Although we are doing our best to follow the route of 66, we keep getting distracted and the next couple of days are a good example.
Before the first of these happens, we stay one night in Tucumcari which is close to the New Mexico state border. It is a perfect example of a town which when bypassed by the I40, started to die and now has little left in it other than a reputation for having been on Route 66 – a reputation which it is desperate to use to try to keep the town going.
I do not think it has succeeded because there are numerous closed businesses on the main street including:
this shop which seems to have had a variety of uses before it closed,
this Gas Station - Magnolia became Mobile Oil
another closed gas station – we have not seen any other Esso stations here
this gas station now has a new life not selling gas and has some nice trompe d’oeuil
and yet another closed store. It does have a large number of old Route 66 era neon signs, a few of which are still working and a few of which display their original message and many of which have been adapted to their current owners business.
The town boasts some 1600 beds in numerous cheap and very cheap motels. Quite why it still has that many is a mystery because most travellers these days drive straight by the town or simply come into the town to see its Route 66 memorabilia and then pass on to Santa Rosa or Albuquerque – neither of which being very far away.
The most famous sign in the town belongs to a motel which has survived – The Blue Swallow – and trades upon its Route 66 past.
So we drove back into town at night to see its neon flashing.
A number of rather good wall murals have been created around town
but whether these are a sufficient draw to the passing tourist remains to be seen.
Santa Fe and Old Route 66
Route 66 used to go from Amarillo to Santa Fe to Albuquerque but this was changed in the late 1930s when a direct road from Santa Rosa to Albuquerque was built to bypass Santa Fe.
One story is that this section was deliberately built by a politician had just lost an election in order to punish Santa Fe. He blamed the electors in Santa Fe for his defeat and so he decided to divert traffic away from their town before his term of office finished. This had the effect of shortening Route 66 by more than 100 miles but Route 66 purists still drive along the old road and so did we (although we are not 66 purists) because we wanted to visit the Georgia O’Keefe museum in Santa Fe.
On the way, we went through a section of road which had far too many adverts for one store – if we had been thinking of stopping, they would made me change my mind
too often it seems to be, “do not think about quality, just think about how loud I am shouting”.
We were last in Santa Fe a few years ago and it has not changed much since then and it is just as popular with tourists.
We happened by chance (as had also happened the last time we were here) to be there during the one week in the year when native Indians sell their wares in the Square and they were doing so in abundance outside of the oldest State Building in the USA which was built in the 1600s when we arrived.
Despite the fair and the large numbers of people about, the central square manages to remain peaceful.
Buildings near to and around the square included this nice old store and some rather faux reproduction adobe style
which at least had made an attempt to blend in.
The Georgia O’Keefe Museum did not have as many
paintings of hers as we would have hoped to have seen and one could not take pictures of most of them but a few are shown below. These show the wonderful colours of New Mexico which she has managed to capture
Ghost Ranch Landscape
Mesa and Road East
Back of Marie’s No 4
Outback at Marie’s II – this painting featured as a postage stamp in the USA a few years ago.
The colours never reproduce well in a photograph but they give a good feel for how she treated the landscapes. This trip we have seen many landscapes where the colours and shapes merge into folds and the earth is a vivid red or purple and this is picked up in the sky.
Albuquerque was a surprise
Some 60 miles down the road and where the 1937 revision to Route 66 ends (or starts depending on which way you are travelling) is the very large town of Albuquerque. I say large in that it has some 500,000 people and over the past few weeks we have been mainly in areas with no or few people and therefore this number (and its associated road traffic) seems rather large.
However, its Old Town centre and its square is delightfully
calm and original and is surrounded by old buildings such
as the church of “San Felipe de Neri Parish” which is over 300 years old and does not look it from the outside but looks more of its age inside.
There were a group of old cars parked on the square including a lovely restored red Chevrolet
and this shop labelled “Basket Shop” which does not now sell baskets but
does sell lots of things tourists did not know they needed.
We came across this pair of slightly worn looking travellers who had a bad picture taken of them in the church garden but then there was this more nicely taken picture to follow.
One of the nice things about many American cities is the amount of public art on display – above we have “Julia Resting” (along with Pat) in the square
and here is one which we saw as we were driving past (hence the terrible snatched “through the window” photograph) which features a group of travellers from the 1500s as they travel to New Mexico and their new homes.
The I40 road west from Albuquerque is the replacement for the 66 although a few bits of the 66 remain here and there.
A few miles outside of Albuquerque and immediately adjacent to the I40 is the old Rio Puerco bridge which carried Route 66 over the river. When the I40 was opened, it was left for people to walk over although 66 stops in a pile of dirt immediately afterwards.
The I40 soon returns to its often boring self of straight and flat surrounded by wide and flat countryside. It seemed like the next few hundred miles were not going to be very
interesting but both the countryside and the weather soon started to change.
The countryside started to resemble Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings with lots of folds and crags and deep colours and wherever we looked, there seemed to be enormous thunderstorms with torrential rain. Apparently this is Arizona’s wet season and as we were to find out, the rain comes down in torrents.
We are noticing more poverty in this area than in other areas we have been to. As we drive west, we pass the
Laguna Pueblo which is famous for its mission built in 1699 (the white building in the top centre). Whilst in Albuquerque we went to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Centre and learnt a lot about the Pueblos, how they were formed, how they suffered and how the communities currently live. So we are now more aware of the 19 Pueblos and are hoping to visit one tomorrow.