|Gallup, New Mexico|
Day six started with promise. As we drove into the Windows-startup screen of a landscape of open skies and flat greenery, my husband blasted the Sirrius Spa station. It was the kind of music second-rate yoga teachers and masseuses play -- and I always ask them to turn off -- but he was having a moment, and I let him have it. He was back in the West.
In Albuquerque we stopped in Old Town to stretch our legs and buy postcards. We had a quiet moment in the adobe church and ate marginal Mexican food on the central square. It got worse from there. This is when my husband realized his vision of the American west bore little resemblance to reality, which consisted largely of pock-marked highway, aggressive truck drivers, and tatty Indian jewelry outlets along the otherwise desolate interstate. We considered stopping in Grants for the night, but the cluster of chain motels and a Walmart (which admittedly I had previously found charming in Columbus, Ohio) masquerading as a town was too depressing to bear, and we continued for sixty miles to Gallup.
There we checked into the El rancho motel, which had once hosted the cast of several westerns. Our room was named after Kirk Douglas, and came complete with a wagon wheel headboard and heavy antiseptic smell. We shared the bar with a long-haul trucker and a group of German cyclists, ate our second Mexican meal of the day in the hotel restaurant, and retired into the arms of Mr. Douglas to rest up for the final leg of our journey.