I started my New Mexico trip on Saturday, May 7. My goal the first night was Tucumcari. I had planned to stay at the famous Route 66 hotel – The Blue Swallow – but during a phone call to them earlier I learned the hotel was temporarily closed. Its neon has been recently restored and Greg had stayed there before and heartily recommended it. Later in the trip, I learned that it’s for sale.
I arrived before nightfall and drove the route to take a look. Much of the neon in Tucumcari has been restored on old Route 66. There are also a couple of restaurants that date from its hey day, including Del’s Restaurant, where I had dinner. The food was nothing exceptional, but perfectly passable, and it was nice to eat in a place that has been there for about 50 years.
After dinner I headed out of town toward Conchas Lake State Park to camp for the night. When I say “camp” I mean sleeping in the back of my van – safe from animals, weather and other humans. I’m not sure one can really call it “camping” but it costs $8 to do it at this campground in a “primitive” site. I really am not sure what that means, but it was a beautiful place. I discovered the next morning when it was daylight that there were wildflowers in bloom all over the place, there was a beautiful lake, and after some searching I found the showers in another part of the park. I arrived after dark and finding my way around in the blackness prompted me to get to campsites earlier in the day the next few nights.
I continued on NM104, which is a beautiful road to drive, headed for Las Vegas. The road continued to climb and when I got out of the car at a beautiful spot with lots of rock and cactus, I realized I was suffering a tiny bit of altitude sickness – just minor – but I was very lethargic. The scenery was nice, though. I adore rocks, so this was very pleasant.
I hadn’t necessarily planned to go to Las Vegas, but I hadn’t really “planned” any part of the trip and the night before I decided to head that way to eat lunch at a restaurant I had read about in the Moon Guide. It’s the Spic and Span diner, also known as Charlie’s, and the recommended dish is “Al’s Special,” which is what I had. It’s an omlette, filled with tons of good things including ham, peppers, veggies and cheese. It was mighty good. Of course, I was traveling with Ace Jackalope in tow – what trip would be complete with the Lope?
I really enjoyed my little visit to Las Vegas, New Mexico. It isn’t a place I’ve ever hear much about, but it was one of my favorite parts of the trip. It was a great diversion and I imagine it will become a regular stop when I’m in the Land of Enchantment.
I headed on up the road toward Santa Fe.