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Category: Route 66 Sites

FAR WEST CENTRAL – ROUTE 66

It is difficult to tell the story of America’s “Mother Road,” Route 66.

Many remember it as an icon of the 1950’s – Wurlitzer jukeboxes, chrome, stainless steel diners, motels and motor courts, an abundance of neon.

A world of Wurlitzer.

A world of Wurlitzer.

To others it is more about cars – 57 Chevy’s, 57 Cadillacs, Harley motorcycles, or an ancient “Indian” motorcycle or two.

1950's Black Hawk

1950’s Black Hawk

Either way, it is about the road, the Mother Road – the thunder road, a route through the great western desert with Mesas and jack rabbits and jackalopes too.

Joseph City, Arizona - Jack Rabbit Trading Post sign.

Joseph City, Arizona – Jack Rabbit Trading Post sign.

Route 66 is the Grand Canyon, is Acoma, is Grants, and Tucumcari, and Gallup, New Mexico – not just San Bernardino or the end of the line at California State 41 – before they realigned it, changed it, diverted it to end in Santa Monica at, some said, the end of the pier.

Neon and light on a Route 66 night.

Neon and light on a Route 66 night.

For the past 90 years Route 66 has been a symbol of American freedom. It’s not about a flag, not really about the military, it is about something far greater, something more. Route 66 is about the 1950’s, about an era of prosperity and hope. It is about the twenties, about wanton abandon. There is a 1930’s Route 66 – trailers, and travails, and rusted out cars that were all that some people had to keep going.

A Buick alternative to the Route 66 motel.

A 1950’s Buick alternative to the Route 66 motel.

For much of the way Route 66 went through, and was stolen from, “Indian Country.” The underlying land was tribal land, Native lands, the land of the Earth Mother, from which the “Mother” road owed her existence.

The Mother Road rides the back of Mother Earth.

The Mother Road rides the back of Mother Earth.

West of Albuquerque, on what may be known, or called, “Far West Central” may be found a few relics of an earlier time, the discards and savings from the times of decision. Route 66 in New Mexico is like a lake, a stream, a reflection. We look at it, look in, look within – and we can see what we longed for, what we lost, what perhaps is still there.

Some wish we could go back, take the road again, do it over. And maybe… perhaps …. it is not too late. Yes, the dark night is upon us; but always above us is that great New Mexico sky.

Night sky over Bisti Badlands in New Mexico.

Night sky over Bisti Badlands in New Mexico.

I present a few pictures from along the Route 66 frontage road that follows the new Interstate “I-40” Highway. Make no mistake, the old road is actually higher, especially west of nine mile hill, but you will have to take it, see for yourself, to see what I mean. Happy journey.

If this car can do the full 2,448 miles of Route 66 and still make it back to Albuquerque then there is still hope for you.

If this car can do the full 2,448 miles of Route 66 and still make it back to Albuquerque then there is still hope for you.

And the big wheel keeps on turnin'. The hubcap is bogus, but the rubber is right.

And the big wheel keeps on turnin’. The hubcap is bogus, but the rubber is right.

Why did the power line cross the road? To get to the other side.

Why did the power line cross the road? To get to the other side.

A 1950 Hudson Commodore is positioned in front of a chrome travel trailer at what was originally named the Hill Top Motel, after Mr. Hill.

A sky blue 1950 Hudson Commodore is positioned in front of a chrome travel trailer at what was originally named the Hill Top Motel, a motel owned by Mr. Hill.

The Hill Top Motel is now called the Enchanted Trails RV Park. Built in the early 1940's it may have been a resting stop for Atomic scientists driving in from California on their long road to the Los Alamos lab.

The Hill Top Motel is now called the Enchanted Trails RV Park. Built in the early 1940’s it may have been a resting stop for Atomic scientists driving in from California on their long road to the Los Alamos lab.

This FAA radar dome on Lost Horizon, at the top of a Route 66 hill can be seen for miles and "covers" at least 1/4 of a million miles of U.S. airspace.

This FAA radar dome on Lost Horizon, at the top of a Route 66 hill, can be seen for miles, and “covers” at least 1/4 of a million square miles of U.S. airspace.

Under the Interstate east of the Rio Puerco bridge. The 'light at the end of the tunnel' is the very bright light of the New Mexico sun.

Under the Interstate, east of the Rio Puerco bridge. The ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ is the very bright light of the New Mexico sun.

 

THE DESERT SANDS SILVER MOON HAS SET

Route 66 is so complex, yet so simple.

The reason they call it “America’s Road” or the “Mother Road” is because it is often so much about America and about that which gives birth to so many things.

America lost one of its children yesterday, a simple thing, an old and dilapidated Route 66 motel. It burned, reminding us all that fire is often so final.

The motel was built in 1953 it is said, by Ramada, in the early days of Ramada Inns before they were “Inns,” but were mostly just motels. The chain started in Phoenix they say, but the real idea was to connect it all to Mount Vernon, near Washington D.C., the place where Washington slept (but probably never really did sleep in the City of Washington).

Allentown, PA cares about historic streets.

Allentown, PA cares about historic streets despite economic reversals.

If you were ever in the east in the 1950’s you would know that the greatest lure for any roadside Inn was to state the claim that, “Washington slept here.” It became a joke, but in most cases the claim was probably true – Washington was a General, fought a very long and bloody war, and slept in many nice places while his loyal troops slept out on the ground. If the foregoing disturbs you, remember it’s fact.

My favorite place where “Washington slept” was in Allentown, Pennsylvania. I ate there once, but never slept there; evidently Washington did not sleep there either, despite the earlier claims. Allentown went on to become famous for other things, like the mills closing down, jobs gone because of bad trade deals and recession. Sounds a bit like challenges Albuquerque faces now.

Del Webb at first worked with Ramada, then he founded Highway House (later the June 1959 Hiway House) (Also See: PDF page #48). Apparently the 1953 “Desert Sands” motel location was built by Ramada, the (probably 1956) “Silver Moon” motel in Albuquerque was built by Del Webb. The Silver Moon was originally a Highway House as this vintage postcard clearly attests.

Early HiwayHouse Route 66 sign.

Early HiwayHouse in Albuquerque Route 66 sign.

About 1960 Del Webb was busy building essentially the same building almost everywhere. We have one in Albuquerque, like the one in Fresno, like the one that was once on Market Street in San Francisco, with other versions of the same building elsewhere. It made sense for Del E. Webb to build the Del Webb tower next to his Del Webb Desert Sands Motel in his effort to create an “Uptown” on Central Avenue before there was an “Uptown” near the later freeway location.

Clyde and Goldie Tyler entered the scene about 1961, purchasing both of the two Albuquerque Route 66 “look alike” motels. They renamed the east Central Motel the “Sands” because of the fame of the Del Webb built original “Sands” in Las Vegas (Nevada). The Desert Inn was also not unlike the original “Desert Inn” in Las Vegas, Nevada; neither location in Albuquerque, however, had the gambling, bars, or entertainment.

The original, and historic, Silver Moon Motel was purchased and torn down to make way for a very high density, and very subsidized (by Team Berry’s cabq), modern tenement for automobile eschewing (mostly) young people. The Silver Moon Lodge has virtually no parking, and has made parking near local businesses often very difficult.

Now, on east Central the last of the “Washington slept here” Route 66 relics is all but gone. The cupolas that mimicked the old Mount Vernon plantation (or lodge) are soon to be gone forever, all because of Team Berry’s BRT bus; but you always know, to quote Paul Harvey, “That’s the rest of the story.”

The cupola on motels was supposed to remind one of Mount Vernon.

The cupola on 1950’s motels was supposed to remind one of Mount Vernon.

 

 

 

¡En español!

This website, busbasics.org, is now bilingual.

The second language is, of course, Spanish. This site is from Albuquerque, and about Albuquerque, which is of course in New Mexico.

Two languages, one state.

Two languages, one state.

So, look in the lower right corner of every screen, on every post, and feel free to jump from English to Spanish and from Spanish to English.

We listen, we see, we are here.

We listen, we see, we are here.

Hey, or Hola, you might learn a few new words or phrases – a better vocabulary is always good for all.

Enjoy. Disfrutar.