Revisiting the Mother Road - Western New Mexico
New Mexico Route 66Route 66 in Western New Mexico. Photo by Jim Hinckley. In a bid to escape the Missouri Winter, Kathy and I headed out to the southwest. Our first focus being a re-visit of Route 66 west of Santa Rosa, New Mexico through Arizona..parts we haven't traveled since 2004. The Mother Road is definitely a living thing, and changes are continuous in many areas. But our focus of course is on the history, and historic places along the way.
New Mexico's ribbon of Route 66 provides travelers with a variety of landscapes, from beautiful mountain ranges, to sandstone mesas, desert sagebrush, ponderosa pines and ghost towns. Along the vintage pavement, you will also see ancient pueblo cities, both open and abandoned motels, lots of neon signs, and an eclectic mix of ancient and contemporary cultures.
Here are some of our favorites from New Mexico Route 66. This is by no means all the small towns and places of interest along New Mexico's Mother Road. But these are the things that catch our lense. Click on an image to go to the New Mexico Route 66 photo gallery with many more images. Links in the text will take you to stories about the subject referenced.
An old Whiting Brothers Sign on Route 66 in Morarity, New Mexico still stands, though the station is long gone. Kathy just loves these old signs, especially when they stand testament to the glory days of days past. Established in 1887, Moriarty was named for Michael Moriarty, one of its original homesteaders. Moriarty became a part of Route 66 in 1938 with the realignment of Route 66. The small town, like many others along Route 66, rose to the occasion with a number of motor courts, restaurants and other services. Many of these continue to stand and operate in today.
Albuquerque provided plenty of photo opportunities and rich history. By the beginning of the 17th century, the area that would one day become Albuquerque was called Bosque Grande de San Francisco Xavier. In 1706, the ambitious provisional governor of the territory, Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdez, petitioned the Spanish government for permission to establish the bosque as a formal villa and call it Albuquerque, after Viceroy Francisco Fernandez de la Cueva, the Duke of Albuquerque. The city is still nicknamed "Duke City."
Growth continued steadily into the 20th century and saw another spurt when Route 66 brought a steady stream of traffic right through the city. Before the 1930’s, Albuquerque’s Main Street, now called Central Avenue, consisted of a few motor courts, gas stations, campgrounds and a café. In no time at all new motels, restaurants and services, complete with neon signs, began to compete for the attention of Mother Road travelers.
The old Aztec Motel (seen here in 2005) is no more, making Kathy one sad camper.
The Aztec Motel was the oldest surviving Route 66 motel in New Mexico up until 2011. Beginning as the Aztec Auto Court in 1933, it was built four years before Central Avenue became Route 66. All that's left is the sign.
At a cost of $150,000, the KiMo Theatre opened on September 19, 1927, at a time when silent movies were the all-consuming rage of Americans. A contest was run for the naming of the new theatre and Pablo Abeita won the magnificent prize of $50 for the unique name of "KiMo.” KiMo is a combination of two Indian words literally meaning "mountain lion" but more liberally interpreted as "king of its kind."
Slated for the wrecking ball, the KiMo was saved in 1977 when the citizens of Albuquerque voted to purchase the beautiful building. Since then, several stages of restoration have returned the theatre to its former glory. The KiMo Theater now serves as a performing arts center with seating for 700 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also alleged to be haunted.
KiMo entryway mural
There is an old alignment of Route 66 that takes you south to Los Lunas through Isleta Pueblo, where we found the historic St. Augustine Church, built in 1612. The church was burned during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, but was rebuilt in 1710. Renovation that started in 2010 revealed that much of the original adobe was still intact. Today it is a beautiful, and active, reminder of Spanish history among the Native Americans.
Heading back to the northwest out of Los Lunas, you might catch a glimpse of the original pavement of the Mother Road, as it meanders back toward today's I-40. Not far from the interstate there is a section of the original route, where we found an interesting old bar that would have been not far from the ghost town of Correo. Deriving its name from the Spanish word meaning "mail” or "post office," the town began with a simple store with a post office in the 1920s. There was also a one room school house held in an old box car for the children of the rail road crews. Later a café, gas station and tourist cabins were added. However, today all that remains of Correo is rubble and old Route 66 fading into the desert. We liked the nearby bar though.
Meanwhile, on the newer alignment along I-40 at Rio Puerco, you'll find yet more original pavement, complete with historical marker at the Rio Puerco Bridge. Built in 1933, this Parker Through truss bridge is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
The tiny community of Budville is named for H.N. "Bud” Rice. The town began when Bud and his wife Flossie opened an automobile service, trading post, and tour operation in 1928. Doing a great business with the travelers of Route 66 for many decades, the store was held up by desperados in 1967 and unfortunately Bud was murdered. Flossie continued to run the family business for another 12 years before the business closed for good.
During the late 1800's, the area surrounding Grant's Camp had an abundance of water which enticed many homesteaders to farm the region. Others grazed cattle and sheep on nearby ranches or took advantage of the plentiful logging opportunities.
In 1882, the post office was established with the name of Grants, but the population continued to call the settlement Grant’s Camp. Later when the Railroad Station was built, that changed to Grant’s Station and in 1936, the town’s official name was changed to plain ole Grants.
For the Route 66 enthusiast, several icons still appear including Grants Cafe founded in 1937, and many more.
About seven miles beyond Grants you come to what was once the stopping point of Bluewater. Although never much more than a railroad loading station; a trading post, two motels, a café, garage, and gas station once did a brisk business in this tiny hamlet. All that’s left today is the old Bluewater Motel and Allen’s Garage. Both silent now, they attest to the better times along this old chunk of the road.
One of the oldest towns in the United States, the area population of Gallup can be traced back to 2500 BC with the settlement of the Ancient Puebloans in Canyon de Chelly. White men began to populate the area in 1880 when the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad began to push its way westward. The railroad paymaster, David Gallup, established a small company headquarters along the projected railroad right-of-way. Rail workers soon began "going to Gallup" to collect their pay.
When Route 66 came through town in 1926, numerous motels and service business sprang up on Main Street. But the most prevalent businesses were the dozens of Indian Trading Posts that sprouted up displaying Native American arts and crafts to the many travelers along the Mother Road. Many of these vintage trading posts can be seen today, along with galleries, gift shops, old motels, and restaurants along historic Route 66 in Gallup.
Get ready for some gorgeous views coming into Arizona. Next blog we'll explore the historic Mother Road through parts of the Painted Desert, Petrified Forest and more.
In the meantime, check out all our Land of Enchantment Mother Road images in the New Mexico Route 66 Photo Gallery.
About the RV Parks we stayed at through this stretch of New Mexico:
We're pulling a 22 foot travel trailer. We try to travel on the cheap, so we usually pick places that take Passport, or have rates that match.
Our first overnights were at Leisure Mountain RV Park in Tijeras, NM just East of Albuquerque on Old Route 66. Great owner, friendly and good customer service. It's also a mobile home park, so there are many permanent residents. You're up in the mountains here, so the weather is colder and I would say "wetter" than down in the valley. The roads were a mix of gravel and dirt, so be prepared for some muddy spots (we're traveling in the winter here so they were getting shots of 6 inches of snow that left quite an area of mud on the shady side of the office where you are supposed to park to check in). Wifi was "ok", but had to use extender to get it to work. I would probably stay again, but in the summer instead (probably want to book ahead during the Summer).
Our next overnights were in Grants, New Mexico at the Blue Spruce RV Park. Another great customer service experience, good wifi, cable, and just on the edge of town off I-40. We had a bit of an experience here with zero degree weather during our stay that you can read about in our last Newsletter here, but our experience with the park itself was great. The owner has been here for years and has another RV Park close by that's newer.
Keywords: 66, Albuquerque, Gallup, Grants, Mexico, Mother, New, Road, Route, historic, images, places, prints
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