There is something fascinating about landing in an old historic Route 66 town shortly after darkness settles in, especially after doing a long drive. The experience is literally like stepping into a time capsule that has been sealed since the 1960s and the eery glow of the neon lights is mesmerizing. The comfortable old fashioned table and booth restaurants look so inviting when the internal dinner bell starts to ring. The old classic Route 66 style theme motels still have a way of luring travelers into an adventurous slumber, yet after getting some food in the belly, cruising the Route 66 strip will like be the only thing in mind!
An early evening cruise down the Route 66 Strip through the center of town definitely is like turning back the hands of time to the good old days. Old antique cars and hot rods still cruise the Route 66 Strip just after dark, because the drivers know this arena is where classic cars are most appreciated. After a few slow rides up and down good old Route 66 through town, settling into a cozy little spot is the best way to let it all soak in. It is then that one realizes that Route 66 after dark is living history at its best and being part of this cool scene is really where it is at!
As far as old Route 66 towns after dark are concerned, Tucumcari definitely takes the cake! This historic town in New Mexico still lights up the sky with the glow of neon at night. The old motels have adventurous fun themes and the restaurants still have vinyl booths that are spacious enough to stretch the legs. Folks who ride classic cars, hot rods and motorbikes still proudly show off their stuff on the Route 66 Strip at sundown. Anything and everything along this stretch of road has a classic 1940s through 1960s style Desert Southwest vacationland theme, which was considered to be exotic back in the day.
Back in the 1940s and 1950s, hardly anybody east of the Mississippi knew about Southwestern cuisine or Mexican food, unless they took a trip on Route 66 out west. These cuisines were exotic new fare back then and many Route 66 travelers drove a thousand miles to give this exciting new food venue a try. One might say that Route 66 played a major part in boosting the popularity of Southwestern and Mexican cuisine trends to the rest of the nation and this is especially true in places like Tucumcari. Tucumcari was a primary place where authentic Southwestern cuisine was introduced to folks back east and this tradition still thrives on Route 66 town in modern times.
Tucumcari, New Mexico was my last stop on a recent vacation tour of Route 66 that began in St Louis, Missouri. I photographed every scenic destination along the way that I possibly could and the timing of the travel itinerary could not have been better. After photographing the Route 66 ghost town of Glenrio in western Texas at sunset, it was only a few short steps to the New Mexico border. The day started shortly after sunrise, so I was plenty bleary eyed when I got to Tucumcari at dusk. All it took was one look at the classic old neon lights on Route 66 to somehow catch a second wind and the thought of finally dining on some great Mexican food after being back east for so long provided some extra will power to continue on. Honestly, landing on Route 66 in Tucumcari after a long day of driving was better than a cup of coffee and I could not wait to unwind in this cozy historic town!
After settling into the recently refurbished early 1960s Route 66 style motel, I asked the innkeeper where I could get a good bite to eat. The answer came without hesitation and he said, “Right across the street! … The Pow-Wow!” Judging by the way he said it, there was no doubt in my mind that this was the place to go! All that I can say is that the he old fashioned Chile Rellenos entrée was the best that I had in many years!
After the big Mexican food meal at The Pow Wow, I staggered back across the street with an overloaded belly and hit the sack. Being dead tired, I figured that I would get a good night's sleep, then do a tour of Tucumcari in the morning when the sun was shining down. As I found out, there is much more to Tucumcari than what can be seen just by only cruising the Route 66 strip at night. There is a lot of old west railroad history that predates Route 66 in this place and the local native trading posts are the real deal. Tucumcari definitely is the place to go, especially if you like seeing the glow of neon lights after dark on Route 66!
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