceremonial kiva. Hovenweep is especially well known because of the square towers that may have been used to signal surrounding communities. Many structures lack first level doors that may indicate a defensive nature. That these structures, all out in the open, still stand is an indication of the excellent masonry work of their structures.

Sample Of Hovenweep Ruins

Next stop was the obligatory stop at Four Corners, the only place in the US where the borders of four states meet, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. The monument, itself, is a large, flat plaque on the ground, There’s a platform where visitors take turns photographing each other while they variously place four of their body parts in each of the four states. Of course, the local Navajo don’t miss this chance to peddle their wares. The monument area is surrounded by stands selling jewelry, pottery, sand painting and Navajo tacos. Actually, there’s some fairly nice items for sale at reasonable prices.

Some Roads Are Still Relentless

A few miles away is Shiprock, NM, the town, and Shiprock, the rock. Rising about 1,800 feet above the surrounding plain, you can see the rock for many miles. It is shaped a bit like a Clipper Ship, thus its name. Actually, it is the “neck”, or remains of a solidified lava core, of a dormant 40-million-year-old volcanic pinnacle. We were interested, mainly, because it is mentioned so many times in the Tony Hillerman novels of we are fans.

Shiprock Dominates Landscape

Our final destination for the day was the Aztec Ruins National Monument in Aztec, NM. Not Aztec at all, these are ruins of structures constructed by Ancestral Puebloans like the other ruins we’ve visited. Ever fascinating, this area seems to have been mainly for ceremonial or community use, not a residence. Again, they are in good condition partly because of the fine masonry work of the original construction. We took the self-guided tour and were especially impressed by the restored great kiva on the site. This kiva was huge and fully painted in the colors that were found on the original plaster inside the structure. It felt as holy as any church we’ve ever entered.

We’d intended to stay overnight in the town of Aztec but couldn’t find suitable accommodations. Instead, we returned to Farmington, finding a room at a Day’s Inn and a tasty dinner at the local Outback Steakhouse.

Kiva In Foreground Of Aztec Ruins

Farmington to Albuquerque, NM

Monday, July 10, 2006 … 0 Camper Miles – Total 3,218

High 80s, partly cloudy

We were on our way to Albuquerque and Moriarity to pick up the camper axle with only one planned stop along the way. That stop was Chaco Culture National Historical Park. The main hurdle to this visit was the seventeen-mile, wash boarded, dirt and gravel road that is the only way in or out of the park. The bad road keeps the number of visitors down and that was fine with us. But, we rattled a few tooth fillings loose along the way.

We knew very little about Chaco, except that it was supposed to be very impressive and that we’d heard of the so-called “Chaco Effect”. There are about eight major sites all reachable by a very short walk from your car. There also are some rock art and several hiking trails to more remote ruins, art and views. Unfortunately, we had little time. We took the Chetro Ketl self-guided tour and then waited a few minutes for Kirk Peterson, a park ranger, who gave a guided tour of Pueblo Bonito Ruin. Kirk was excellent, presenting the Chaco story, several theories about what went on there and the strengths and weaknesses of each of the theories. His one hour tour lasted more that 1½ hours but no one complained.

View Into Great Kiva At Chetro Ketl
Tiny Sample Of Chaco Petroglyphs

In short, the ruin has more than 200 rooms and rose, in places, to four or five stories. There are several generations of masonry technique as the people apparently learned how to make stronger and better looking walls. No one knows what all the rooms were for but there is little of the kind of evidence expected in a habitation. Also, many rooms were completely dark and don’t seem to be practical for food storage. There are many kivas. The most current thinking is that the area served, mainly, as a social, religious and administrative center. There is much evidence to support the notion that it was a center of trade for goods that came from all over North America. There was also an extensive network of sophisticated roads that radiated from the area to other important Ancestral Puebloan settlements. Regretfully, we had to leave, but even that brief visit to Chaco gave us a much clearer notion of the extent and sophistication of the early Puebloan culture.

Extensive Ruins Of Pueblo Bonito
800 Year Old Roof Structure Still Survives
Stone Stairway Formed Part Of Chaco Road System

We headed back out the 17 miles of dirt road and on to Albuquerque. It was our plan to stay there and drive the 30 or so miles to Moriarity the next morning to pick up our axle. We found a very nice room for $30 right on historic Rt 66 just a short drive from historic downtown Albuquerque. We drove the old highway, admiring the surviving art deco architecture and funky signs that lined the old road. We stopped for dinner at Kelly’s, a refurbished Ford dealership, complete with old-time gasoline pumps left over from the heyday of Rt 66.

Kellys Along Historic Rt 66 In Alberquerque

Albuquerque to Raton, NM

Tuesday, July 11, 2006 … 0 Camper Miles – Total 3,218

Sunny, high 80s

In the morning, we had breakfast along the old highway at a place called Manny’s. Then we drove through New Mexico University so Sandy could see the stadium, etc. We’d been having persistent air leaks on a couple of the car’s tires. (Yet another sheet metal screw in the middle of the tread of one of the tires may have been part of the problem.) They were getting pretty worn, anyway, so we decided that Albuquerque was as good as any place to get new tires. We did so and headed out to Moriarity for the axle. We had to wonder about all the billboards offering adult videos, affordable bail bonds and quick loans … what kind of town is this, anyway?

Half-an-hour later we were at RV Sales in Moriarity loading the new, 150-lb axle onto the top of the car, being very careful to lash it securely so as not to do too much damage to the body work. We were soon back on the road to Summerlan RV Park in Raton. Arriving there, we found the camper as we left it and the folks at Summerlan ready to do the installation first thing the next morning. We prepared a nice stir-fry with veggies and ham under a threat of thunderstorms but got none. We slept well … it was nice to be back in our Tin Tent.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006 … 0 Camper Miles – Total 3,218

Pleasant, breezy, low 90s and sunny

First thing, we folded up the camper and towed it to the garage area where the Summerlan folks did a first-rate job removing the old axle and installing the new one. There were no problems except that they pointed out that the trailer tires were worn and should be replaced. Bill went to a local tire place and they ordered new, radial tires for delivery about noon the next day. Finally, we set the camper up in another site in the park and Bill finished replacing some marginal connections in the camper’s electrical system.

While all this was going on, Sandy got in her daily walk, did some laundry and got a gardening fix by weeding a flower garden in the RV park. Afterwards, she explored the old part of downtown Raton, including the restored Shuler Theater. The theater’s lobby was decorated with extensive murals depicting local history. They were painted as a WPA project. Her tour director, and, it happens, the theater director turned out to be from Palmyra, PA!

That evening we had dinner at Pipers Mexican and American Restaurant. Good. Plentiful. Cheap! OK!