Above photo: “Tucumcari Tonight” was a popular slogan during the town’s Route 66 heyday; Tucumcari is situated between Amarillo, Texas, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. With 2000 hotel rooms (at the time – about 1200 in the present day) the town beckoned to weary travelers. I answered the call today.
Day 4 Miles: 113
Amarillo, Texas to Tucumcari, New Mexico
“I sought out U.S. 90, a wide gash of a super-highway, multiple-lane carrier of the nation’s goods. Rocinante bucketed along. The minimum speed on this road was greater than any I had previously driven. I drove into a wind quartering in from my starboard bow and felt the buffeting, sometimes staggering blows of the gale I helped to make . . . . Instructions screamed at me from the road: “Do not stop! No stopping. Maintain speed.” Trucks as long as freighters went roaring by, delivering a wind like the blow of a fist. These great roads are wonderful for moving goods but not for inspection of a countryside. You are bound to the wheel and your eyes to the car ahead and to the rear-view mirror for the car behind and the side mirror for the car or truck about to pass, and at the same time you must read all the signs for fear you may miss some instructions or orders. No roadside stands selling squash juice, no antique stores, no farm products or factory outlets. When we get these thruways across the whole country, as we will and must, it will be possible to drive from New York to California without seeing a single thing.”
John Steinbeck, “Travels With Charlie”
Pick a freeway, any freeway. Interstate, thru-way, parkway, toll road – you name it. You’re driving along, and you see a sign for an upcoming “Business Loop.” Do you take it?
Please, please, please take it. You will end up right back onto your intended path, with ease. It’ll only take a couple of minutes. And you might be amazed at what you find.
MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS …
The semis going in and out of the yard behind the Big Texan woke me early this morning, and before long I was on my way to Sisemore’s Traveland to visit the RV museum. Mr. Sisemore began his RV dealership in the 1970s in Amarillo, and he has amassed quite a collection of vintage RVs and motorcycles.
I seem to be having trouble posting photos here on the blog, so I created a Facebook photo album of all the photos I took at the RV museum.
Next, it was only a 10-minute drive to the Cadillac Ranch west of Amarillo. What an icon of American pop culture! It was muddy as all heck, but that did not deter the pilgrims, including me. Spray paint cans were strewn all over the site, despite two large trash dumpsters by the road. My tidy self did not approve, but I suppose it’s part of the experience.
I was told there is a controversy brewing regarding Stanley Marsh, whose estate owns the Cadillac Ranch. Marsh was accused of intoxicating and paying cash to young boys aged 15 to 17 for sex, and after 10 civil lawsuits and 14 criminal indictments, his family settled out of court a few years ago. He had a stroke and died before he was convicted of anything. There are those clamoring for the destruction of the Cadillac Ranch because of this. I know you will be shocked by this, but I have an opinion!
Back in Shamrock, Texas, my new friend shook her head in dismay at the thought of losing the Cadillac Ranch. “It brings in so many tourists and so much money to our area,” she said. Marsh’s estate does not receive any income from the visitors to the art installation. My friend in Shamrock’s sentiments were echoed by a shop owner in Adrian, Texas today, with whom I spoke on my way through town.
Since the Cadillac Ranch began in the 1970s, it has become a treasure of the people. Visitors leave their marks, literally, on the installation. A proponent of tearing down the artwork called it, “A monument to an alleged child predator.” Well, he’s dead now, and people visit because of Bruce Springsteen and the cool factor and the wow factor, bringing money to folks in the surrounding areas who need it. If we are going to dismantle Cadillac Ranch, will we stop listening to Michael Jackson music and watching Woody Allen movies?
Westward from Cadillac Ranch, I stopped briefly in Vega, Texas, home of the Vega Motel. Not surprisingly, it is for sale. Vega is a shadow of its former self. I snapped a few photos of some vintage signs and was on my way.
My next stop was the mid-way point on Route 66 between Chicago, Illinois and Los Angeles, California – Adrian, Texas. I felt a little guilty commemorating the midpoint, as I did not begin my journey in Chicago! Adrian works its waypoint status with signs, the Midpoint Cafe, and asphault painting.
I was disappointed that the Midpoint Cafe was closed for the season, but I had a nice visit next door at the gift shop with Fran. Fran explained that she is the character “Flo” in the movie “Cars.” Twice today someone mentioned that movie to me, and I saw paintings of the movie characters on motels in Tucumcari today, so I will be watching it this evening for sure.
Snoopy dance, Snoopy dance, Snoopy dance! I’m so happy I took the business loop through Tucumcari. I may just stay another night tomorrow.
I am at The Cactus RV Park, which was once a motor court. The old cabins/rooms are still on the property, although abandoned. I shudder to think about the creatures living in those units that would want to scurry under my warm rig for the evening. Setting that aside, the buildings in their dilapidated condition are poetic and sadly beautiful.
Here’s how the place looked in its day:
I just knew I was going to like Tucumcari before I ever came here. How can such a small town inspire so many songs?
There are so many that the Chamber of Commerce sells a CD of Tucumcari ditties.
The number of vintage and retro signs and sites here is staggering! It took me hours to photograph them all today. Some are on my Facebook page, and some are on Instagram. Here are a few:
I now have the fantasy of buying a little old motel here and giving it a new life. Could Tucumcari be the next Palm Springs? Housing prices are low, Amarillo, Las Vegas (New Mexico, that is), and Albuquerque are a short drive away, and the weather is mild except for a few hot months in the summer.
It’s Halloween today, and I’m missing my neighbors and my graveyard and my trick-or-treaters, but I’m very happy to be in Tucumcari, New Mexico tonight.