Western Trips

Monday, July 14, 2014

Gems Across The Texas / New Mexico Route 66 Segment

Route 66 Through Texas

Historic Route 66 enters Texas in the Panhandle region as it moves westward out of Oklahoma. It's estimated that more than 150 miles of the original 178 still exist in Texas. When you enter Texas from Oklahoma on Interstate 40 you're closely following the old historic route. From the Oklahoma border westward toward Amarillo Route 66 lies mainly to the south of the Interstate. From Amarillo westward to the New Mexico border, the Mother Road runs north of the Interstate.

route 66 texasRoute 66 Through New Mexico

The topography along Route 66 through New Mexico is very much different than how the road runs through Texas. The New Mexico topography has always posed challenges. New Mexico’s elevation along this path varies from a low of 3,800 feet at the Texas border to over 7,200 feet at the Continental Divide near the town of Thoreau, creating a roadbed characterized by climbs, descents, switchbacks and cuts.

Traversing New Mexico east to west along roughly the 35th parallel has been difficult even before Route 66 was constructed. That being said, the New Mexico portion of the Mother Road offers scenery like no other.

Travel Stops Along Route 66

We want to highlight several interesting stops along this Texas/New Mexico segment of the Mother Road. These are not the only interesting stops by all means but they should give you a good idea of what's in store.

shamrock texas route 66
Historic U Drop Inn, Shamrock, TX
Shamrock Texas

Shamrock got it's name in 1890 from it's first supposed postmaster, George Nickle, who actually never opened up his post office. Nickle was a local rancher and suggested the name Shamrock which would stand for good luck and courage. A post office was eventually opened by a woman named Mary Jones who used Shamrock as the name for the settlement.

What would be more natural then celebrating Saint Patrick's Day in Shamrock Texas? Shamrock's Saint Patrick's Day event dates all the way back to 1938. A man by the name of Glenn Truax thought that Shamrock, with it's name and Irish immigrant history, would be the ideal spot for an annual Saint Patrick's Day celebration that would draw thousands of attendees. The celebration continues to this day.

amarillo texas sixth streetAmarillo Texas Sixth Street Historic District

Today, to see some of the remnants of this historic highway in Amarillo Texas, you'll want to make a fun visit to Amarillo's Sixth Street Historic District. This is a thirteen block area west of downtown Amarillo in the San Jacinto Heights Addition. Amarillo is the largest city in Texas that the old Route 66 passed through. The good thing is that it still indeed does pass through.

This historic district is a collection of commercial buildings that are associated with the famed highway. Shopping, restaurants and unique shops are what is now part of this area of Amarillo's nightlife scene. For anyone out there who might remember the days of the old Route 66 this is definitely a must stop.

route 66 tucumcari
Blue Swallow Court, Tucumcari, NM
Tucumcari New Mexico

At it's peak, Tucumcari offered travelers some 2,000 hotel rooms. It was considered the gateway to New Mexico. Today, the number is a fraction of that amount. There is however a Tucumcari motel that has survived over all of those decades and that is the Blue Swallow Motel. Originally called the Blue Swallow Court, the Tucumcari NM hotel was built between 1930-1941 and it's believed to have opened for business in 1941.

Before the automobile descended upon it, Tucumcari was a railroad town. Tucumcari was founded in 1901 even before Quay County itself was established. The year 1901 was also the time that the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad built a construction camp in what is now the western portion of Quay County. The Rock Island camp was originally given the nickname of "Six Shooter Siding" because of it's too numerous gunfights.

route 66 auto museum
Exhibit at Route 66 Auto Museum
Santa Rosa New Mexico

There's more than one interesting vintage and classic car museum along the old Route 66 and one with a fascinating large collection is the Route 66 Auto Museum in Santa Rosa New Mexico. Santa Rosa is on Interstate 40 between Amarillo and Albuquerque. Santa Rosa is one of those towns that the Interstate goes directly past yet the main street through town is a part of the original Route 66. On your next western road trip through this part of the country, exit Interstate 40 at Santa Rosa, drive through the main town area of restaurants, motels and shops and you'll be treated to a great display of vintage cars that have marvelously restored.

You may also enjoy the Western Trips articles on the links below...

Visit the Gallup Cultural Center

The Corner in Winslow Arizona 

Visit Arizona's Lowell Observatory 

A fun and fact filled read regarding the old Route 66 includes an excellent small booklet with plenty of photos and images titled ...Traveling Route 66, 2,250 Miles of Motoring History from Chicago to L.A. by author Nick Freeth.

route 66 bridgesRio Puerco Bridge

There is one preserved old Route 66 landmark bridge which is located just west of Albuquerque along Interstate 40. The Rio Puerco Bridge was constructed in 1933 as part of the Federal Government's program  to use emergency money for highway construction.

This particular stretch of highway which is still preserved next to the bridge became a part of the official Route 66 alignment in 1937. The bridge design is a common one for the era. The bridge also had to be strong enough to endure possible flooding which had occurred several times. The bridge went under renovation in 1957 which included the addition of guard rails to help protect the trusses.

The Hotel to the Movie Stars / Gallup New Mexico 

The list of stars who appeared in movies shot around Gallup seems almost endless. Humphrey Bogart, Ronald Reagan, Spencer Tracey, Burt Lancaster, Gregory Peck, Joan Crawford, Doris Day, Kirk Douglas, Lucille Ball and many more. The list is a who's who of Hollywood during the mid 1900's.

el rancho hotel gallup
El Rancho during 1940's and 50's
The stars traveling to Gallup needed a place to stay and the El Rancho ,built in 1937 by the brother of director D.W.Griffith, was the residence of choice for many of them.

If you're a old western movie fan and traveling through Gallup on Interstate-40, a stop at the El Rancho is a must. The lobby area still has it's old west theme and rooms are named after the celebrities who stayed there. Also a lot of great pictures and autographs on display.

Taking a trip along the old Route 66 through Texas and New Mexico is a real trip into history. While Interstate 40 has done away with large segments of the old Mother Road, there still remains many interesting and historic landmarks would make an excellent addition on your vacation planner while traveling through the Southwest. 

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Western Trips. Photo of El Rancho in the public domain)

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