TheRoute-66

TheRoute-66.com
Plan the Road Trip of your Life


Home | Blog

Route 66

Tucumcari

New Mexico Flag

The "Heart of the Mother Road!"

The Gatway to New Mexico

Tucumcari (Too-koom-cah-ree) is indeed the "Gateway to New Mexico" and the "Heart of the Mother Road" with dozens of iconic Route 66 attractions, many listed in the National Register of Historic Places such as the Blue Swallow Motel, the Cactus Motor Lodge, the Odeon Theater and the The San Jon - Tucumcari Route 66 segment itself.
The town has other attractions: the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum and the famous Teepee Curio Shop. A place to savour the vintage feeling of Route 66 during the 1950s and 60s.
Below we list all the US 66 motels, diners, gas stations, monuments and landmarks in Tucumcari:

Tucumcari NM

Classic Route 66 motels, stores, diners, gas stations and Landmarks in Tucumcari

< Head West
Cuervo ¦ Newkirk ¦ Montoya

Head East >
San Jon ¦ Glenrio (Texas) ¦ Adrian

 

About Tucumcari, New Mexico

Facts, Trivia and useful information

Elevation: 4,091 ft (1,247 m). Population: 5,363 (2010).
Time zone: Mountain (MST): UTC minus 7 hours. Summer (DST) MDT (UTC-6).

Tucumcari is the largest town along Route 66 between Amarillo and Albuquerque. It is the seat of Quay County.

Eastern New Mexico has been inhabited for at least 11,000 years, as proved by stone tools found at the nearby Clovis site.

The area was explored by the Spanish, who introduced the horse (1500s) which the local Querecho Apaches adopted. By the mid-1800s, (when Mexico ceded the area to the U.S. after defeat in the Mexican American War of 1846-48), the Kiowa and Kiowa Apache together with the Comanche dominated the region and fought with the U.S. Army and white settlers until subdued in the mid 1870s.

Soon cattle ranches were established in the region. The first settlement in the area was a village named Liberty, north of Tucumcari, north of Pajarito Creek and close to Liberty Mesa, established in 1882. Bandit Tom "Black Jack" Ketchum robbed the post office there in 1896. But Liberty dissolved when the railway was routed further south a few years later.

Palomino Motel
Palomino Motel, Tucumcari, New Mexico, Ross Grif

When the CRI&G Railroad (Chicago, Rock Island and Gulf Railroad) extended its tracks westwards from Texas into New Mexico, it set up a siding in 1901 named "Ragtown" or "Six Shooter Siding" at what is now Tucumcari. The construction camp grew into a town on land deeded by former Liberty businessmen Goldenberg, Wertheim, Street, and Smith.

The town was initially named Douglas (1901-1902) but soon after it was renamed with its current name: Tucumcari. The post office was established in 1902.

The town was named after Tucumcari Mountain that is 3 miles south of it.

Origin of the name Tucumcari

The cute legend about the name

The legend, which is surely apocryphal, goes as follows:

the local Apache Chief Wautonomah decided to choose his successor through a fight to death between two young braves, Tonopah and Tocom. Unknown to the Chief, his daughter Kari was in love with Tocom. The two men fought with knives in a mortal duel and Tocom was stabbed in the heart. Kari who was watching the scene, rushed forth and used a knife to kill Tonopah and then kill herself.

The Chief, heartbroken cried out aloud "Tocom-Kari" as he too stabbed his own heart with the same knife.

More likely origin of the name Tucumcari

Spanish explorer Pedro Vial wrote in his diary about his round-trip journey from Santa Fe to Sain Louis that in Nov. 1793 on his way back, that "to the south, leaving the river on the right hand I made out Tuconcari." A clear indication that Tucumcari Mountain had a native name back in 1793.

A 1777 record for the area tells of a Comanche woman and child captured at the battle of "Cuchuncari".

The word is probably the corruption of a Comanche word that means "lookout" (Tukamukaru), appropriate for a mountain in a relatively flat area.

Tucumcari Mountain

Tucumcari Mountain is 4,677 ft. high (1,515 m). So it is about 900 feet (275 m) higher than the surrounding area. It is not the highest peak in the area (Mesa Redonda, further south is higher), but it is very visible and shaped like a mesa on top of a mesa (see image below).

Its rocks are Cretaceous, Jurassic and older and the fossil of an extinct oyster (Gryphaea tucumcari) was named after it. The sediments are light colored clay shales.

The locals have whitewashed boulders on the hill to form a letter "T" on the mountain. The movie "Cars" has a similar hill with the initials "RS" (after Radiator Springs).


Tucumcari Mountain, Tucumcari, New Mexico
View of Tucumcari Mountain, Leaflet

The county was created on Jan. 28, 1903 and named after Matthew S. Quay, (1833-1904), US Senator from Pennsylvania, and Tucumcari became county seat.

It was a cattle breeding community which received many homesteaders who settled in the area.

Route 66 was aligned through the town in 1926 bringin more prosperity as the locals catered to the travellers. In 1940 the South Canadian River was dammed providing water for irrigation, and farming boomed.

Where to Stay

Book your hotel in Tucumcari

There are several hotels in town

>> Book your Hotels in town: Tucumcari Hotels

Lodging Near Tucumcari along Route 66

Heading West... Accommodation

Heading East....

In Texas:

The Santa Fe Route 66 segment
Book your Route 66 hotel now
Book your Hotel along Route 66

>> There are RV campgrounds close to Tucumcari.

Weather in Tucumcari

Latest Tucumcari, New Mexico, weather
location map of Tucumcari NM on Route 66
Location of Tucumcari, Route 66

This region is semiarid and the yearly rainfall is around 16.1 inches (409 mm). Summers are hot but with lower temperature during the night which make them bearable winters are cool.

There are 40 days per year with precipitation, and most of it takes place mostly during the summer, when the North American monsoon provokes intense downpours. From May to August 9.4 in. fall (239 mm).

Snowfall is quite light; on average, 8.2 inches of snow falls (21 cm) and can take place at any time between September and May

There are 266 sunny days per year and the highest high temperature recorded was 109 °F (43 °C) on June 28, 1968 while the lowest was -19 °F (-28 °C) on January 13, 1963.

Average high in summer (July) is 93°F (34°C), and in winter (Jan) is 53°F (12°C). The average summer low is 64°F (18°C) and the winter low is 23°F (-5°C).

Tornado risk

Tucumcari is located in an area with a very low risk, as it only has three (3) Tornado watches every year.

Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.
 

Getting to Tucumcari

Heading west from Tucumcari down Route 66 is Montoya (22 mi.) and two small hamlets: Newkirk (33 mi.) and Cuervo (43 mi.), then comes Santa Rosa (60 mi.). Further ahead are Albuquerque (177 mi.) and Gallup (315 mi). To the northwest is Santa Fe (194 mi.)

To the east lies San Jon (24 mi.), and on the New Mexico - Texas state line is Glenrio ( 42 mi.), and further east is Amarillo (115 mi.)

Static Map showing Route 66 alignment through Tucumcari, NM

Map of US66 in Tucumcari Nm
Map showing Route 66 in Tucumcari, NM

Display Tucumcari Route 66 Map

  Click for Map to appear below
 
 Click for US66 "Tucumcari alignment map"
 

Google Maps. Terms. Nicolas Mollet, CC BY SA 3.0 License

.

Pale Blue: Historic Route 66 alignment.
Red line: I-40 & where it overlaps the old alignment.
Blue line: Route 66 west of Tucumcari, dead end semgment.
Green: The 1926 - 1937 alignment through Santa Fe (click button to see it).

Route 66 itinerary through Tucumcari

Route 66 logo

Route 66 in New Mexico

Click to read the Full description of Route 66 across New Mexico.

The Santa Fe Loop (1926 - 1937)

Our Santa Fe Loop page describes the complete 1926 to 1937 alignment of Route 66 from Santa Rosa to Albuquerque through Pecos, Santa Fe and Algodones.

Below is full information on Route 66's 1926 alignment in Tucumcari.

Tucumcari, New Mexico: Attractions & Sights

Things to Do and See

Tucumcari, its Attractions

The Gateway to New Mexico

Tucumcari is the "Heart of the Mother Road" and has some classic Route 66 sights (some listed in the National Register of Historic Places): the Blue Swallow Motel, the Cactus Motor Lodge and the Odeon Theater and of course, the Route 66 segment itself.
Other must sees are the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum and the Teepee Curio Shop.

Historic Route 66 crosses the center of the town as Route 66 Boulevard (formerly Ganyell Ave. or Tucumcari Blvd.), along it you will find many old service stations, diners, cafes and motels which were built to cater to the motorists travelling along US 66. Below we describe some of them, starting with the downtown attractions; the downtown area is located north of Route 66 close to the railroad depot (station):

Downtown attractions

Tucumcari Movie Trivia

The character Raymond played by Tom Cruise mentions Tucumcari in the 1988 film "Rain Man"

Odeon Theater

123 South Second Street, Tucumcari, NM.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Odeon Movie theater, Route 66 Tucumcari

Odeon Movie theater in Tucumcari. Google. Click image for street view

A genuine pre-World War II motion picture theatre with Art Deco details.

The Odeon Theater was built during 1935-36 and opened on May 16, 1936. The auditorium seats 270 viewers and the top floor balcony 90; and remain unchanged, conveying a strong impression of how movie theaters were in the 1940s.

It is Greek word "odeon" means "theater" and was chosen because it was short and cheapened the costs of the neon sign.

See its Street View.

Rock Island-Southern Pacific Train Depot

N 2nd St. and W Railroad Ave., Tucumcari

This landmark was built in 1926 and restored in 2001. It was built in Spanish Mission style, a long depot for freight plus the passenger area. It served the Rock Island Railway and Southern Pacific Railway. Open to the public.

See its Street View .

Not far from the railway station, once stood the old Tucumcari Motel, at 301 E. Smith Ave. It has been demolished, but its rusty old sign still stands (Street View).

A Driving tour through Tucumcari along Route 66

Route 66 attractions

This is a 6 mile drive east to west through Tucumcari, from Exit 335 to Exit 329 of I-40 (Map with directions). As you enter Tucumcari from the east, on your right is a sign of a Whiting Brothers gas station:

Whiting Brothers Sign

4001 E Tucumcari Blvd.

On the north side of US66, just past the Super 8 Motel. It is pictured below. Four Whiting brothers (Arthur, Earnest, Eddie and Ralph) founded the company in 1926 and saw it grow to over 100 filling stations plus motels and truck stops from California to Texas. Many of them were located along Route 66 where you can still see the remains of those that were abandoned. By the mid-1980s the company folded and sold off or closed the service stations.

Old Filling Station, Route 66 Tucumcari

Old Filling Station in Tucumcari. Google.

Old Filling Station

2820 E. Tucumcari Blvd.

The old gas station is on the south side of the highway, with a flat top canopy, and glass panes on office and garage bays. It is pictured above.

Continue west, and to your right are some Historic Markers:

Whiting Brothers Sign, Route 66 Tucumcari

Whiting Brothers Sign in Tucumcari. Google.

Two historic Markers

Further ahead, to your right you will see two historic markers, one tells about Tucumcari Mountain -you can see it to your left; which "has long been a landmark for travelers along the Canadian River. Pedro Vial mentioned it in 1793, while opening a trail between Santa Fe and St. Louis. In order to find the best route from Arkansas to California, Capt. Randolph B. Marcy led an expedition past here in 1849".

The other marker is about the town of Tucumcari: "This area was troubled by both Comanches and Comancheros, New Mexicans who traded illegally with the Indians, until the military campaigns of 1874. With the coming of the railroad in 1898, Liberty, eight miles to the north, moved here to form the nucleus of Tucumcari, (incorporated in 1908). The Rock Island-Southern Pacific Depot built in 1927 is an outstanding example of Mission Revival style depot and recently restored". This is their Street View.

Pony Soldier Motel

NW corner of Tucumcari Blvd. and S. Mountain Rd.

All that has survived is the old Neon sign, which is intact. There is another Pony Soldier Motel in Kingman AZ, but its sign is different. Just look at that sabre piercing the word "Motel":

Pony Soldier Motel in a classic postcard

vintage postcard of Pony Soldier Motel, Tucumcari NM
Old postcard of the Pony Soldier Motel, Tucumcari, New Mexico.

Pony Soldier Motel nowadays

present appearance of Pony Soldier Motel Tucumcari NM
Present view of Pony Soldier Motel Tucumcari, New Mexico. Google.

Just ahead, also on the north side of the road (right) is a Former Gas Station:

Polly Gas Station

1823 E. Tucumcari Blvd.

As the parrot on the sign indicates, Polly was a parrot and the symbol of the gasoline brand owned by Wilshire Oil Co., which was based in Los Angeles and sold gasoline in southern California between 1914 and 1960. The company was acquired that year by Gulf and Wilshire brand disappeared in the mid 1960s.

Polly Oil was incorporated ca. 1920 and acquired by Wilshire in 1929. It was sold at Wilshire filling stations until the mid 1950s.

The Polly gas station at Tucumcari is probably a "recent" restoration of a vintage gas station that probably sold another brand of gasoline. It is pictured below.

Across the street (left) is the Tucumcari Inn:

Aruba Motel

1700 E. Tucumcari Blvd.

The Aruba Motel & Tiki Restaurant is currently the Tucumcari Inn Motel. It opened in the early 1960s and its postcard tells us: "Twenty-eight tastefully appointed unusually well maintained rooms, combination tubs and showers; central refrigeration and hot water heat; room phones; cable tv, and heated swimming pool. Distinctively different "TIKI" Restaurant".

Aruba Motel in a classic postcard

vintage postcard of Aruba Motel, Tucumcari NM
Old postcard of the Aruba Motel, Tucumcari, New Mexico.

The three steel columns of the original sign are there, the kidney shaped pool has been filled in, but it is there, next to the pool-house. The roofs have changed: gables now instead of the 1960s flat roof.

Aruba Motel nowadays is the Tucumcari Inn Motel

present appearance of Aruba Motel Tucumcari NM
Present view of Aruba Motel Tucumcari, New Mexico. Google.

Opposite, to your right is another Vintage Gas Station:

Polly Gas Station, Route 66 Tucumcari

Polly Gas Station in Tucumcari. Google.

Former Gas Station, Route 66 Tucumcari

Former Route 66 gas station in Tucumcari. Google.

Former Gas Station

1626 E Tucumcari Blvd.

This 1950s gas station has a flat roofed canopy over a two gas pump islands (with vintage gas pumps) and a two-bay garage. Now it is an auto sales lot (Fulton). It is pictured above.

To your left, is a classic motel:

Royal Palacio Motel

1607 E Tucumcari Blvd.

The Royal Palacio Motel which is now the Route 66 Motel, announced in its postcard the following: "25 Ultra Modern Units... tile baths and shower combinations... Room phones... Cable T.V.... Fireproof... Mobile Travel Guide".

Its colorful modernistic 1960s design can still be recognized in the current building. Though the neon sign has changed considerably:

Royal Palacio Motel in a 1960s postcard

vintage postcard of Royal Palacio Motel, Tucumcari NM
1960s postcard of the Royal Palacio Motel, Tucumcari, New Mexico.

Royal Palacio Motel nowadays

present appearance of Royal Palacio Motel Tucumcari NM
Present view of Royal Palacio Motel Tucumcari, New Mexico. Google.

To your right is yet another "old" filling station:

1950s Gas Station

1518 E Tucumcari Blvd.

1950s Gas Station, Route 66 Tucumcari

1950s Gas Station in Tucumcari. Google.

Now it is a warehouse of Kerr McGee (an oil & gas exploration company). The concrete pump islands are still there, but the canopy has gone. A two-bay garage is now the warehouse and there is a decaying sign next to it.

To your left is the iconic Kiva Motel:

Kiva Kort Motel

1482 E Tucumcari Blvd.

The Kiva Kort Motel at one time was known as the Mesa Court as per this postcard (notice the same parapet crowning the units and the curved glass brick wall to the right). Now it is an RV camp. Its neon sign reads "Kiva A OK Welcome".

The postcard stated: "30 Air conditioned Units - Panel Ray Heat... Family Units & Some Kitchenetts - The Best for Less- Beth Haag Mgr. E.W. Bowen, Owner".

Kiva Kort Motel in a classic postcard

vintage postcard of Kiva Kort Motel, Tucumcari NM
Old postcard of the Kiva Kort Motel, Tucumcari, New Mexico.

Kiva Kort Motel nowadays

present appearance of Kiva Kort Motel Tucumcari NM
Present view of Kiva Kort Motel Tucumcari, New Mexico. Google.

Two blocks further west, also to your left is a Historic Motor Lodge:

Cactus Motor Lodge

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

1316 East Route 66 Blvd., Tucumcari, NM.

A classic Motor Lodge built in 1941 with a 1950s neon sign. Cactus Motor Lodge is now an RV campground.

It was built in 1941 by I.E. and and Edna Perry in a Pueblo Revival design with stucco plastered walls. They sold it to Norm Wegner in 1952. Wegner modernized it by adding Perma-stone to its outer walls and a dance hall.

When he retired in 1972 he sold it to Harry and Jean. Its current owners Indrajit (Andy) and Sugandhi Patel bought it in 1979. Its courtyard has been converted into an RV Park and the units are long-term apartments.

It was "U" shaped and had 25 units. It was located on the eastern tip of the town and was the first that westbound travellers would find when they reached Tucumcari.

The building on the northeast corner was originally a dance hall but the local myth says that people gambled in the basement and that it had a tunnel with an outside exit in case of a police raid.

The postcard shown below, had the following text printed the back of the card: "Duncan Hines and AAA Recommended Located at the East Entrance of TUCUMCARI, NEW MEXICO on Hiway 66 Tile tub and shower baths, each with individual heating unit. Double insulated walls. Carpeted floors. Steam heat. Enclosed and locked garages. Free radios, Phone 600 Member Best Western Motels Mrs. I E Perry, Owner".

Cactus Lodge, Route 66 Tucumcari

Cactus Lodge in Tucumcari. Google. Click for street View

Cactus Lodge, Route 66 Tucumcari

Cactus Lodge in Tucumcari. www.ebay.com, click image for larger view.

Just ahead, on the north side of Route 66 (right) is a Classic Motel: the Palomino:

Palomino Motel

1215 E Tucumcari Blvd.

The Palomino Motel, whose fantastic neon sign is pictured at the top of this page, is still open and operating as a Route 66 motel.

Its name, "Palomino" is that of a coat color in horses: a gold coat and white mane and tail. That is why there is a horse head in the neon sign.

Its 1966 postcard shown below, says "Luxury For Less. Air Conditioned. Family Connecting Suites & Twin Beds - Free T-V. - Owners and Operators Bill & Velma Jackson".

Palomino Motel in a classic postcard

vintage postcard of Palomino Motel, Tucumcari NM
Old postcard of the Palomino Motel, Tucumcari, New Mexico.

Palomino Motel nowadays

present appearance of Palomino Motel Tucumcari NM
Present view of Palomino Motel Tucumcari, New Mexico. Google.

Restored Texaco

1201 E Tucumcari Blvd.

Restored Texaco, Route 66 Tucumcari

Restored Texaco in Tucumcari. Google.

A neatly restored gas station is located to the west of the Palomino Motel, next to it. It is actually a Jewelery, collectibles and antiques shop painted with the word "Texaco". It has vintage gas pumps on its islands. It was not a Texaco station however as it does not fit in with the brand's style (the gabled roof for instance).

Across the road, to your left, is another motel:

Tucumcari Travelodge

1214 E. Tucumcari Blvd.

The Tucumcari Travelodge, which nowadays is the Value Inn, had 39 rooms, including "T.V., heated pool, phones, baby cribs, good restaurant on premises...".

Tucumcari Travelodge in a classic 1950s postcard

vintage postcard of Tucumcari Travelodge, Tucumcari NM
1950s postcard of the Tucumcari Travelodge, Tucumcari, New Mexico.

It lost the roof over the office area and the TraveLodge neon sign, but the layout remains unchanged:

Tucumcari Travelodge nowadays: a Value Inn

present appearance of Tucumcari Travelodge, now a Value Inn Tucumcari NM
Present view of Tucumcari Travelodge, now Value Inn Tucumcari, New Mexico. Google.

Del’s Restaurant

1202 E Tucumcari Blvd.

The 1958 postcard says: "Open 5 till 9 every day. Full cours diners or luncheons - Gift Shop - Cocktail Lounge It mus have been the "on premises restaurant" mentioned by Travelodge in their postcard. It has not changed much, but the neon sign has added a steer to it, a typical "kitsch" Route 66 neon sign! (the Albuquerque Western View Diner & Steak also has a steer on its sign).

Del’s Restaurant, Route 66 Tucumcari

Del’s Restaurant in Tucumcari 1958. www.ebay.com, click for larger image.

Del’s Restaurant, Route 66 Tucumcari

Del’s Restaurant in Tucumcari nowadays. Google.

The next block on its south side (left) has the Aztec Motel and a Denny's Diner:

Aztec Motel

1162 E Tucumcari Blvd.

Don't miss its classic neon sign, which you can see in the "Then and Now" image below (Yellow arrow). Next to it is the Denny's Diner:

Denny’s Tucumcari Diner

1102 E Tucumcari Blvd.

It has the classic "Boomerang Roof" designed by Armet & Davis in the ealry 1960s with the diamond neon sign. There are many more Denny's on Route 66 : the Barstow CA Denny's Diner, the Denny’s Diner in Needles CA, one in Gallup NM, the Denny’s Kingman Diner in Arizona and the one in downtown Albuquerque which is now the Whole Hog Cafe, all of them sport this "Googie" styled roof.

Now it is a cafe and eatery: "Kix On 66". It is pictured below and also in the "Then and Now" photos (Red Arrow), with the same roof but a taller sign in 2017.

Denny’s Tucumcari Diner, Route 66 Tucumcari

Denny’s Tucumcari Diner, now Kix on 66, in Tucumcari. Google.
Click image for street view

Another Gas Station

Opposite, on the north side of the street is Another Gas Station with two bays a flat canopy and one concrete pump island (Street View).

Apache Motel, Circle S motel and  Denny’s Tucumcari Diner, Route 66 Tucumcari

Apache Motel, Circle S motel and Denny’s Tucumcari Diner in Tucumcari. Google. Click for Street View and here to see the large 1960s postcard.

On S. Grover and Route 66, SW corner is the former Circle S Motel:

Circle S Motel

1074 E. Tucumcari Blvd.

The Circle S Motel is now in ruins with a sign saying Relax Inn. At one time it was a bustling business. The Blue Arrow marks it in the "Then and Now" photo above. Its neon sign has gone and all that remains is the main building on Route 66 and some units along Grover St.

Circle S Motel in a classic postcard

vintage postcard of Circle S Motel, Tucumcari NM
Old postcard of the Circle S Motel, Tucumcari, New Mexico.

Circle S Motel nowadays

present appearance of Circle S Motel Tucumcari NM
Present view of Circle S Motel Tucumcari, New Mexico. Google.

Facing it, on the NW corner of N Grover and Route 66 is the former Leatherwood Motel:

Leatherwood Manor Motel

1023 E. Tucumcari Blvd.

The Leatherwood Manor which is now the Roadrunner Lodge was recommended by AAA and had an amazing neon sign, now gone. Its gabled roofs have survived but its swimming pool has been filled in.

Leatherwood Motel in a classic postcard

vintage postcard of Leatherwood Motel, Tucumcari NM
Old postcard of the Leatherwood Motel, Tucumcari, New Mexico.

Old Leatherwood Motel now the Roadrunner Lodge/p>

present appearance of Old Leatherwood Motel. now the Roadrunner LodgeTucumcari NM
Present view of Old Leatherwood Motel now the Roadrunner Lodge Tucumcari, New Mexico. Google.

Teepee Curio Shop

990 E. Tucumcari Blvd.

This used to be Jene's Tepee Trading Post, with its eye-catching teepee (See its Street View).

Teepee souvenir shop, New Mexico
Souvenir Shop in Tucumcari, NM. Carol M. Highsmith

Just ahead, on the north side of US 66 (right) is the Town House Motel:

Town House Motel

919 E. Tucumcari Blvd

The Town House Motel was owned and managed by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Barnard. Its postcard stated: "Town House Motel... offers accommodations & comfort found only in the finer motels... Swimming Pool... T.V.... Phones...".

The "arrow" on the brick structure is still there, but the buildings on the left and right now have gabled roofs.

Town House Motel in a classic postcard

vintage postcard of Town House Motel, Tucumcari NM
Old postcard of the Town House Motel, Tucumcari, New Mexico.

Town House Motel nowadays

present appearance of Town House Motel Tucumcari NM
Present view of Town House Motel Tucumcari, New Mexico. Google.

Cross Choctaw Street to see (right) a Route 66 icon, the Swallow Motel:

Blue Swallow Motel

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

815 East Route 66 Blvd., Tucumcari, NM.

Iconic Vintage 1940s Motel with its typical neon sign..

The swallow symbolized safe homecoming to sailors, hence its name. The motel was built by W. A. Huggins, a carpenter, just before the beginning of World War II, it opened in 1942 and was operated by Ted Jones, a local rancher. After Jones and his wife died in the 1950s, it passed to Lillian Redman and her husband. Lillian became a part of Route 66's folkore; she once said: "I end up traveling the highway in my heart with whoever stops here for the night".

Blue Swallow Motel
Blue Swallow Motel, New Mexico

Interstate 40 in the late 1960s drew traffic away from the downtown Route 66 and business dwindled. Mrs. Redman sold the Blue Swallow in the late 1990s, and it is still open after being partially restored in 2007 within the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program. See its Street View.

Continental Oil

801 E. Tucumcari Blvd.

Next to the Blue Swallow, to your right is another restored gas station, this one sports the name "Continental Oil Company" and has vintage gas pumps in one of the two pump islands. It has a 2-bay garage and a flat canopy. It is pictured below.

Continental Oil, Route 66 Tucumcari

Continental Oil in Tucumcari. Google. Click image for Street View

Yet another vintage filling station, Route 66 Tucumcari

Yet another vintage filling station in Tucumcari. Google. Click image for Street View

Yet another vintage filling station

773 E. Tucumcari Blvd.

The flat roofed canopy, with a 3-bay garage and a two pumping islands is currently an Auto Parts Shop. It is pictured above. Across the street, facing it is the classic Safari Motel:

Motel Safari

722 E. Tucumcari Blvd.

The Motel Safari has kept its original neon sign, with a person mounted on a camel (which by the way has nothing to with a safari!). It has remained unchanged.

Motel Safari in a classic postcard

vintage postcard of Motel Safari, Tucumcari NM
Old postcard of the Motel Safari, Tucumcari, New Mexico.

Motel Safari nowadays

present appearance of Motel Safari Tucumcari NM
Present view of Motel Safari Tucumcari, New Mexico. Google.
Vista Gas station, Route 66 Tucumcari

Vista Gas station in Tucumcari. Google. Click for street view

Keep west and ahead, to your left is another Gas Station:

Vista Gas station

SW corner of S. Jackson St. and Route 66

This gas station has a gabled roof and canopy. Two pump islands and a double bay garage. Next to it is a classic motel:

Desert Air Motel -now the Americana

406 E. Tucumcari Blvd.

The Desert Air Motel, according to this 1956 postcard was "Your Home Away from Home... Family connecting suites of two and three separate bedrooms to accommodate from four to eight guests" owned and managed by Bill and Dorothy Crotty.

It has kept its fantastic Neon Sign, but it lost the cactus that topped it.

Desert Air Motel in a classic postcard

vintage postcard of Desert Air Motel, Tucumcari NM
Old postcard of the Desert Air Motel, Tucumcari, New Mexico.

Desert Air Motel - now the Americana:

present appearance of Desert Air Motel -now the Americana Tucumcari NM
Present view of Desert Air Motel -now the Americana Tucumcari, New Mexico. Google.

Across the street, to your right, is a very Old Motel:

La Nora Court

401 E. Tucumcari Blvd.

The classic Conoco gas station which was just west of the motel building has gone. You can see it in the postcard below and in this photograph. We outlined the building in blue and the Red arrow marks a curious curved parapet on the roof, that still stands today.

La Nora Court, Route 66 Tucumcari

La Nora Court in Tucumcari vintage postcard. www.66postcards.com. Click for larger view

La Nora Court, Route 66 Tucumcari

La Nora Court in Tucumcari today. Google. Click image for larger view

On the next block, to your left is a vintage gas station, a former cafe and a restaurant:

Former Texaco

378 E. Tucumcari Blvd.

The former Texaco gas station has a flat canopy over two gas pump islands and a two-door garage. It is painted yellow and blue. It is shown in the Then and Now sequence below as (1); its Texaco sign has gone. See its Street View.

Below are the Texaco (1), Ron-Dy-Voo (2) and the Sylvia Anthony Restaurant (3). You can see the full size Postcard here, and its present Street View here.

postcard, Route 66 Tucumcari

Texaco, Ron-Dy-Voo and Restaurant in old postcard. www.66postcards.com.

a view of Route 66 Tucumcari

Texaco, Ron-Dy-Voo and Restaurant nowadays. Google.

Ron Dy Voo

344 E. Tucumcari Blvd.

Next to the Texaco is the old café whose neon sign anounced: "Ron dy Voo - cafe - sea food, steaks and chops, curios". It appears above as (2) and in its own "Then & Now" sequence. The roof has changed and the neon sign gone. See the postcard.

Sylvia Anthony Restaurant

324 E. Tucumcari Blvd.

The brick building at one time was the Sylvia Anthony restaurant which served Italian and American food. It appears as (3) in the image above. This is its current appearance and an Postcard.

Sahara Sands Motel

385 E. Tucumcari Blvd.

On the north side (right) is the former Sahara Sands Motel, later the Friend's Inn, now closed. Its postcard tells us that it was owned and ran by Mr. and Mrs. M. M. Whittington, that the motel had 32 units, with King size beds, a restaurant and "Thermostat Controlled Heat".

Ran Dy Voo then and now, Route 66 Tucumcari

Ran Dy Voo then and now in Tucumcari. Austin Whittall.

Sahara Sands Motel in a classic postcard

vintage postcard of Sahara Sands Motel, Tucumcari NM
Old postcard of the Sahara Sands Motel, Tucumcari, New Mexico.

Sahara Sands Motel nowadays

present appearance of Sahara Sands Motel Tucumcari NM
Present view of Sahara Sands Motel Tucumcari, New Mexico. Google.

To the west, at the main crossroads in Tucumcari (US 66 and US 54) was a classic Mexican restaurant:

La Cita

SE corner of Main and Route 66

With its kitschy Mexican sombrero so typical of Route 66, this Mexican food restaurant is still open. The name means "the appointment", "the date".

La Cita, Route 66 Tucumcari

La Cita nowadays, Tucumcari. Google.

La Cita, Route 66 Tucumcari

La Cita vintage postcard. www.66postcards.com.

Mobil Gas Station

On the NW corner of US66 and US54

This is another Old Gas Station, (formerly a Mobil) with flat canopy, two gas pump islands and a double bay garage. It is pictured below. Keep west along Route 66.

Old Gas Station, Route 66 Tucumcari

Old Gas Station in Tucumcari. Google.

Phillips Gull Wing, Route 66 Tucumcari

Phillips Gull Wing in Tucumcari. Google.

Phillips Gull Wing

350 W Tucumcar Blvd.

The Phillips 66 gas station pictured above was built in the 1960s. In those days Phillips Petroleum Co. standardized their filling stations across the US and adopted a modern design with a triangular "gull-wing" canopy which was supported at its narrow tip by a pole designed to look like an oil derrick. A Phillips 66 revolving sign stood at the top of the pole. There are two in Albuquerque NM: Phillips 66 Gull Wing Gas Station and the Albuquerque Gull Wing and one in Santa Fe NM, there are more of them on Route 66, like the ones in Missouri: Eureka and Hazelgreen.

Whiting Restored

392 W Tucumcari Blvd.

Whiting gas station - Restored Whiting Restored, Route 66 Tucumcari

Whiting Restored in Tucumcari. Google.

The restored gas station was probably not a Whiting Brothers station. On the NW corner is another abandoned service station (Street View).

And to the west, to your left, at 538 W Tucumcari Blvd. is yet another flat roofed canopy gas station, with a two bay garage and a double island for pumping gas. This is its Street View. Now "Zia Finance". Ahead, is the Travelers Motor Inn (802 W Route 66 Blvd.) for which we haven't found any "oldie" references, but across the street, to your right is a "classic":

Pow Wow Restaurant and Lounge and the Congress Inn

801 W Tucumcari Blvd.

The Pow Wow Restaurant and Lounge and the Congress Inn have survived. The old Congress Inn is now the Pow Wow Inn, and the restaurant is still open, now as the Lizard Restaurant, serving dishes! Don't miss its neon sign with an eagle. The images below show it "then" (early 1960s) and "now", the Red Arrow marks the stone wall which has survived despite the reforms in the restaurant.

Pow Wow Restaurant and Lounge and the Congress Inn in a classic postcard

vintage postcard of Pow Wow Restaurant and Lounge and the Congress Inn, Tucumcari NM
Old postcard of the Pow Wow Restaurant and Lounge and the Congress Inn, Tucumcari, New Mexico.

Pow Wow Restaurant and Lounge and the Congress Inn nowadays

present appearance of Pow Wow Restaurant and Lounge and the Congress Inn Tucumcari NM
Present view of Pow Wow Restaurant and Lounge and the Congress Inn Tucumcari, New Mexico. Google.

On the south side of Route 66 is another iconic US66 motel:

Golden W motel

824 W Tucumcari Blvd.

Golden W motel

The Golden W motel is still a motel, though now its name is Budget Inn. Its postcard says "Fourty-five comfortable rooms: phones, T.V.... Individual Heat, Heated Pool, Playground... Owned and managed by Belva & Katie Miller." It has lost its 60's neon sign and the roof over the reception area has changed slightly, but the place is basically the same:

Golden W motel in a classic postcard

vintage postcard of Golden W motel, Tucumcari NM
Old postcard of the Golden W motel, Tucumcari, New Mexico.

Golden W motel nowadays, it is the Budget Inn

present appearance of Golden W motel now the Budget Inn Tucumcari NM
Present view of Golden W motel, now the Budget Inn Tucumcari, New Mexico. Google.

Now come some old gas stations and a ruined cafe:

Restored Magnolia gas station

1142 W Route 66

This was very likely a Texaco station as their design included two crests along the top of their flat roofs. Anyhow, the gas station looks very nice as you can see below.

Restored Magnolia gas station, Route 66 Tucumcari

Restored Magnolia gas station in Tucumcari. Google.

Restored Esso gas station, Route 66 Tucumcari

Restored Esso gas station in Tucumcari. Google.

Restored Esso gas station

1248 W Route 66

The gas station is pictured above, with its single pump island, flat canopy and double bay garage.

Ranch House Cafe

1129 W Route 66

Ranch House Cafe, Route 66 Tucumcari

Ranch House Cafe in Tucumcari. Google.

To your right, the old building and the rusting, fading neon sign can still be seen and it reads "Ranch House Cafe Mexican Food".

Just ahead, also on your right is a iconic motel:

Buckaroo Motel

1315 Rte 66, T

The Buckaroo Motel (buckaroo means "cowboy") is still open and catering to Route 66 travelers.

Relatively unchanged, it even has a nicer neon sign than it had in the Route 66 heyday.

Buckaroo Motel in a classic postcard

vintage postcard of Buckaroo Motel, Tucumcari NM
Old postcard of the Buckaroo Motel, Tucumcari, New Mexico.

Buckaroo Motel nowadays

present appearance of Buckaroo Motel Tucumcari NM
Present view of Buckaroo Motel Tucumcari, New Mexico. Google.

Tristar Inn Xpress

1302 W Rte 66 Blvd.

The Tristar Inn Xpress used to be the Motel Conchas, but it has been reformed and is barely recognizable (compare its Street view with this vintage postcard) only the layout remains the same.

Ahead, to your left is the famous Route 66 Monument and a historic marker.

Route 66 Monument

1500 W Route 66.

Route 66 Monument, Route 66 Tucumcari

Route 66 Monument in Tucumcari. Google.

This is a chrome and rock sculpture created by Thomas Coffin in 1997. The red stone of the base symbolizes tires while the chrome upper part is a tailfin with tail lights that light up at night. It evokes the 1950s cars and road trips. It is located in front of the Tucumcari Convention Center. The plaque reads: "Commissioned for the "Art in Public Places Program" New Mexico Arts of the Office of Cultural Affairs through the Cultural Corridors Project".

Historic Marker

The marker (Street View) states: "Comanche Country. By 1700 the Comanches had acquired horses and began moving into this area. They drove out the Jicarilla Apaches, and their raids on New Mexico's eastern frontier posed a threat to Indian, Spanish, and Anglo settlements for over a century. They were finally defeated by the U.S. Army in 1874".

Continue westbound, and to your left is another motel:

Redwood Lodge Motel

1502 W Route 66

The old motel is now an apartment complex rented out to students "The Redwood Lodge". The old sign has gone, but the motel is still there, behind the trees.

Redwood Lodge Motel, Route 66 Tucumcari

Redwood Lodge Motel in Tucumcari nowadays. Google.

Redwood Lodge Motel, Route 66 Tucumcari

Redwood Lodge Motel in Tucumcari in a vintage postcard. www.pcclick.com

Then comes a great Trading Post which seems to have been a motel in the past (Street View. And ahead is the Paradise Motel:

Paradise Motel

2202 W Route 66

Paradise Motel today, Route 66 Tucumcari

Paradise Motel nowadays. Tucumcari. Google.

Paradise Motel, postcard Route 66 Tucumcari

Paradise Motel, postcard Tucumcari. www.66postcards.com.

Paradise Motel nowadays

neon sign of the Paradise Motel Tucumcari NM
Paradise Motel neon sign Tucumcari, New Mexico. Google.

Tucumcari Museums

Mesalands Dinosaur Museum

222 E Laughlin St, Tucumcari NM

Exhibits with the full range of prehistoric creatures: from saber-tooth cats to giant crocodiles and T-Rex-like dinosaurs.

Visit the Museum's website. Open: 10 AM - 6 PM (Tue-Sat) March - August and 12 - 5 PM the rest of the year.

Tucumcari Historical Museum

416 S Adams St, Tucumcari NM

The local history: from a sherfiff's office to a historical classroom. Plus a fighter plane and more...

(575) 461-4201. Open: 9 AM - 3 PM (Tue-Sat).

Tours & Itineraries

Nearby Route 66 Towns

Visit, to the east, the nearby towns of San Jon and Glenrio (on the Texas state line).

To the west is Montoya, Newkirk and Cuervo followed by Santa Rosa.

The Old alignment of Route 66 near Tucumcari

route 66 shield New Mexico

San Jon to Tucumcari Historic Route 66

Route 66, Tucumcari, NM.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

This is the historic segment of Route 66 from San Jon to Tucumcari.

See this Map with directions..

The road was originally aligned along the "Ozark Trail", a highway system that was promoted and created by private organizatioins, counties and states in the 1915s. It predated the Federal highway system that appeared in the mid 1920s. Initially it was a dirt road but it was completely paved by 1933.

Lesbia

At the junction of US 66 and QR Ag (15 mi. west of San Jon), take a left along QR Ag and after 0.7 mi. you will reach Lesbia, which once was a station on the Rock Island Railroad. It was named Rudulph from 1908 to 1910, then Castleberry (till 1913) and finally Lesbia, until 1918 when the post office closed.

After San Jon the original road becomes the South Frontage Road of I-40. Follow it all the way to Exit 335 of I-40 and cross the Interstate to enter Tucumcari along East Route 66 Blvd. (formerly E. Tucumcari Blvd.) - I-40 Bus. Loop, into the town of Tucumcari.

Go through the downtown district and keep west until reaching US 58. At the junction take a left turn towards I-40 and get onto it at Exit 329.

 

> > See the previous segment Glenrio (TX) to San Jon (to the east) and the next one Tucumcari to Montoya (to the west).

Some Side Trips from Tucumcari

Petrified Forest

It is located 6 miles southwest of Tucumcari and 1 mile south of Route 66.

Unfortunately most of the fragments of logs and petrified wood that lie strewn on the ground, have been taken by tourists as souvenirs.

Five Mile Park or Metropolitan Park

Located 5 miles west of town (hence its name), see its Map and Directions

It was designed by Trent Thomas during the Great Depression to employ local labor. It was completed in 1940 and had New Mexico's largest outdoor swimming pool.

It is part of New Mexico Heritage Preservation Alliance's list of Most Endangered for 2003. A fire destroyed the main building in 2010.

Day Trips

Scenic Byways

There are several loops that you can drive along close to Tucumcari that will take you through the countryside marked by multicolored sandstone sediments. You may also catch a glimpse of a Pronghorn antelope too.

The road loops range from 14 to 102 miles in length, along NM state highways 54, 84, 91, 104, 129, 156, 209, 219, 231, 252, 278 and 469.

For more details on these day trips, call the Tucumcari Chamber of Commerce (575) 461-1694.

La Frontera del Llano

The meaning of the Spanish phrase "La Frontera del Llano" is "The prairies' frontier", it is a ride north of the town of Logan along NM 39 all the way to Abbot, it has a lenght of 94 miles (one way). See the Map and Directions.

The road takes you through plains, mesas and crosses rivers; it it the grasslands where the "deer and antelope roam".

National and State Parks

Las Conchas Lake State Park

Conchas means shells in Spanish. The park is 32 miles northwest of Tucumcari along NM 104 (Map with directions).

Contact: Website, (575) 868-2270.

Ideal place for boating, fishing and swimming. Hiking and wildlife watching near the lake too. There are campsites and parking for RVs

Ute Lake State Park

27 miles northeast of Tucumcari via US-54 to Logan, NM and then NM-540 to the lake. (Map with directions).

Contact: 1800 540 Loop Logan, NM, Website, (575) 487-2284.

The reservoir on the Canadian River is 13 miles long and offers many options for water sports: fishing, boating, swimming. There are campgrounds and RV facilities too.

Sources

Robert Julyan. 1996, The Place Names of New Mexico. UNM Press

The postcard is from the James R. Powell Route 66 Collection at the Lake County Discovery Museum, view it online, under Fair Use.

Image Leaflet, under its CC SA 3.0 License.

Banner image: Dead Man's Curve, Laguna New Mexico by Perla Eichenblat.