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