Monday, April 30, 2012

Grand plans

Day 16. Everyone left Santa Rosa on time this morning. No dawdling. Never mind that we had a big hill to climb on the way out of town, and several more larger hills after that. At mile 20 we turned left onto an old alignment, with some marginal pavement and the rest gravel and sand.

Cuervo cutoff, Route 66.

Yucca, a seed pod that looks like a flower.
Very few complaints. True, we're getting better at the unpaved stuff. And we were glad to get away.

During the ride to Tucumcari I was thinking how much the appearance of a town influences its destiny. People have been talking about how some of the abandoned places we pass through seem sad. It makes them want to avoid those places. We want to be a part of vibrant, successful things. Travelers pass through and make a quick judgment based on what they see. Cyclists see more than most folks in cars or motorcycles. But it's not possible to see everything.

Sometimes we see only cookies, bananas, and Gatorade...
The unpavement dumped us out at Cuervo, a ghost town. Seemed completely deserted and falling down. We got a tip that it was worth exploring, so a couple of us wandered around. People had clearly been living in some of the buildings, probably not that long ago. We saw this in some ruins near Grants as well. If a ruin has a roof on it, people will move in.

Inside the old school house in Cuervo.
Tucumcari has the same signs of economic devastation as Santa Rosa. A majority of motels and gas stations and restaurants are boarded up, with weeds growing. I mean, this is my first experience of a town where the donut shop went out of business. It reminded me of recent pictures of Detroit. In the midst of this war zone, downtown we also found ourselves in the midst of a vibrant community. The grocery store is huge and well-stocked. Ranchers from outlying areas gather in the parking lot at Del's Restaurant. An artist showed us some of the 30-odd murals he's painted for businesses here. Tucumcari's got a vibe.

At the TePee Curios shop, I found this tribute to Bob Waldmire. You might remember him from the Hackberry post. Bob was a traveling artist who lived in an old school bus on Route 66.

There is a lot of positive, creative energy if you know where to look. Many of these folks are living on the margins right now. They don't fit neatly into a traditional narrative of success. But experience with failure does not make you a failure. It's the first step in an evolution.

The Blue Swallow Motel is a classic 1930's motel on the main drag. Each room has a little garage next to it (that's where the bikes are sleeping). It's incredibly welcoming, attractive, and well-kept. A fabulous neon sign flags down travelers. Under the original owner it was apparently a little bit of a scary place. New owners have fixed it up and made it into a motel where anyway would want to stay. I'm going to sleep well here tonight. It's not cookie cutter. It's part of the real Route 66.


  1. That looks like a cool motel! I love the garages. BTW, I looked in Solly's log book and it was on the way back from the east coast when we stopped to refuel in Tucumcari. Day 1 was Olean NY to Evansville Indiana to Tulsa OK. Day 2 was 4 legs: Tulsa OK to Tucumcari NM to Phoenix AZ to Santa Monica -- 9.9 hours of flying (mostly over Route 66). Day 2 was August 25, 1975.

  2. Wish our fam had chosen Rte 66 instead of I-80 to travel on to move to CA in 1966. I might remember some of these places, though you were only one year old... :)

  3. By far this was Jim and my favorite motel on the route. The milk shakes down the road in a diner on the right are not bad either...Unfortunately TX lies ahead, when I rode on the boring flat roads there, I always thought of places I visited in New Mexico...

    Almost there...

    Let's ride together when you get back.


  4. :) I think it's great that you're highlighting the good you're seeing along the way.