11/18/2014 04:18 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Route 66, Ride for the Relay, Day Six

Thursday September 11, 2014
From Amarillo, Texas to Santa Rosa, New Mexico

Today was another action packed day for this merry band of travelers on the great Mother Road! We started our day with a moment of silence for those who were victims of the horrible events on 9/11/2001, followed by personal tributes and dedications.

Our first stop, Cadillac Ranch, was only a few miles west of Amarillo and a place I've wanted to visit for years! I was taken aback by its location and the complete lack of commerciality. For some reason I had expected an attraction similar to others along the route - but it is far from that. Picture a wide open field of mud and scrubby grass fenced off by barbed wire, with nothing else as far as the eye can see except a bunch of Cadillacs stuck in the ground. It's an art piece in a constant state of flux as most visitors bring cans of spray paint and gleefully add their own "artistic" touches to the cars.


This ongoing work in progress was originally created in 1974 by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels who were part of the highly creative "Ant Farm" artist's group. They were fortunate enough to hook up with local millionaire and patron of the arts, Stanley Marsh III who accepted their offer to stack ten mid-century Cadillacs buried nose deep in the earth at the exact angle of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.

Our group has a theme color each year and everyone brings spray paint in that color for just this moment - this year it's "luck o' the Irish green! One contingent completely turned an entire car green and then added the words "Ride for the Relay"- our momentary grab at perpetuity. Others just had fun doodling anywhere they pleased on any car that caught their eye.

We had decided to stay with the group through lunch - it's fun to pretend we're bikers (well, just a bike with four wheels, a roof over its head, and air conditioning!) So when we're tooling along at a good clip with these folks we too have that feeling of liberation - sans the wind blowing through our hair/helmets! Before we got onto Highway #40 (which often shares the same route as #66) we all stayed together in one long line and team photographer Judy Royse and her husband Butch shot this short video of all of us from an overpass. So great to see everyone together - and that's us in the little gray Echo at the end of the pack!

Our next stop was the exact midpoint of Route 66 in Adrian, Texas. The sign says it's 1,139 miles to Chicago and 1,139 miles to Los Angeles. Hard to believe it's taken us this long to get only halfway! We've commented many times about how it must have been for the folks that traveled this route in the 1930s and '40s. What a long and arduous journey it must have been, especially in the hot summer months. I was really taken by this seemly vast and desolate landscape in the Panhandle, with few landmarks except the occasional towering grain silo, the wind farms, and of course many abandoned gas stations.


There's a cute little cafe here called of all things "The Midpoint Cafe" that serves something called "ugly pie." I can't imagine why, because at the prompting of all the folks who have done this ride, our arms were twisted into having a piece - I had the pecan, tasted the chocolate pecan, and Jen had the apple pie. All were top notch - not one thing ugly about any of them!

Back on the road and very soon - boom - signs welcoming us to New Mexico! Now we're feelin' like we're "out west." The landscape this morning in Texas was completely flat - but very soon after Adrian, we noticed little gullies forming in the dry earth and next thing you know we were seeing mesas and deeper gullies developing, and sage brush! I'm always curious about the underlying reasons for these shift changes you see as you move across the county. So fascinating and so beautiful.

My heart was beating faster as we pulled into Tucumcari, New Mexico, as I've seen many pictures of the classic motels and signs in this tiny town. I certainly was not disappointed, however it is really sad to see so many of these great spots out of business and abandoned. It is also evident that there is a movement afoot to keep the Route 66 spirit alive - enter the proprietors of the Blue Swallow Motel, Kevin and Nancy Mueller. When we first approached the office was closed, but there were still lots of great photos to be taken. So I wandered around appreciating all the love that's gone into keeping the place so nice. That's when I bumped into a woman cleaning who upon prompting told us she was one of the owners. What a delight she was. She told us that she and her husband had only owned it for about three years and had come from Michigan looking for a new life when the economy went south. From all appearances their decision was a good one - lovely office and gift shop - I now am the proud owner of a Blue Swallow Motel t-shirt to add to my growing Route 66 clothing collection. Here's a sampler of some of the great signs in Tucumcari.


Typical now of the afternoons on this journey, we were wearing down and decided to forge ahead to our hotel in Santa Rosa to chill a bit and go for a swim. We joined a few of our fellow travelers for an excellent dinner at a vintage Mexican restaurant called Joseph's Bar and Grill. I would highly recommend the Santa Fe Enchiladas with green chile - soulful homemade flavors. Upon exiting the restaurant the sky was ablaze with color and I rushed back to the motel to grab my camera. Missed the best color, but still captured some great early evening light. And I finally captured a few great neon signs too - this was a banner day for photos!


I am so thrilled to be in New Mexico. Tomorrow we're going to Santa Fe on one of the Route 66 alignments that swings in a big U up north and then back south to Albuquerque. Should be a great day. Thanks for coming along for the ride!