Originally published 28 February, 2014
At the world famous Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas!
We awoke this morning in Albuquerque and Laurie and I were discussing our options. We wanted to see more of Route 66 on the way....but are staring down this big storm that is supposed to rumble through here. We figured make Oklahoma City by the time the storm hits and stay until it's safe to travel again. The weather called for ice, and an "unknown" amount of snow on top of it. Couple this with the fact that it's supposed to be a high of 25 the day after the storm.......we realize we could be trapped there for days.
Who knows where we are....not a lot of landmarks out here.
Signage is a relic of a day long gone
The chance of being stuck 700 miles from home for days was a bit unappealing. Laurie said "why don't we push on to Tunica before the storm hits. They have a nice campground right at the casino, I can go to the spa and have a pedicure, and you can go play poker". It is difficult to argue with such logic. Consequently, we're just gonna hit the high spots on 66 and get to Tunica as quickly as possible.
We have learned that a lot of Route 66 is just road...and it runs right beside the interstate. We also purchased a spiral bound book that you use to guide your travels. It tells about road conditions, and has "RV alerts"...pointing out areas that are too rough, narrow, etc. for an RV. The first part of 66 out of Albuquerque is one of these so we skip it. After that, 66 and I-40 are the same road....there is no 66....just 40. This goes on for about 100 miles.
Tucumcari "old school" road motel
According to the book there are a few places which would be cool to check out....so we decide to concentrate on those. Just riding 66 to ride it may be nice....but we're racing the clock. So our first real stop is a place called Tucumcari, New Mexico. I will say that many of the places along 66 have been a disappointment....either gone, forgotten, collapsed, boarded up, or all four. Tucumcari turned out to be what we were seeking when we chose to drive 66.
Tucumcari used to be one of the major stops along the way. It used to advertise 2000 motel rooms. Now it's 1200. But there is a very large concentration of "the real deal" route 66 rooms in this town. It's what all explorers of the old road seek.......hotels from the heyday of the road, with metal chairs and ash trays out front, for a relaxing smoke before bed, and mom and pop restaurants to eat at. If you're going to just stop at one route 66 town in New Mexico......make it this one.
Route 66 visitor's center, Tucumcari, NM
We first pulled in at the visitor's center which has a huge sculpture in front of it. We parked the rig by it and took a pic....before heading into town. Our next stop for photos was an abandoned drive in, and then we parked on a side street downtown. From there we walked to several hotels and curio shops to take photos. I didn't take out the film gear as time is an issue...but we did a fair amount of digital work...and there are some cool places!
Our favorite Tucumcari motel was The Blue Swallow. At 80 bucks or so a night, there are cheaper rooms out by the interstate...but none with the personality of these. Everything looks original, including the garages to park your car right next to your room. Metal chairs are out front, with heavy glass ashtrays between them. Murals adorn the inside of the garages as they were built for a breed of cars a bit narrower than we drive today....and are more art gallery than functional. We just loved the place.
The Blue Swallow, Tucumcari, NM
From there, we shopped at Teepee Curios, the town gift shop. We bought New Mexico 66 souvenirs and chatted with the owner....a transplant from Iowa. We headed back to the motorhome and stopped for a pic of the "Royal Inn". We have a "Royal Inn" in Sparta where we live...and it's a hellhole.
Old school Tucumcari gift shop
We have also seen "Royal Inn" motels in our travels. Every town has a "Royal Inn"...not by reputation..but by name. We even saw a "Royal Inn" in nearly every town we visited in Europe. Every Royal Inn we have seen, in the states or Europe, have been dives. It seems they have this in common no matter where they are. One can be fully assured that no royals have ever stayed at any of them.
Another sketchy Royal Inn
We head out from Tucumcari and stick mostly to I-40. While you may have the chance to drive on 66, there may not be anything to see....and as I said, we were being judicious with our time. And Laurie had a place that was on her "to see" list long before this trip ever started. We kept driving east until we stopped at the world famous "Cadillac Ranch"!
Cadillacs out in a field
It's right beside the interstate on a service road. There is a wide spot to pull off, and you go through a gate....right out into a farmer's field. In the middle of all this flat nothingness.....these old Caddy cars jut out into the air. There are visitors from all over the world visiting. We met a kid from Japan while there and took his pic with his camera so he could share it with friends back in Japan.
People from all over the world visit the Cadillac Ranch. We met several.
Laurie got a souvenir....a chip of paint off of one of the cars. She didn't take it off.....it was laying on the ground and she just picked it up. The cars are painted on by anyone with a spray can. It's not only allowed, it's encouraged. Every now and then they repaint the cars flat white....so people will start painting anew. Laurie's paint chip, which clearly shows the layers of paint, is over 1/2 inch thick.
Billroy. (Bill's take on WWII icon Kilroy)
From there, we head to Shamrock, Texas. We stopped to photograph the old Conoco station...probably one of the best known icons of the road. It was dark by then and lit up in all it's neon glory. It's fully restored and simply a gorgeous old building. It was well worth the stop just to see it.
The Conoco station, Shamrock, Texas
At this point, it's after dark and we decide to push on at this point and get as far east as possible, staying well ahead of the storm. We get to the town of Sallisaw, Oklahoma....not too far from the Arkansas line and 5 hours from Tunica. We got a big jump today and got way ahead of the storm. Thanks to Walmart for a big parking lot. It's time for sleep now.
Quote of the day: Uttered in the flat lands of eastern New Mexico or western Texas panhandle to Laurie. "There's a whole lotta not jack shit out here."- Bill
Song of the day: This is us- Mark Knopfler and Emmy Lou Harris
I'm Bill. My wife Laurie and I love to travel and share our stories. We especially love it when we have been able to motivate our readers to start traveling on their own, and making their own stories.
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