Sunday, May 10, 2015

Tucumcari Tonight

May 3 - 6, 2015

Tucumcari tonight is Tucumcari's marketing slogan and road signs are all along I-40

On the road again at 10 AM heading down I-40 west out of Texas, back to New Mexico.  We exit I-40 just over the border onto route 392 which is a rough country road through wide open range land and then onto routes 469 and 54 to the town of Logan, New Mexico.  Our destination, Ute Lake State Park, is a few miles outside of Logan.  The campground is on Lake Ute which is actually a reservoir formed by a dam on the Canadian River.  This lake is 13 miles long and is the second largest in New Mexico.  The campsites here are huge, two 40 foot RV’s could fit.  It has water and electric with a shower room nearby, a picnic table under a ramada, BBQ grill, the WiFi actually works and I can even get PBS from my antenna.  The only downside is no phone signal, but a good deal for $14 a night.  We are loving these New Mexico state park campgrounds.

Ute Lake shoreline

Many wild flowers were in bloom in the campground

View of lake from an overlook

Severe looking weather approaching fast

Campground flowers

Lots of Jack Rabbits in campground

The town of Logan is a mile away with a couple of interesting old buildings, a couple of restaurants, a gas station, a market and lots of ice and beer.  We take a ride along the lake and find that there are a couple of other boat ramps, fishing areas and campgrounds in this state park.  This area is all fishing supplies, bait shops and boat storage, not much else.  This lake is pretty with lots of side canyons and is considered one of the best fishing spots in New Mexico for walleye, bluegill, catfish, crappie, smallmouth bass. 

Old building in town built by the WPA

This appeared to be an Elks club

 The reason for being here is the route 66 sights of Tucumcari, New Mexico about 20 miles away.  We first toured the Main street area which is sort of forgotten by the tourist crowd.  The Rock Island and Southern Pacific railroad depot has been restored and appears to have a railroad museum inside, but not open.  The Odean Theater from 1937 is amazingly still open for business. There were several great old structures, good murals along with a quilt shop that Twinkles enjoyed. 

The VFW club

The restored train depot

Old store front windows

The Odean Theater

Nice downtown mural after rain storm

We then went a few blocks away to the “Mother road” itself or route 66.  There are so many cool vintage gas stations, buildings, motels and restaurants with old original and restored signs that I was a bit dizzy.  Around noon time the sun disappeared, dark ominous clouds enveloped us, then it began to rain slowly, then harder and then finally pea size hail.  The street started turning into a river, it was sort of crazy for a while, then it stopped and within an hour the skies had cleared.  We stopped for lunch at the Pow Wow Restaurant and Lizard Lounge with many old Tucumcari photos and a really good all you can eat lunch buffet.  

Lots of gas station murals

Route 66 monument

Murals are everywhere

La Cita restaurant is a classic

The Tee Pee Curio shop is another classic

Another great mural

Legendary road sign

Classic Pontiac at the Blue Swallow Motel

Dodge tail fins on route 66

The famous Blue Swallow Motel

Tucumcari started as a Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific railroad camp in 1901.  It was originally called Ragtown, then changed to Six Shooter Siding after numerous gun fights.  It eventually developed into a real town and became known as Tucumcari after the nearby Tucumcari Mountain.  The mountain is highest vantage point for miles around and the Comanche word “tukamukaru” meaning to lie in wait or wait for someone to approach is one theory for the towns name.  There is another much more interesting and romantic version about two indian braves fighting to the death for the hand of the chief’s daughter, Kari. Kari’s lover,Tocum, is killed and the distraught Kari then kills herself, followed by the chief who cries Tocum-Kari as he dies.

Tucumcari Mountain

Tucumcari has a Route 66 museum, a historical museum and a Dinosaur museum.  I did the Route 66 museum located in the Convention Center.  It has a few classic cars, old gas pumps, a classic juke box and the walls are covered with Route 66 photos.  I ended up buying a music CD with songs having Tucumcari in the lyrics.  However, the most popular song with a Tucumcari reference “Willin” by Little Feat is not on the CD.  I suppose the city was concerned about the drug references.  The best known verse of it is;
And I’ve been from Tucson to Tucumcari
Tehachapi to Tonapah
Driven every kind of rig that’s ever been made
Driven the back roads so I wouldn’t get weighed

The friendly volunteer at the museum, who I believe has much to do with it’s existence and actually put the CD together gave me a nice summary of the museum.  In our travels, it seems that all these small town functions, museums, parks, cultural events, charity thrift stores etc are almost all done by volunteers and usually seniors.

Interior of the museum

Route of the great race passes through Tucumcari

We also did the Tucumcari historical museum which is a massive collection of artifacts from the area.  They have many exhibits with personal stories attached that were most touching.  Daily log books from the railroad were also interesting, very similar to daily books I remember seeing at NJ Transit railyards.   This is a must see museum when in the area. 

Old piano

Old Zenith radio

A strange mix

I loved this "Shasta Road" album

Rail yard photos

Lots on the sheriffs posse

I've never seen a collection of bed pans

Herman Moncus started the museum

Museum exterior

Since it’s May 5th and my 68th birthday, I feel it’s about time to put on my cowboy boots, saddle up the jeep and ride the now unpaved gravel section of old route 66 from Glenrio to San Jon.  There isn’t much left to see except for a few abandoned homesteads and buildings.  There are a few old wooden bridges that you cross that are interesting, in need of some maintenance.  The road runs parallel to the old railroad tracks, however the tracks and ties are long gone and most of the old trestle bridges are also gone or half standing.  It is a narrow road going through open range land, really gives you a feel for how remote this area is and how primitive road travel was back in those days. 

Old Wind Mill with hawks nest

A forgotten Diner along the road

That's route 66 today

Abandoned house with old car in the yard

A piece of the old roadway

Remains of the railroad trestle bridge 

A mid 40's chevy pickup left behind

Old auto repair shop

Next stop is Las Vegas, New Mexico, that’s right New Mexico,

Twinkles and Slick

No comments:

Post a Comment