On our travels from Arizona to Wisconsin, we took a few long detours away from the Interstate system. There are only so many hours of a driving day that I want filled with semi trucks passing me going upwards of 85 mph. At least when we take the more rural routes, we are usually pleased to find decent two lane roads, little traffic, and a few surprises along the way.
One such surprise — actually one long string of surprises — was the strip of Historic Route 66 running through the northern part of Tucumcari, New Mexico. These few blocks of Route 66 are filled with a wonderland of murals depicting the Mother Road in a different era.
Many of the murals feature the slogans “Tucumcari Tonite” and “You’re Here” reminiscent of the times when these signs dotted the highway for hundreds of miles, beckoning the Route 66 travelers to stop at one of the dozens of motels that lined the main street in Tucumcari. Now, Interstate 40 runs along the southern edge of the town and there are hotels and restaurants providing for most travelers who are in search of the speediest way.
But there also is a lot of renovation going on along Route 66, and quite a few appealing vintage motels are open for business, providing all the comforts of home. And a great view of a lot of really fun art.
If you are inclined to see a thousand or so vintage murals, there is even a resource from the Mural Museum, conveniently titled 1,000 Murals – From Pontiac Illinois to Tucumcari New Mexico. It provides information on finding those many elusive art forms on the back roads of middle America.
Perhaps I will stop and see a few more of these amazing murals on my return trip to Arizona. Wouldn’t it be an adventure to follow parts of Route 66 and document the murals in photographs? I only had a (very) short time to snap these few photos as Sherpa and I took a short break from driving.
But it would be even more fun to stop awhile in some of these towns, say hello to the local citizens, and see more than the back ends of speeding trucks making time on the Interstate.
Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. Sometimes she needs to rush along and traveling on the Interstates make sense, but she much prefers to take her time and see the country she is traveling through.