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Tucumcari, Route 66. New Mexico

March 29, 2018

Tucumcari. Part of Route 66. New Mexico.

Sometimes a day or two happens that puts into perspective the attraction of travelling with your own vehicle, with time to spare, and only a rough idea where you are heading.

The Gila Cliff dwellings were most impressive. So much work building up the side of cliffs then only living in them for thirty years when something, maybe the 25 year drought they suffered, saw them move on to the west and north west where they were assimilated with other tribes.

Our object from there was to head north east and join up with part of the old Route 66, “The Mother Road” which started in Chicago and ends in LA. It was the road that saw the ‘Okies heading west after their farms turned into dust bowls in the late 1930s made famous in Steinbeck’s books. Nowadays the Interstate 40 runs parallel or on top of the old road but there are enough enthusiasts to make sure the historic route does not disappear completely.

So the first night after leaving Gila River we made it to Elephant Butte, a state park on the shores of the lake of the same name. Part of the Rio Grande set of dams. The next day, yesterday, we headed north on the interstate for a while then hung a right onto the SH380 that took us over a broad plain with the Vera Cruz mountains as a back drop. Suddenly an historic marker appeared, they are everywhere and if you were to stop at each one your three month trip wouldn’t get you out of the one state. But this was different. Nearby was the “trinity” site. Where the first atomic bomb was set off on July 16th 1945. Now cattle graze where the most destructive man-caused event happened up to that time.

Then it was on to Carrizozo, a town of 1000 souls where we wanted to call Emma before she took off to Egypt. Dan, the most helpful single occupant of the visitor centre pointed out where we should be able to pick up wi-fi: “At the library, it’s just a door in the wall, I think it’s blue. At a park next to the Post Office or you can visit the Senior Citizens rooms where I know have wifi. You can have a $2 meal there while you are there” Outside the library door worked well. He gave us a couple of bottles of water as we left. Then, stopping to get some diesel he suddenly pulled up alongside and gave us a copper mobile of a humming bird. I think he must’ve gone to all the places he had told us about before finding us.

At the servo I noticed a brightly coloured wagon opposite. I said to Joan shall we go and see what’s cooking. Well, Jennifer & Dan (another Dan) cooked a mean pulled pork sandwich and coleslaw. We talked. They were in the corporate world, sold up, moved to Carrizozo and built this food wagon. Great people. We spent a bitterly cold last night at Lake Sumner.

This morning was another absorbing day visiting Bosque Rodondo and Billy the Kid’s grave which I will mention in a further post, then on through prairie country depopulated over the years leaving many empty and falling down homes.

Then finally to Tucumcari. A town of 6000. A popular stop-over when there was only Route 66 but so much of the businesses have closed over the years with Interstate40 taking all the traffic. But the old buildings are still standing. Some have had a make over but still keep their kitchy charm while other like the Shell servo complex entering the town from the west is a ruin of bowsers, offices, restaurant and out buildings. Tucumcari is a photographers paradise for those interested in the past.


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