Route 66 - Scary Incident in Gallup

With another day quickly dying, we passed through Grants, New Mexico and then the small towns of Milan, Bluewater, Prewitt and Thoreau. As the sun set ahead of us, we made it over the Continental Divide. At 7,275 feet in elevation, it is officially the highest point on Route 66. There was nothing really to draw our attention or inspire us to stop in Coolidge, Iyanbito, McCune, or Zuni so we pressed on to Gallup where we found a decent looking Hampton Inn at 1460 West Maloney Ave. Little did we know we were about to endure the most unsettling, scary encounter we had on the whole trip.

It was dark when we checked in, but the front of the hotel was well lit and certainly looked safe enough. I did notice when the front desk clerk started talking about the safety of the hotel and that they had the police cruise through the parking lot on a regular basis all night. Hmmmm. But the main reason to stay in a Hilton property like Hampton or a Marriott property like Fairfield is because you can count on the hotel to be well-maintained, the rooms decently appointed and clean, the price to be at least fairly reasonable and you will not have to be overly worried about safety. And so I didn't question the desk clerk further - I should have.

All of the parking spaces up front were taken so we drove around to the side and parked. There was a large open parking lot that went with what appeared to be an older, rather run-down shopping mall across the way, but there was a wire fence which went around the hotel parking lot. As we were getting our luggage out of the truck, I noticed 3 obviously drunk Indians or Hispanics stumbling across the parking lot on the other side of the fence. As soon as they saw us, they made a bee-line straight at us. Sure enough, they got to the fence, leaned against it and started asking for money. I told them I didn't have any to spare and started to walk away. Youngest-daughter was already a bit scared by this, but then they started shouting at us to come back and give them money and she really started to get frightened. We went on inside, found our room and dumped off our bags. We had not eaten supper so we went down to the lobby, I complained to the desk guy about the drunks and he said he would have the police come right out. I left Youngest-daughter in the lobby and went to get the truck. I saw the drunks huddled under the overhang of a building about 100 yards away, got the truck, came back and picked up my daughter and we went several blocks down the road to a Wendy's.

When we came back, I found a parking spot directly under a light, but even so, as we exited the truck, 2 different drunks came out from some bushes on the other side of the fence and asked for money. I said I didn't have any to give them and one said, "You better give us some money." I heard a noise behind me and turned to find 2 more guys coming up at the back of the truck - on OUR side of the fence!

Although I've never needed it, I do carry legal protection with me when I travel. One of these items is a large, rather intimidating Bowie knife. Not that I'm any kind of Chuck Norris or a Navy SEAL or anything, but I did receive training when I was in the military, I am a daddy and my little girl was with me so I automatically went into full Daddy The Protector mode. These guys were all obviously drunk and kind of staggering around so I told my daughter to shut her door and lock it, pulled out my pig-sticker and waved it at the 2 guys at the back of the truck. It took about 2 seconds for their eyes to register what they were seeing and they quickly backed up then turned and started walking away. I turned back toward the 2 on the other side of the fence and saw the mouthy one was climbing over - at least he was until I took a couple of steps toward him holding my knife in front of me. He jumped down and said, "Hey man, it's cool. We just wanted some change for some beer."  I heard somebody off to the side whistle and just like that, those guys were gone out of sight like they vanished into thin air.

Of course my adrenalin was pumping like crazy and my heart was pounding like I had just ran a mile, but it appeared any danger was gone. I saw a police car pull into sight around the corner about 3 seconds later so I walked over to it and told him what had just happened. He said OK, he would call in another unit and they would get rid of them. I was standing there talking to this policeman and had totally forgotten I was still holding this large knife, but the policeman never said a word about it. He stayed there until I had put the knife back in the truck and my daughter and I were safely inside the hotel lobby.

Back in the room, it took a lot of talking and holding my daughter to get her to calm down and not be so scared. I hated those guys for doing that to her - to steal one more piece of innocence from her and to do it during our special, once-in-a-lifetime daddy-daughter road trip. After we turned out the lights and went to bed, I killed all of them. It was a slow, agonizingly painful death for each and every one there in my head. And then, exhausted but satisfied, I fell asleep.

Go to the first Route 66 entry here.
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Route 66 - The Sad Story of Budville

Crime along Route 66 back in the day was actually pretty rare. It wasn't because times were better then than now or people themselves were better and had more regard for their fellow human beings; at least to some degree it was because in most towns along the Mother Road, the only way into and out of town was Route 66. With no other way to get out of town and nowhere to hide in the small towns, criminals just didn't stand a chance of getting away with much. In 1967 though, a crime was committed in Budville, New Mexico that shocked locals and travelers alike.

The Budville Trading Co., 2012
Budville was named after "Bud" Rice who, beginning in 1928 with his wife Flossie, built and operated a gas station, garage, grocery store, post office, and wrecker service on Route 66 west of Rio Puerco out in the middle of nowhere. He also sold bus tickets, owned the local State Motor Vehicle Department concession, and got himself elected Justice of the Peace. He liked to claim he was "The Law West of Rio Puerco" and did not hesitate to use this position to increase his business dealings. The fines he charged speeders caught in his speed trap were extraordinarily onerous and he antagonized other wrecker services by passing a law which declared all wrecks east of the Rio Puerco were the domain of Albuquerque, all those west of the Rio Puerco were his and those on the bridge belonged to whomever got there first.
Although he had a kind, generous side for kids (he often bought shoes in the winter for the poor kids who lived in the area), he was well-known for being testy with most people. He often stated to anyone that would listen that he didn't care if anyone liked him or not. One time a traveler complained about the price Bud charged for putting a new fan belt in his car. Bud simply took out his large pocket knife and cut the new belt off. When the driver complained again and asked, "What do I do now?" Bud told him he should move his car across the street unless he wanted to pay storage charges to his garage. The motorist pushed his car across the street and arranged for a friend to bring him a new belt which he installed himself the next day. Before he left though, he had to pay Bud for parking his car overnight since Bud also owned the property across the street from the garage.

On the night of November 18, 1967, after 39 years in business, Bud, Flossie, Blanche Brown, an 82-year-old retired school teacher who worked part-time at the trading post, and another employee were getting ready to close the store when a desperado entered to rob them. Before it was over, Bud and Blanche lay on the floor dead. The gunman then ran out the door and disappeared, leaving Flossie screaming, but unhurt and the other employee hiding in the bathroom. It was a gruesome scene and the site soon was being called, "Bloodville."

State authorities soon arrested a young sailor who had been seen hitch-hiking in the area when Flossie identified him as the killer in a line-up. In spite of the ID by Flossie, there was no other evidence which pointed to him and indeed, there were a number of people who said they had been with him or seen the sailor in a location miles from the scene of the crime at the time it happened. He was released for lack of evidence and the crime went unsolved for several years.

The police eventually caught a break when 3 criminals agreed to tell what they knew about the Budville murders in exchange for lighter sentences for crimes they had been convicted of. They all fingered a young drifter by the name of Billy Ray White, a man with a long criminal history, and provided numerous items of proof. Eventually, after the FBI placed Billy Ray on their 10 Most Wanted list, he was found, apprehended and stood trial.

Flossie this time identified Billy Ray as the killer and with the proof presented, it seemed sure that the accused would be convicted and justice would be served. However, the defense lawyer made sure Billy Ray was clean-shaven, wore a nice suit and looked nothing like the dirty, scroungy individual he had been when the crime was committed. In fact, he cleaned up so well he looked just like one of the clean-cut, innocent young high-school boys who attended the trial as part of their civics class. The defense pointed accusing fingers at a multitude of possible scenarios to throw doubt into the juror's minds. Did Flossie have something to do with the crime? After all, she did get married again an embarrassingly short time after her husband was murdered, and to a convicted felon at that! And why did the murderer leave her standing there alive and unharmed instead of killing her too? And if she was mistaken about the sailor she first identified, couldn't she be mistaken this time too? And what about a possible hit being placed on Bud by rival tow truck drivers? And just a few days before he was murdered, Bud testified in a Texas drug trial - could he have been hit because of that?

Less than 2 hours after beginning deliberations, the jury returned with a verdict of "Not Guilty" and Billy Ray White walked out a free man. Officially, the crime has never been solved, but Billy Ray was later convicted of robbery and murder in a small store in Louisiana, just like Budville. On June 8, 1974, he died an apparent suicide in a Louisiana State Prison after supposedly confessing to his cell mate that he did indeed commit the crime in Budville. 
Abandoned ruins around Budville
After the murders, Flossie and her new husband continued to operate the businesses in Budville until he was killed in a fight in 1973, dying just 3 feet from where Bud had died in 1967. Flossie married for a 3rd time and passed away of natural causes in 1994. After 66 years in business, the Budville Trading Post finally closed. 
After being sold, re-opened as the Budville Trading Company and closed again, the building today is probably one of the most photographed landmarks of Route 66 in New Mexico. Standing about 30 feet from the highway shoulder, it is just an abandoned, 1-story, white cement-block building with a large non-functioning neon sign in front. Its only function now is to serve as a fascinating reminder of one of the legends of Route 66.

Go to the first Route 66 entry here.
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Route 66 - The Singing House Ghost

Near the Continental Divide along Route 66 in New Mexico
On a hill within sight of Route 66, west of Laguna, New Mexico and a little north toward the Continental Divide, lie the burned out ruins of a small adobe home and a close-by wooden-walled root cellar. Today, few people know the story.

Nobody knew for sure where the couple originally came from, but a few old-timers who claimed their parents knew them say Fort Smith, Arkansas. The truthfulness of this is in doubt though as even these folks cannot agree on their names. What is known however, is that a hard-working, but frail man and his beautiful wife were forced from their farm by the hard times of the early 1930's. Packing everything they owned in their ancient Willys flatbed, they picked up Route 66 in Oklahoma City heading west in search of a better life. In Santa Rosa, the old truck blew a rod and coasted to a stop alongside the road. With no money for a new engine, a few days later the man talked a mechanic into swapping the disabled Willys for an even older, barely running Reo. They made it as far as Albuquerque before it too died a junker's death.

The wife had a singing voice that was sweet as an angel's. She had sang in the small country church the couple attended, but she was very religious, totally devoted to her husband and wanted nothing to do with the seamy music business or fending off men's hands while working in smoke-filled dens of sin. In only a few days, however, the last of their money was gone and her husband was ill from walking the city in search of a job. Knowing their very survival was up to her, she dressed in her best and went from place to place until she found a club owner who would give her a one-night tryout.

That night, with the small club band playing behind her, she sang simple melodies in such a hauntingly clear, beautiful voice that the rowdy patrons hushed and actually applauded when she finished. The club's owner knew right away he had found a true talent and hired her right then and there.

It wasn't long before she had become the most popular singer in the region and she had earned enough money to move on. Her husband however, was still in ill health. Worse, he was demoralized by the fact he was still not working and was being supported by his wife, a most embarrassing situation for a man in those days. His wife, however, could tell the New Mexico air agreed with him as his color was better than she could remember and his persistent cough had almost vanished. He had also begun to whittle again, something he had given up several years before. He was very talented, rendering in exquisite detail the small desert animals he had seen while walking the edges of the city looking for a day's work for a day's wages.

One morning, the wife posed a question - why not build a home in the high country a few miles west? After all, he was handy with tools and could do a lot of the work himself. She could sing on weekends and help him during the week and maybe they could even find a market with the travelers on Route 66 for for his carvings.  Surprisingly, the husband liked the idea and they found a perfect building site on a hill with a view of the valley. They also found two Indian workers from the Pueblo who were experts working with adobe and the work of building a home soon began.

Every day, as the men worked and their home began to take shape, the wife sang to her husband and the workers as she worked alongside them. When the house was finished, the sound of her beautiful voice seemed to have become part of every brick and board. When the breezes blew, the windows which opened on opposite sides of the house, seemed to blow a soft, sweet trilling that rose and fell, changing timbre with the changes in the breeze. Their neighbors from the small homesteads around them often stopped by to visit and to listen to the house sing.

Winter arrived, but shortly before the first storm, the husband left his loving wife at home and drove off to deliver carvings to the souvenir shops along the highway. With a comfortable home and a great many carvings stored, the couple looked forward to a bright and happy future.

Accounts differ about the cause of the fire. Perhaps the wife tried to save her husband's carvings from a flash fire that engulfed their home; perhaps the fire was set by intruders. With no proof one way or another, it's a mystery which will never be solved. The only thing known for sure is the wife perished in the fire. The husband was beside himself with grief. After a few weeks, the poor distraught man simply wandered off alone, never to be seen again.

Only a few charred adobe bricks remain from the house that sang, but occasional visitors to the site swear  the sweet, clear voice embodied in the house can still be heard. Interestingly, when there is no wind at all, when it seems nothing in the world is moving, that's when it is most clearly heard. The soft notes do not seem to come from the ruins; they are simply there in the air, as if they always have been, and perhaps always will be.

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Route 66 - The Mystery Stone

If you follow the pre-1937 route of Route 66 south of Albuquerque, you will pass through sparsely beautiful country with a number of old towns and pueblo's. Past Los Pallidas, Isleta, Isleta Pueblo and Bosque Farms, you will come to the town of Los Lunas, home to almost 25,000 people. There are a few Route 66 reminders along here, but nothing really of note. However, just a few miles west of town, you will enter the Rio Puerco Valley. Famous in archaeological circles for being home to more than 10,000 historical sites dating back to the Puebloan cultures of the ancient Anasazi Indians, it also contains more than 50 volcanoes, one of which is Cabezon Peak which climbs to 8,000 feet high.

The Mystery Stone
Just 18 miles beyond Los Lunas on the western side of the Rio Grande River is New Mexico's Mystery Stone. Also referred to as Inscription Rock, it is an ancient petroglyph which has cast doubt on whether Christopher Columbus or the Norse were actually the first explorers in America. Although nobody could read the words on it at that time, the local Indians back in the mid-1800's claimed the rock had been there since before their ancestors came to the area hundreds of years before. The name of the mountain had been handed down to them from the ancient one's - "Mystery Mountain."

The rock is located on what the locals still call Mystery Mountain or Hidden Mountain as it is named on some maps. Near the bottom of the 5,500 foot hill on the right side of a mound of lava is a large, flat-faced boulder weighing approximately 100 tons. Nine rows of characters or letters resembling ancient Phoenician script are chiseled into the north face of the boulder. Some of the symbols have eroded away due to the effects of weather and water rushing past the boulder which attests to the age of the writing. How it got there is anybody's guess, but it certainly wasn't carried there. Nobody has any idea who inscribed the letters or why it is where it is.

Most scholars agree that Stan Fox, a linguist and Bible expert from England made the most accurate and complete translation of the rock in 1999. According to his interpretation, it is an ancient version of the Ten Commandments and reads:

"I am Jehovah your God who has taken you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slaves. There must be no other gods before my face. You must not make any idol. You must not take the name of Jehovah in vain. Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. Honour your father and your mother so that your days may be long in the land that Jehovah your God has given to you. You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not give a false witness against your neighbour. You must not desire the wife of your neighbor nor anything that is his."

Another interesting mystery is that on the south rim of the summit at the highest point of Mystery Mountain is another stone with "YHWH Eloheynu" inscribed on it. More Hebrew script meaning "God our mighty one." And on the eastern rim of the summit are symbols which, according to the positioning of the stars and constellations, have been interpreted to be describing a solar eclipse which occurred in 584 BC. That sure seems to be a bit before Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492!

Who were these people and what were they doing in this remote location in what today is New Mexico? Just one more of the world's many mystery's.

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Route 66 - High Heeled Shoe Tree

Cline's Corners
For almost 80 years, Cline's Corners has been pumping gas, selling souvenirs and feeding travelers. But where its at now isn't where its always been. Roy Cline first opened in Lucy, New Mexico, but soon picked up the building and moved it to the junction of Highway 6 and Highway 2 along the original layout of Route 66. Then in 1937. Route 66 was realigned north of his business so Roy simply picked up his building again and moved  it to it's current location. It sat way out in the middle of nowhere and did a brisk business because of it. In the early years, Cline's Corners sold gasoline for 10 cents a gallon and water for $1 a gallon because water was much harder to come by than gasoline. It is still in the middle of nowhere with no above ground water to be seen for miles, but somebody had a sense of humor when they named the road in front of  Cline's Corners "Yacht Club Dr."

Youngest-daughter shopping at Cline's Corners - she had fun.

High-heel Shoe Tree
Sometimes things you come across on little side roads can add to the pleasure of a good road trip. After making our way west beyond Cline's Corners, past a number of ghost towns and near ghosts, we came to the city of Albuquerque. After gassing up and grabbing a meal at one of the local Mexican food places (and no, it wasn't the same thing!), we drove a few blocks off Route 66 to see one of those interesting, odd little things - The High Heeled Shoe Tree. Located at 299 Gallup Ave, the "shoe tree" is in front of a private residence, the home of an artist and the creator of the shoe tree. The piece consists solely of dozens of pairs of lady's high heeled shoes nailed from bottom to top of a telephone pole. The whole outside of the well-kept home is covered in strange things, such as flower beds enclosed by bowling balls (some with railroad spikes embedded in them, others with no spikes) or half-buried bottles of different colors; a huge ball of colored cloth strips, a home-made telescope made of cast-off wood and various other objects; bleached animal skulls and sculpted wire figures.

While we were there, we were fortunate enough to have the lady of the house drive up after getting groceries. I spoke to her for a couple of minutes and found her to be very nice and charming. She said she didn't mind at all if I took pictures - "If we didn't want people to stop and see, we wouldn't have put all of this outside!" When I asked her where the idea's come from, she just smiled and said, "From the mind!" "Sorry, but I gotta get these groceries in. Take your time and enjoy!" And with that, she bounded up the steps and disappeared inside.

High-heel shoe tree
That type of stuff doesn't flow from MY mind, but I sure do find it interesting. It took a while before we were able to pull ourselves away from this weird, but engaging display. Eventually though, we made our way back to Route 66 and continued our journey west toward a sad story in Budville and a really interesting mystery stone in Rio Puerco.

Bowling ball lined bed of cactus.

A wall of the artist's home. The sign says,
"Don't Quit Your Day Job"

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Route 66 - Old New Mexico Ghosts

From Tucumcari traveling west, Route 66 lies under I-40 in places and runs beside it as a service road in other places, gently rolling along on the north side, crossing under to the south, and then back again. The landscape perfectly reflects the stereotypical desert southwest and dusty ghost towns lie every few miles like a string of fading jewels. With the weather perfect, the sky a deep blue, the bright sun shinning in our eyes, we lowered the sun visors in the truck and joined I-40 West at exit 329.

The Richardson's Store protected from vandals,
but still fading away.
Coming to the ghost town of Montoya, we stopped at the famous Richardson's Store. The store opened in 1908 and initially provided railroaders and ranchers with provision. It later expanded to serve the highway workers and travelers on Route 66.

In 1918, the state began improving the road between Tucumcari and Santa Rosa which lead to a substantial increase in traffic through town. In 1925, G. W. Richardson relocated his store across the railroad tracks to be closer to the road and in so doing, replaced the original wooden store with the current red sandstone building. This road eventually became part of Route 66.

During the 1930's and 1940's, Route 66 travelers found cold drinks and a cool picnic spot under the elm trees that shaded the Richardson Store. With a big portico out front to shade the windows and a recessed front door and high windows designed to let in light and a breeze, but not direct hot sunlight, the store was designed to be as cool as possible. Many locals as well as travelers bought sandwich makings and their favorite cold beverage to eat and relax a spell in the picnic grove next to the store. In addition to selling groceries and gasoline, Richardson also carried auto supplies, saddle blankets, work gloves, feed buckets and even windmill parts. Like a lot of other local stores in small towns, Richardson's also served as a community meeting spot with post office boxes and a postal service window.

In 1956, I-40 was built a couple of hundred yards south of the store. An interchange provided access for travelers, but the interstate caused a significant drop in business. The store hung on until the mid-1970's, but was finally closed. To protect the property from vandals, the windows were boarded over and a chain link fence was erected around it, but the winds of time are slowly taking their toll on the old girl.

Remnant from time gone by between
Montoya & Newkirk, NM.

Sorry, no more cold beer.

Interesting graffiti on an abandoned building.
Pay attention as you ride the highway through the plains here as it is full of history. For instance, it is along this stretch where you will pass over the famous Goodnight-Loving Trail along which cowboys herded thousands of head of cattle north to markets in Colorado and Wyoming.

Sad shell of the former Club Cafe - home of the best
biscuits & gravy in the Southwest.
A nice 12-mile drive west from Montoya will bring you into Santa Rosa on Will Rogers Drive. Santa Rosa itself is notorious for the vicious snow storms that suddenly pop up with regularity each winter. Supposedly, more motorists have been stranded in Santa Rosa than anywhere else west of St. Louis. If you come through here at night, it's a nice treat as there are still a decent number of neon signs which light the night sky. We came through in the late afternoon, too early for any of the signs to be lit up. Maybe on our next trip through here, we'll time it a bit better.

One of the things that is no longer open is the Club Cafe. From its opening in 1935, this landmark served thousands of Route 66 travelers and locals with good food and good service at good prices. Many proclaimed this place to have the best biscuits and gravy in the Southwest. Now for me, that would have been something to stop for! Once passed by I-40 though, traffic became sparse and like so many others, the place was forced to close in 1991.

Just west outside of town, you will pass over the Pecos River. Be on the lookout and you can see where in 1940, when Steinbeck's novel, The Grapes of Wrath was being turned into a movie, director John Ford used this spot for the memorable train scene where Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) watches a freight train steam over the Pecos River railroad bridge into the sunset.

Cerro Pedernal Peak
We had to rejoin I-40 at exit 267 to continue west. We looked to the southwest to spot the 7,576 foot Cerro Pedernal Peak. This is the site of numerous prehistoric flint mines. Ancient peoples made tools and weapons here and often would meet up with different tribes for trading purposes. A large number of artifacts, including arrow heads and tools, have been found throughout the area. Many stories of buried treasure have resulted in the summit to be scarred with the excavations of fortune hunters. Unfortunately, I was driving and Youngest-daughter couldn't manage to get a good picture so I found a public picture from a government web site to show you what you should be looking for.

Since we had to be on sterile I-40 anyway, it was a good time to make up some time. Youngest-daughter didn't argue when I suggested she relax from her co-pilot directions duties and she was soon sound asleep. I smiled and quietly sang along as I listened to the Oldies-But-Goodies satellite radio station (60's on 6) and pressed down on the gas. Exit 230 and Cline's Corners was just down the road.

Go to the first Route 66 entry here.
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Route 66 - Tucumcari Tonight!

Leaving Glenrio, we decided to get back on I-40 for a few miles rather than travel 19 miles of dirt road to San Jon, New Mexico. The dirt road is the early Route 66 while the newer route runs beside I-40. The adventurous me wanted to take the dirt, but being a cautious daddy with a young daughter along, I chose not to travel through the remote no-man's land.

Hello New Mexico!
We returned to I-40 at exit 0 and soon were saying hello to New Mexico. The state of New Mexico offers extremes from wonderful peaceful isolation to busy cities. Traveling along the Mother Road, you will see craggy cliffs, distant peaks, multi-colored mesas and tree covered mountains. The ghost towns you will come across are also some of the oldest along Route 66, but these ghosts of Route 66 are often much younger than  the next community which will have stores and churches dating back to the early 1800's and earlier. Some of these places were prosperous, thriving towns even before America arose from the original 13 colonies. This is a state where you definitely want to slow down, learn the history, and enjoy the natural beauty within its borders.

The sun symbol found on the New Mexico flag, signs and products come from the Tsiya Indians. When Spanish explorers first encountered them in 1583, they inhabited the largest pueblos and communities. Not being able to easily pronounce the tribal name, the Spanish called them Zia.

Spanish settlers and religious leaders took control of the area and outlawed traditional Zia religious ceremonies. Tensions between the groups grew until in 1680, the Zia rose up and fought the Spanish. The revolt was successful and the surviving Spanish were forced to flee. Nine years later though, the Spanish returned with many soldiers. They attacked Zia Pueblo and of the estimated 700 men, women, and children living there, they killed 600 and took 70 captive. Three years later, they were firmly in control of the region. The fighting and disease had taken a heavy toll and by the latter 1800's, only 120 Zia remained alive.

To the Zia, the sun and the number 4 were sacred. Their symbol, a circle with groups of rays radiating out in 4 directions, is representative of:
  • the 4 points of the compass (north, south, east, west)
  • the 4 seasons of the year (spring, summer, autumn, winter)
  • the 4 periods of each day (morning, noon, evening, night)
  • the 4 seasons of life (childhood, youth, middle years, old age)
  • the 4 sacred obligations one must develop (strong body, clear mind, pure spirit, devotion to the welfare of others.
If you visit any of the pueblos, please remember, these are NOT tourist attractions; they are people's homes and churches and you should act appropriately. 

Passing through the town of San Jon, we soon arrived at Tucumcari which used to be advertised as the City of 2,000 Rooms. This place feels more like a small city than a town, but the population is less than 5,400 and while there are no longer 2,000 rooms to rent for the night, there are still numerous vestiges of the town's Route 66 heyday. One of these is the historic Blue Swallow Motel, a surviving business still open and serving travelers since 1941.

The Blue Swallow Motel
Located at 815 East Route 66 and originally called the Blue Swallow Courts, the building was constructed and operated by W. A. Huggins. With 14 rooms and adjoining garages for each room, plus a cafe on the premises, the Blue Swallow was successful from the start. Huggins sold the business to Ted Jones, a prominent rancher, by the mid-1940's and Ted and his wife operated the business until they both passed away in the 1950's.

Lillian Redman and her husband purchased the property from the Jones estate and began renovating and modernizing it while keeping the doors open. One of the first things they did was to purchase a larger neon sign and change the name from Blue Swallow Courts to the Blue Swallow Motel. Lillian became a legend along Route 66 as she always put her customers ahead of making a profit. If someone came along who didn't have enough money to pay for a room, she accepted personal items in trade for the balance, but more often than not, she provided a room for free to those who were in dire financial straits. She was quoted as saying, "I end up traveling the highway in my heart with whoever stops here for the night." Miz Lillian was getting on up there in age so after owning and operating the business for 40 years, she sold it in the late 1990's.

Mural on the side of a wall of the
Blue Swallow Motel
The current owners, Kevin and Nancy Mueller, have continued to update the buildings while managing to keep the ambiance and tradition of hospitality. Miz Lillian had a benediction for the guests of the Blue Swallow and today, a copy of it is in each of the rooms.

Greetings Traveler:
In ancient times, there was a prayer for “The Stranger Within our Gates.” Because this motel is a human institution to serve people, and not solely a money-making organization, we hope that God will grant you peace and rest while you are under our roof.
May this room and motel be your “second” home. May those you love be near you in thoughts and dreams. Even though we may not get to know you, we hope that you will be as comfortable and happy as if you were in your own house.
May the business that brought you this way prosper. May every call you make and every message you receive add to your joy. When you leave, may your journey be safe.
We are all travelers. From “birth till death,” we travel between the eternities. May these days be pleasant for you, profitable for society, helpful for those you meet, and a joy to those you know and love best.
Youngest-daughter and I debated spending the night in this historic place, but it was still early afternoon and we had miles to go and lots of places to see, so we decided to travel on down the road before calling it a night somewhere further west.

The Apache Motel, another Route 66 business
that survived until 2006, but is now closed
and abandoned.

On the edge of town, the former Ranch House Cafe,
another casualty of I-40.
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Route 66 - Goodbye Texas

A failed Route 66 business in Vega
Leaving Amarillo, it was just a short 36 miles to the town of Vega. Vega (Spanish for "meadow") was established in 1903 and is now where more than 1/3 of all residents of Oldham County reside. That's not saying a lot since there are less than 900 people who make their homes there, but it is the center of government for the county and there were a number of folks going hither and yon in town. For the men, there is one rather interesting statistic about Vega - for every 100 females over the age of 18, there are fewer than 84 men. If you are single and can't seem to find a date, maybe you should try moving to Vega!

The Hickory Inn Cafe. For huge portions of
good grub at reasonable prices,
just follow the pickups!
There are a few abandoned vestiges of failed Route 66 business's in Vega as well as a few survivors such as the Vega Motel, opened in 1947 and the Hickory Inn Cafe located across the street from the motel. Ervin Pancoast constructed the Vega Court when leisure and travel first became a booming industry. There were 2 wings which contained 12 units and each had an open-front garage. Pancoast also built a small house in the center courtyard which served as an office and personal living quarters. He married the next year and he and his wife lived there running the business. Business was so good, the couple built 8 more units in 1953, each with a garage. Eventually, I-40 bypassed them and when business started to slow, after operating the motel for over 30 years, they sold the place in 1976. The current owners renamed it the Vega Motel and it continues to offer Mother Road travelers clean, comfortable rooms at reasonable prices.

The Vega Motel - 65 years and still
serving travelers.
Just 17 short miles down the road west from Vega lies the little town of Adrian, home to less than 200 residents. There's not really a lot to say about Adrian since there didn't seem to be anything at all happening while we were there. Even the wind had calmed and with only the occasional auto passing through on Route 66, it was eerily quiet. Adrian just happens to be mid-way between the start of Route 66 in Chicago and the end in Santa Monica and the Midpoint Cafe lies exactly 1,139 miles from both ends ( a sign in town proclaims, "If you are here, you are half-way there!"). Stopping for an afternoon feed at the Midpoint Cafe was the reason we spent time half-way there.

BFT (our Big Ford Truck) parked in front
of the  Midpoint Cafe & gift shop in
Adrian, Texas.
Originally built and opened in 1928 under the name of Zella's with one room and a dirt floor, the Midpoint Cafe has been serving guests since the day it opened. Even though it has changed owners a number of times and been known as different names through the years, the menu and the food have remained virtually the same. I can personally attest that the cheeseburger, while not the absolute best I've ever had, was still pretty darn good. However, for many years, it has been most famous for its pies. Each and every pie was hand-made by Gwen Snyder until arthritis forced her to quit baking several years ago. Joann H. had a pie recipe handed down to her by her grandmother which everyone simply raved about. She loved baking so when the owners asked if she would be interested, she agreed to take over the pie making duties.

Youngest-daughter at the Midpoint Café.
Joann used her handed down recipes, including one which her grandmother had called "no-fail pie crust." It was no-fail alright with many folks claiming it was the best pie crust in the world. The only problem was that Joann couldn't get the hang of making her crusts as beautiful as her grandmother did. Her crusts invariably turned out lumpy, misshapen and just plain ugly. Instead of taking the time to learn how to make her crusts a thing of beauty, she simply started calling her pies "ugly crust pies." After years of making pies, the crusts are a little less ugly, but they are still not pretty. When a pie tastes as good as these though, who really cares what it looks like?

The wonderful blue-haired young lady we
met in the  Midpoint cafe. We wish
you safe travels! 
After finishing off my cheeseburger (the small salad I had for lunch back in Amarillo wasn't enough to hold me over), Youngest-daughter and I were browsing the cafe's gift shop when a young lady and her male traveling companion came through the door, shrugged off their rather large back-packs and asked about a restroom so they could wash up before eating. This in itself would not have been out of the ordinary. What really drew my attention though, in addition to her beaming smile and sparkling eyes, was her hair - a bright blue! I'm usually not so sure about people who make themselves stand out so blatantly like this, but somehow it just seemed natural for her.

When she came back out, I struck up a conversation and showed her the troll who goes with me on all of my trips - a blue-haired little guy I call Lil Dude. This brought out her thousand-watt smile and she reached for Lil Dude and held him up to her own hair. She readily agreed I could snap a picture and post it in my blog, so here it is. She was a wonderful, fun person, I enjoyed meeting her, and I wish her all the best. In case you are interested, here's the link to our sister site where pictures of our troll family's travels are posted -Wheremytrollgoes.

The former post office in Glenrio.
Only one more stop remained before we left the Great State of Texas on our westward journey - Glenrio, a ghost town that straddles the Texas/New Mexico border. There once was a time when Glenrio was a quiet, but busy community with a hotel, a land office, a hardware store, a grocery store, several cafe's, a couple of service stations and it's own newspaper, the Glenrio Tribune. What it did not have though, at least on the Texas side, were bars or liquor stores. Residing in Deaf Smith County, these were illegal since the county was dry. This wasn't much of a problem though as the New Mexico side of town was wet and had more than its share of places to acquire adult beverages. A good amount of business was conducted in New Mexico by the Texas residents with the New Mexicans reciprocating with purchases of gasoline on the Texas side. With the higher gasoline taxes in New Mexico, all of the service stations were located on the Texas side of town. It was a perfectly fine arrangement which worked for years. Unfortunately, when I-40 was completed and bypassed Glenrio, traffic totally dried up and the busy little town was quickly abandoned.

On a side note, when the Grapes of Wrath movie was being filmed, back when the town was still alive and busy, the crew spent 3 weeks in Glenrio filming important scenes in and around the town.
I think this may have been the office of a
motel or tourist court. If you know,

please let me know!
Today, you can have a picnic on the wind-blown original Route 66 roadway through town and not worry about moving out of the way for a car. Walking around the ruins was strange with a feeling of unease somehow. There was not a sound except for the wind blowing in the trees. No birds flew overhead or chirped from the rafters of the broken-glassed buildings; no dogs barked, not even a lizard scurried away into the bushes as I made my way along the road taking a few pictures. The whole place had a weird, forgotten feel about it. We didn't stay long.

The former Longhorn Motel & Cafe. It once was
promoted with a sign that read "First stop in Texas"
on one side and "Last stop in Texas" on the other.

"The land rolled like great stationary ground swells. Wildorado and Vega and Boise and Glenrio.
That's the end of Texas."
- John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

Go to the first Route 66 entry here.
Or go to the first entry of each state:

Route 66 - Amarillo by Morning

Arriving back in Amarillo, the weather was a bit crazy – heavily overcast for a few minutes and then clear skies for a while and back to overcast. It certainly added truth to the old statement, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes.” After a bit of extra driving, we found a Chick-fil-a for Youngest-daughter to get her fix. In her opinion, it was one of the best meals we had on the whole trip!

The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas
Of course, we couldn’t go through Amarillo without stopping to see the Big Texan Steak Ranch restaurant, home of the free 72-oz steak dinner – free that is if you can eat it all within 1 hour! Back when the Big Texan was first opened by Bob Lee, cowboys still worked the area ranches and came into town for good food and fun. One day, one of those cowboys came through the door saying he was so hungry he could eat the whole darned cow. Bob cooked up a 1-pound slab of meat and the cowboy finished it off saying that was just a start. Bob kept bringing out steaks until the cowboy finally called “uncle.” When all was said and done, he had eaten 4 1/2 pounds of meat plus a baked potato, a salad, a dinner roll and a shrimp cocktail. From that day on, Bob declared that if anyone could eat the same amount of grub in 1 hour, the meal would be free. Since then, thousands of people from all around the world have tried and most have failed. A few though, have made history.

Really big bull outside the
Big Texan Steak Ranch.
The oldest person to eat the whole meal within the 1-hour limit was a 69-year old grandmother. The youngest was an 11-year old boy. Klondike Bill, a very large, famous professional wrestler ate 2 meals in one hour! Frank Pastore, a professional pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds, ate the dinner in 9 and 1/2 minutes on May 3, 1987. His record fastest time lasted for almost 21 years until Joey Chestnut, a competitive eating world champion arrived to try his luck the evening of March 24, 2008. He finished the entire meal in a mere 8 minutes and 52 seconds, a record which still stands.

Really big boot outside the Big Texan Steak
Ranch. It's true - everything is bigger in Texas!
One time, Ripley’s Believe It or Not brought in 6 pre-qualified competitive eaters. Only 1 finished within the time limit, but a 120-pound female reporter from the Wall Street Journal who was along covering the event managed to successfully complete the challenge. The unofficial fastest time was by a Bengal tiger in a cage in front of the restaurant. His meal was limited to the steak only and his technique was simple – sniff, lick, gulp! He finished in less than 90 seconds!

If you want to try, you should know the price of the meal is now $72.00 and you have to pay before you are served. If you are successful, they will refund your money plus give you a t-shirt, a souvenir mug and a certificate and your name goes on the wall of fame in the lobby. If you fail, you waddle away after a good meal, but lighter in your wallet.

Cowboy Muffler Man
Youngest-daughter became enamored by the “giants” we had been seeing along the way so when she found out about the Cowboy Muffler Man, we had to stop. He is in front of the Country Barn Steakhouse along I-40 between exits 64 & 65.

After Cowboy Muffler Man Giant, it was time to bid adieu to Amarillo and continue our journey west. More Route 66 sites were calling, including Adrian, which would mark the half-way point of our journey between Chicago and Santa Monica. Knowing we would be half-way done later in the day left both of us somewhere between excited and sad. It had been a great trip so far and we were certainly looking forward to seeing more sites and being able to say we traveled Route 66 from beginning to end.

Youngest-daughter and I had formed an even deeper bond than before, something I would never have thought possible, and I was having to admit, my baby girl had somehow, seemingly overnight, turned into this young lady with her own thoughts, her own views, a wonderful sense of humor and had even gone from being an “are we there yet? Are we there yet?” pain-in-the-neck into a delightful travel companion.  After a week on the road, I was starting to look forward to us getting back home to Mama-woman, our own beds, and the familiar surroundings of home, but still, I wasn’t thrilled it would soon be half over. We decided since we still had half the trip in front of us, the cup was half full and so, with smiles in our hearts, we concentrated on the road ahead.
Go to the first Route 66 entry here.
Or go to the first entry of each state: