Whether you're coming or going from Chaco's north entrance, or simply heading south on U.S. 550, Cuba is a good place to stop for gas and, depending on your inclination and the season, hot coffee or a cold soda. Remnants of when this route was the notoriously unsafe—and much narrower—NM 44 are gas stations, a convenience store, and, plus a handful of inexpensive motels that could serve for a pre- or post-Chaco overnighter; Continue south on U.S. 550 in daylight if
at all possible (late afternoon is perfect): the views only get more spectacular as you go. Watch for Cabezon Peak on your right. But if you've got some time to spare, detour in Cuba to visit Pueblo Pintado, about 60 mi west, on Navajo Route 9 via NM 197 from Cuba's south end. Most of it is a very rugged ride, and the Pintado town site is little more than a few houses and a convenience store, but the ruins there—from a Chaco Culture great house—are worth a look and easy to find (for the intrepid, there is an even more rugged back route to Chaco Canyon itself from here).
El Bruno's, a better-than decent Mexican restaurant that's right on the highway at the far north end of town 6453 Main St. , at NM 126, 87013. 505/289–9429. www.elbrunos.com.
your best bet in this regard is the Cuban Lodge 6332 Main St. , 87013. 505/289–3475.