Week 6

Day 33 Sunday, September 4

Did I mention that this is Labor Day Weekend and as usual good news and bad new. The bad news is we have a lot of driving today. The good news, something finally lined up and were on target to attend the richest race in the world for two year olds tomorrow.

zia parkZia Park

It's going to be a seven hour plus haul from Oklahoma City to a place called Hobbs, New Mexico the home of Zia Park. We start off on I-44 south to Wichita Falls, from there it's all secondary roads through barren West Texas until Hobbs. Zia Park is a race track, casino, hotel complex run by Penn Gaming, remember them back on day 15? Another near miss here, the racing season starts this Friday, were just a tad early. When we leave Zia Park we have an interesting dilemma, on the way to our next stop we pass right by Carlsbad Caverns, a high value cultural target, to stop or not to stop is the question? You can't just drive by, you actually have to go into a hole in the ground for this one.

I guess this brings to light that anyone who would make a trip like this would have a different starting point and a person from the Southwest, might not care so much, or already been to Carlsbad, while a person from the East may never make it here again. So they might want to stop. Too late to stop today, if we lose a day we miss closing day at Ruidoso Downs. Probably cold down there anyways, were pushing on.

sunland parkSunland Park

Still four more hours of back road driving ahead until we come to our final destination today, Sunland Park, located in where else but Sunland Park, New Mexico. Sunland Park opened in 1959, when they used to have water skiers performing in the infield lake(different world back then). In 1999, Sunland Park opened the first casino in New Mexico and in 2009, a horse named Mine That Bird, took a twenty one hour van ride from here to Louisville, Kentucky to win the Kentucky Derby. No live racing now, they race here in the winter and spring, but you can simulcast and do some gambling before finding a hotel for the night. Tomorrow we climb to 7,000 feet and the cool pine forest of New Mexico for closing day at Ruidoso Downs.       

Day 33 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 702 351.00 100.00
Total 8,148 4,434.00 4,565.00

Day 34 Monday, September 5

ruidoso downsRuidoso Downs

As promised were doing the three hour ride from hot, dusty, Sunland Park to the cool pine forest of Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico where Ruidoso Downs the racetrack is located(like Sunland Park, what came first the track or the town?). Another scenic ride on the back roads, as we follow Route 54 a little past Alamogordo before turning on Route 70 to the track. The track opened in 1947 as Hollywood Park, before becoming Ruidoso Downs in 1953. Todays is the traditional Labor Day end of the yearly meet, featuring the All American Futurity, for quarter horses worth $2.4 million, the richest two year old race in North America. You gotta love quarter horse racing, one week they run trials with $200 purses the next week they run for two mil! I surely have never had any luck handicapping these races, so I'll probably just close my eyes and point to the program. After the races you can make like an outlaw and head for the Billy the Kid Casino on the track grounds. Looks like our luck will hold up tomorrow as the New Mexico State Fair is in full swing in Albuquerque, which means live racing every day next week.      

Day 34 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 146 73.00 100.00
Total 8,294 4,507.00 4,665.00

Day 35 Tuesday, September 6

albuquerqueDowns at Albuquerque

As promised were headed for more live racing at The Downs at Albuquerque, it's less than 200 miles, but it's going to take three and a half hours. Before we leave I guess I should mention that were only an hour and a half from Roswell, New Mexico and the infamous site of Area 51. We also missed our chance to visit Truth or Consequences, how could you not want to go to a place with a name like that. We leave Ruidoso Downs heading west on Route 380 till we get to San Antonio that's New Mexico not Texas, were not lost yet. Here we finally get back on an Interstate, I-25 to be exact, will see a lot of it for the next couple of days. We take that road into Albuquerque and the Downs at Albuquerque at the State Fairgrounds, the oldest pari-mutual track in New Mexico, opening in 1938. It's probably going to be a bit more congested and expensive than in the spring but it is live racing. Expect some quarter horse races mixed in with the thoroughbreds and after the races check out the newly renovated casino. Rest up because tomorrow we head for the track with the thinnest air you'll find at  an elevation of 7,834 feet.      

Day 35 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 188 94.00 120.00
Total 8,482 4,601.00 4,785.00

Day 36 Wednesday, September 7

La MesaLa Mesa Park

Today were going to do something a little strange, we are going to drive six hours to end up one hour from when we started the day. From here on out at least on the west coast and northwest portions of the trip, the road will wind in mysterious ways! We start off with a three and a half drive north on I-25 to Raton, New Mexico the site of the defunct La Mesa Park. Opened in 1946, La Mesa had a forty six year run before closing in 1992, it has the distinction of being the highest racetrack above sea level in the country. La Mesa was given a second chance at life, when it was selected as a racino site as few years back, but it was all sizzle no steak and never got off the ground. Today the grandstand, relocated from the old Arlington Downs track in Dallas in 1946, sits abandoned and deteriorating, thinking of what might have been. Done here we head back down I-25 two and a half hours to the track that lost out in the racino bid to La Mesa Park, but instead heard the sweet sound of music.

Santa FeSanta Fe exit I-25

Our second and last stop of the day is in historic Santa Fe, New Mexico, home of Santa Fe Downs. Santa Fe Downs existed for twenty six  years, between 1971 and 1997. It too had hopes for a rebirth as a racino before losing out to La Mesa Park. Santa Fe's claim to fame was a horse that actually lost the richest race there in 1997, The Indian Nation Futurity, but went on to miss the triple crown by a nose in the Belmont. Today the grandstand is still standing and the infield is now used for a summer concert series. I don't think they use the grandstand it seems a little run down. Tomorrow we close out New Mexico and the you can't get there from here leg of the trip.     

Day 36 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 404 202.00 120.00
Total 8,886 4,803.00 4,905.00

Day 37 Thursday, September 8

Sun RaySun Ray Park

You've all heard the saying "you can't get there from here", well in this case it's true. Between the Northern New Mexico towns of Raton in the east and Farmington in the west, there is no road. That's why we had to spend all our time doubling back yesterday. We leave Santa Fe and and after three and a half we find Sun Ray Park in Farmington New Mexico, your standard no frills racino site. Originally opened in 1984 as San Juan Downs, it lasted until 1993 until going under, it was later revived as racino in 1999. The live racing season is over, but you can simulcast or gamble in the casino. I'm going to do something different and head for a non racetrack city when we leave here. Not much here, but there is a place called Four Corners Monument, about an hour from here. It's where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet, it's the only place where four states come together in the country. It's run by the Navajo's so they charge you to get in and inside it looks like a Native American craft fair, but if you want to put your foot down in four states at once, this is the place. If you do stop you gotta check out those porta potties! Whether you go or not were heading down the road to Flagstaff, Arizona about a four and a half hour ride, to eventually find a big hole in the ground.       

Day 37 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 506 253.00 120.00
Total 9,392 5,056.00 5,025.00

Day 38 Friday, September 9

I drove all this way, I'm going to see the Grand Canyon, that's the reason we ended up in Flagstaff. It's about an hour and a half north from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon, if we get there around 8 am it should give us about four hours to look around, without disrupting the schedule. I don't know how long you can look at a hole in the ground, but when we have were off for a two and a half hour back road drive to Prescott Valley to look over the ill fated Yavapai Downs.

YavapaiYavapai Downs

I guess I should mention that there are no racinos in Arizona, so you can probably tell where I'm going with this. Yavapai Downs opened in 2001, as a replacement for the old Prescott Downs in Prescott. The opening day crowd was a whopping 35,000 fans, at least that's what was recorded. I don't think they ever came close to that again. In 2011, with horse on the ground and only a few days till the season opener the track announced it was cancelling the season, hopefully to return in 2012. The good news is it's still there at the Yavapai County Fairground and you can get a good look at it before we head out on I-17 south to Phoenix and Turf Paradise.

Turf ParadiseTurf Paradise

Be sure to enjoy the scenery on the two hour ride to Phoenix, when you near Phoenix keep an eye out for the Saguaro, those are those cool looking cactus that look like they have a head and hands. Our last stop for today is at Turf Paradise, known since 1956 as a winter racing haven the season stretches from October to May. So we got here a little early, what else is new? At least we should get here in time for some west coast simulcasting. For a track built in the fifties with no casino Turf Paradise is a well groomed paradise. If your a baseball fan, your in luck, the Diamondbacks are home and it's fireworks night at the stadium downtown. Tomorrow after a quick trip to Tucson, were off to sunny San Diego and a look at the Pacific Ocean.   


Day 38 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 316 158.00 120.00
Total 9,708 5,214.00 5,145.00

Day 39 Saturday, September 10

RillitoRillito Park

From Phoenix, it's a two hour drive on I-10 to Tucson, the home of Rillito Park. Rillito Park always seemed to me like a fascinating' enchanted place that appeared for a brief time each year than vanished. Opened in 1943 allegedly as the birthplace of quarter horse racing. Also known for a brief time as the Tucson Turf Club, racing was pretty much hit or miss until 1988 when the track was listed as a Natural Landmark, it also the track where Bob Baffert saddled his first winner. Today if you want to see live racing here you have a short window during February and March, where twelve days of racing are held over six weekends. It looks like you can get a good look at the place, no simulcasting, so don't know about getting inside, enjoy this unique piece of history. When you leave if you want to see something interesting, take a short drive to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and drive down South Kolb Road, where you can see thousands of mouth balled military aircraft, after that it's a six hour run to the California Border and San Diego.

We close out week 6 with a couple of milestones, we have now travelled over 10,000 miles and spent over $10,000.00 dollars, you really want to try this for real? A little disappointing on the live racing, but I think that's how it's going to be for awhile.

Day 39 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 524 262.00 200.00
Total 10,232 5,476.00 5,345.00

Tracks Visited Live
Week 6 10 2
Total 95 15

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