Mother Road of America Route 66
In the ‘70’s while cruising the Mother Road of America Route 66 on his Harley Davidson motorcycle, photographer Martin Garfinkel captured a piece of history with his Route 66 collection of photos.
As you stare at these cool images of vintage neon signs, listen to his fun stories, you can practically vision yourself there. Garfinkel had mentioned that New Mexico is one of his favorite places to shoot. Having never been on or seen Route 66, I was just in awe. Then one day, photographer Marty hands me seven images taken back when and says “go see if these neon signs are still intense in the night and what businesses are still functioning.” I’m so on this boss man, loving road trips it was time to travel & off I went to experience the Mother Road of America Route 66.
The excitement builds to finally get to experience the vibe of Mother Road of America Route 66 in Tucumcari.
As I sailed smoothly for some hours through what seems to be like the middle of nowhere; so anxiously approaching route 66 boulevard.
The motels & restaurants & iconic neon signs of Tucumcari, NM
The first one I see that looks familiar is Del’s Restaurant neon sign with the big bull on top. Remembering Mr. Garfinkel telling us about the days before the interstate bypass, when it seemed like the whole world passed in front Del’s Restaurant http://www.delsrestaurant.com/. Which is not only a great place to eat local beef & its friendly service all dressed in their cowboy attire, it has made it an alluring landmark on Route 66. A woman named Jessica owned it, and then in 1995 her two daughters purchased it to bring Del’s Restaurant back to its glory days and revive the historic Route 66. With all their hard work it is still the busiest place in town but it is up for sale today and hopefully the next owner will take the same pride in that special piece of the mother road of America.
Then, just a few doors down is the eerie Apache Motel. In the 70s & 80s the big arrowhead neon that once lite the mother road up bright and filled with guests all summer. Now all boarded up it gives you the feeling as if this business tried to hang on as long as possible. The big arrowhead sign is standing with the Indian painted on top still visible but now all faded and stripped of all neon. Those lands will not be stripped of Apache tribes and their spiritual dances though those still strongly exist in all the surrounding towns.
For such a small town this place is loaded with great old signs; this one is no exception.
Now don’t forget this town is not that big this piece of the Mother Road of America Route 66 is like a mile or two long, which in the past you can tell the streets were all lite up and lined up with bikers almost like a street party. One of the most popular places to stay which is just as historic as the route it sits on is The Blue Swallow Motel, (originally known as The Blue Swallow Court) https://www.blueswallowmotel.com/ so admired that most of the time this motel is booked up months in advance still today. This quint motel lights up the whole boulevard with its admiring vibrant neon; with classic cars parked all around this establishment, guests sitting outside soaking up the saga of a time in history. This restored gem is truly one of my favorites.
The old Ranch House Café in Tucumcari was open in 1953; their slogan of “Good Food Always-Always Good Food” was not enough to keep this café open on the old Route 66 Boulevard. They were one of the first to offer drive up style service. Even though little pieces lye on the ground under it, it has weathered quite gracefully. Love this nostalgic Mother Road of America Route 66 and the vibe it gives off!
Tucumcari has been touted the best concentration of retro Route 66 neon signs on what’s left of the Mother Road of America. Such as The Wash Lady Neon – Boulevard Cleaners, La Cita Restaurant neon, the Lasso Motel it’s these amazing neon signs that call you from a distance to come see what this business are offering.
Today there are more boarded up business than there are operating, it is sad in a way. Whether something is a landmark or a piece of history or roadside archeology, visiting photographers still shooting photos up & down this stretch of road. Just like photographer Martin Garfinkel who captured a place in time; a bygone era that we can all enjoy a time in history through his iconic images. For the love of neon signs, thanks; it is to these people that all of us should thank for preserving our unique American past that is fading quickly. “Go get your kicks on Route 66”
Director of Roadside Gallery
Debbi Fadli has lived in Carbondale, Colorado for 14 years after raising her two beautiful children in Morocco. She has a passion for fine art photography and for the past 3 years, besides doing sales, she has taken the work of photographer Martin Garfinkel and designs an astonishing range of fine art photo merchandise.