A New Mexico Road Trip, on the Old Route 66 | I am New Mexico

A New Mexico Road Trip, on the Old Route 66

nmmap(February 2, 2016)—If you ever wanted to take a cruise on one of the most iconic strips of road in the United States, then go no further. New Mexico’s beautiful and rugged landscape and it’s perfect climate make it a perfect place to take a road trip.

Route 66, once a major thoroughfare—has now become, in some places, among ghost towns that used to thrive. Motorists would head “Out West”, on this famous road on their way to Los Angeles, with hope of fame, or maybe just to take a family trip. Many neon lit service stations, hotels & Drive-ins lined the road, while muscle cars, as well as your occasional biker, frequented this road. During the peak of the United States Industrial era, tractor trailers could be heard crackling past, while teenagers and 20 somethings sped by in their Chevy’s, Ford’s, Pontiac’s, and Harley Davidson’s. The smell of leaded gasoline as well as the the dry desert dust imbedded itself the walls of your nostrils. A malted milkshake. A Coca-Cola with real sugar. “Those were the days!”

If those memories still ring-a-bell, then maybe it’s time you revisited this iconic stretch of highway, in no other place than New Mexico. Let’s take the road less traveled on a destination through 11 places on Route 66 in our Land of Enchantment, New Mexico.


Manuelito, New Mexico

Photo: Flickr/marada

Photo: Flickr/marada

On your first stop, upon entering New Mexico from the west, you will be overwhelmed by Native American trading posts, selling rugs, jewelry, tchotchkes, and many different types of souvenirs. In these smaller communities, these are the types of small businesses that fuel their economies. You should definitely stop and get something next time you drive through.

Gallup, New Mexico

Photo: Wolfgang Staudt, Gallup

Photo: Wolfgang Staudt, Gallup

Upon entering Gallup, you notice all the neon signs. They’ll take you back to a time when Hot Rods and Rat Bikes ruled the roads. What are you driving?

The Continental Divide

Photo: Thomas Hawk /Continental Divide Indian Market

Thomas Hawk /Continental Divide Indian Market

Taking this drive will certainly give you memories of when hand-painted signs made the window advertisements pop and neon signs lit up the streets at night. The rocky landscapes and the colorful scenery, will make you feel like you’re in an episode of Looney Tunes. But don’t worry, I doubt While E. Coyote is after you.

Grants, New Mexico

The Roarin' 20's Bar Grants

The Roarin’ 20’s Bar, Grants, New Mexico

If you could imagine all the good times had here—while Route 66 was still the main thoroughfare. Some of the places along Route 66 couldn’t take drought of traffic after Interstate 40 became more heavily traveled.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Legends of America

Legends of America

Route 66 in Albuquerque, has a long and prosperous history. There was a time when almost every business on Central blvd. had a neon sign, lighting the way for passersby to see for miles. Many of these same old neon signs still exist today, although most are out of service, or have been torn down. However, despite the fall of neon, there are still several modern venues keeping the streets of Route 66 lit with neon lights.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Tia Sophia's Restaruant

Tia Sophia’s Restaurant

Santa Fe has been kept to look original and for good reason. While navigating Route 66 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, stop at Tia Sophia’s and get a piece of traditional New Mexico cuisine.

Pecos, New Mexico

Forked Lightning Ranch on the old Route 66 in Pecos, NM.

Although this section of Route 66 was only part of the highway from 1926 to 1937, it was aligned with the Old Spanish Trail at that time, which was quite a spectacular passageway in New Mexico history.

Santa Rosa, New Mexico

Rio Pecos Ranch truck terminal, Santa Rosa, New Mexico. Photo by Pete Zarria

Rio Pecos Ranch truck terminal, Santa Rosa, New Mexico. Photo by Pete Zarria

Some of Route 66 only has the fading memory of what once was. Some of the properties along Route 66 are in such ill repair from vandalism, that they are condemned. Most of the older buildings have long removed or demolished. The Rio Pecos Ranch Truck Terminal [seen above] is a fading reminder of the days of it’s hustle and bustle, when thousands of motorists would make their stop, while traveling Route 66.

Cuervo, New Mexico

Cuervo is an old Route 66 town that today is basically a ghost town. The original site can be seen across I 40 on old Route 66. This is the old Catholic church. The hand carved cornerstone above the door says it was "build by Max Salas in Abril 1915". Photo: Jimmy Emerson

Cuervo is an old Route 66 town that today is basically a ghost town. The original site can be seen across I 40 on old Route 66.
This is the old Catholic church. The hand carved cornerstone above the door says it was “build by Max Salas in Abril 1915”. Photo: Jimmy Emerson

Some of the towns that the old Route 66 used to run through, such as Cuervo, New Mexico, garnish many reminders of how motor vehicle traffic could sustain small economies.

Tucumcari, New Mexico

route-66-tucumcari

Blue Swallow Motel, Tucumcari, New Mexico. Along Route 66 Photo: Time Anderson

While some towns along Route 66 have fallen to recession and hard times in different ways, some towns it still remains a lifeline to the people who inhabit towns such as Tucumcari, across America.



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