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.
It was the golden hour, so all the ruination of Route 66 was looking immensely scenic.
(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.
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.
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.
In Clovis, I visited the Norman & Vi Petty Museum, commemorating the work of the producer behind Buddy Holly. It was all about the tubes.
And with my not-yet-road-damaged eyes, I could really appreciate this excellent example of bank architecture.
Portales, peanut basin of the Southwest, has redone its movie theater.
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.
Up in Cloudcroft, I drove the Sunspot Highway and looked down on the wasteland of southeastern New Mexico. Not too shabby.