After my dad and I took a detour into Kansas and found the gravesite of our civil war fightin’ ancestors, we again cracked open our Route 66 guidebook and realized we had a problem. Too many pages in the book, not enough days to see it all. We had to make a call. It became obvious that we had to just blast right through Oklahoma. Sorry about that Oklahoma. Next time.
So, we rejoin our Route 66 adventure in Amarillo, Texas on a brutally hot and dry morning. We were nearly out of gas and I pulled into a Shell station with the onboard computer bong-bonging its message about 10 miles to empty. The Mustang is running a Steeda tune optimized for 93 octane, but Steeda assured me that I could dip down to 91 if necessary. This pump topped out at 90 octane. Shit. Same deal at the Flying J across the street. What the F, Texas? Don’t y’all make this stuff? Where’s the high octane bubblin’ crude? A quick google search found a Chevron 8 miles up the road that had 91, and it was ethanol free, to boot. Cool story, huh? Gather around, grandkids! I put a bottle of octane booster in the trunk just in case this happened again.
Undoubtedly the star of the show in Amarillo is the world famous Cadillac ranch. In 1974, a bunch of San Francisco art hippies who called themselves the Ant Farm were instructed by a shadowy Texas billionaire to create something that would freak out the locals. Cadillacs from the ’50s and ’60s were buried nose first in the dirt, facing west, and supposedly at the same angle as the pyramids in Egypt.
My dad said it was the “darndest thing” he ever saw.
It has become a tradition to spray paint graffiti on the cars. I wonder if all the paint is actually helping to preserve the metal underneath. Most of the trim and parts were stolen decades ago.
The overspray in the air from the paint cans mixed with the treacherous cow dung infused mud was a real treat. Bring the kids!
In Texas Route 66 is a mix of driving on the old alignment and hopping on and off the modern interstate 40. Putting our heads down through Oklahoma payed off as we found ourselves crossing the midpoint line on Historic 66 right at the midpoint of our trip.
Adrian is the exact geographical spot halfway between Chicago and Santa Monica.
Seeing that we had already come 1,139 miles made us suddenly very hungry. Choices are slim in Adrian, but they’re good. No Yelp required. Just eat at the Midpoint Cafe, a former greasy spoon that is now a really nicely run gift shop and luncheonette.
You kind of expect to get some frozen crap in some of these places. Not here. Homemade chicken sandwich, homemade potato salad, and a Route beer, of course.
Next door, an elderly Ford F100 with a different kind of graffiti on it. Thousands of autographs from Route 66ers.
A weatherbeaten old Chevy, near the midpoint in Adrian.
So long, Texas, hello New Mexico. Now it’s getting really good. This is the stuff you think of when you picture Route 66. Old, dusty signs? Check. Campy murals? Check. Historic motels? Check. The town of Tucumcari has it all. You feel like you’re back in time.
I could have spent a whole day or two in Tucumcari just photographing the relics. They’re everywhere.
The Blue Swallow Motel is one of the greatest motels on Route 66. Sadly, our itinerary didn’t allow for us to spend the night. It’s been continuously operated since 1939, is a registered historic building in New Mexico, has “100% refrigerated air”, and still has a bitchin’ Pontiac Chieftain out front.
It would be hard to get away with this level of absurd racism on a hood ornament these days, but you have to admit that the design is incredible.
Indians abound on the Chieftain. You think that’s fucked up? It is. Here’s something else that’s fucked up, especially in the legislated distraction free driving era we live in: the Chieftain could be ordered with a Remington Auto-Home in-car shaver. Yes, an electric shaver. In your car.
Down the road in Santa Rosa, we passed by Bozo’s Garage. This place opened in 1980 to service cars traveling the route, especially classic and vintage cars. Compared to the museum-ification of the historic Route 66 garages, it’s cool to see a place that exists because of the current era of Route 66 and not the bygone one.
The Bozo’s crew would eventually open an auto museum across the street, which we visited. Out front was an Edsel that had wood bolted to it in an attempt to make it look stupid. It worked!
Inside the Route 66 Auto Museum, things got better. I love the 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner, and they had a good one.
A beautiful 1935 La Salle. A lot of the stuff in here was for sale, it felt kind of more like a classic car showroom that we paid $5 to visit.
A supposedly very rare Ford Thunderbird roadster. Dechromed?
We peeled out of Santa Rosa and hit the road again. I was surprised with how lush and green some of New Mexico is. Our goal for dinner tonight is Santa Fe, with bonus points for pulling in during sunset.
Not far from Santa Fe is a charming little town called Las Vegas, New Mexico. This place was a boomtown when the railroad came here in 1880. Supposedly a wild and sometimes lawless place that saw legends like Doc Holliday and Jesse James passing through with their crews. They probably took shots at this fancy hotel. The Plaza was built in 1881 and has figured in loads of cowboy movies over the years.
Las Vegas is full of cool old buildings, some restored, some original. We only stopped for photos but could have stayed longer to enjoy it. In the park in front of the Plaza Hotel, it looked like they were getting ready for a big biker meet. Cool town.
Finally, my pops and I pulled into Santa Fe and its unique southwest style architecture, none of which you can see in this picture.
The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is an imposing, elegant landmark of downtown Santa Fe.
The cathedral dates back to 1869. This modern sculpture out front depicts Kateri Tekakwitha, Lily of the Mohawks. She was a native American Mohawk Indian from New York state in the 1600s and the first North American Indian to be beatified (blessed) by the Catholic church.
After a killer dinner at the Santa Fe Shed (and a couple perfect margaritas) it was time to put the Mustang back on the road for one more hour to get to Albuquerque for the night. This group of lovely mariachi ladies drew a huge crowd on the street and helped send us on our way.
In Albuquerque we stayed at Monterey Non Smokers Motel, which we saw in a guidebook. It’s got historic Route 66 roots, a much better sign than the EconoLodge across the street and it was cheap as hell. But… back in Illinois, when we ate at the Chicken Basket, Pat told me that some of the classic motels have new ownership and have gone downhill. This must be one of them. I had 16 bug bites on my freaking legs when I woke up the next day. Yeah. For reals. This place sucks, the Polish guy with the dog is a dick, and his shithole motel has either bedbugs or fleas. We shoved all our clothes into washers at the next stop and hit the temperature setting that said “Fukushima”. Luckily, we acquired no hitchhikers.
Anyway, so far, the trip has been amazing and there’s plenty more to come. Next, we will be hanging in Albuquerque and getting super high, Walter White style. Yes!! What? Stay tuned.
MUSTANG USA, CONTINUED
This July, I am going to drive from my home in Brooklyn, New York, to Los Angeles and back again. It's just something I've always wanted to do. It's a…