Route 66 – Amarillo to Santa Fe

Back in December I continued the Route 66 exploration I started last year. On this trip I drove to Amarillo, TX in two days (stop-over in Albuquerque) then spent 5 days working my way back to Needles, CA. By the time I finished this trip I had covered half of Route 66 (including last year’s excursions in California).

As I drove from Albuquerque to Amarillo one day, then from Amarillo to Santa Fe on the next, the following is a compilation of photos taken over two days rather than in the actual order I took them (e.g. I visited Tucumcari one afternoon going one way then the next morning on the return trip).

My adventure “officially” started with an sunrise visit to Cadillac Ranch on the outskirts of Amarillo. This public art installation originally consisted of 10 Cadillacs with their noses buried in the ground. Created in 1974, when the city of Amarillo started to encroach on its original location, the installation was moved to its current location in a farmer’s field. A year or two ago one of the cars burned so now there are only 9 cars. The public are allowed (even encouraged) to bring cans of spray paint to add to the multiple colors (and very thick layers of paint).

Cadillac Ranch

Travelling west from Amarillo through Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, for the most part Route 66 either parallels I-40 or has been replaced by I-40. A good guidebook is helpful to know where to get on or off the Interstate to drive on as much of Historic Route 66 as possible.

My first stop after leaving the Cadillac Ranch was the town of Vega. The town is one of many examples of communities that flourished in the heyday of Rt. 66 and were hit hard when the historic route was decommissioned.

Click on the galleries to see full-sized images.

The main claim to fame for Adrian, TX, the next town down the line, it that it is the midpoint of Route 66. Chicago is 1139 miles to the east and Santa Monica Pier is 1139 miles to the west. I had planned my morning to have breakfast at the Midpoint Cafe – unfortunately it was closed when I arrived.

On the Texas-New Mexico border sits the long-abandoned town of Glenrio.

Dilapidated service stations and faded signs give testament to a once-thriving Rt. 66 town of San Jon before it was by-passed by I-40.

After many miles of dead or dying towns along the Mother Road, Tucumcari showed many signs of surviving and capitalizing on it’s rich Route 66 history. True, the outskirts of town show plenty of evidence of better days.

However, the many murals, neon signs, and restored Route 66 landmarks show Tucumcari’s pride in its past. One such landmark, the Blue Swallow Motel is often pictured with an antique car parked in front. Unfortunately, it was closed for the season, so no car adorns my photo.

If you are hungry, I can definitely recommend Watson’s BBQ located in the Tucumcari Ranch Supply building, located a couple of blocks off of Rt. 66. I enjoyed a delicious lunch and interesting conversation with the owner.

Continuing west on Historic Route 66 takes you through two more virtual ghost towns, Newkirk and Cuervo.

Further west, the town of Santa Rosa is the home of another restaurant that I would highly recommend. Long gone are its days as a car hop drive-in, but the Comet II Drive-In and Restaurant lives on to serve great food after being in the same family for three generations. The Green Chile Stew was incredibly good!

Prior to 1937, Route 66 turned north to Santa Fe at Santa Rosa. In 1937 the realignment of the highway took it directly west to Albuquerque. The post-1937 alignment takes you through Cline Corners, Moriarity and into Albuquerque.

The pre-1937 route roughly followed what is now Hwy 84, then onto I-25. Eventually you exit I-25 onto the Old Pecos Trail which merges onto the Old Santa Fe Trail that takes you into the heart of Santa Fe. There is not a lot of evidence along this drive of it’s Route 66 heritage other than the odd road sign.

In my next post I will pick up my journey in Santa Fe.

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