I pick my motel for its name – who could resist the “Monterey Non-Smokers Motel”? – and the fact it is right on Route 66.
It’s a good choice. Both the garish neon sign out front and the single-storey motel itself could have been built as a Hollywood set for the Great American Road Trip.
Even better, it is within walking distance of Albuquerque’s Old Town – albeit across a busy road. No one walks in America, of course, but I make into town without getting arrested. It’s Sunday evening and a cool breeze is blowing, a welcome relief after the long, hot drive through New Mexico. After a meal in a deserted restaurant, I walk back through even more deserted streets.
Then I hear the unmistakable sound of Carlos Gardel singing a tango and follow it to the central plaza. Under a gazebo, a small group of dancers are enjoying an evening milonga. I sit and listen for a while, hesitant to join in without the right shoes. But it is impossible to sit for long and I soon throwing out a few ochos and giros of my own.
Tango music, with its nostalgic lyrics, hits the perfect note for a traveler far from home. It’s a universal language and no one is a stranger who speaks it. I’ve already fallen in love with Albuquerque – with its warm Spanish-style architecture and old-time charm. This perfect moment of communal enjoyment tells me it is a love affair that will last.