El Rancho


Ellen turned right, out of the airport onto Route 66 toward downtown Gallup.

“Look for the El Rancho Hotel. It’s up here on our right about a quarter mile ahead of us.”

“Oh, here it is.” Ellen pulled into the parking lot and turned the car off. “It's my treat for dinner and drinks.”

The sun was setting, the tentative twilight giving way to darkness. The front of the building radiated god-awful gaudiness from the eaves with very distinctive, pink neon light tubes. It was easy to spot.

“Oh my goodness! It sure is pink!” Katie and Ellen walked toward the front door.

“Here, let me.” Katie held open the heavy iron and wooden door and followed Ellen into the hotel. A spacious, two-story high lobby opened up in front of them. Massive posts of rustic pine logs supported the wooden-beam ceiling. A second-floor balcony ringed the lobby. Large Navajo rugs covered the vast spaces between the large chairs, overstuffed sofas, and tables.

“Follow me, Katie. I’m thirsty.” Ellen wound her way through the scattered furniture to the bar at the far side of the lobby. A sign said it was the 49er Lounge.

A waitress from the dining room came over as soon as they sat at a table.

“Would you ladies like drinks?”

“I’ll have a vodka martini, straight up, with onions. What do you want, Katie?”

“A glass of Chardonnay, please. Oh, wait, I almost forgot. Ellen, I might be pregnant. I’ll have a glass of water please,” she said to the server.

Ellen was looking hard at her. “Didn't you say the test was negative this morning? What did you do on the plane? I might not fly anymore if things like that happen.”

Katie laughed. Ellen always found the funny side of things.

“When’s your appointment with Dr. Peterson?”

“Tomorrow morning, Ellen, at 10:30. You’re coming right?”

“You bet.”

The waitress returned with Ellen's Gibson martini. “Would you like to order dinner?”

“Not right now, thank you. We’re going to wander around the hotel first.”

Katie followed Ellen back into the main lobby. As they stood in front of the large stone fireplace sipping their drinks, Katie scanned the historical place. It was decorated with old movie stars' autographed photos, pieces of Southwestern art and Western kitsch. A massive split staircase led up to the second floor. “Why is this place so famous, Ellen?”

“Two reasons. First, it is one of the best-known stops on Route 66. Second, movie stars, producers, everyone in Hollywood stayed in the hotel in the forties whenever they filmed here. This area was perfect for those old western movies.”

“What movies?”

“Oh, let’s see if I can remember. ‘The Bad Man’ with Ronald Reagan, ‘Pursued’ with Robert Mitchum, ‘Sea of Grass’ with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. Here, look on the wall for others. In fact, let’s go upstairs. Many of the rooms have stars’ names on the doors.”

Katie scrutinized the pictures as she followed Ellen into the hallway leading to the chambers. It was dark in the hall, narrow, and a bit foreboding. The rooms had little plaques on the doors with the names of celebrities who stayed at the El Rancho during film’s hay days. The stars apparently occupied the rooms named after them.

They walked past Humphrey Bogart and Ronald Reagan's rooms. “Ellen, look, here’s Spencer Tracy. I wonder where Katherine Hepburn’s place is.”

“She didn’t need a room, Katie. She always slept with Spence. A single location was good enough for both of them.”

“Really? I didn't know they were so open.”

“They were when they were here. It was a safe zone for them, I guess.”

When they returned to the balcony, Ellen looked at Katie. “What makes you so worried, Katie?”

“My body is sending me messages. New places tingle, other areas hurt, I feel queasy and dizzy a lot, and my nipples ache.”

“Well, I've never been pregnant, but those symptoms sound familiar.”

“I want to talk to Shimá tomorrow after the appointment. Could I borrow your car to drive out there?”

“Oh sure.”

Can we eat now? I'm famished.”

“Sure, let's go.” After ordering dinner Katie started rubbing the back of her neck moving her head slowly back and forth.

“Are you okay, honey?” Ellen asked.

"I just realized how tired I am. The last few days have been hell for Rory and me.”

The waitress brought the dinners to the table.

They ate in silence for a while, then Katie said: “I love you, Ellen, you’ve helped me so much, thank you.”




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Biking in the Redwoods Blessingway


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El Rancho Hotel: Butterfly Boy, Chapter 17

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