I awoke at something like 4:30am. I had no idea where I was or why I might be in a motel room that looks like a dorm. It was light outside. Actually, it was flood light outside. Next door, a man was hacking up a lung. This must have been what woke me.
Before falling asleep, I heard strange voices in my head yelling at me as I drifted in and out of consciousness. At first I thought they were just in my head, you know, just me thinking in weird voices. But why would I threaten myself in a really nasty, scary and quite rather evil voice? So then I figured I must have been dreaming. Sort of half-dreaming. You know, the kind of dreaming where you’re also sort of fully awake.
It was scary, but apparently not scary enough to keep me up. I fell asleep pretty quickly. However, I was now awake. At 4:30am. And there was a man who had his lung trapped in a wad of phlegm stuck in his throat.
Good morning, Eric. You are in Amarillo, Texas.
-Why did I check into this amazingly crappy motel?
Well, see, it was raining and this was the first thing you say. It has free, albeit, crappy WiFi. Hey, it’s only $26.
-Ok. I guess we’re awake now. Let’s go.
I showered and checked email and generally got myself together, hopped on the scooter and sped away in the crisp morning air. Yes, today Texas was offering crisp, cool morning air. Just like home. In fact, it was colder than home.
I sped away, getting lost several times and seeing much more of Amarillo than any one person should see at 8am.
But finally I found my way to Amarillo Blvd. That’s where Route 66 came through town. It’s got a ton of great, old motels and restaurants. I was pretty darn jazzed. And I took some pictures for you kind folks at home.
Weaving our way through town was pretty simple. Amarillo is beat, man. It’s a really tired looking town. I certainly wouldn’t ever want to live here.
But when you’re in Amarillo, you have to see Cadillac Ranch. And for the third time since 2004, I did. This is definitely falling apart. It’s not as bad as Bug Ranch to the east, but you might want to see it while you can.
For the uninformed, you can read about it here. ((You’ll notice that I made no mention of the Bruce Springsteen song. It’s been in my head all day. I wish it were a better tune.))
While viewing the cars, I met a guy from Seattle who was originally from Georgia. He was traveling in his van, finishing up his “bucket list.” He was maybe 70 years old. He wasn’t sure where he was headed next. Maybe back to Seattle. Maybe Florida.
I know the feeling. Sort of. I know where I’m headed next: Tucumcari. And after that, it’s California. And then Salt Lake City. And then? Well that’s where I can start to relate.
Most folks, when they are traveling Route 66, skip a section of Route 66 to visit Cadillac Ranch. The Ranch isn’t (and never was) on Route 66. It’s along a frontage road on the south side of I-40 just west of Amarillo. Route 66 runs on Indian Hill Road about a half mile north of I-40. Most folks skip it.
I did not.
Not that there’s a whole lot to see on it, of course. Though, on the way to it, I saw what might just be my favorite sign along or near Route 66. It was a hand-painted billboard for the Bates Motel. Each room has a shower!
The weather was what I figured it would be. About to rain any second. There was a glimpse of blue sky and sun for about a minute or two, but then back to dismal, cloudy gray soup.
A couple of towns, now dead, passed by. Vega was the next town with anything left to it. Everything is gone around here because of the interstate. Whole towns are gone.
Vega somehow managed to survive. And by survive I mean that there are still some people living there. There’s a downtown that looks used up and maybe a working gas station or two. That’s survival out here on the Stake Plains of Texas.
Great Indian battles were fought here. And after that, gun battles between drunken cowboys. The cemeteries supposedly attest to such things.
Today, the battle is still survival – the town against the interstate.
In Vega is Dot’s Mini-Museum. Basically, it’s two shacks with a bunch of old stuff in them. It’s very cool and should be seen by any traveler looking to dismount after the long ride from Amarillo. It’s free, as it should be, and puts Vega on the Route 66 map.
It’s hard to believe that Route 66 is half over. Adrian, Texas claims to be the official halfway point along Route 66. Vega also claims this. In truth, it all depends upon which alignment you’re talking about. I’m sure neither are really any more correct than the other. But in Route 66 lore, Adrian is the mid point.
Adrian is a great town. Almost a ghost town. Someone, perhaps the fellow who took part in Cadillac Ranch, has placed random signs throughout the town. He/They have also done this in parts of Amarillo. These signs make Adrian a must-see.
Most roadies stop at the Mid-Point Cafe to visit with Fran, herself a Route 66 icon. However, it’s always weird to go into a cafe knowing there is nothing that can be eaten no matter how good folks say her ugly-crust pies are. I bowed my head in respect while riding by.
Here is where I had to take the interstate for 18 miles. Route 66 was obliterated along this stretch.
There. Wasn’t that an exciting story?
After exiting at Exit 0 – Glenrio, I rode into Glenrio, TX/NM. Glenrio is a ghost town. It used to be rather vibrant. It had several motels, including the “First/Last Motel in Texas.” But after the interstate cut it off, giving it only one exit, the town died. All that is left are ruins and a few hold-outs.
Most folks at this point, double back and head on down the interstate to the next “Historic Route 66″ exit. Not this guy.
Also at this point is where Route 66 is a bit less than paved. Actually it’s dirt. Or more like mud. It’s not the super-sticky, never get out alive New Mexico mud – that happens only right after it rains. Which it looks like it could do at any moment. Again.
Well, it’s almost the same story. The road before me was Route 66 up until the 1950′s. At that point it, it was moved to slightly north of where the interstate is today. For some reason, New Mexico either removed the original pavement or it simply disintegrated. Either way, this was mud. And it looked like rain.
I wanted to see the ghost town of Endee (named after the near by ranch – ND Ranch). Endee was a rough town, they say. Legend has it that the town was so rough that a trench was dug on Saturday night to bury the gunfight losers on Sunday. It’s cost-effective. The town is now gone, leaving only a few broken motels and an old gas station or two in its place.
The road to Endee wasn’t too bad. The scooter’s tires aren’t really made for mud, so there was some slipping and some sliding. After five or so miles, I came to Endee. I’ve heard that from Endee to San Jon (pronounced “San Hone”), the road gets pretty bad. And since it looked a bit like rain, I decided to take what I figured was a gravel state highway.
New Mexico State Highway 392 is not paved. It is not gravel. It is not a highway. It is a small three mile
dirt mud path with some very banked turns. At time the mud turns to ooze. Other times, the gravel is thick and almost worse than the mud. But the ooze takes the cake. It’s a darker brown and if you get stuck out here, nobody will find you.
Let me rephrase that – nobody will find me. At least not for awhile.
Thirty minutes later, I was wondering if I’d ever get out alive.
While I never got stuck to the point where I had to dismount, each yard was a fight to 1) remain on the bike, 2) keep the “rubber side down”, 3) not swerve into the water-filled ravines that flanked most of the road and most importantly, 4) keep a clear head.
This was the longest three miles I’ve ever done. Dirt 66 had nothing on this road. It must have rained here and just here for about an hour (seriously) earlier today. There was no way to turn around. I had to just keep on keepin’ on.
Completely exhausted, I endure! Ahead, not a quarter-mile, is the interstate! I never thought I’d be so happy to see that super slab.
But why rest? And why enter the interstate when you can hop on 1950′s Route 66 just to the north of it? So I did.
Here, the road was a very well paved frontage road. But that’s ok. One of the ghost towns that I would miss by skipping out on the other section of pre-1950 Route 66 is Bard. And oddly enough, the next town on post-1950 Route 66 was… Bard!
How? Well in 1950, when they moved Route 66 from where I was before to where I was now, Bard moved as well. Bard on Dirt 66 had only one building – a post office, which also a service station with garage. Bard on “new” 66 had a motel or two.
Both Bards are now dead.
Just after Bard II is San Jon. There is still a motel operating in San Jon. It’s the San Jon Motel. We stayed there in 2004. It’s not the ritz, but it has a charm. It’s been in operation since the 1940′s. Otherwise, the town, given only one exit, is dead.
Which is why it astounded me that I would see a billboard advertising: Taste of India – American.
In this part of the country, “Indian” means Indian-American (Native American). There are many American-Indians living in this area. So, did they forget the “n”? Was this really an Indian Restaurant? Indian-American… from India, not American-Indian.
I pulled into where it said it was. What it was was a truck stop run by Indian-Americans, not American-Indians. I parked and walked inside. An Indian-American passed me, I was going in and he was coming out. And then an American-Indian passed me. This was a very strange place.
This strange place consisted of a convenience store on one side and a Indian fast food place on the other. In the middle of nowhere, I was surrounded by Indians and Indians. More Indian-Americans than American Indians. And that was odd.
While I was there, perhaps ten or twelve Indian-Americans ordered food. Where were they coming from? Are there Indian-American truckers? Most of the Indian-Americans were FOBs (Fresh Off the Boat).
I ordered Channa Masala, Samosas and Aloo Gobi expecting it to be fairly crappy. How good could a place like this be?
This was the best Aloo Gobi I’ve ever had. Ever. The Channa Masala was really good and the samosas weren’t bad either!
Which brings me to a really interesting point.
Many Indians come over from India to open motels, gas stations, be doctors or engineers and other things that don’t involve Indian food. So my message to them is this: If you’re going to come to America and not open an Indian restaurant, please find some way to open an Indian restaurant.
Oh, I found out. Honestly, the best These folks did! They have a perfectly normal truck stop along I-40 in New Mexico. And they also have an amazing Indian restaurant, complete with crappy Bollywood videos playing ad nausium on a TV in the back.
So please, if you’re coming to America and you’re from India, open an Indian restaurant. If you want to open a motel, fine. Open a motel with an Indian restaurant. If you want to be a doctor, that’s ok, open a practice that also serves Indian food.
There is basically no reason not to do this.
And after that plus a quick spin through San Jon, I was on my way to Tucumcari.
The road from San Jon to Tucumcari swings away from the interstate, which is a nice end to the day. Twentyish miles of fairly secluded 66 later and I was in Tucumcari. Now this town was not dead. Not really.
It could be doing a lot better, but they gave it five exits, so there’s a lot of places to leave the ugly interstate for some Route 66 flair! Tucumcari’s got tons of old motels and restaurants. It’s got class and style. Especially my home for the evening, The Blue Swallow Motel.
I’ll have more on that tomorrow though.
Miles today: 160
Miles total: 2865