Thursday, April 29, 2010

Road Trip: Tucumcari Tonight!

From Cuervo we headed east towards the city of Tucumcari, New Mexico. Tucumcari is the largest city along the freeway between Albuquerque and Amarillo, so it has long been a popular spot to stop and spend the night. Back in the days of Route 66, signs along the road would brag on the city's numerous hotels and motels, asking travelers to stop in "Tucumcari Tonight!" That slogan is still being used, and is plastered on numerous billboards along I-40.

Now Tucumcari is one of the iconic old stops along Route 66. The city has a fine collection of old vintage motels, complete with neon signs that promote such 1960s luxuries as air conditioning and color tvs. To drive down Route 66, past the rows of old motels, offers a fleeting glimpse of what it was like to make that same drive back in the town's glory days.

Of course, not all the old motels have survived. There are many old buildings that have been abandoned over the years. This old gas station sits in Tucumcari, just below a giant modern wind mill.

The Americana Motel - I was only able to take just two pictures of this spot before a car drove up and parked right in the middle of everything...

One of the most famous buildings in Tucumcari, and arguably along Route 66, is the old Blue Swallow Motel. Since it opened in 1939, it's been a fixture along the old road. It's still open, with a distinctive neon sign inviting customers in.

We spent the night in Tucumcari, but regrettably not at the Blue Swallow Motel. The next morning we headed back out to visit some of the sights in the daylight. There are a large number of vintage old places here, with distinctive architecture. You can stop at a souvenir shop with an entrance shaped like a tee pee. You can eat at a Mexican restaurant with an entrance shaped like a sombrero. There isn't any other place quite like Tucumcari.

A few shots of the Blue Swallow in the daylight:


Next door to the Blue Swallow Motel is this empty and abandoned old hotel. The freeway runs just south of Tucumcari, and features all the modern hotel chains. It looks like this place couldn't compete...

Across the street sits another famous Route 66 icon in Tucumcari - the Tee Pee Curios Shop. You walk through a tee pee as you enter the old shop, which is stocked with many Route 66 themed souvenirs. I ended up spending a few dollars there on some tacky souvenirs...

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