High Plains Drifter

I was awake early, not because of noise but the time change. The loudest thing I heard overnight was the wind, and the temperature didn’t drop as much as I expected. I set up the canopy, since once the sun rose into the sky there wasn’t going to be much shade. The southwest is precisely why I splurged for the canopy when I did.

San Jon Park was so nice, we decided to take a day off the road and spend another night here. I got some work done, then pulled the motorcycle off the back of the van to do some exploring. This was absolutely the right vehicle for the job, being capable of 55 mph speed limits as well as set up to tackle rough dirt roads with ease.

San Jon was hit pretty hard by the discontinuation of Route 66, too, and it shows. These abandoned service stations make a great post-apocalyptic backdrop for my Kawasaki KLR650, which itself will likely survive the apocalypse. However, San Jon is most definitely “not quite dead yet,” because Interstate 40 didn’t completely bypass the town like it did Glenrio. A couple of modern gas stations barely keep the town alive, it seems.

I followed Route 66 back east, and soon it turned into the dirt road leading to Glenrio that we’d bypassed. I literally parked in the middle of Route 66 to take pictures, and didn’t see a single person the entire time (except for I-40 in the background). It’s hard to imagine this road in the 1950s and 1960s, having been reduced to this, converted back to dirt from concrete roadbed. In fact, I could see sections of roadbed piled up on top of each other off to the side of the road at one point. Apparently it’s easier to grade dirt roads than to maintain solid ones out here.

This bridge is an old railroad car.

I explored a few side roads as well. I’d packed water and snacks, because this is the high plains, but I didn’t get too adventurous either, since I was out here alone. I never left the San Jon area. One of the most interesting sights I found was a bridge over what must become quite a stream when it rains. The main part of the road goes over two culverts, but this bridge must remain in case a flood washes them out. I didn’t notice it at first, but this bridge is actually an old train car, dropped over the stream, the ends cut off to allow access, and dirt spread on the floor for better traction than steel. How ingenuitive!

The farthest I went out of San Jon was a few miles down Route 66 to the west, just to confirm that it didn’t turn into a dirt road again after leaving town. This was our most likely route to Tucumcari, and this confirmation makes it so. The rest of the day was just relaxing, getting more work done, and relaxing some more. We continue west tomorrow.

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