Goodbye, New Mexico... Hello, Texas

Saturday, December 22, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Santa Fe, NM to Amarillo, TX
Apparently the world did not end yesterday, as some thought the ancient Mayan calendar predicted, for we woke Friday morning to clear skies and 15° in Santa Fe.  Three things were on our agenda for today:  moving across New Mexico toward Texas, hiding a letterbox in New Mexico, and finding a few boxes.

When we planned our route, seeking a hospitable place to leave our NM treasure, the best option we saw on the map was north on I-25 to the town of Ribera, and then south on New Mexico Highway 3 to Villanueva State Park.  The park turned out to be an ideal home for our letterbox.  Along the banks of the Pecos River (pictured above), the park sits at the base of 400-ft sandstone cliffs.  Rocky trails climb the canyon walls, and now one of the trails hosts a letterbox from Georgia.
The park takes its name from the nearby community of Villanueva, first settled in the 1790s.  A church built in 1830 still stands, but the village appeared to be quite impoverished.  Hardscrabble houses in various states of disrepair sat beside the winding road, many looking as if a strong wind might threaten their fragile integrity.  In the center of the village, someone had created an attractive mural on the building housing the community well.
After planting our letterbox in the state park, we continued south on NM-3 until we reached I-40, the highway-come-lately that replaced the legendary Route 66 in much of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona in the 1960s.  Originally opened in 1926, Route 66, also known as the 'Mother Road,' ran 2,500 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles and, in its heyday, was the most famous highway in America.
Santa Rosa, NM
Route 66 provided the primary artery of travel for those who migrated west to escape the Dust Bowl of the prairies in the 1930s and easier access to and from the Pacific Coast for increasing vacation traffic in the following decades.  With all the travelers streaming through the small towns along the route, business owners along the highway prospered, no longer having to depend on just local patronage.  Even today, some of these establishments continue to sell their retro appearance to the nostalgia buffs who remain fans of the 'Main Street of America.'
Another nostalgic Santa Rosa, NM, business
Not surprisingly, when I-40 came along in the 1960s to replace the two-lane thoroughfare, local business owners objected strongly to the rerouting of all that traffic from their doorsteps, with some even filing lawsuits to try to halt construction or, at the least, influence the course the freeway took through their area.  In the end, the old '66' businesses that ended up near the interstate had a better chance at survival, and many abandoned, and sometimes repurposed, buildings were left behind along the old highway.

Fortunately for us, these old Route 66 landmarks also attract letterboxers wistful for a trip down memory lane, so we found numerous boxes near these vintage sites today.  At the end of the day, we changed our plans to stay in a little New Mexican town near the border and pushed on into Amarillo, happy that the setting sun was no longer in our windshield.
Tomorrow we'll spend another day in Amarillo, visiting Cadillac Ranch and some of the panhandle's other quirky oddities and searching for some Texas letterboxes.  Five more letterboxes to plant.