This Train’ll Stop at Tucumcari

It was a pleasant two-night stay in the tiny town of San Jon. Today it was time to continue our journey west. Continuing down Route 66, which actually still exists here, our first stop was Tucumcari.

We didn’t have to pull the emergency stop when we arrived. We were curious to see the town not just for the Clint Eastwood movie reference — an inaccurate one, since Tucumcari was founded in 1901, while the movie is set in 1872. Most likely it’s a reference to the time Eastwood actually spent here filming Rawhide in 1959. It’s also a cool name.

We were also here to see Tee Pee Curios, a quirky little gift shop along the way. They had a ton of Route 66 stuff, as well as Native and Mexican items for sale.

Having made my own arrows for SCA archery, I enjoyed the opportunity to closely inspect the “Navajo Made Arrows.” Although they’re pretty, I quickly determined that these are mere decorations, made with too little care and precision to ever fly well. They’re still great decorative pieces, as long as that’s all you’re using them for. It was interesting to see how the arrowheads were tied on, too. I literally found arrowheads on the ground growing up in New England, but could never figure out how they attached to the shaft until now.

We were approaching half a tank of gas, so we filled up, since you can go a long way between gas stations out here. The rest of the town was disappointing, more of the decay and abandoned buildings we were getting more and more used to seeing along Route 66.

Interstate 40 was literally the only road heading west out of town, so we took it six miles, then exited onto the back roads once again. They took us through this interesting cut and narrow bridge under I-40, and past even more fallen over buildings.

Our next stop was the ghost town of Cuervo. The name means “raven” in English, perhaps foretelling its own demise a bit too accurately. The church is well preserved, but the other buildings are not. I-40 literally bisected this town when it came through. Access from one side to the other is difficult at best. Noise from the highway is extremely loud. I think it’s safe to say that I-40 killed this town. The result is what you see today.

Once again, to avoid the highway we took a detour off Route 66 proper. This one wasn’t nearly as exciting as yesterday’s, which is a good thing. It was a six-mile mixed surface road that led to Route 156, which took us all the way to Santa Rosa. This road was straight and mostly flat. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such distances except on top of someplace like Mount Washington, New Hampshire. You don’t have to be on top of a mountain to see that far here. There are no mountains, and barely any hills.

Our first stop in Santa Rosa was the Route 66 Auto Museum, claiming over 30 cars inside to gawk at. Admission was only $5, and while the cars were good, the walls were filled with vintage parts, engines, posters, bicycles, and anything else you can think of from the heyday of Route 66. I took lots of pictures, but will hold off on a full review here in case FIXD wants one. I will say, though, that it’s worth every penny of that $5.

Next we went to Blue Hole, thanks to the recommendation of Amanda from NirVANa the Van. When you think of New Mexico, you probably don’t think of scuba diving, yet that, as well as regular swimming, is a popular activity here. This watering hole is a natural spring, 80 feet deep, producing 3,000 gallons of water per minute. No wonder a city sprung up around it. The water is amazingly clear and clean.

It was Taco Tuesday, so we went to Chico’s Tortas y Piñas Lokas for an early dinner. One of the things I’ve been looking forward to most about visiting the southwest is genuine Mexican food. Chico’s did not disappoint. I tried one of each of their tacos on special. They’re nothing like the Americanized tacos I’m used to, and so much better. I didn’t think that pork and pineapple would be very good on a taco, but it turned out to be my favorite one.

It was getting late, so we headed to our undisclosed overnight location that a couple of locals suggested. More on that later. I will say, though, that I’m loving these New Mexico sunsets. Tonight is the full moon, and it’s amazing to see a nearly simultaneous sunset and moonrise. I’m clearly not seeing the best New Mexico has to offer so far on this journey, and quite a bit of the worst, so I’m withholding judgement on the place until I do. I already think a return trip will be in order, sometime when it won’t be quite so cold up in the mountains, to give it a fair shot.

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