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It's easy to drive the thin ribbon of Route 66 through the great Southwest for miles without encountering another motorist. Come evening, when serene solitude has given over to yearning loneliness, you may find yourself craving company. Big cities are few and far between on this old road, and most of the smaller burgs roll up the sidewalks at sundown. All of which makes Gallup, New Mexico, a true 66 treasure. Approaching Gallup from the east, you'll be drawn by the inviting neon glow of the El Rancho complex—hotel, motel, restaurant, and lounge.

Built by legendary film director D. W. Griffith (western New Mexico has long been a favorite of filmmakers seeking wide-open spaces for location shoots, so Griffith erected a hostelry to host Hollywood's elite during their sojourns here), El Rancho's been welcoming travelers since 1937. After you've booked a room—all named for movie stars who have rested their heads at the hotel—make your way to the 49er Lounge, where you'll find yourself among a mix of locals and fellow travelers. Maxine the waitress has been there most nights since 1962, in the lounge or serving food in El Rancho's restaurant. She's got plenty of stories about the Hollywood stars she's served, including Burt Lancaster, Ronald Reagan, and Goldie Hawn. But her favorite story recalls the night in 1964 when John Wayne entered the 49er on horseback, ordering one beer for himself and another for the horse he rode in on. "He was a very nice man," Maxine recalls. "Very polite. But he did like to drink a lot."
INGREDIENTS: El Rancho Hotel, 1000 E. Route 66, 505-863-9311