Wednesday, December 12, 2012

2012 Route 66 Road Trip - Day 12

We left the company of Rhett & Sarah early in the morning as they had to be to work, and we had quite a bit of distance to make up.

We'd been thinking about the distance we still had to cover, and how we were going to do it. We first chose not to do any more of the out-and-back alignments that were not in the correct direction of travel... so nothing that would take us any further west than our current position.

So leaving Ramah, we headed back north to Gallup to pick up Rt. 66 where we'd left it yesterday... and then continue eastward.
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We did manage to find a couple fun side trails in our direction of travel...
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We passed through Albuquerque. It was here that we found our first fuel for under $3.00/gallon... we would eventually find more the further east we went.
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One of the highlights of this section of our trip was the climb of La Bajada Hill, just west of Santa Fe. This path was part of the original Rt. 66 alignment... the history on it is pretty interesting.
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The road on La Bajada was Route 66 from 1926 to 1932. It contains more than a dozen hellish switchbacks, and was so steep in spots that automobiles going uphill had to take it in reverse because gravity-feed tanks couldn’t get fuel to the engine.

See here: http://route66news.com/2007/03/11/the-summit-of-la-bajada-hill/
Before we left home, I'd read varying reports of the hill's condition and difficulty... so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect.

It didn't seem like much when we first started climbing, but we found that the further up we traveled, the more tedious the trail became... with fantastic views all the way up.
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About half way up the hill, the trail forked to the left and to the right. We continued to the right, and found a section of trail that disappeared around a bend... but the way was seeming blocked by a couple of sizable boulders. At first we thought we'd have to turn around, but after some closer examination we found that the KJ was narrow enough to squeeze between the boulder and the edge of the trail... so we continued on.

Once passing the boulder and the bend, we soon realized that it was likely that not many came this direction. There were no signs of tracks in the dirt like we'd seen previously... and much of the surface was loose lava rock. There were a couple of impressive washed out sections that we were mindful about navigating. This was NOT the place to get stuck. :shock: We took our time... I carefully chose lines, and Aaron was out of the vehicle at some of the more "interesting" sections to be a second set of eyes for me. After patience, and a little bit of white-knuckled driving on my part, we made it out just fine. **Sorry for the lack of photos on this section - I was really more about getting the KJ out with out getting stuck. It was nearing nightfall and we weren't real keen on being there after dark.** Up until this point, we hadn't been anywhere that required the use of 4-low... but La Bajada Hill was not taking 4-hi for an answer. :lol:

I paused at the top of the hill for a victory photo...
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The other fork that had gone off to the left about 1/2 way down the hill, rejoined with our fork at the top of the hill. We walked out to the edge where we could see the trail condition and path... and determined that we took the more difficult and longer route up to the top. The terrain on that side was a lot smoother, for sure. So, if you ever choose to drive La Bajada Hill, just remember... left fork = easy, right fork = not as easy. :D

We took the long dirt road off the hill and into Santa Fe... but this was an evening with killer sunset colors, and I stopped often for photos. 8)
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We made it into Santa Fe just after dark, and drove into the downtown area. We grabbed dinner at this little French place called the Burro Alley Cafe, and walked around afterwards. Downtown Santa Fe is a neat little old fashioned looking area with shops, restaurants and bars. They had the square done up in Christmas lights, there was snow on the ground, and we were even wished a "Merry Christmas" by Santa Claus... driving a GMC Sierra!