Eastern Sites

There are an abundance of old Route 66 sites in New Mexico. If you travel eastwards, the last Route 66 site before crossing over into Texas is the ghost town of Glenrio. I didn’t make it quite that far, but this summer I drove east to Tucumcari to check out Route 66 and other historic sites along the way.

  • Whiting Bros in Moriarty: once one of the most popular gas stations along Route 66, there are no longer any active Whiting Bros, although there is an open repair garage in Moriarty that uses the old Whiting Bros signage.
  • Santa Rosa de Lima Chapel in Santa Rosa: Santa Rosa is best known for the Blue Hole, but there are some other interesting sites as well, including the ruins of a chapel from 1890
  • Ghost Towns along I40: in between Santa Rosa and Tucumcari, there are several ghost towns. While traveling eastward, the first one you can stop at is the most interesting and best preserved–Cuervo. A railroad town dating back to the early 20th century, it consists of many abandoned buildings as well as a lovely, well maintained stone church built in 1915. Further down I40 you can stop at Newkirk and Montoya. In Route 66 On Tour, Don Usner writes that in Montoya, “G.W. Richardson established the first incarnation of the Richardson’s Store in 1908 when homesteaders were moving in and claiming land in the area… the farming boom quickly collapsed due to the fickle rainfall of New Mexico’s eastern plains.”
  • Tucumcari: also founded originally as a railroad town, Tucumcari “Was able to survive due to its location on the newly designated Route 66.” There are plenty of Route 66-era sites you can see including
    • The Palomino Motel, in operation since 1953
    • Del’s Restaurant, open since 1940
    • Apache Motel, now abandoned, it was opened in 1964
    • Tee Pee Curios, opened in 1944
    • Blue Swallow Motel, undoubtedly the best Route 66 site in town, this beautifully maintained motor lodge has consciously kept its original charm and has a steady flow of tourists. We stayed in the Lilian Redman suite, named for one of its original owners (who first came to New Mexico in a covered wagon!)
    • Motel Safari, opened in 1959
  • If you drive off old Route 66 in Tucumcari and into its historic mainstreet, you can see the beautiful Odeon Theatre from the 1930s and the old railroad depot from the 1920s. Tucumcari also noticeably has a great deal of murals done by local artists, which can be enjoyed throughout the town.
  • Ghost Towns: now, I love a good loop. After driving out to Tucumcari and staying at the Blue Swallow, we decided to take a different route home. We passed through Vaughn, where you can see an old depot. There are some ghost towns along the 60 that John Mulhouse writes about in Abandoned New Mexico. This route takes you through Abo, part of the Salinas Pueblos. We then took a quick detour to Contreras, a very small community which has a lovely old church and abandoned school house from the 1930s. Driving up to Albuquerque on I25 there are some things you could always do along the way!

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