Thursday, September 25

New Mexico Quickly

Looking at Texas From New Mexico. Glenrio's Seen Better Days
Recently, we made a little road trip and spent time in New Mexico on the route. We mostly avoided freeways, except for a stretch where I-40 provides good access to remnants of Historic Route 66. Always a sneaky one, I suggested that we pass through Los Alamos, site of the legendary blog “LosAlamos Bikes.” Unfortunately, thunderstorms were passing through the area and so my wife vetoed the detour.

Back Before the Interstate, You Might Have Stopped Here Before Crossing into New Mexico
Going from Texas, the tour begins with the border town of Glenrio. One might have stopped at a cafĂ© or purchased gas on the Texas side of the border. The motel closest to the border was seen as the “Last Motel in Texas” if you were looking from the Texas side or as the “First Motel in Texas” if you were standing on the New Mexico side of the border. Apparently, all the gas stations were on the Texas side of the border because Texas gas taxes were lower. On the other hand, all the liquor was on the New Mexico side because it was a “dry” county on the Texas side. I was also somewhat surprised to hear about the “Glenrio Historic District” from the NPS website. One wonders how you have a historic district in an unincorporated town that has two inhabited houses and a dog.
San Jon Gas Station's been Long Closed Based on the Size of the Tree
Anyway, in New Mexico as you head west is the little town of San Jon. As you can see, some of these places have been declining for many years. The tree at the gas station was growing out of where they used to have a gas pump mounted. San Jon has held on better than Glenrio, with 300 souls remaining after the freeway bypassed it.
Tucumcari's Got Lots of "Still Open" Route 66 Architecture
Further west is “Greater Tucumcari.” Tucumcari was and still is one of the larger towns in eastern New Mexico. It was a rail stop, still is a county seat, and there are lots of “Route 66” sights. Still, the city has visibly declined in the last decade. When we moved to Texas, we stayed at the “Payless Inn.” It was not too wonderful a place, but “Tripadvisor” and “Yelp” and various other sites were not available on the road in those days before smart phones. As you can see, the motel never fulfilled its promise to reinvent itself as the Taaj, and it recently burned to the ground. What’s more, we saw two other buildings in Tucumcari that also burned down.
Motel We Stayed at on the Outskirts of Tucumari - It was Bad Then, but Worse Now
We also stopped in Las Vegas. Nope, we weren’t hoping to visit some “History Channel” reality show, but Las Vegas is an underrated place that has a much nicer central plaza than “Sundance Square” in Fort Worth. It has real history, as a(probably of several) place where Kearney proclaimed that New Mexico would henceforth be part of the USA. There used to be a water tower in the plaza where three outlaws were hanged/shot by vigilantes, but I didn't see it, so it is probably gone. It is a mostly well preserved and enjoyable piece of the “old west.” Las Vegas is fairly poor, based on the number of pawn shops and a continuing slow decline in population. For those that aren't really excited about seeing where outlaws got hanged, Las Vegas is also the locale where the motorcyclists met Jack Nicholson in Easy Rider, and it was INVADED in the original Red Dawn movie (I guess New Mexico looks more like Colorado than Colorado)!
Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas - Across the Street from the Plaza

Well Maintained Las Vegas Main Drag - with Someone Going Through a Trash Can - Probably NOT a Former Dodge City Gang Member
The “Star” of New Mexico for tourism (at least in summer when there's no skiing at Taos) is Santa Fe. Santa Fe is the capitol of New Mexico and has about twice the population of Olympia in Washington State. For those that are not familiar with its history, it was well established when the Dutch first stepped foot on Manhattan Island and when the Pilgrims came to New England. I found the St Francis railroad crossings to be VERY interesting and worse than Khal portrayed them on his blog. The first time I encountered the distance between the “place to stop” and the actual intersection, we were confused and had a discussion about whether we were properly stopped or if there might be another place to stop that we hadn’t been informed about. Railroad crossings at shallow angles are rare enough that I can’t say I’m totally surprised that people on bikes get whacked or trapped. I imagine motorist collisions are not rare either.
Some Crossings Aren't Good for ANY Road (or Trail Users) - Images from Google Maps
Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe - it is NOT near St Francis Drive!

We Stayed in a Very Nice Old Motel that Starred in a 1989 Documentary that Still Draws German Tourists
Motoring along further we went through the “four corners” area, saw the majesty of Shiprock (and the little town named same, and enjoyed the beauty of southeastern Utah and southwestern Colorado.

Shiprock in Northwestern New Mexico
Out of New Mexico and into Utah


Khal said...

Great pictures and travelogue, Steve. Sorry you did not stop in Bombtown.
Also, here is my detailed discussion of the St. Francis/Cerrillos intersection. For some reason, I put it on my other blog. Probably because it didn't have to do with Los Alamos.

limom said...

nice road trip!

RANTWICK said...

groovy, man, groovy.

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