SANTA FE ― From its earliest days of designation in 1926, Route 66 revolutionized vehicular travel in the United States by providing an interregional link for travel out west.
Throughout the midcentury, urban dwellers took to the Route to experience an undiscovered part of America, now more accessible from the comfort of their own personal vehicle. From this era, the modern day road trip was born and millions of Americans got their first taste of the landscapes, culture and cuisine that set New Mexico apart from all other states along Route 66.
Today, the New Mexico Tourism Department declares this the “Summer of the Mother Road,” releasing a short-length film, itineraries and an interactive map to entice travel to the Land of Enchantment. Visitors to NewMexico.org will find information about the 300-mile stretch of Route 66 between Glenrio, N.M. and Manuelito, N.M., along with statewide points of interest, a video playlist and roundup of special events happening along the Route this summer.
“When traveling Route 66 in its entirety, Illinois to California, New Mexico is the first spot where the scenery becomes dramatically different,” Tourism Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Latham said. “The fact that you can still find authentic cultural experiences among any of the 10 tribes and pueblos along the Route make New Mexico a standout for anyone craving a memorable summer trip.”
In the film, “The Mother Road,” enthusiasts and aficionados on and off the route share their own personal stories of the attractions and appeal of Route 66. From the rusty gas pumps and oil memorabilia of the Classical Gas Museum in Embudo, to the ghost of Albuquerque’s KiMo Theater, this film provides a glimpse into the art, history and culture that celebrate New Mexico’s section of Route 66.
Among the historic locations the film features is Tucumcari’s Blue Swallow Motel, whose unique nostalgic rooms and bright neon lights set it apart from other accommodations along the route. “It’s the only one that’s still operating on New Mexico Route 66,” said owner Kevin Mueller, speaking of the motor court design made up of small rooms separated by single car garages. Today the Blue Swallow stands much like it did when it was built in 1939, with the original awnings, windows, doors, fixtures and tile work still in place. “This is what Route 66 is all about. The unique experience.”
According to AAA, road trips saw an increase across the country in 2016 with 55 percent of Americans indicating that they were more likely to take a road trip than the previous year. The popularity of road trips in New Mexico has risen as well – nearly 16 percent of overnight trips in New Mexico were for the purpose of touring, compared to 8.6 percent for the U.S. overall.