Shush Yaz Trading Company, Gallup, NM
For the past several months, Rio Nuevo editor Jim Turner has been sharing his adventures in the Four Corners area as he worked on the third edition of Native Roads by Fran Kosik. This is the final installment in his journey.
By Jim Turner
What better way to start your day than with a visit to one of the largest Native American trading posts in the Four Corners area? That’s Shush Yaz Trading Company in Gallup, one of the trading posts we added to this edition of Native Roads. The name means “Little Bear” in Navajo, the nickname of Don Tanner, a great-grandson of Seth Benjamin Tanner. Seth Tanner, a Mormon explorer, pioneer, and early trader, was called Hosteen Shush (strong as a bear).
Even though the building is as big as a strip mall, I was still surprised when I stepped in the door. There are no dividing walls inside, so it seems like the goods go on forever in all directions. There are rugs, jewelry cases, and shelves from floor to ceiling—very impressive. They have a beautiful selection of antique jewelry and rare rugs, but also modern clothing, handbags, and various housewares with Native American designs.
Gallup is also the home of Earl’s Family Restaurant. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn about Earl’s until I read the tourist booklets when I got home. A local fixture since 1947, Earl’s may be the only restaurant in the country where Native Americans come to your table to display their artwork and handicrafts.
Today’s journey, about 120 miles from Gallup to Winslow, was the shortest and easiest leg of my trip. And I love it when modern freeways and historic roads overlap! This stretch of Interstate 40 pretty much follows Route 66, which follows the Santa Fe Railway route, which stems from the Beale Wagon Road of 1857, created by the extraordinary camel expedition.
There’s a simple tribute to Route 66 at the I-40 north exit to the Petrified Forest: a Depression-era jalopy set right where it might have traveled John Steinbeck’s “Mother Road” back then. There’s also a nice map of Route 66 at that exit.
I never get tired of the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert. Where else can you get two phantasmagorical phenomenon in the same place, with dinosaur skeletons thrown in for good measure?
One of the fun things about Route 66 is the maps painted on the side of buildings. Joe & Aggies’ Café in Holbrook has one, and then there’s the self-proclaimed “World’s Longest Map” at the Meteor City exit between Winslow and Flagstaff.
I stopped at the Painted Desert Inn Museum. This pueblo-style tourist lodging was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. When they took it over in 1947, the Fred Harvey Company invited renowned architect Mary Jane Colter to redesign the interior. She hired Hopi artist Fred Kabotie to paint murals inside. The inn was restored and reopened as a museum and gift shop in 2006.
Jim Turner (right) at Standin’ on the Corner Park
From there I headed west to Winslow. When you get to Winslow, the most important thing you absolutely must do (in fact I think it’s an Arizona Office of Tourism official requirement) is have your picture taken next to the statue in “Standin’ on the Corner Park.” Named for the lyric from Jackson Browne’s song “Take it Easy,” which was a 1972 hit for the Eagles, there’s even a restored flat bed Ford (another line from the lyrics) parked permanently on the street in front of the mural.
Hubbell Trading Post, Winslow, Arizona
When I tell people about this editing road trip, they often ask, “did you visit the Hubbell Trading Post?” I love to reply, “Which one?” They are usually referring to the Ganado trading post because most people don’t know about the second one, built in 1917 by the Richardson brothers, another long-time trading post family. They sold it to Louis Illsfelt in 1921, and Lorenzo Hubbell bought it 1926. After many years, the Winslow Chamber of Commerce and the City of Winslow got federal and state grants, did a great job restoring this Hubbell trading post, and re-opened it in 2009 as a museum, public space, and chamber headquarters.
And then there’s the Old Trails Museum, one of my favorites. There are exhibits about Route 66, the Harvey Girls, and even Ice Age fossils. The great thing about historic Winslow is that all of these features are within walking distance of each other, and many are on Route 66 (Second Street).
Turquoise Room and Margarita Bar Cafe
By far, my favorite thing to do in Winslow is to have as many meals as possible at award-winning Chef John Sharpe’s five-star Turquoise Room Margarita Bar and Café in the beautifully-restored La Posada Hotel. I managed to get there in time for lunch on Thursday, had dinner there that night, and then a leisurely breakfast the next morning. Whenever I’m within sixty miles of Winslow I make a special trip to dine there.
Opened in 1929, La Posada was one of the last Fred Harvey Company/Santa Fe Railway hotels to be constructed before the Great Depression put an end to that kind of grandeur. Designed by Mary Jane Colter in the Southwest’s grand hacienda style of wrought iron and terra cotta tile, Colter said it was one of her favorite projects. Restored and re-opened in 1997, it is now one of the top five historic hotels in Arizona.
The next morning, Friday, January 25th, I reluctantly got into the company Honda CRV and headed west on that last day, driving the 313 miles back to Tucson almost straight through. This was one of the best road trips of my life, and I am grateful for the opportunity. I figure I only got to about two-thirds of the places in Fran Kosik’s book, so I’ll definitely be “retracing native roads” many times.
What’s left of Two Guns, Arizona between Winslow and Flagstaff
Jim Turner is an historian, editor, teacher, researcher, and author. He received his masters degree in U.S. history from the University of Arizona and is now an editor for Rio Nuevo Publishers. He writes history articles for various newspapers around the state, and his pictorial history book, “Arizona: Celebrating the Grand Canyon State,” was named a “Top Pick” for Southwest Books of the Year by the Friends of the Pima County Library. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.