Sixty-Six: New Mexico to Arizona
I landed in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Sunday, September 22nd at 8:15am. I picked up my rental car and hit the road for Lupton, Arizona, stopping in every town I could find along Route 66.
Pueblo of Laguna is the largest of the Keresan pueblos. The reservation consists of roughly 500,000 acres of land spanning four counties; Cibola, Valencia, Bernalillo and Sandoval. It is believed that the ancestors of the pueblo have occupied this area since A.D. 1300. Laguna Pueblo was my first stop on Route 66 and left me feeling inspired to explore as much of New Mexico as I possibly could in 4 days.
Paraje sits within the lands of Laguna Pueblo. In 2010 the population was 777. Not much is left aside from adobe homes and the St. Margaret Mary Mission. The church was constructed in 1935 and hosts a Patron Saint feast day every year on October 17th.
Budville, just a few miles from Paraje, has no shortage of amazing beer signs. In fact, ‘Budville’ is written so frequently next to pictures of Bud Light that I thought it may have been some kind of weird marketing gimmick from years ago. Budville is actually named after Bud Rice who opened several businesses in the town from 1928 to 1967, when Bud and one of his employees were tragically murdered. There’s a lot of conflicting information from news reports and town locals, but the gist is some folks say it was a vagrant passing through while others say it was some guy named Max that Bud’s wife got married to shortly after Bud’s death. The weirdest piece of the puzzle is that Max, the accused, was also killed in a fight in Budville just mere feet from where Bud died.
San Fidel is a village in Cibola County. The town had a population of 137 as of July 2019. In 1926, Route 66 was aligned with the "Old National Trails" which connected Gallup, Grants and Albuquerque. Route 66 passes through the San Jose River Valley and runs directly through the town. Not much is left in San Fidel aside from a few old buildings and a post office.
Perhaps one of the most photographed buildings along Route 66, the old Whiting Brothers filling station sits hidden amongst the trees just between San Fidel and McCartys. Whiting Brothers was established in 1926, the same year as Route 66, and were some of the most popular gas stations in the southwestern United States with 200 locations and 44 along Route 66 alone. Whiting Brothers filling stations quickly declined by the 70s due to gasoline shortages and being bypassed by I-40. One Whiting Brothers gas station remains open in Moriarty, New Mexico. Now all that's left of most Whiting Brothers are reminders of what used to be.
McCartys is an unincorporated community in the Rio San Jose valley, a tributary of the Rio Puerco River. The small town originated as a farming and trading community on the Acoma Indian reservation. It was later named after a railroad contractor who established his camp there during the 1880s.
The Santa Maria Mission can be seen as you drive along I-40. Priests from nearby Gallup served McCartys until 1966 when the mission was established as a canonical parish.
The Sands Motel sign greets you as you drive along Route 66 into Grants. The motel's claim to fame is that it was a personal favorite of Elvis and wife Priscilla while on tour. The motel still operates today and you can rent a room through Expedia for just $32 a night.
Pinkston's Western Wear in Milan. While it's obvious this store has been closed for many years, a Google search turned up another location for Pinkston's located just up the street. I was immediately drawn to the Chevy C10 sitting outside and while it made for some amazing photographs, I never love to see a good Chevy wasting away in the elements.
The Blue Spruce Lodge sits right off Route 66 in Gallup, New Mexico. The motel was built in 1949 and has 19 units. According to an old postcard, it's selling points were: steam heat for winter, tiled bathrooms, wall-to-wall carpeting, and "radio clock combinations" in each room. The lodge still operates to this day and can be booked online.
The Golden Desert Motel is still operating and was under renovation at the time of my visit. Hopefully those renovations will include updated amenities.
Lupton sits along Route 66 just past the border of New Mexico. At the 2010 census, the town had a whopping 25 residents. The town is known for its painted sandstone cliffs formed between 60 and 200 million years ago. Most of the businesses in town are Indian trading posts that have been open since before Route 66 was built through the area.
Continental Divide, New Mexico
The Continental Divide is where rainfall divides into the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. There are Indian trading posts on both sides of the Divide with signs promising homemade goods made by local Indian tribes. I'll admit they suckered me in, but the highlight of the trip had to have been the New Mexican beer I enjoyed sitting in the trunk of my rented Subaru while watching the sunset over the mountains. In that moment I felt truly alone but also the most comfortable I have ever felt; just me alone with my thoughts, the passersby barreling down I-40, and thoughts of all the adventures I've yet to take.
All photos were shot on Kodak Ektar or Kodak Portra 400 using a Canon Elan 7NE. If you have any questions or would like to chat further about my trip, please shoot me a line at [email protected]
Kat (Emily) Swansey