Tucumcari Tonite – Day 36

Tucumcari Tonite

Day 36 – May 6, 2003 – Tuesday

Week 6 begins.  This is Day 36.  36,993 on the odometer.  8,957 miles so far.  Leaving Albuquerque.  Back on Route 66.


I dropped recorder #4 on the carpet.  Just a little drop while trying to juggle too many items at once.  It didn’t fall far, and it didn’t fall hard.  But the compartment door where the tape goes no longer opens, though I can pry it open just far enough to put tapes in and pull them out.  These tape recorders are an invaluable tool, but what a hassle they’ve been.  We did find the missing travel alarm clock and one of the two missing lens caps, so we are doing pretty well in the holding on to our stuff category.  We have had several encounters with men trying to steal my camera, but we’ve managed to keep the camera and stay out of harm’s way.  When around rough-looking folks, I always put the camera strap around my neck; it looks a little silly… but it makes it much harder for someone to grab the camera.


We put the top down for the first time in a long time.  The last warm weather was Day 24 in Tucson!  The top went back up after 11 miles.  I guess we wanted it to be warmer, but it wasn’t.

An old Conoco station appeared in Barton, and we stopped for a few photos.  We also stopped at the old 66 Craft House to see some funky sculptures.


New Mexico State Highway Patrolman Max stopped to say hello while I was on the side of the road taking photos of the ruins of an old trading post near Moriarty, New Mexico.  He asked about the book and posed for two photos.


This property was fenced off, and there was an animal cruelty notice stuck on the fence for animal neglect.  Being big animal lovers, Bozzie Jane and I feel the penalties should be much stronger for people who mistreat animals.


We saw some interesting Route 66 businesses in Moriarty.


The Route 66 maps that we bought – one for each state – have been invaluable on our trip.  That said, we have found two specific points where the maps were totally wrong.  East of Moriarty is one of those spots.


Route 66 Magazine has a very good suggestion about traveling Route 66: “When traveling Route 66, keep your expectations low, and just appreciate whatever is there.”


We came across another old ruins of some type of building, and when I investigated further, I found a cement container of sorts that had the faint words “Snake Pit” still visible.  I appreciated that it was there, and I wonder whether it used to be a roadside snake attraction.  It isn’t listed in any of the books we have.


Our next adventure was the search for the wagon wheel at Longhorn Ranch.  Ace Navigatrix Bozzie Jane spotted this on our New Mexico Route 66 map.  We saw the Longhorn Ranch, but no wagon wheel.  I was determined to find it, so I drove to the dead ends of both access roads, but no wagon wheel.  We retraced our path, but no wagon wheel.  We drove all around the ruins of what was the Longhorn Ranch roadside attraction, but no wagon wheel.  We finally decided that it is probably now in a Route 66 museum somewhere along the route.


It was sad to see the huge pile of rubble that used to be Longhorn Ranch.  A “bank” building is still standing – just barely, and there is a motel operating across the road as well as a modern gas station.


Ten miles down the road, we finally found Wagon Wheel.  It turns out Ace Navigatrix Bozzie thought Wagon Wheel was something to see in the town of Longhorn Ranch, but it was actually the next town over.  We got a good laugh out of it.  There wasn’t anything to see in the town of Wagon Wheel.  An upside down restaurant sign out back of a building, but that was about it.  Not even a  wagon wheel.


Clines Corners has been a way station for travelers since the 1930’s with a great selection of souvenirs.  We needed gifts for three upcoming visits with friends and family, so we stopped to check it out.  It’s a big place with a lot of souvenirs – mainly Indian-themed items.  Lots of tacky stuff.  We found three items that we thought were pretty funny – a double teepee-shaped picture frame, a plaster of paris clock with an eagle holding an American flag, and a bobblehead Indian chief.  We hope the Shanklins, Robertsons, and Overalls enjoy them as much as we enjoyed picking them out.  Corinne and Loretta helped us at the cash register.  Corinne gave us free batteries for the clock.  They were both very excited to be in the book.  They said the bobblehead Indian chief was a new item, but it had been selling really well.  I asked if the clock had a Swiss movement.  She didn’t know.  I’m pretty sure it has a Taiwan movement.


Many of the little towns we stopped to see had nothing to see.  There were no commercial buildings at all.  In some cases, there was nothing at all.


The Flying C Ranch was listed on our Route 66 map, so we expected something appropriately old.  I was very disappointed to find a relatively modern DQ and Citgo station.  The place is owned by “Bowlins.”  I first saw what was purported to be something old in southern New Mexico just to find a shiny, new Bowlins service station and gift store.  These folks may be some of the people Ross Ward was referring to when he made the sign at Tinkertown that reads: “There are souless men who would destroy but time and man will never build again.”


I looked around Milagro for some bean fields, but Bozzie Jane says that is MEXICO not NEW Mexico.  So we drove on.


There just isn’t much to see for the 114 miles between Albuquerque and Santa Rosa.


Santa Rosa is another story.  Santa Rosa has the 1927 Comet Drive-In Restaurant, other great old buildings like the Lake City Diner and the old Guadalupe County Courthouse, and what’s left of a real Route 66 landmark, the Club Café.  The Club Café was built in 1935, and it used a distinctive billboard with a cartoon of a fat man.  The café is gone, but its signs remain, and the fat man is now the property of Joseph’s Restaurant.


We enjoyed some excellent Mexican food at Joseph’s, and we met some nice people.  Rick, Dave, Jason, Ray, and Jose.  The beads got several conversations started.  Jose suggested that we go see the town of Puerta de Luna (famous because Billy the Kid ate his last Christmas dinner there), and Ray gave us directions to see the Blue Hole.


We saw the old Saint Rose Chapel on the way to the Blue Hole.  The Blue Hole is a unique spot – a hole 81-feet deep, 60 feet in diameter with 61 degree water that is crystal clear.  Divers love it.


Puerta de Luna had the old Nuestra Senora de Refugio Church, an old courthouse, and the Graelachowski territorial House – famous in part because Billy the Kid had his last Christmas dinner there.  It was a pleasant drive.


We saw the Route 66 Auto Museum in Santa Rosa.  Between Santa Rosa and Cuervo, we found another ruins that we had not read about anywhere – the Frontier Museum.  It was a big place and was obviously old, so we wondered why we hadn’t read about it.  Perhaps it wasn’t as old as it appeared to be.


When we reached Cuervo about 6 pm, the sun was already getting dim.  I thought I saw what would be an interesting-looking old building off Route 66.  Cuervo is mainly a ghost town, so we saw a number of picturesque old buildings/ruins.  To get to the old building I had noticed, we crossed the railroad tracks where we hit a gravel road.  It turned into a red dirt road. Then a red dirt road with cactus in the crown of the road.  Hearing that scraping noise under the little white convertible is pretty unsettling, but I was determined at this point.  We scraped along until we saw barbed wire scattered across the “road.”  I got out to take a few photos, but the fading sun was behind heavy clouds, and I’m afraid about all we have to show for this adventure will be the scratches on the underside of the car.  You just never know; sometimes these little excursions pay off, and sometimes they don’t.  I will always regret the little investigative side trips that we didn’t take…never those we took that didn’t pan out.


Newkirk and Montoya had some great ghost service stations.  Boz took some excellent photos in Ceurvo, Newkirk, and Montoya.


The Tucumcari Tonite billboard campaign has been successful for 60 years in promoting Tucumcari as the place to spend the night along this wide open stretch of road (104 miles to Amarillo and 173 miles to Albuquerque).  Once billed as the town two blocks wide and two miles long, the town is now eight miles long and about two blocks wide.  It once had 2,000 rooms; now closer to 1,200 – mainly rooms in small independent motels.  It was a great place to take photos of motel signs.  Tucumcari Tonite.


Perhaps the most famous of the Tucumcari motels is the Blue Swallow, primarily because of the cool neon sign with a blue neon swallow.  The Blue Swallow was built in 1942, acquired by Lillian Redman as a wedding gift in 1958, and she operated it successfully for over 40 years with homespun hospitality and by endearing herself to generations of guests.  Patrick told us to be sure to stop and go in and see it, so we did.  I told the new owner that we were writing a book, but he just told me to knock myself out taking photos, and he went back into his living quarters adjoining the motel office.  I was very unimpressed with him.  The new owners probably won’t succeed with this attitude.  I did get a pretty good photo of the sunset over the Blue Swallow.

As we gassed up on the outskirts of Tucumcari, we met Rita.  She is a nurse originally from Tulia, Texas.  Rita REALLY wanted my purple beads.  She said she would do ANYTHING to get those purple beads.  She proceeded to lift her top and flash me – right there in front of Bozzie Jane.  I thanked her for her interest, but I told her the beads are lucky beads, and I just couldn’t give them away.  I did take her picture and promised her she would be in the book.  She offered to flash again for the camera, but we declined the invitation.  I have, however, purchased a case of beads as gifts throughout the second half of the trip.  Tucumcari Tonite.


I am disappointed that the sun set before we got to the border towns in Texas.  It was black as the Ace of Spades all the way to Amarillo.  So, we didn’t get to see the first/last motel in Texas in the town of Glenrio.  In fact, we never even saw a sign for the town.  It’s in Deaf Smith County.  The town actually straddles New Mexico and Texas and is supposed to have some great old abandoned buildings – something anyone who has read a day or two worth of these reports knows I enjoy seeing.  We’ll just have to go another time.


We did stop in Adrian as I wanted to get a photo of the midpoint on Route 66.  Adrian is exactly half way (1,139 miles) between Santa Monica and Chicago.  I managed a couple of flash photos of what I could see right next to the road.


The time changed to Central Daylight Time when we crossed into Texas, so it was 10:30 pm when I met Rugby at the desk of the Marriott Residence Inn in Amarillo.  I also met Rugby’s girlfriend, Courtney, and Cedric, his roommate and the all-night man at the Inn.  Rugby didn’t even pause for a second when I asked him what – other than the Cadillac Ranch and Big Texan Steak Ranch – he felt was the most unique thing to see in Amarillo.  He gave me precise directions to the sawed off giant’s legs in a field south of town.  All right!  Rugby knows quirky!

As to the lesson for the day, the words of Ross Ward are ringing in my ears: “There are souless men who would destroy but time and man will never build again.”  I hate to see historic old buildings torn down to make way for something new.  It also never ceases to amaze how some folks can buy a business that has been successful for many years and proceed to make it unsuccessful in short order.  We should all learn from the past.  I love the story about the discussion between a father and son about which professional to hire.  The son favored a young man not long out of school while the father favored an old gray-haired man.  “The young man knows the rules, but the older man knows the exceptions.”



We’re finally leaving the hotel at noon on May 6; 36993 on the odometer; it’s warm enough to have the top off for the first time in several days—72 degrees.

We’ve been going a couple of miles and the temperature is already down to 69 degrees.

We had to leave town on I 40 but you exit at 170 Carnueil, then you’re on 333 East which is Route 66.

37004 The temperature dropped 63 degrees. We pulled over to put the top up.

Route 66 at one time looped up around Santa Fe, but since we chose to go on the Turquoise Trail we are not going to spend the time to go that way. We will go the straight route.

Tiheras 37007 12:28pm There is a big herd of bicyclists passing us. I should note that I dropped the recorder. This is our 4th. A few cities back the compartment you open to put the tape in no longer works properly. I doubt this one will last the whole trip. I should also note that we found the travel alarm clock that was missing, and one of the two lens caps. I’m pretty sure the other lens cap now lives in Big Bend near the dust storm area.

I took a mailbox near Tiheras

37018 12:45 I took a number of pictures of Bruster’s Connaco Station; I don’t know what town we’re in yet. Probably the town of Barton.

37022 12:55 Edgewood

37023 12:57 We’re stopping at the Old 66 Crafthouse; they have some cool stuff.

37025 We met state highway patrolman Max. He was very nice, and pulled up when I was taking pictures of this trading post gas station. We don’t know the city. There are tons of neat old cars out back that would be the type to be of interest to collectors.

We believe there should be stronger penalties for people who are cruel to animals. Back at that property, there was an animal cruelty notice on the fence dated today for neglect. It said they were going to take them away if the person didn’t respond.

Moriarty elevation = 6200

I’m taking various Route 66 signs in Moriarty, including Phillip 66 who very cleverly has Kicks 66 on the front of their service stations along 66. We have “get your flicks,” coming up a big giant starbursty thing.

It’s a little tricky leaving Moriarty. You have the ability to get on the north service road but we did not see a place to do it and found ourselves up on the interstate. We had to do a U-turn in the median, and now we’ll get on it.

We back tracked 1 mile to 41 to get on the service road which is also Abrahames Road.

The maps are incorrect. The only way to get on the frontage road which is Route 66 is by going over Hwy 41. We will publish our own maps and become the experts.

We took a picture of the crop at Turf Grass Ranch—it’s turf, the kind you would have on a golf course.

Route 66 Magazine makes a very good suggestion: keep your level of expectation low and just appreciate whatever is there.

We’re driving past the Longhorn Ranch in search of the Wagon wheel. We’ve gone several miles down a road that says dead end. We have not seen a wagon wheel yet; our expectations are not high, but if up around this bend is a wagon wheel we’ll pretty tickled.

Exit 203 is where this wagon wheel is supposed to be but we have not seen it.

I think we’re in the town of Wagon Wheel. We did find the ruins to the Longhorn Ranch. There were big old piles of rubble. We got a picture of the sign. I’m betting somebody got the wagon wheel for a Route 66 Museum. The Longhorn Ranch is not actually in Wagon Wheel, it’s probably 3 or 4 miles outside of it.

37054 2:11 We’re getting of to see if there’s anything in Wagon Wheel.

There isn’t anything in wagon wheel. We took a picture of an upside down motel sign. There is a service station but it’s no the north side of the service road so we’re passing on that.

Cline’s Corner says “been a traveler’s weigh station since the 1930’s.” As I recall, the book said the assortment of gifts and souvenirs is really good, but the food is just ordinary. We won’t be eating in Cline’s Corners.

37064 2:20 Cline’s Corners We’re at 7200 feet.

It’s 2:43 and we just left Cline’s Corners where we met Corrin and Loretta (on the left in the photo). We bough some very nice gifts for Linda and Steve, a lovely teepee picture frame, a bobble head Indian chief for George, and a beautiful eagle holding a couple of American flags as a Swiss movement clock for Judy and Ward.

Now we have to try and keep a straight face as we present the gifts.

Corrin gave us free batteries for the clock.

37078 2:54 We’re at the exit for Villa Nueva in Sceno and we see a sign for the 9 Bar Headquarters.

There does not appear to be anything here except a cute dog.

Sceno and Villa Nueva seem to be way off the highway.

37083 3:00 We’re getting off at the exit for the flying sea ranch which is a truck stop/car stop. It’s exit 234 off I 40.

Flyin C Ranch is just a relatively modern Dairy Queen and a Citgo station that sells souvenirs and fireworks. It used to be something good, but the Bowlins people who have a number of truck stops in several states have obviously taking what was once nice and old and turned it into something new and not particularly nice.

We’re exiting 37093 3:08 at Milagro, famous for the bean fields.

We didn’t see anything from a scan of the highway in Milagro; no beans, so we’re hitting the road.

Between Albuquerque and Santa Rosa which we’ve not yet come to, there just isn’t anything. You just see fields. We have lowered our altitude. It’s 76 degrees, and we’re still about 15 miles out of Santa Rosa. Basically, you see grassland with little junipers.

It’s very cloudy today, and there could be some rain somewhere.

37123 We’re getting off at exit 273 Santa Rosa. We get several exits now to drive on Route 66 and see highly cool stuff.

We’re just inside the city limits of Santa Rosa, and we got a picture of Joseph’s with a fat man on the billboard.

As we enter Santa Rosa, we see the Oasis Motel. We didn’t get a picture because they’re doing some paving work on the road out of front. There were several other old looking places.

37125 3:37 We’re crossing the PecosRiver

I took a picture of the Comet Drive-In at the Mexican restaurant; it’s been in business since 1927.

Took a picture of the Lake City Diner and the Guadalupe County Courthouse, the old one. Rick was kind enough to let us take his picture; he was wearing an Ol’ Glory T-shirt. Dave and Jason let me take their picture out at Joseph’s.

Ray was the cashier, and we met Jose as we paid. They were very friendly, and the food was very good. I had a Mexican plate, Barbara had a Acapulco avocado covered burger. Now we’re going to go to the Blue Hole and maybe check out a little forestry; they have a really nice colored book here for Route 66.

We took a picture of the historic Saint Rose Chapel.

We’re at the Blue Hole 37129 4:42pm

The complete stats for the Blue Hole from the book we got: 81 feet deep, 60 feet in diameter, water temperature is 61 degrees, and completely clear. The report on the blue hole is very nice.

We’re taking a detour to Puerta de Luna; we’re on Hwy 91 which is 3rd Street as you come in from town.

Puerta de Luna was recommended by Jose.

If we don’t get rain today, it will be amazing because the clouds look like rain everywhere. In “PDL,” as the locals call it, Billy the Kidd had his last Christmas dinner.

Puerta de Luna 37138 5:00pm We see a pretty church, we’re not sure if it’s famous but we’re going to find out.

This is the Nuestra Senora de Refugio Catholic Church.

I took a picture of a flag in front of the Graelachowski—this is where Billy the Kidd had his last Christmas meal.

We got a few pictures of the house, and we got one of the original county courthouse.

37150 5:25 We’re back in beautiful Santa Rosa.

37153 5:30 We’re at the Route 66 Auto Museum. It’s 76 degrees at 5:30; it’s about the warmest it’s been today.

The first train for Bozzie today. The overcast is gone at about 5:45 and we have blue sky again. It’s the beads.

Exit 284 is not noted on the map as having anything but as we blazed by it had bunches of old ruined stuff. We’re headed back there.

The sign on one of the buildings say Frontier Museum. We have no idea what town it’s in and we haven’t read about this.

Well, the Frontier Museum clearly has to be something. I’m surprised that we haven’t read anything about it anywhere. It’s all decayed and fallen it, but it probably dates back to the ride era.

The Frontier Museum is quite large. It looked like it was multiple store fronts and I just took little pieces of it.

Quervo 37174 5:57pm

We’ve taken some old buildings, took an interesting drive down an old dirt road to a Baptist church. Part of the sign was missing and we couldn’t read what the name of the church was. It seemed like it was something…”Betty First Baptist Church”

Barbara photographed the Quervo Church.

Bozzie got another train 37184, 75 degrees, 6:22pm, and we’re in New Kirk looking for Filling? Station Deal.

As we take these 2 lane sections of Route 66, we just don’t ever see any other cars in either direction. The only time you ever do is if you’re in some little town and there’s little town people. It’s just completely and totally isolated except for Bozzie Jane and me.

Montoya 37197 6:44pm There is something up in the mountain here. It looks like triangles of cement or something. It’s real weird and teepee like in a way.

Barbara took some pictures of Richardson’s Store with the Sinclair Gasoline sign in Montoya. It looks like there’s some cool things here beside the tracks but we’ve had enough excursions for today.

There are three different ghost service stations in Montoya.

37210 7:00pm We’re at Polomas—exit 321 off the I-40 and back on Route 66.

We’re almost to Tucumcari the city two blocks wide and two miles long as they used to say. In actuality it’s 8 to 10 miles long.  Tucumcari Tonite.

We saw the Dinosaur Museum in Tucumcari  but we are probably covered for our dinosaur museums.

We’re in the city limits of Tucumcari 37219 7:08pm and 4085 elevation.


It’s a little after 8 and we’re several miles east of Tucumcari Tonite. We’ll roll into Amarillo tonight, we’ll back track a little tomorrow morning to get Cadillac Ranch. There are a lot of motels and that’s about all there is.

37238 8:08 The land is pretty flat. We have some little rocky like hills, but other than that it’s pretty flat. It reminds you of West Texas.

We’re at the exit for Bard 37252 8:20pm. We don’t even see a light, so we’re not exiting. We have not read about there being any attractions in Bard.

We’ll roll into Amarillo tonight, we’ll back track a little tomorrow morning to get Cadillac Ranch. There are a lot of motels and that’s about all there is.

It’s interesting that the vast majority of towns that we’ve gone to probably didn’t have any traffic lights at all.

We’re at the exit for Indy 37261. 8:25pm

37265 We’re in Texas 8:30pm and with the time change it makes it 9:30pm

Shortly after entering Texas, a tumbling tumbleweed blew across the highway right in front of the car. That may give you an indication of what the terrain is like out here.

We never saw Glen Rio for the first and last motel in Texas.

37287 9:46 Central Time. We’re in Adrian, the midpoint between Santa Monica and Chicago on Route 66. Adrian—you’ll never be the same.

37289 We just finished taking a picture of the midpoint and a few other things by dark.

37295 We’re in the town of Landergin 10:05 Central

Vega, Texas 37303 10:13

There’s not much happening in Vega at night; probably wouldn’t be much happening in the day time.

37317 Willow Derado. I know it’s got some really good stuff but Bozzie won’t let me go there. It’s 10:27 Central

Bushland 37326 and 10:35pm. Bushland has a number of major statues and things to Route 66 but Barbara will not let me exit. She says it’s a bedroom community, and we have a bed for that same unmentionable prize.

We arrived at the Residence Inn in Amarillo about 10:00pm. Rugby got us all checked in and we met Courtney, his girlfriend, and Cedric. Rugby told me about a place to go on the road between here and Canyon for a unique sight and a unique story. We get off at Sundown Lane and he isn’t going to tell me the story but to read about it when I get there. This was an answer to “what’s the most unique thing in Amarillo other than the Cadillac Ranch and Big Tex Steakhouse?”

It was Lester’s Conoco Station we saw today early on. Loretta and Corrine were the ladies at Cline’s Corner.

Tucumcari Tonite.