Last week, my husband Randy and I put our busy lives on hold for a few days and took the road less traveled. Instead of driving the same highway to Texas that we've traveled since our sons were small, we opted to leisurely explore our way through eastern New Mexico to discover what – if anything – we’d been missing all these years.
Our route yielded glorious vistas of aspens displaying eye-popping hues of bright yellow, set against Carson National Forest's dense fir and spruce trees. Not to be outdone, groves of towering oak trees, at the peak of their autumn finery, hugged the meandering river beside us, and made it impossible to drive without pulling over to take photo after photo.
Our ultimate destination was Tucumcari, New Mexico, where the vestiges of Route 66 remain. Route 66 was one of the first U.S. highways, and during its heyday, it became one of the most-traveled roads in the country. During the Dust Bowl years, folks traveled the highway west in search of work, and during WW II, the road was heavily used by industrial manufacturers to transport equipment needed for the war effort. As a result, the growth of Route 66 spawned the development of numerous small towns. After the war, exploring America by automobile became a new pastime. Remember the ad sung by Dina Shore? "See the USA in your Chevrolet!" And Route 66 was one of the most popular ways to get there!
Eventually overtaken by superhighways, driving on Route 66 now takes a bit more effort. With a guidebook and map in hand, we exited Interstate Highway 40 at Santa Rosa and navigated our way onto a two-block area of Route 66. Sadly, not much was left of the 1940's and 50's buildings, so after a quick photo, and we were on our way to Tucumcari, just 52 miles east. This is what we had come for – two miles of vintage hotels, some outlined in neon lights and others featuring colorful, nostalgic artwork painted on the walls; a gas station with pumps usually found in museums; and everywhere we looked, the mystique of Route 66 on display for……