Waking up at a hotel where a giant bull on a trailer -- ready to be towed at a moment's notice wherever a giant bull would be needed -- a giant cowboy boot, and multiple cars with bull horns on the hood in the parking lot is an experience that highlighted the fact that we were still far away from home. Today's drive would take us through two more states, and to many sites that represent the traditional (and now somewhat touristy) Southwest.
Getting back on I-40 West, our first stop was at Cadillac Ranch, something Melissa mentioned on the drive the night before, and it wasn't too far from the hotel. Cadillac Ranch is essentially an art exhibit; on this spot, there is a line of 10 Cadillacs, looking as if they were planted, nose-first, in the ground. They all have thick layers of spray paint on them, as visitors are encouraged to make their own mark on the cars -- as long as they only paint there and nowhere else. This means that even though the cars remain the same, the display is always changing. We didn't have any spray paint, but watched as others added their names to one of the cars. There were plenty of nonchalant cows in the distance, who seemed to be used to this.
Next stop: Old Town Albuquerque. While I had been there once before (coincidentally only about two weeks before this trip), that visit was an abbreviated one to the newer part of town. This time, however, was a treat, as we went to the historic old town and ate lunch at Casa de Ruiz (Church Street Cafe), one of the oldest buildings there. Old Town has existed since the early 1700s, and the sign outside San Felipe de Neri Church, the oldest church in Albuquerque, explained that they have held services since 1706 without interruption. The area has a plaza in the center, and the surrounding buildings were fine examples of Southwestern architecture. There were also plenty of flowers and well-maintained grounds throughout, and cool eye candy like a restored 1950s-era Chevy pickup we saw that looked perfectly natural there.
We continued on the 40, passing up several opportunities to buy moccasins, rugs, and other Native American-made goods, to go to the Wigwam Motel #6, in Holbrook, Arizona. This spot is a great example of Americana, right down to the classic cars in varying stages of restoration parked outside each wigwam. There were also some cool trucks there, including a Chevy tow truck and an older Chevy half-ton, sharing space with a dune buggy. While Holbrook itself has seen better days, the Wigwam was well kept. After posing the Frontier near the wigwams for some photos, it was on to our last stop of the day -- a hotel somewhere.
We could've stayed at the Wigwam, but that would've guaranteed that our last day of driving would be a marathon like day three. We would've had to drive more than 800 miles in one day to get home; while we both knew we could've done that drive, it would not have been much fun. At lunch, we had decided to press on past Holbrook, and perhaps stay in Flagstaff. I looked for unique hotels there -- why stay at a normal place on a trip like this? -- and discovered that the rooms were sold out. After more online research via smartphone, we discovered better options in Williams, which was one town over from Flagstaff.
Neither Melissa nor I had ever been to Williams before. I'd seen signs for it along the 40, but that was about it. We checked into the Mountain Ranch Resort, where there were pine trees, rolling hills, horses, and plenty of wildlife (okay, bunnies). They also happened to have small tepees and a facade of an Old West town in front, but the not-so-traditional tennis court just to the left detracted from the scene.
We went to downtown Williams to get dinner, and discovered that this town has been here since 1881. A wrought-iron sign above the street that goes to the historic downtown section calls it the Gateway to the Grand Canyon. There are trains visitors can take to the Grand Canyon, some of which we saw along the road in a railroad yard. The town is filled with restored buildings, one with a mannequin dressed up like a "painted lady" from back in the day leaning out of a window. There were plenty of gift shops, clubs, and small hotels. Even though it was focused on tourism, there were still elements of interesting history here. Williams was the last town to be bypassed by the 40, yet it wasn't all that far from the Interstate, so it found a way to prosper. Dinner was at the Red Raven, which got great reviews on Yelp!. As we discovered, it deserved those reviews. The food and service were excellent, and that meal was a great end to another fun day on the road in the Frontier.