Tucumcari, New Mexico
Today was a novel day. I got a few miles in on what is now cited as Historic Route 66. Many exits on I-40 have signage to that effect, but most often, the start of the route itself is nowhere to be found. Without having pre-prepped routing independently, I either wound up on wrong choices or kept getting shunted back to the Interstate. Whatever. The Rio Puerco bridge you see above came to be in 1934 and became a late alignment of Route 66 in 1937. (Parts of Route 66 changed continually since its start in the 1920s as various pavements were upgraded to handle the traffic. In some cases, paved roads replaced dirt roads.)
This bridge is one of the longest single span steel truss bridges (250 feet) built in New Mexico, the result of an effort to avoid using a center truss in the river bed. The Rio Puerco is one of those rivers that had (has?) floods violent enough to cause bad erosion, and it had a penchant for collapsing every previous bridge built here. Once it proved its mettle, it was deemed worthy of becoming part of Route 66. It was “remodeled” in 1957 to gain more vertical clearance for trucks, and guard rails were added to protect the trusses. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997, and the concrete bridge on the left replaced it in 1999 to do yeoman duty for what is now a mere frontage road.
A rare accident later on I-40 caused quite a traffic jam for awhile, the visible remnants of which were a shredded guard rail over a nasty drop, and just beyond, half a dozen cars parked, with their occupants milling around. I don’t know what the story is with guard rails in New Mexico, as I came across three other warning signs about damaged guard rails, and they all looked like they disintegrated enough to let a vehicle through. NASCAR fencing, these apparently aren’t. But then, NASCAR fencing doesn’t have to handle loaded semis hurling into them.
The remainder of the drive was through fairly tame scenery, the only excitement being a hurried stop at a rest area to allow something I had for lunch to work its way through well ahead of schedule. Ah, the joys, rhythms, and impromptu surprises of interstate travel!
I’m overnighting in an abandoned Shell Travel Center in Tucumcari, New Mexico, and hoping I’ll have time to visit a local museum in the morning, before I journey eastward to a very nice city park in Meade, Kansas. This being the Memorial Day Weekend, my goal is to arrive late enough that most of the local campers will have cleared out by the time I get there. Experience has shown that this is not the best time to schedule in city parks and camping areas as part of a cross-country trip. Weekends make things tough enough, but holiday weekends multiply the availability problems. This place, with many buildings sprawling over several acres, has just one semi in it so far. Looks like nobody wants to camp out in a paved and deeply-potholed parking lot. To each his (or her) own.