Most mornings, Bill Richardson has his breakfast at the Eagle Cafe in Gallup, New Mexico, where they've been serving hotcakes and green chile since 1917. Out front, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe rumbles by on tracks parallel to Route 66, a stretch of the Mother Road that still serves as Gallup's main street. Shops line the avenue, each storefront a showcase of silver and turquoise jewelry handmade by Navajo, Zuni, Hopi, and other Native American craftspeople.
Like the Eagle Cafe or Route 66, Richardson is a Gallup landmark. He's proprietor of Richardson's Trading Co., the oldest Native American trading post in a town famous for them. "In the old days," he recalls after 50 years in the family enterprise, "you bought wool, hides, cattle, and sheep and traded for dry goods, sugar, and coffee. Now the rugs, pottery, and jewelry we buy may come from the old families who traded with us on the reservation."
Shopping for fine Southwestern jewelry is one of the main reasons visitors come to Gallup, in northwestern New Mexico. But there's more: August's Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial; an intriguing history; a setting bordered by cloud-shadowed red rock mesas; and that quality called character. If you're headed toward destinations like Canyon de Chelly or Chaco Canyon, Gallup is an essential stop.