“One cannot be pessimistic about the West. This is the native home of hope. When it fully learns that cooperation, not rugged individualism, is the quality that most characterizes and preserves it, then it will have achieved itself and outlived its origins. Then it has a chance to create a society to match its scenery.”
― Wallace Stegner
― Wallace Stegner
Earlier this month, I had the joyous occasion to share my favorite landscape on Earth with my wife. We celebrated our first wedding anniversary by taking a week-long road trip west, partially mirroring our first big road trip together in the summer of 2014. (I wrote about that trip here, here, and here.) That previous trip to New Mexico took place less than two weeks before I proposed, actually. When Sam and I sat to discuss plans for celebrating a year as a married couple, we both had the same idea: let’s go see the Grand Canyon. Samantha had never been and I fiercely love being in that part of the country. Win/win!
Our first day was spent driving through western Oklahoma, through the Texas panhandle, and into New Mexico. Route 66 runs that same path, so we hopped off the interstate quite frequently. We stopped at the U-Drop Inn in Shamrock TX for some pictures, but I didn’t expect them to be open. To my delight, we were greeted by a full staff upon arrival. When I introduced myself, they became even more animated. They’re one of the physical locations that sell my 2017 Calendar and they proudly informed me that they were down to less than a dozen. When I was introduced to the mayor, he told me they’d buy whatever I had on me to replenish their stock. Although I only had a handful with me on the road, I was so pleased with their enthusiasm that I sold ’em all but one…which I had special plans for later on in the week.
In Amarillo, we stopped to see my buddy Croc Lile at his gallery on 6th Street. He showed us his work bench where he takes layered paint chips from the nearby Cadillac Ranch and fashions them into jewelry. They’re beautiful works of art! After that short visit, we took the old Route 66 alignment through town to another friend’s shop. Although I figured Samantha would enjoy Dora Meroney’s antique shop, I didn’t understand how deeply she would fall in love with the ivy-covered house of treasures. She said that it embodied many qualities that Sam wants her Someday Shop to have. I enjoyed tagging along as she wandered & examined a bounty of items through the clutter; I am fascinated by what catches her eye and inspires her. As we departed Amarillo, heading to the New Mexico border, we knew we’d have to return for a whole weekend down the line.
The sky clouded over a bit as we arrived in Adrian, the town at the middle point of Route 66. Appropriately, there’s a business right on the dividing line named Midpoint Cafe. Last time through, we didn’t go inside. This time, however, I knew better and made sure I was hungry. The owner of the Midpoint is Dennis Purschwitz. Although the cafe itself dates back to 1928, Dennis bought the place back in 2012 after noticing the place up for sale while on a road trip. He and his family have continued to provide a beloved service to wandering travelers, including the cafe’s famous ‘Ugly Crust’ pie. In fact, the establishment was a major inspiration for Pixar when they were making the film ‘Cars’; they’re named in the end credits. I was overjoyed to finally meet Dennis and chat while we enjoyed some excellent homemade pie at the counter. The cafe is once again up for sale as Dennis moves into the next phase of his life; I hope it passes into hands that are just as caring as his have been.
By the time we finished our pie and conversation, the overcast sky had darkened considerably. Although I had planned to take the old dirt alignment from Glenrio TX to San Jon NM, the imminent storm changed my mind this time around; we hopped back onto I-40 instead. As we rolled into Tucumcari a little while later, a slight autumn chill had joined us. We admired the roadside relics along the old road into town: gas stations, gift shops, restaurants, and a variety of motor hotels. One of those relics, the Blue Swallow Motel, has been lovingly restored in recent years and would serve as our home for the night. The neon sign of the Blue Swallow is one of the Route’s most well-known sights, but this was my first time to actually stay there. Not only did I know the owners from previous roadie gatherings, but Tucumcari is full of people that I’d connected with over the last few years. I took time to walk to a few neighboring businesses to say hello before it got too late. Samantha and I enjoyed an excellent dinner at Del’s Restaurant just down the street as the clouds broke and the sun set.
I gleefully waited for full night to fall so I could take photos of those colorful, buzzing tubes at the motel. Samantha was just as gleeful to soak in the claw-foot bathtub while I buzzed around outside. Sleep came easily in the comfort of that beloved motel. It was a great start to what would be a truly amazing week of travel. More to come!