GRANTS, NM ~ May 26, 2007
The town of Grants is named after the Grant brothers who contracted to build the section of transcontinental railroad in this area. Although the first settlers had raised livestock, the timber industry took over once the railroad came in. Logging camps and sawmills sprang up throughout the Zuni Mountains, with branch lines connected to the main railway. In 1931, the lumber business slowed down as did the rest of the nation’s economy. By World War II, railroad logging had ended. Uranium mining began to flourish in the early 1950’s until the 1980’s when that also declined. The town’s population has dropped considerably since then, but Grants looks like a nice community with well-kept parks for the residents and mining museums for the tourists. Grants is the nearest town with hotels close to our next destination of El Malpais National Monument, but this was a budget trip for us and we were going to be camping, which is also easily available in the forested areas around Grants.
One thing to keep in mind about both Grants and Gallup is that most stores and restaurants are closed on Sunday. Coming from Arizona where everything is open all the time, this was surprising and seemed rather quaint in our current day and age. It’s a good thing we were traveling on a budget anyway and had brought a cooler full of sandwiches and snacks. Even so, Rich at least wanted to sample some New Mexico chili so on Saturday night we did stop at a place called Chili Kicks on Route 66. It’s owned by a local chili cookoff winner, Millie Chavez. She had won first place at the annual Chili Fiesta in Grants, as well as first place at the Sky City Salsa and Chili Championships. Definitely a family restaurant, the Chavez family was eating there at the time, too. The furnishings were simple, the prices were inexpensive, and the portions were plenty. The chili, salsa, and enchilada sauce were indeed good but they were all extremely HOT, even for us Arizonans. It’s a good thing they had free refills on soft drinks! If you have tender taste buds, you can just get a plain bean burrito with Spanish rice on the side, which wasn’t too hot. Sit by the window so you can watch the trains go by.