On Aug 20, we arrived after 9 PM in Tucumcari and stayed up well past midnight, so it was a late start in the morning and it was about to get later still. As we were packing the saddlebags on the Harley, one of the locking latches was malfunctioning and there was no way to close the lid. This required an on the spot repair job with my portable tool kit. A half hour later, the lid could be closed and it was time to finally start the day. As it turns out, this delay was meant to be. Had we started earlier in the day, we would have ridden through some heavy monsoon rains. Our late departure meant we kept dry and safe.
I am a fan of classic American diners and right on Tucumcari’s Main St there is the appropriately named “Kix on 66”. After a delicious and filling breakfast, we took some time to explore the town. As this was my fifth visit here and it was already late in the day, we decided to visit just a few places. Somehow the town seemed less busy this time and was struggling to find its way out of the depression. A number of roadside businesses were boarded up and I hope that this trend does not continue.
When in Tucumcari, one must stop at the iconic Tee Pee Curios souvenir shop. I was relieved to see its doors are still open for business. Perhaps it has survived hard times thanks to its unique architecture and it is always cited in Route 66 Guide Books. The shop has changed ownership since my last visit back in 2010. Back then, a fellow biker owned the place and would offer free bottled water to travelers on motorcycles. Elaine bought some hat pins and I got another Route 66 t-shirt. Seems that whenever I travel down the Mother Road, my wardrobe is always a wee bit bigger upon my return home.
We made one last stop in Tucumcari to photograph an abandoned Cafe and nearby buildings. Even when Route 66 places close their doors, the quirky charm and echoes of decades past still linger on.
This was going to be another long day as there was over 400 miles to ride before arriving in Holbrook, AZ and the threat of monsoon rains remained at large. Our next stop was a brief visit through the beautiful little town of Santa Rosa, NM and then it was back to the interstate. I took the following image just before we arrived Albuquerque, NM. The ground was still wet from rain that stopped just minutes before our arrival.
Albuquerque, NM is the first place I ever visited in the Southwest back in 2001. At the time I was living in Boston and had an itch to see the American desert and travel Route 66 through New Mexico and Arizona. So, I flew into Albuquerque, rented an SUV and went on my way. Since then, I have been addicted to both the Southwest and Route 66. I have visited Albuquerque several times, however, it was Elaine’s first time here and I took her to the famous 66 Diner, where I had my first meal on Route 66 back in 2001. I am glad to see this place still going strong and remaining faithful to its 1950’s roots.
Unfortunately not all businesses have enjoyed the same good fortune as the 66 Diner. A number of Albuquerque’s classic roadside motels such as the El Vado and the De Anza Inn have gone out of business since 2008. I am especially saddened by the closure of the El Vado Motel which first opened its doors to travelers back in the 1930’s. Its majestic neon sign was an icon for Albuquerque and Route 66. The motel is now boarded up and was taken over by the city which designated it a historical landmark and saved it from the wrecking ball. When I last visited the El Vado back in 2008, the motel had been out of business for a number of years, but the neon sign remained. I was shocked to discover the sign is now missing. I later learned it was taken down by the town for preservation and restoration. The following photo was taken back in 2001 when I was a guest at this great old motel and my camera still used real film.
We had at least 235 more miles (378 km) before reaching our motel in Holbrook, AZ, so time was running short. There was so much more I wanted to see along the beautiful stretches of New Mexico desert, alas it was not meant to be. I will make it a plan to see them on my next Route 66 road trip. Nonetheless, Elaine and I made a few brief stops to places once familiar to me, such as Thoreau and the Budville Trading Post (which seems to go in and out of business every few years). At present, it serves as a variety store for this tiny town.
This day turned out to be much longer that anticipated, especially given a late start and spotty weather. In total we rode over 400 miles (643 km) between Tucumcari, NM and Holbrook, AZ and most of it along Interstate 40. We arrived in Holbrook just after 9 PM and then the rain started coming down. Our timing was good 🙂
I was craving steak, so we had dinner at the historic Butterfield Stage Co. Steakhouse on Route 66. The interior reminds one of an old western saloon. Unfortunately, our meals were just average and my steak was a bit dry. After dinner, I treated myself to a few shots of Jack Daniels to celebrate another day of riding on the Mother Road and seeing the incredibly beautiful New Mexico desert.