Getting My Kicks on Route 66
I left the Canyon de Chelly campground at 8 a.m. the next morning, a beautiful
and sunny morning it was.
My first stop that day was at the Hubbell
Trading Post, a National Historic Site about an hour away. I'd driven by
the Hubbell trading post several times during my previous trips through
northeastern Arizona but had never stopped. I figured that I had some time
to visit it, so I pulled into the Visitor Center, talked to a
Navajo park ranger there for about 20 minutes, walked around the trading post
and shot some pictures, then hopped back in my truck and hit the highway after
about an hour altogether. The trading
post is still actively used today and is pretty interesting -- it's definitely
worth a stop.
the trading post, I headed on to what is probably the most
commonly misspelled city in the U.S., the quirky town of Albuquerque, and strolled around Old Town
I had never spent much time in
Albuquerque during my previous trips around America, but from what I saw that
day, I thought it was a pretty nice place... and
much more pleasant than Santa Fe, a city a few hours north that's so
supersaturated with adobe red architecture that it'll make you puke. Be
careful, though, because according
to Santa Fe's City Code, you can puke there only in a deep shade of
adobe red. Jeez, even the
McDonald's in Santa Fe has the red adobe motif... gag me with a Happy Meal.
Anyway, I briefly visited my company's Albuquerque office and finally met several
folks whom I've worked with over the phone during the past year, then headed east
that afternoon across New Mexico following the new Interstate 40 and the old U.S. Route 66.
Here's Nat King Cole singing
Get Your Kicks on Route 66.
RealPlayer. If problems, see
66, finished in 1926, was the first paved highway across America, extending
2,500 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles and traveling through numerous small
towns in between. Between 1930 and 1960, hundreds of drive-ins, gas
stations, and, best of all, weird roadside attractions sprung up along Route 66.
However, when the Interstate Highway system was completed in the 1960s -- a
system designed to whisk travelers from one major city to
another -- a lot of the businesses and most of those weird roadside attractions along Route
66 folded up.
I generally don't like Interstates because they give a bland
view of America and I avoid them if I can, much preferring two-lane highways
such as the old Route 66, which, I think, are a heckuva lot more
interesting. Technically, Route 66 doesn't exist anymore but a lot of the
older cities along it's route, like Tucumcari, New Mexico, still have some of
their former charm. I walked around Tucumcari for about an hour, poking my
head into lots of shops and closed-up drive-in restaurants and chatted
with some of the locals. Route 66 may be gone, but for a short
while I felt like I was right back in the 1950s -- but not that I
remember the 1950s.
A few hours after leaving Tucumcari, I
pulled into Amarillo, Texas and got a funky motel room right on
old Route 66, a motel room that I'm sure had plenty of stories to tell if it could've talked.
means "yellow" in Spanish (it's supposed to be pronounced "ama-ree-yo",
but this is Texas, not Mexico, so people just say "ama-rill-o")
and has a few sites of interest,
including the Cadillac Ranch just west of town. The biggest tourist
attraction in Amarillo, though, is -- now get this -- the world's largest helium factory.
No, I'm not making this
up. Yep, folks in the Texas panhandle are a bit hard up for entertainment,
I thought the most interesting thing
in Amarillo, though, was the Big Texan
restaurant. If you can eat a 72-ounce steak, baked potato, salad, roll, and shrimp
cocktail there in 60 minutes, it's free. About a quarter of those who try it
succeed. The rest fork over $56... and then promptly throw up (and
probably not even in
adobe red). The next morning, I stopped at the Cadillac Ranch and drove by the Big Texan restaurant on my way out of town.
However, I didn't really feel like eating a 6-pound steak for breakfast
(or puking) so I just took a picture of it.
left: Believe it or not, this is the Continental Divide on Interstate
40 in New Mexico. From this point on, all waters head east... as will my
truck for the next several weeks.
center: After working with the Parsons Brinckerhoff folks in
Albuquerque, New Mexico for the past year over the phone, I stopped by their
office and finally got to meet them.
right: Fountain in Old Town, Albuquerque.
left: Hey, it's Del's Restaurant!
center: Route 66 curio store in Tucumcari.
right: Abandoned drive-in in Tucumcari.
left: I was planning to camp near Amarillo, Texas, but after driving past
funky Route 66 motels all day I decided to stay in one. This is the
Bronco motel in Amarillo. It was definitely funky... perhaps a little too
center: Several years ago, an Amarillo
businessman buried 10 Cadillacs on his wheat field west of town as a tribute to
his favorite automobile, thus creating the Cadillac Ranch (and inspiring a
song). There are no signs or markers, but it's plainly visible from
Interstate 40 and you can walk out to it as, unfortunately, some graffiti
artists have done.
right: Here's the famous "Big Texan"
restaurant in Amarillo. Note the Texas flags, which are displayed proudly
and prominently throughout the entire state. Don't mess with Texas!
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