Tucumcari is one of those towns that lives off the Route 66 tourism. By appearances it seems the tourism business is suffering, as many of the small shops, motels and gas stations are closed down. Some still exist though, and hopefully the tourism returns.
Dating from the 1940s, the Wigwam Motel is a throwback to the times when the route west was the famed Route 66. We had the opportunity to spend a night in the ‘Wigwam’.
There were originally 7 Wigwam Villages built, with only 3 remaining. The one in Holbrook has embraced the Route 66 connection, complete with strategically placed, rusting vehicles, along with a large collection of petrified wood.
As the sun set on the end of a great day, we prepared to settle in for the night.
Night time brought the fantastic neon sign to life.
Waking the next morning to comments about the frequency and volume of the trains all night. Walking outside we saw why, a major dual track freight line was about 100′ from our wigwam. Despite being rocked to sleep, it was well worth it for a night to time travel back to the 1950s.
Show me the way to Missouri.
1946 – State Capitol 1989 – University of Missouri
The small town of Jefferson City is the Missouri capital city. The state capitol is much like most of the others, design in the classic style (photo from Wiki)
Jefferson City is the 15th largest city in Missouri. The only state capital that is lower in ranks of cities within a state is Olympia, Washington – which is the 24th largest city in the state. As the photo below shows, there is no skyline to Jefferson City. (Note – 17 state capitals are also the largest city in the state. The largest state capital by population is Phoenix, with 1.7 million people in the city limits).
And if you find yourself in this small state capital what is the #1 rated activity according to Tripadvisor? The Old Penitentiary, rating higher than the Capitol itself.
State Symbol time!
State Animal – Missouri Mule. In the 1800s mules were the ‘workhorse’ of the farm – and Missouri was the center of the mule population.
State Horse – Missouri Fox Trotting Horse. Developed in the Ozarks in the 1800s this horse is famous for his trotting gait.
State Dessert – Ice Cream Cone. Famously invented at the 1904 St Louis World’s Fair.
Jefferson City is just down the road from the much larger Columbia, Missouri. It is home to the University of Missouri. (photo from website commonapp.com)
The comic strip Beetle Bailey was written by Mort Walker while he was still attending the university. It is celebrated with a sculpture.
Roads in Missouri
1947 1954 1979 1997 2007 2010
Missouri is home to the most famous roads in American history – Route 66
As the song says ‘Well it goes to St Louis down to Missouri’.
In the crossroads town of Ash Grove there is a restored Sinclair station filled with kitsch.
Missouri claims they are the first state to award a contract from the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 (aka – The Interstate Highway Act), and then they started construction. Having driven from St Louis to Kansas City on Interstate 70 I believe they haven’t improved it since it was completed 60 years ago.
Today it is 250 miles of left lane drivers. Easily one of the most frustrating drives I have had is a Sunday late afternoon drive across Missouri! (except anytime you drive an interstate in Indiana). (Photo from Missouri Public Radio)
U.S 60 parallels I-70, only across the southern part of the state (and not between two major cities). The road is smooth and traffic free. Good for drivers, apparently not so much for this armadillo.
1958 1980 2001
With the Mississippi River and the Missouri River, there are plenty of bridges in Missouri.
St Louis area.
Chain of Rocks Bridge links Missouri with Illinois just north of St Louis. This bridge was built to bypass St Louis for both US 66 and US 40 traffic. It was completed in 1929, and closed to most vehicular traffic in 1970.
Complete with a bend in the middle of the river.
The Eads Bridge is a massive railway and automobile bridge linking East St Louis to St Louis. It was opened in 1874, to a throng of people watched a ‘test elephant’ cross the bridge to show how strong it was.
The McKinley Bridge was the first bridge to take Route 66 traffic across the Mississippi River (photo from Wiki). It is not named for President McKinley, rather the bulder of the bridge and owner of the Interurban company, coincidentally also named William McKinley.
Kansas City has their fair share of bridges as well, crossing the Missouri River (photo from Reddit)
Christopher Bond Bridge (photo from public radio Kansas City)
Jefferson City Bridge
They don’t have to be large to be cool – The ‘Swinging Bridge’ at Osage Beach, in southern Missouri. (photos from Missouri Life). It actually rocks a bit as you drive across it.
1973 1995 2013
With most of the access of the early 1800s being along the rivers, Missouri held a key position. Boats could come down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh or up the Mississippi River from New Orleans to St Louis, and then on to Kansas City along the Missouri River.
From here there were overland routes to the West Coast. Among those were the Butterfield Trail. In 1858 John Butterfield started a stage coach that delivered mail, using a route that went southwest from Missouri, across the Southern Rocky Mountains, and on the the west coast to San Francisco. (drawings from Wikipedia)
The far more famous Oregon Trail started in Independence, Missouri. The map below clearly shows the route coming up river from St Louis before the long, arduous overland route west.
Today there is a marker to show the start of this trail. Independence is far more renown for being the hometown of Harry Truman. (photo from Wikipedia)
The railroads started not much later than the trails, with the first railroad in the state starting up in 1851. By the mid 1860s you could cross the state on a train.
Jefferson City Station. Built in 1855, and rebuilt in 1984. (photo from Wikipedia)
Kansas City Union Station (photos from Wikipedia)
The National Museum of Transportation in St Louis has a great collection of artifacts, but has the most emphasis on trains. (photos from Wikipedia)
St Louis has a strong history of aviation, starting with the Spirit of St Louis – the plane that Lindbergh flew solo across the Atlantic.
TWA was once headquartered in Kansas City, with their primary hub based in St Louis.
1975 1980 2017
St Louis is the largest metro area by population. A very old city, St Louis in the mid 1800s was already up to 8th largest in the country, despite being basically on the western edge of the country at the time. In 1910 it was 4th largest.
Unfortunately of cities that had more than 100,000 people in 1950, St Louis has lost more than any city except Detroit and Youngstown, Ohio.
Urban renewal has resulted in a number of newer buildings downtown, resulting in a somewhat modern looking skyline.
St Louis was the hometown of Chuck Berry. In the Delmar Loop neighborhood there is a statue of Chuck, near a bar he often played at for fun.
This stadium is the 3rd baseball stadium in St Louis to be called ‘Busch Stadium’. A baseball only stadium built in a quasi retro style, the stadium continues to be one of the best attended venues in all of baseball as St Louis is a very strong baseball town.
The earlier stadiums include Busch Stadium I – aka – Sportsman’s Park. This stadium was originally completed in 1902, and served as the home of the Cardinals until 1966. For many years St Louis had a second team, the Browns, and it was their home too. In addition to those teams, college and professional football teams used it as well.
By the 1960s the neighborhood around the stadium was in decline, and attendance was dropping. In addition teams had learned that they could ‘encourage’ the local governments to build them a new stadium bu threatening to move to another city. (Wiki Photo)
Busch Stadium II – In the 1960s and 1970s there were a number of multi purpose round stadiums built across the country. Busch Memorial Stadium was one of the earlier examples. Note the roof arches along the top of the stadium mimic the famed Gateway Arch in the background. This stadium was used until 2005 when the new stadium was built on the same footprint. (Wiki Photo)
The Gateway Arch is St Louis’s most recognizable landmark. Towering 630 feet above the city, the arch is now over 50 years old and continues to be the tallest man made monument in the Western Hemisphere, and the tallest structure in Missouri.
It was designed by Eero Saarinen in the 1940s, but not constructed until the 1960s. It is a tribute to the fact that St Louis was known as the Gateway to the West.
The Old Courthouse is part of the Gateway Arch National Park. Dating from the 1860s, the building was the location that Dred Scott sued for his freedom.
St Louis in 1904 was a happening place. Not only were the first Olympics ever to be held in the U.S. hosted in the city that year, but they also had a World’s Fair (where the Ice Cream Cone was invented). Today there are a few landmarks in a park dating from that amazing year in the city’s history.
The Missouri Botanical Gardens is one of the highlights of the city.
Kansas City is 250 miles west of St Louis, directly across the state on Interstate 70. One of the more interesting areas of the city is known as the Country Club District, dating from it’s original development in the early 1900s near a golf course.
City Hall is a classic Art Deco skyscraper that was completed in 1937.
From the observation deck you get great views of the city.
Kansas City was one of the few cities in the 1970s to built sport specific stadiums. They are not downtown, rather out at the edge of town in a sea of parking lots. (Photo below from Kansas City Star newspaper)
Small Towns and Countryside
1977 1985 1987 1991 1993 1999
While there are two large cities on each end of the state, the vast majority of the cities are small. A number of them have historic significance, and have been featured on the maps.
Sainte Genevieve is a small town on the Mississippi River. It has the significance of being the first European settlement west of the Mississippi River in the state, having been founded in 1735. The town has a historic district that is a popular tourist attraction. (all photos from Wikipedia)
Weston is another small town on the far western end of the state along the Missouri River. At one point in the 1800 it was one of the largest ports on the river, with over 265 steamboats docking. It is also home of the McCormick Distilling Company, the oldest continuously operated distillery in the country.
Hannibal is Mark Twain’s boyhood home. As most know, it is also located on the Mississippi, making it the setting for Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn’s adventures.
Missouri is one of those states that has a wide variety of attractions – cities, towns, scenic countryside and rivers.
Time to head to the sunshine of Arizona on our virtual tour of the country. Arizona has some of the most impressive geology and topography around, with the world’s greatest natural wonder – the Grand Canyon.
Our virtual tour also time travels back to 1952 for the oldest map in the collection. Ironically for a state that is mostly desert it features Canyon Lake. Located 50 miles east of Phoenix it is a result of the damming of the Salt River.
The state was sparsely populated place in 1952 with less than 800,000 people in a state with almost 114,000 square miles. Phoenix, the capital, had barely 100,000 people.
Today the metro Phoenix area alone has almost 5 million people, with over 7 million living in the entire state.
Our trip moves on to 1956, with the fairly boring subject of a rural intersection featured on the cover.
The backside of the map features the state flag bird, flower, seal and tree. The calendar of events is interesting, again showing the changes in the last 65 years.
The February golf tournament in Phoenix had a purse of $15,000 (est $200,000 in 2020 dollars). Today that tournament has a purse of over $7 million.
Other events like the rodeo in Yuma are also still in existence.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s the Arizona State Map was shaped like more like a book than a map. This map features the state flower, the bloom from the Saguaro Cactus. These massive cacti grow to heights of 40′ or more.
1968 again features water in the desert. This time we are at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. While most of Glen Canyon is in Utah, it is dammed at Lake Powell, Arizona. The output from this dam heads down the Colorado River into the Grand Canyon.
For 1970 we have the full view of the Saguaro. The backside of the map has a great collection of saguaros throughout the state.
As we move a few years ahead we again have cacti on the cover.
The backside of the 1977 map however has some great photographs of the highlights of Arizona.
For my collection 1980 is the last year of the ‘book sized’ maps. With a fantastic canyon view (amazingly not named on the map – guessing a view of the Grand Canyon I have not seen), the backside features many of the National Monuments located in the state.
We have been fortunate enough to visit a number of these locations including Wupataki Ruins. These ruins are nearly 1000 years old – home to a town of 2,000.
By the 2000s Arizona had ceased producing traditional road maps, rather they produce a ‘Visitor Map’ on glossy paper, much like any other tourist map. It is filled with advertising. The 2002 edition has an unidentified road, while the 2004 map on the right is the area around Sedona.
In 2012 I passed through Sedona. An artist colony, it has amazing scenery as you make your way down Oak Creek Canyon.
The 2005 edition has Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon on the cover. This 8 mile trail descends over 4000 feet. The 2010 map on the right features Brittlebush with their spring wildflowers in bloom near Bartlett Lake.
It is hard to believe but it has been 15 years since we were last at the Grand Canyon. These photos are from the early days of digital – we need to go back.
We did spend 1 hour going down Bright Angel Trail, which equates to over 2 hours coming back up. Needless to say we did not reach the bottom. It was well worth the time, as soon as you get away from the crowds at the rim the views are so much better.
The 2011 map on the left features ‘The Wave’ in Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness Area. This is one place that is high on my list to visit. The 2012 map on the right revisits Sedona.
In 2012 they published two editions, the one below has Saguaro National Park featured. The 2014 map features Mogollon Rim near Payson.
For 2015 the cover takes us to the countryside outside of Flagstaff. At over 7000 feet in elevation, the terrain around Flagstaff is very ‘un-Arizona’ like. It is near here that there are ski resorts.
Again in 2016 they visited Sedona.
The final map in my collection has to be in of course…Sedona!
But there is much more to Arizona than the natural scenery, as fantastic as it is.
In Arizona you can see the London Bridge in Lake Havasu City
Take a trip on Route 66 and see the wild burros in Oatman …
Continue on Route 66 to the very kitschy little town of Seligman for some lunch at the Roadkill Cafe ...
and ice cream at the famous Snow Cap…
Catch the Grand Canyon Train in Williams….
And watch Spring Training in Phoenix! Arizona is easily one of my favorite states.
As the song goes Route 66 went from Chicago to L.A., going through Missouri along the way. While much of it is gone, replaced by freeways, there are still portions that are intact.
Many unique places remain along these portions of the Mother Road. One such place is just west of Springfield, Missouri. It is a restored Sinclair Gas Station full of cool, quirky things, including numerous ‘vintage’ vehicles.
A very nice lady named Barbara is the current owner of the property, having taken over for her father after he passed away. Barbara enthusiastically welcome all visitors, and the visitors seem genuinely pleased to be there.
On the day we were there one of the old trucks her father had owned was returned to it’s rightful spot at the station.
As noted plenty of tourists make the stop to check it out. I suggest if you get the chance you do the same.
While officially Route 66 started in downtown Chicago it isn’t until you get out of town a bit to Joliet before it really is emphasized by the local communities.
Downtown Joliet has the unique position where Route 66 crossed the first major trans-continental road, the Lincoln Highway.
Joliet is also the home of old Joliet Prison, home of the (fictional) Joliet Jake Blues – of Blues Brothers fame. Now closed the day we were there an Illinois Department of Corrections van and officer was in the parking lot – to keep people from breaking into prison!
The Blues Brothers are celebrated throughout town – on the ice cream stand…
An auto parts store…
And a replica Bluesmobile high above a truck stop.
Further south along Route 66 is the town of Pontiac, where they have a nice museum celebrating the history and impact of the road on Illinois.
Also throughout town are mural/billboards. The town was once home to a ‘Walldog’ festival. Walldogs are the names of the group of artists who paint these impressive murals. During the 3 days they had the festival in Pontiac, 19 of the murals were painted.
Inlcuding one that celebrates Route 66 across Illinois.
Also throughout town are small artistic cars and trucks.
Finally in an alley we found another fabulous mural.
A cold, rainy , dark morning greeting us as we left Albuquerque for the long drive to Oklahoma City. Our route, I-40, parallels U.S. 66 the entire route, and most of the towns that have been bypassed try and entice you off the interstate with Route 66 kitsch. We finally succumbed to the allure at Tucumcari, New Mexico as we drove along Route 66. The town now seems vacant and most buildings are boarded up and dilapidated. We did see some Route 66 murals and signs of a once vibrant area.
After passing through town, essentially non stop, we were back on the Interstate.Just before the Texas border we near Glenrio, New Mexico at Russell’s Traveland. Here the owner has a private collection of cars and 1950’s memorabilia nicely displayed next to a 1950’s diner, novelty store and gas station.
Welcome to Texas
Next stop was Adrian, Texas, who has the appeal of being the midpoint of Route 66 from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California. It is exactly 1139 miles to each end of Route 66. The town had a few buildings, and a cafe. A historical marker noted the midway point while the exact midway point is also painted on the road.
After a quick couple of photos, it was back onto I-40 headed to Amarillo, Texas for what I expected to be a highlight of a lap around America tour, Cadillac Ranch. It is raining as we drive down the freeway and we can see the back ends of the Cadillacs sticking out of the ground.
Parking behind other tourists making the trip through the mud to get a close up look at the Cadillacs, I schlepped through the mud to walk back to the cars. The Cadillacs were thick with inches of paint over every inch of surface inside and out of the cars. People who have visited from all over the world left their mark on these cars by spray painting bright colored graffiti and attaching items.
It was amusing as we watched other tourist trying to remove shoes caked in mud. The mud was so thick on their shoes that they had trouble walking. I foruntately had put on my ‘mudders’, so after a quick shoe change we were off again on I-40.
On the south side of Amarillo, Texas is an RV museum, which is actually a personal collection at Jack Sizemore’s RV Traveland. The Sizemore’s began restoring and collecting unusual vintage RV’s over 25 years ago. They built a museum that houses many of the RV’s in their collection.
These include the Flexible Bus from the Movie RV and the first Itasca motor home ever built. The museum also had a great display of motorcycles that sat upon shelves on the wall, camping items, and 50’s and 70’s memorabilia strewn about relating to different campers and RV’s through the decades. All were open, so we wandered in and out of them for about an hour, including the retro RV driven by the Gornick’s in the movie.
We signed the guest book and pinned our town of Columbus, Ohio on the map at the exit. Two world maps were posted since so many people have come to see the museum and marked their homeland with a pin. Europe and the USA were jammed with pins but other countries around the world were pinned also.
We arrived at Oklahoma City about late afternoon, and after checking into the Holiday Express in the old Bricktown section. As we walked through the city, we found the Chickasaw Brickyard Stadium, home for the Oklahoma AAA baseball team. It is a minor league team for the L A Dodgers. We sneaked a peek at batting practice before we were asked to leave.
After dinner at the Bourbon Street Restaurant for dinner, we continued to tour downtown Oklahoma City.
At the edge of downtown is the Oklahoma City National Memorial dedicated to the 168 killed in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and their families. Two gates tower at each end of the reflective pool. One gate marks the time one minute before the bombing and the other gate marks the time one minute after the bombing. The later time stands for the start of healing.
A museum detailing the disaster stands on one side of the pool and black metal chairs placed in rows upon the lawn line the opposite side of the pool. The nine rows of chairs represent the nine floors of the building and each chair is the position of the floor for each victim.
The large chairs embody each adult victim and the small chairs symbolize each child victim within the building’s daycare who died. Five separate chairs signify those victims who perished outside the building at the time of the bombing.
As the sun set through the opening of the west gate, lights illuminated the chairs. Though the scene was a perfect photographic moment, the memorial posed a somber reflection for all.
Since the interstates went in across the country in the 1960s, Route 66 was delegated to a secondary status. Now it is mostly European tourists wanting to see America.
Seligman, Arizona is the epitome of a kitschy tourist stop along Route 66. The business that are in the small town live off of the folks who are passing through.
The highlight is Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Ice Cream Stand. Among their numerous highlights is an old car that they have modified to bounce up and down as you go down the street, and they were more than happy to give us a quick ride through town.
Anytime I am anywhere near Seligman, Arizona I make a point of stopping in, it is touristy and hokey, but well worth the visit.