New Mexico: The Southeast

This trip, I made a beeline for the southeast quadrant of New Mexico, just to get it out of the way. Historically, let’s just say I haven’t been bursting with enthusiasm for this part of the state. There are tremendous natural attractions out here–Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands–but a whole lotta nothin’ in between, and if you go too far east, it’s like you’re in Texas, in a bad way (i.e., it smells like cows and oil).

BUT, lo and behold, it turns out that if one goes to the southeast first, when one is full of pep and vigor, and one’s eyes haven’t yet been dulled by hundreds (nay, thousands) of miles of scenery whizzing by at 70 miles an hour, then the southeast has a lot to like.

First up, Tucumcari. Which is barely southeast. It’s on I-40, not far from Texas, and the billboards all say “Tucumcari TONITE!” It’s one long strip of old motels, and honestly, I had never stayed the night there before. This time I settled in at the Blue Swallow Motel (more on this later), and chilled the heck out.

At the Blue Swallow
At the Blue Swallow

It was the golden hour, so all the ruination of Route 66 was looking immensely scenic.

You toucha da truck...
Note the warning: You toucha my truck…I breaka you face.

(The person who did up this truck used to have a junk shop in a repurposed restaurant–the sign said Doofnac Xemi. Alas, it’s shut.)

I had some chicken-fried steak for dinner, garnished with a piece of kale. Yes, kids, there is still a part of the country where kale is just a hardy decorative green thing. If you want something green, have some Jell-O. Though to be fair, there is a farmers market in Tucumcari, and it was hopping.

Some of the farmers selling at the market also own the Odeon on 2nd Street.

"The Heat" was hilarious.
“The Heat” was hilarious.

Before cruising out of town the next morning, I happened to see the world’s most wonderful murals on the wall of a public pool.

There's a baby burro with a floaty mat around the corner.
There’s a baby burro with a floaty mat around the corner.

Next stop, Fort Sumner, where maybe the guy who did the WPA mural in the courthouse could’ve used a little bit of that lighter touch from Tucumcari.

What is going on here? I just don't know.
What is going on here? I just don’t know.

In Clovis, I visited the Norman & Vi Petty Museum, commemorating the work of the producer behind Buddy Holly. It was all about the tubes.

Mmmm, those are some darn fine knobs.
Mmmm, those are some darn fine knobs.

And with my not-yet-road-damaged eyes, I could really appreciate this excellent example of bank architecture.

Bet they still give Dum-Dums to the kids...
Bet they still give Dum-Dums to the kids…

Portales, peanut basin of the Southwest, has redone its movie theater.

But why it's called the Yam, I could not tell you.
But why it’s called the Yam, I could not tell you.

In Carrizozo, Roy was still mixing chocolate ice-cream sodas at Roy’s Gift Gallery, and my favorite sign in all of New Mexico was still there.

Now improved with an old truck and a donkey.
Now improved with an old truck and a donkey.

Up in Cloudcroft, I drove the Sunspot Highway and looked down on the wasteland of southeastern New Mexico. Not too shabby.

That white streak across the middle is White Sands.
That white streak across the middle is White Sands.


  1. Barbara Sundberg says:

    So glad you made it to Sunspot. Did you go into any of the observatories there? Wasn’t that a beautiful drive from Cloudcroft? We did that as a bike ride a couple of weeks ago when the leaves were turning. Just gorjus!

  2. Barbara Sundberg says:

    Also; after the sequester ended a week or so ago, there was a full moon ride at White Sands. Missed that one but I’m sure it was beautiful; too.

  3. Zora says:

    One day I’ll go to White Sands for full moon–that must be stunning. And yes, this was the first time I’d gotten up the Sunspot Highway–usually too rushed. It was so beautiful–I can imagine it would be a great bike ride! I love the signs marking the distance between the planets. Probably very motivating on a bike: “Almost…to…Mars!”

  4. Didi says:

    Soooo we’re not the only ones who smelled gas along the Texas highway! We thought it was so strange and wondered if there was something leaking from the car :s

    I love how New Mexico is stuck in another era 🙂 We didn’t get the chance to drive through the Historic Route 66, but would love to the next time we get the chance (hopefully)

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