The Lasso Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico was bulldozed in February 2010. Who knows when it roped in its last customer, but as far back as 1970, it was creating hellish experiences for travelers. Get a load of this comment I swiped from Flickr user, butitsmine:
“In June of 1970 my husband and two daughters arrived at 9:30 pm in Tucumcari tired and hungry. We needed to stop for the night on the way to Tucson, and there was apparently some kind of convention in town and all the motels were full…save for the Lasso. And I think I know why. The place was a disaster. Water for the lavatory had to be turned off below the lavatory at the pipe. There was no bathroom door…only a curtain. The sheets were dirty. A sign on the wall threatened immediate prosecution if guests took anything from the room. I swore to prosecute if I did take anything. I think they were accustomed to renting by the hour…definitely not for travelers. Our family has had many laughs over that oasis in the night.”
Ewww. And, yikes!
There are a treasure trove of retro signs in Tucumcari. It’s commendable that the city, its citizens and property owners and/or the Route 66 roadies and advocates have had the foresight to hold onto them. It’s a shame that the motels could not be restored, too, and I’m afraid before all is said and done several more are going to meet the wrecking ball.
It’s absolutely wonderful what Kevin and Nancy, the owners of the Blue Swallow Motel, are doing. They, along with the owners of the Safari Motel and the Motel Americana, are keeping the spirit of Route 66 alive and well. All three hotels are really well kept and provide a great experience for travelers. When I expressed concern to Kevin that they didn’t have a pool he said, “Your kids will love it. They’ll think it’s Radiator Springs.”
It took me a second to realize he was talking about the fictional town of Cars fame. Like Tucumcari, Radiator Springs was once a popular stopover for travelers along U.S. Route 66. But, then came Interstate 40 and the decline of “the Will Rogers highway.”
Sullivan and Bridgette, my younger two, absolutely believed we were in Radiator Springs, and Juliette got a big kick out of the Tow-Mater mural painted inside one of the garages at the Blue Swallow. We even took them Tucumcari Mountain, which was inspiration for the mesa scene.
All that to say, despite the abandonment and blight of the once vibrant motels along Tucumcari’s Route 66, there is still commerce, folklife and tourism in these special parts of America. People like Kevin and Nancy are keeping it going, and they’re doing a fabulous job.
It was so pleasant being in Tucumcari. I got up at 5 a.m. and watched the sun break through the deep blue, cloud filled sky. Kevin even walked out of the lobby and across the gravel parking lot to bring me a cup of coffee. This small gesture created such a stark contrast to corporate-owned hotels with their coffee pods. Lordy, someone save me from that stripped-down, sterilized version of life — at least once in awhile!
Give me Route 66 with its abandoned motel parking lots full of weeds, the relentless hope of faded signs and people who understand the value and importance of historic preservation.
By the way, it’s been more than 50 years since I-40 created a colossal and devastating detour from Route 66. In the last year, Oklahoma City in conjunction with numerous state and federal agencies completed a much-needed realignment and bridge replacement of the Interstate. And, still for Route 66, there is no resignation in sight.
Have you ever seen any abandoned motels on Route 66?