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Route 66 in New Mexico

By Eileen Richardson

Historic Route 66 occupies a special place in American history. Today seems to be a time when even more Americans are interested in a road trip. Route 66 is THE road trip.

As you travel the length of it, you can visit authentic Historic Route 66-era hotels, motels, trading posts, and gas stations some have been lovingly restored and preserved, others are a reminder of how long ago Route 66 was a well used highway.

As a scenic route, Historic Route 66 offers majestic mountains, breathtaking vistas, meandering ranch land, Indian reservations, Pueblo communities, and spectacular sunrises and sunsets. New Mexico is a state you can take parts of the original route but in most cases you will be on Route 40. The estimate on driving time would be 16 hours. And the length is 604 miles.

New Mexico's part of Rte. 66 history is very intriguing.

The earliest route was a curving, 501-mile washboard journey in1926. Westbound motorists first encountered Glenrio and Tucumcari. As they passed Santa Rosa, they turned north to Romero, and then headed west again. In Santa Fe, they turned southwest, passing through Albuquerque to Los Lunas. There they turned northwest to Correo, then west again to Grants and Gallup. They found the route 126 miles shorter in 1938. Instead of turning northwest past Santa Rosa, they continued west through Buford (later Moriarty) and Albuquerque all the way to Correo.

Here is a sampling of Rte 66 you can try out yourself in New Mexico

Let's Go!

Westbound motorists can take a 20-mile gravel stretch of the old highway from Glenrio to San Jon; this was the last remaining segment of Route 66 before it became Rte 40 in 1982.

>From San Jon, you can drive an almost always intact 24-mile paved chunk of Rte. 66 all the way to Tucumcari.

Along Tucumcari Boulevard (where you will see the longest stretch of authentic Rte 66)) you'll enjoy the 40's and 50's all over again.

Drive down the road and you will see Cactus Motor Lodge, Lasso Motel, the Pine Lodge, the Blue Swallow Motel, Teepee Curios, the Westerner Drive-in, The Palomino, and Travelodge Motel, and Del's Restaurant.

More retro 40's and 50's awaits you with the Town House and Safari Motels, the Buckaroo Motel, the Redwood Lodge, and the Paradise Motel, the Sahara Sands Motel & Restaurant, Dick's Auto Service, and the Pow-Wow Restaurant.

On to Santa Rosa where you will find that Will Rogers Drive is the city's four-mile Route 66. Stop in at Joseph's Restaurant (build in 1956) or the Club Cafe (a landmark since 1935) for a bite or liquid refreshment..

Continue 43 miles west on I-40, You should get out, stretch and climb Palma Hill, and view 7,576 foot-high Cerro Pedernal to the southwest. This where you will see and feel the New Mexico dry air at its best.

Next stop has got to be Cline's Corners, where you can see more southwest souvenirs than you thought could fit in one place. You can find rattlesnake ashtrays, beaded belts, tomahawks and Indian lore. You can also have a meal here with a home cooked southwestern flair if you haven't eaten yet.

On next to Moriarty which is where a 58-mile chunk of highway to Rio Puerco begins.

Along NM 333, you'll spot the former Buford Courts, Blackie's Restaurant, and the one-time Yucca, Cactus, and Lariat Motels and Sands Motels.

In metropolitan Albuquerque, Central Avenue is an 18-mile part of Rte 66. Travelers often start at the State Fairgrounds, a landmark since 1936. Then you'll discover the De Anza Motel, the Royal Motor Inn, the Town Lodge Motel, and the Aztec Motel (originally the Aztec Motorcourt, all built in the '30s, and 15 blocks long).

You will also see Nob Hill, built in 1936-47, and the Lobo Theater and Lobo Pharmacy & Bookstore (originally Barber's El Rancho Market), both built in the '30s

Downtown, there are several buildings that wer the gems of downtown in the 40's and 50's era. They are: the Sunshine Building (built in 1923-24), the First National Bank Building (1922), the Rosenwald Building (1910), and the KiMo Theater (1927).

There are also other samples west of Old Town if you haven't had your fill. They are: Lindy's Restaurant (1929), Maisel's (circa 1940), and El Vado Motel (1937), located west of Old Town.

If you'd like drive down a piece of the 1926 route, head north on I-25.

Take the Algodones exit and return south via NM 313, the original 66 is now Fourth Street, Isleta Boulevard, and NM 314.

You'll go 46 miles from Algodones south through historic Bernalillo and past Sandia and Isleta Pueblos (You'll know you are here when you see the casinos).

In Los Lunas, turn west onto Main Street. You'll pass the Luna Mansion, built in 1881. From there, stay on NM 6.

It is 33 miles of historic highway all the way to Correo. Correo is also 33 miles west of Albuquerque via I-40. At Mesita, old 66 reappears as NM 124, slithering 25 miles through Laguna, New Laguna, Paraje, Budville, Cubero, and McCartys..

In Grants, old 66 is called Santa Fe Avenue. Its 41-mile chunk to Top O The World is right out of the '40s. Here you will find the Franciscan Lodge, Grants Restaurant (where Hollywood stars Jayne Mansfield and Tab Hunter once stopped for green chile cheeseburgers), the Uranium Cafe, and the Monte Carlo Restaurant.

The original highway reemerges near Iyanbito as a 13-mile introduction to Gallup. Along the city's 9-mile segment are Earl's Restaurant, built in 1947, and the El Rancho Hotel, built in 1936 and home to some Hollywood stars during the time when Gallup was a Western film capital(from 1929-64.) You can also visit the one-time Drake Hotel (1919), the Santa Fe Railroad Depot (1923), the former White Cafe (1928), the Richardson's Trading Post, the old Palace, the Rex Hotels (both circa 1900), and Virgie's Restaurant. (1950). The final 16 miles of old 66 continue west from Gallup as NM 118 to Arizona

Many communities in New Mexico celebrate the famous Route:

Festival in Los Lunas.It is New Mexico's Largest Car Show

Annual Route 66 Roadie Gathering in conjunction with Annual Tucumcari Route 66 Festival

Annual Fire and Ice Bike Rally in Grants New Mexico

Annual Santa Rosa Route 66 Festival

There are also many byways along the Rte 66 paths you can take a few hours off or a day or two to explore everything from National parks and monuments to pueblos and old mining towns.

New Mexico is a very rich state historically from the prehistoric time thru the Rte 66 1920, - 1950's

It all can be seen best on a road trip. Take yours this year!

About The Author
Eileen Richardson is the co-founder of The Santa Fe Site (www.thesantafesite) and is also a life coach in Santa Fe, NM.

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