Where the Kicks Keep Coming: Route 66 in New Mexico

Winding past ancient ruins, pueblos, wildlife, ice caves and American history, there is no road in the United States more iconic than Route 66. Even though it may look like little more than a vanishing relic in many places, there’s no denying that Route 66 is a special part of American mythology, and still holds plenty of attractions in the modern age. Outdoor adventures, romantic getaways and vacations to the fabled Route 66 must find their way through New Mexico, where the past, present and future meet all around you.

Historic Route 66 begins at its eastern terminus, Lake Shore Drive and Jackson Blvd in Chicago, and ends in Santa Monica, California. Constructed in 1926, Route 66 has served as an inspiration for authors, filmmakers and dreamers. Chroniclers of Route 66 run the gamut from John Steinbeck, whose wrenching 1940 novel Grapes of Wrath followed beleaguered migrant farmers leaving the Dust Bowl of Kansas and Oklahoma for a better life in California, to Bobby Troup’s encouragement for listeners to “get their kicks on Route 66”, to the titular 1960 TV show, to Kerouac’s hazy name-drops in On the Road, all the way up to the spirited homage of Disney/Pixar’s Cars. Many towns along the way commemorate the history of Route 66 with festivals, motor cruises and more, and preservation efforts are under way to preserve original attractions such as mom-and-pop businesses, service stations, restaurants, and motor courts.

During World War II, Route 66 became one of the main routes for war-related industries in California and moving military equipment. In the 50s, it became the main highway for vacationers heading to Los Angeles, bringing visitors past all manner of mid-century roadside attractions, some of them – like reptile farms – on the wild side. This is where the American fast food tradition was born, as well, with Red’s Giant Hamburg in Springfield, Missouri, the site of the first drive-through restaurant, and the first McDonald’s in San Bernardino, California.

New Mexico holds countless fascinations for lovers of American lore. Plan a trip through Route 66’s New Mexican segment and find attractions including Glenrio, an almost ghost town; the famed Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, listed on the National and State of New Mexico historic registers; La Bajada Hill, a winding, narrow road where Santa Feans would shepherd intimidated motorists down the hill for a chunk of change; the Blue Hole, an 87-foot-deep artesian spring near Santa Rosa that offers scuba diving; Coronado State Monument, an archaeological site that was being actively excavated in the early days of Route 66; and Pecos National Historical Park, laden with cultural and archaeological sites dating back to the days of the Santa Fe Trail and the Civil War.

Finding lodging along this route is both easy and exciting. Red Lion Inn & Suites is a reliable and convenient option for accommodations in New Mexico close to Route 66, as with our hotels in Gallup and Grants. Our generous service and top-notch amenities make your stay incomparably refreshing after a long day of sightseeing and experiencing all the route has to offer. Both of these well-appointed locations see a spike in traffic at certain times of year, so plan and reserve accordingly.

A turn-by-turn description of the route can be found at historic66.com. Remember to bring plenty of refreshments for the hot and dusty road, a spare tire, and an open mind! You never know what you’ll come across in your travels through Route 66 in New Mexico.