NALM 2016 Days 6 & 7: Sallisaw, Oklahoma & Gallup, New Mexico

Odometer:  548,341


Trip Distance (Overall):  3,684 since last Tuesday


Siri has really failed me.  After two years, she still doesn’t know my car preferences?  For shame!


NALM 2016 is a wrap, but this trip isn’t.  I’m still a ways from home, and that means you still get to hear from me until the fat lady has sung, or rather, until the old Legend has arrived back at my driveway in Phoenix, Arizona.

On Sunday morning, it was a relaxed vibe at our host hotel in Oakwood.  People were partaking of the continental breakfast, loading up their cars, and saying their farewells.  It didn’t take me long to collect my belongings and get packed for the drive.  Meanwhile, my friend Chris had driven over from Athens (Georgia, not Greece) to say hello since he was in the area visiting his sister.


As the rains started coming down, I completed one last NALM tradition in the hotel parking lot:  Putting my graffiti’d message to Kevin inside the trunk of his 1994 Legend LS coupe.  This marks the 5th year in a row we’ve upheld this tradition and it will continue until I’ve run out of space, I guess.


… Or until all his silver Sharpies run out of ink.


That day’s drive took me across 5 state lines:  Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.  Each state has its own landscape, flavor, and style.  I had the opportunity northeast of Birmingham, Alabama to test out a really fresh piece of interstate called I-22, formerly known just as “Corridor X.”




As of June of this year, the complete stretch of freeway is now in place for about 200 miles from Birmingham to the Tennessee state line just outside Memphis.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get that memo until I’d already taken Highway 78, a two-lane side road, for the 12 miles from I-20 to I-22.  Even the Apple Maps on my phone didn’t know that there was a better route because evidently it’s still too new.


Traffic came to a stop (light) after crossing into Tennessee, and I encountered several more stop lights in the final 6 or so miles on approach to Memphis.  Apparently the state of Tennessee still needs to complete its piece for the full freeway to reach the core of Memphis.  Speaking of Memphis, I can’t think of that word without saying “Memphis Raines.”  You remember him?  He was the character Nicholas Cage played in the movie “Gone in 60 Seconds.”


From there I hooked up with Interstate 40 which is taking me ALLLLL the way across the center part of the country. After bridging me across the Mississippi River, it took me through Little Rock, Arkansas.  I fueled up in Conway a little bit north of there before continuing on to my motel for the night in eastern Oklahoma – a small town called Sallisaw.


Sunday was consumed entirely by Interstate 40, but dotted with a few special attractions along the way.  The I-40 pathway was once that of historic Route 66, so many of the towns along the way have embraced their heritage as stops along the “Mother Road.”  I didn’t make any stops in Oklahoma until I had almost exited the state.  One such Route 66 town is called Elk City, and it’s home to the National Route 66 Museum.  I didn’t take the time to wander through but I did capture a few photos outside with the gigantic sign.


It wasn’t long until I crossed the Texas state line, and JUST across the Texas border lies one of my favorite roadside attractions:  A restored 1936 Conoco gas station that today houses a visitor center.   I’ve stopped here multiple times on my cross-country journeys, including 3 years ago in August 2013 (pulled from my Instagram):


And again today!  The place hasn’t changed much.  For that matter, neither has the car!


That Art Deco architecture gets me every time.  It’s a scene straight out of the Pixar movie “Cars.”  By the time I arrived in Amarillo, I’d worked up an appetite so it was time to track down some food.  I already knew where I wanted to go, because it’s a tradition.  Soncy Road on the west side of town is home to one of the last-surviving Fazoli’s Italian restaurants in the southwest.  For some reason, all Fazoli’s locations in Arizona and in Utah have closed their doors, but this one still remains.  I had to make mom jealous by sending her some pics.  The breadsticks are unlimited!


Mom speaks the language of acronyms.  Her “TDF” there stands for “To Die For.”  I fueled up in Tucumcari, New Mexico and again on the western outskirts of Albuquerque before deciding exactly where I wanted to target my destination for the night.  That destination ended up being Gallup – a teeny town just east of the Arizona state line.

Like so many other towns in the region, Gallup exudes a Route 66 vibe and I intentionally got off Interstate 40 a solid 8 miles before my motel exit, just so I could drive along the old road and see some of the architecture.  Many of the places are run down, shuttered, and in stages of ruin, but a few hearty businesses have withstood the test of time and continue somehow to stay open.  Like the Desert Skies Motel:


And with that, I’m going to get some shuteye and prepare for my final stretch into home tomorrow.

Thanks for coming along, and enjoy a few more photos just for fun.

Downtown Atlanta in the rain


Driver’s Log.  Should I pick one of these up?


Trying out this brand new interstate.


Spell it with me now.  M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I.  It’s just so fun.


My drive took me straight into central Memphis



And then across the Mississippi River into Arkansas!


Evening arrival in Sallisaw, Oklahoma.


The front desk attendant handed me my room’s TV remote after checking in.  I guess they can’t trust guests enough to leave them in the rooms?


Westbound on I-40 on Sunday morning


The tree-lined interstate gave way to grassland.


I get the feeling a few people have wiped out on this 50-mph curve on I-40 in Oklahoma City.  Those signs are a bit obnoxious!  But they got the message across!


I had the chance to use up my $40 Love’s gas station gift card.  Thanks again, Kevin!


Arriving in Elk City, home of the….


… National Route 66 Museum!


On into Texas (again)!


And into New Mexico!


Painted sky as I closed in my nightly destination


Hotel El Rancho in historic downtown Gallup.  Intentionally staying true to its Route 66 look & feel


View from my room tonight


Check you later!

8 Responses to “NALM 2016 Days 6 & 7: Sallisaw, Oklahoma & Gallup, New Mexico”

  1. Love that shot of the Legend in front of the Conoco Station. You should totally print one and hang it on your wall.

    I’ll have to check out “Corridor X” the next time I’m in Alabama!

    Safe travels on home.

    • I still can’t believe I was following so closely in your footsteps when I drove past that Mercedes plant! If only we had coordinated our timing, we could have met up there!

  2. You passed close to Tupelo according to one of your pics. Birthplace of Elvis.

  3. I need to make a special trip out to that gas station.

    • It’s worth the trip! There are so many cool R66 sights to see in that area. And the next time I’m out this way, I’m going to tour the museum in Elk City instead of just getting pics out front!

  4. *Munching on popcorn* Correct me if I’m wrong…this ’16 NALM trip seems to be one of the best you’ve had! Always nice to know there are still a good handful of Legend enthusiasts out there. I’m jelly of just the journey to and from Atlanta! Safe travels to home! 😀

    • Hey, where’d you get that popcorn? I didn’t know we had a concessions stand around here! Thanks for coming along for the journey. ‘Twas a good one! Home now and time to decompress 🙂

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