Riding Route 66:

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 3, 2016

Editor’s note: Rowan County resident David Freeze is off on his latest summertime cycling adventure. This time, he’s riding the famed Route 66 from California to Chicago.

On a few occasions, I intentionally don’t make a decision just to see how things work out, or in other words, proceed with adventure by the seat of the pants. I had spent a great night at the La Mesa Motel in Santa Rosa, sleeping so good that I overslept by about 20 minutes this morning. I had a plan and got right to it after that.
The La Mesa is another of the old Route 66 motels that was started in the 1940s and changed hands a few times. A portion of the old motel still remains and the new portion and the office make it very attractive. Mike and his staff were wonderful to me and it was great to have Lauren Martz come by while we were 2,000 miles from home.
By hustling, I still hit the road about as early as I can. At 5:30 a.m., there is just enough light to see the road. I jumped on I-40 and headed east right into the sunrise, a warm one today. Just two days ago, I was cold while riding early at over 7,000 feet in elevation and had dropped to less than 5,000 by this morning. I didn’t need two shirts for long.
The first town was Cuervo, N.M., and I pulled off the exit just to take a look. I had read that it a ghost town and it truly is. Lots of buildings, most of them falling in, and a picturesque old church, all left behind when the super slab replaced Route 66.
My map called for me to use the frontage road this morning, but I quickly realized that the frontage road was in varying degrees of very good, mildly grown over, taken up with only dirt remaining, or just simply nowhere to be seen.
I saw that the road was blocked in a few places too, so I just stayed on I-40. Newkirk was next and the one store there did not seem to be open. My destination was Tucumcari, one of the little towns making the most of its part in the Route 66 revival. Still, certain parts of town looked almost deserted. With a strong tailwind and no harsh climbing, I made it to Tucumcari before noon. After riding through the main drag on Route 66, I decided to go to the local historical museum.
My welcome there was so hospitable that I even got help with rattlesnakes, should one get after me. Museum Director Paula Neese, her husband Donnie and their dog Cooper all welcomed me to a fantastic museum. The building has been a hospital, a school, used for glider training during World War ll and more. It and the yard and other buildings are crammed with all kinds of local memorabilia. Lots of cowboy stuff, and plenty of farming, ranching, railroading and even a Vietnam-era jet. Thanks to Paula and Donnie for sharing all the wonderful information.
A sign on I-40 says that there are 34 motels in Tucumcari. Some might be closed but plenty are still here. Here is where things worked out because I didn’t book one ahead. I did want to stay at the Blue Swallow, the oldest and most unique. They were full so I just decided to see what happened today. My first stop was at the Safari Motel where the owner didn’t really want to bother with me. Her rate was high and she said they weren’t open yet anyway. The owner at the Roadrunner Motel told me where I could get the best deal and she was right. I finally will spend the night in one of the many Historic Route 66 motels that I have seen along the way.
This Historic Route 66 Motel, has it all. A great price, big rooms, a refrigerator in the room and three things that I really love. There is a Lindbergh-looking plane right beside the sign, there are big yellow chairs outside each room and speakers are playing Route 66 music all around the area. Plus, the owner has been extremely helpful with ideas about the town and my ride for tomorrow.
There is a real grocery store here and a dinosaur museum that I may visit later. I understand that there is quite a bit of neon lighting on the old motels that I will check later, too.
I mentioned the fable about the name Tucumcari. An Indian maiden named Kari was so grieved over the death of her lover, Tocom, at the hand of a rival that she took her own life. Her father, upon finding the tragedy, said “Tocum! Kari!” Or there is similar Comanche word for ambush, so take your choice.
With an easy afternoon today of only 65 miles, I plan to get rolling into Texas tomorrow. There is a a midpoint of Route 66 cafe that I hope to visit and get an unusual treat. More on that tomorrow.
My cellphone still won’t work, so I am not sure whether it is the phone or AT&T. Hopefully, things clear up tomorrow. See you then! I am headed for one of these big yellow chairs and the great music shortly.
Contact David Freeze at david.freeze@ctc.net