Day Eight on Route 66 — Vintage motels and travel parks

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(July 1, 2016) Mom and pop motels, camp grounds and trailer courts were filled with visitors during the summer months at the height of Route 66's popularity from the 1930s through the 1960s. So part of the fun of recreating the Route 66 experience from Chicago to Santa Monica is staying at vintage stopovers. There are several and the MotorwayAmerica crew has jumped on the opportunity to discover how it really was to get "your kicks on Route 66."

On Wednesday night we checked into the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, N.M. It's a vintage motel opened in 1940 featuring a garage for every room. It's owners have remodeled the 12-unit L-shaped motel that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Architectural features include a facade with stucco walls with what seems like acres of neon to light up the night sky.

With the look and feel of the '50s, but the modern comforts of today's world such as cable television and free  wifi, we found it not only pleasingly nostalgic, but very comfortable. Named by Smithsonian Magazine as "the last, best and friendliest of the old-time motels," the Blue Swallow remains a profitable operation today. They were booked up Wednesday, the no vacancy sign was out.

On Thursday we made the more than 200-mile trek from Tucumcari to Albuquerque where we stayed at the Enchanted Trails RV Park and Trading Post. No, we didn't pick up a travel trailer on the way. The RV park, located on old Route 66, has six vintage trailers for rent from a 1956 Yellowstone to a 1974 Silver Streak. Jim and Luci Meachen booked the very spacious and comfortable '74 "Della" Silver Streak complete with full kitchen and bath. Ted and Trudye Biederman spent the night in "Josephine," a 1969 Airstream.

Our vintage 1974 Silver Streak travel trailer, which was home for one night

We found the refrigerators full of ice and the ice conditioning systems capable of making it as frigid inside as you could stand. If you want a shower, you will have to go to the main building, however. Prices are more than reasonable ranging from $56 to $86.

Adding to the nostalgic atmosphere are two vintage cars, a 1950 Hudson backed up to a 1956 travel trailer, and an old Packard.

Check out Day Seven — A museum and the Cadillac Ranch

We spent a relaxing evening of eating dinner and shopping in the Old Town district of Albuquerque Thursday before heading to Holbrook, Ariz., today where we will take another trip back in time staying at the famous Wigwam Village Motel, a collection of steel free-standing teepees arranged in a semi-circle around the main office. Each teepee is 21 feet wide at the base and 28 feet high. Rooms feature the original hand-made hickory furniture and each is equipped with a sink, toilet and shower. 

Our trip Thursday was spent perusing the Route 66 Auto Museum
in Santa Rosa, shopping at the huge Clines Corner travel center off Interstate 40, and visiting the remains of a couple of abandoned towns on old 66, which lost their business when Interstate 40 opened in 1973. We photographed the remains of several buildings in Newkirk and Cuervo. Unfortunately much of the route from Tucumcari to Albuquerque had to be made on the interstate because those portions of Route 66 have been lost with modern road construction.

We also found time to photograph several very nifty abandoned cars including a 1939 Studebaker truck and a 1964 or 65 Chevrolet Corvair Monza convertible. (You can find a large photographic display of abandoned cars and trucks at MotorwayAmerica, with new abandoned "gems" added weekly.)

Today we will be back on large portions of the Mother Road covering 250 miles to Holbrook, Ariz.