New Mexico Route 66


New Mexico Route 66


Tucumcari Tonight! That catchy slogan has rung down through the years of travel on Route 66 and is still true today.

American Motel Neon

Tucumcari is still prosperous and offers the Route 66 traveler the first real glimpse of what Route 66 was all about. Motel Row! Even today the neon signs beckon and entice the wanderer to stop awhile and rest. I first arrived in Tucumcari at night looking for a place to stay; following in the tire tracks of countless other motorists down through the years.

I had a particular place in mind too; the Blue Swallow Motel. The Blue Swallow has been a fixture on Route 66 since 1939. Once it had been owned and operated by a Route 66 legend in her own right, Lillian Redman, a former Harvey Girl from the golden era of the Santa Fe Railroad. In 1998 the motel was taken been over by Hilda and Dale Bakke who have preserved the authentic charm of this old motor court from a by-gone era. The old Blue Swallow neon is one of the prettiest I have encountered on the Mother Road and it still lights up its welcome to the road weary traveler at night in Tucumcari. This pleasant stopping over place is perfectly preserved, a slice of what the old Mother Road must have been like once, right down to the vintage telephone on the nightstand by the bed. And it worked!

Famous Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari


TeePee Trading Post

But Tucumcari is full of surprises. The other motels, cafes and trading posts speak about a simpler time. Take for instance the Tee-Pee Curios trading post. It has been in operation for many years, and is a Route 66 icon. To me, its architecture is exactly what I believe a Route 66 business should look like. How many kids begged their parents to stop in and look around over the years? Once almost 50 years ago my family came through here on vacation, could I have been one of those kids pleading to stop? I wouldn't doubt it.

Six Shooter Siding, as Tucumcari was once known as, became a full-fledged respectable town in 1901 when the railroad came through here. In 1946 it had a population of 6,194 making it a major metropolis in the deserts of New Mexico. Tucumcari offered the road wanderer every highway service available. The town was named for the flat-topped mesa to the south. According to Rittenhouse there's an old Indian legend to go with that mountain, "the mountain obtained its name from two young lovers, Tocom and Kari, who died a tragic death. Tacom was slain in a duel with a rival lover, and Kari took her own life."

Buckaroo Motel


Old Tucumcari Cafe




How much truth there is to the old legend is up to speculation but the story lends itself to the wonderful aura surrounding this classic Route 66 town. Tucumcari Tonight! A stop along old Route 66 in New Mexico that is a must for any fan of the old highway.

After spending a restful night at the Blue Swallow I continued my journey across New Mexico.

Route 66 Side Trip to Tucumcari Neons:


Vintage Route 66 Bridge

1936 Route 66 Bridge

The next town on my trek was Montoya, but about a mile before I arrived I crossed an old Route 66 bridge from 1936. I couldn't resist taking a picture; I'm glad I did too. If I hadn't stopped I would have never seen the old footings of an even earlier bridge nearby. How old this bridge was I don't know. Perhaps it was washed out by an infrequent flash flood making the building of the new 1936 bridge a necessity.

Early Bridge Footings

You know it seems that the more I see on old Route 66, the more I realize there are an unlimited amount of stories out there. In many cases they are stories that have been forgotten over time, or require extensive detective work to uncover like the real story about this earlier bridge. I can never understand why it seems like I go away with more questions than I came with. Ah, but it makes the Route 66 exploration fun.

Pre 1936 Bridge Footings


Photographs taken September 2002

Click on an area or city of Route 66 on the map below to take a cyber tour of that section of the  Mother Road

Travel Cyber Route 66 in New Mexico

Go West on New Mexico Route 66

NAVIGATION NOTE: Buckle up and hold on to your mouse! These pages are arranged like the map above, from the western state border to the eastern state border. I have set up this site as if you were traveling from EAST to WEST, much like the Joad family in The Grapes of Wrath. You can click on the Route 66 shields to "travel" the Mother Road in either direction though. Or you can select any shield below to take you to that specific state.

Go East on New Mexico Route 66

To Montoya

To Bard & San Jon


Select the Route 66 State to Visit



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