Not long after leaving the flat nothingness that is Texas on Route 66, the land began to rise and fall and gather color as I entered New Mexico. No trees appeared, but scrubby junipers grew more numerous, and the air took on a woodier fragrance. Eventually, Route 66 turned into little more than a dirt track, and I had to join Interstate 40, which out here means plenty of room for both me and Lola and the trucks.
“Tucumcari Tonight” is the slogan of the little town just over the New Mexico border where I did, in fact, stay the night. The mountain that shadows the town has a big, white T painted on it, and you can recognize it from a long ways off. I believe much of this town inspired the movie “Cars.” When my family and I used to take road trips out here we would always stop at a little gas station with a ton of Route 66 curios. Route 66 turns into a proper main drag again as it passes through, but like a lot of the smaller, more dried up Route 66 towns, Tucumcari is going the way of the dodo. The Mother Road, which once brought this town tourists aplenty, is kind of a fickle bitch, it seems.
The curio gas station where I’d always stop with my family is closed, and many, many gas stations, oil lubes, motels and shops have done the same. They sit, abandoned, with holes where their signs used to hang. I’d say that the recent Recession hit this little town pretty hard, which isn’t to say that it’s a ghost town. There is a community college, a community center, and a few motels still carry the torch from the old 66 days, displaying classic cars and neon signs. I love the Blue Swallow motel which has little garages for each room so your car has a place to sleep, too. And though it’s a bit sad, the run-down-ness of the town is a kind of charm in its own way. I took many pictures and tried to soak in the last rays of the sunset, before heading back to the trailer park, where my own vestige of the old 66 days was waiting.