This entry is part 27 of 29 in the series Coast-to-coast: San Francisco to Savannah

April 27, 2024

Coast-to-coast: San Francisco to Savannah (Part 27)

By Simon J. Lau

Today we departed from Santa Fe. It’s the oldest continuously inhabited state capital in the U.S., dating back to its establishment in 1610. Its significance as a vital trade hub along the Santa Fe Trail facilitated connections between the U.S. and Mexico, profoundly shaping its cultural and economic landscape. As a military outpost and governmental seat, it played a pivotal role in the expansion of the American Southwest under various colonial powers.

After spending several days here, I can definitely say that this place is quite unique and punches well above its weight! For instance, I love the widespread use of adobe architecture. I never thought much of it before, but now that I’m here and I’ve seen so much of it, I like that it blends in nicely with the landscape. The city is also really clean and feels very livable. It feels so livable that I’m surprised that it hasn’t yet been overrun by remote tech workers. Maybe it gets too hot during the summer? Whatever the case is, I’m thankful they haven’t yet discovered this place. Below are some highlights from our stay.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is among the most prominent, if not the most prominent building in Santa Fe Historic District. Built in 1886, its iconic twin towers make it a notable feature of the city’s skyline. Serving as a center for worship and community gatherings, it has played a vital role in Santa Fe’s spiritual and cultural life for over a century.

The Cross of Martyrs holds profound historical and cultural significance as a memorial to the city’s early history and religious heritage. Erected in 1920, the monument commemorates the 21 Franciscan friars who were killed during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, a pivotal event in the region’s history. At the top of the hill, the site offers gorgeous panoramic views of the city and surrounding landscape. When we visited, it was overcast and dreary, but it made for some very dramatic photos.

As we departed from Santa Fe, we encountered heavy traffic due to a large train derailment west of the city, near Gallup. As luck would have it, I had initially made housing reservations in Gallup, but I cancelled them yesterday and booked a room further west. Although the derailment occurred yesterday, I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but I’m grateful for the change in plans. There was no way for non-residents to enter Gallup today.

We left at 8 am and, with breaks, didn’t arrive at our final destination until 5 pm. It was the worst traffic we’ve encountered on this trip. However, amidst the delays, I captured this photo during a stretch of the journey where fog hovered just above the ground’s surface. I found this scenery so beautiful.

We also visited Petrified Forest National Park in northeastern Arizona. This park is a notable geological and paleontological marvel, celebrated for its vast deposits of petrified wood dating back millions of years. Its vibrant badlands, mesas, and ancient petroglyphs provide visitors with insights into both the area’s natural beauty and its cultural legacy.

This is also the first national park that I’ve visited where dogs are allowed on most, if not all, of the trails. We (Bruno and me) took this as an opportunity to explore the Blue Mesa Trail together. This area is renowned for its stunning blue and purple hues, which result from unique mineral deposits. This geological formation offers a glimpse into the park’s ancient past, showcasing millions of years of sedimentary layering and erosion. You may not be able to tell from Bruno’s demeanor, but he was a huge fan! Despite the cold weather, we were able to complete the loop together and see all the different colors up close.

I should note, that’s not a trash bag over my camera. That’s a DSLR waterproof cover. 🌝

This 1932 Studebaker was donated to the National Park Service by Frank and Rhonda Dobell, owners of Arizona Automotive Service in Holbrook, Arizona. It marks a section of where historic Route 66 once passed through the park; the raised roadbed and telephone poles in the background indicate the original path.

As an aside, I recently finished reading the Lincoln Highway. Without delving into the details of the story, the main character intends to drive across the country with his little brother in a Studebaker. I’ve only seen these cars in museums and always thought of them as luxury vehicles, but based on the frequency I’ve been hearing of them now, I guess they were much more of a mass-market automobile than I had initially thought.

Overall, I was pleased with our visit to Petrified Forest National Park. Besides the trail we explored, there appear to be many more trails to discover, and it’s a great place to bring your dog along!

Leaving the park, I observed an unusual cloud cover. It seemed as if there were sheets hanging from the clouds down to the ground. I planned to take photos from just below the “sheets,” but soon realized these were pockets of torrential downpour. Even at its fastest setting, my windshield wipers couldn’t keep up with the rain. Fortunately, it only lasted for a few moments before I sped past it. Quite an unexpected experience!

Finally, our route from Santa Fe to Holbrook (360 miles or 579 km).

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