Day 8. Ate breakfast at the Truck Stop Cafe on old Route 66. Drove through Petrified Forest National Park, where the brochure warns that local animals "may carry bubonic plague, the hanta virus, or rabies." Forest okay, but has real trouble measuring up to the bar set by Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. Stopped for gas in Datil, New Mexico, where the sticker above the restroom reads: "Due to a shortage of paper and wood products, please wipe your a** on a spotted owl." Yes, the s's are actually marked out on the sticker. Visited the Very Large Array, 27 satellites 82 feet in diameter each. The VLA site is an open range, and a baby cow walked in front of our car; it's also surrounded by what looks to be a herd of pronghorn antelope. The visitor center sells postcards on the honor system just put your money in the box when you take a card.
Stayed in Socorro, New Mexico, at the Sands Hotel, the worst hotel I have ever been in. You know how when you built a shower, you carefully cut holes in the tile for the shower knobs, run the pipes through the holes, then carefully seal around them with silicon before putting the knobs on the pipes? Not at the Sands. At the Sands, you just smash a hole in the tile with a ball-peen hammer and stick the whole shower knob through it. At the Sands, the window over the shower is boarded up, but has a moldy brown curtain anyway. The curtain hangs from a length of yellow electrical wire. The floor mat is made of non-absorbant paper. The mattress firmness is Flinstonesque. The "pillows" are just smaller, harder mattresses. And your evening entertainment is thoughtfully provided by the local inbred delinquents drag-racing just outside. If you decide to stay in an unknown hotel that isn't a national chain or AAA-approved, I seriously recommend you ask to see the room before you give them your credit card information. Sometimes "motel" is just code for "seedy dump where itinerant drunks go to die on the bathroom floor." This is a hotel fit for El Paso.