Cruisin’ New Mexico Route 66 Albuquerque to Grants

Route 66, the legendary highway connecting Chicago to LA is mostly gone. What remains attracts road trippers from the USA and from around the world. Many drive the “mother road,” a name coined by John Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath, on Harleys inspired by the 1969 film, Easy Riders. The road goes through six states (seven if you count a short 13-mile stretch through Kansas). Before 1937, New Mexico Route 66 didn’t go through much of Albuquerque. At Santa Rosa it headed north almost to Las Vegas, NM, where it headed west to Santa Fe before angling south through Albuquerque to Las Lunas and then north to the present-day I-40 corridor. In 1937, the highway was rerouted through The Duke City. We’ve driven the Albuquerque segment down Central Avenue countless. Recently, we drove historic New Mexico Route 66 from Albuquerque to Grants. We took the Pre-1937 alignment through Las Lunas.

Post-1937 New Mexico Route 66 through Albuquerque

New Mexico Route 66 - Lot of old Route 66 memories on Albuquerque's Central Avenue, photo Steve Collins

Lot of old Route 66 memories on Albuquerque’s Central Avenue, photo Steve Collins

To drive post-1937 New Mexico Route 66 take Central Avenue west starting at Louisiana Boulevard. Some of the motels from the historic highways heyday have seen better days as have the great old neon signs marking them. There are a few photo ops along the way.

New Mexico Route 66 - The 1927 Pueblo-Deco-style Kimo Theater on Albuquerque's Central Avenue photo Steve Collins

The 1927 Pueblo-Deco-style Kimo Theater on Albuquerque’s Central Avenue photo/Steve Collins

Don’t miss the 1927 Pueblo-Deco-style Kimo Theater downtown. Going through the city you may want to detour to Old Town, a block north, and walk around or visit some of the places made famous by the hit TV series, Breaking Bad. Get back on I-40 at Rio Grande Boulevard and stay on until Exit 117, Mesita. Once you exit, go right off the ramp and take the first left. This will become NM 124 taking you through the Laguna Pueblo and beyond.

Take a detour on pre-1937 NM Route 66

New Mexico Route 66 - The Rio Puerco Bridge can be seen from I-40, photo Steve Collins

The Rio Puerco Bridge can be seen from I-40, photo/Steve Collins

If you are a purist you can drive the pre-1937 stretch of New Mexico Route 66. Why was the road drastically redirected in 1927? You can read the fascinating story here. Pick up the old route by taking Albuquerque’s Central Avenue (the post 1937 route through the city) to 4th Street where you’ll make a left and head south. Make a left on Bridge Street and a left on Isleta Boulevard after crossing the Rio Grande. This will take you to Las Lunas where you pick up NM 6 which angles northwest to I-40. We drove the route and unless you’re a purist, stick to I-40 heading west. There wasn’t much of interest, though the landscape after Los Lunas was interesting.

Here are the towns you’ll go through driving historic New Mexico Route 66:

Laguna Pueblo

New Mexico Route 66 - Stop for a green chile cheeseburger at Laguna Burger, photo Steve Collins

Stop for a green chile cheeseburger at
Laguna Burger, photo Steve Collins

Once in NM 124 we passed through Laguna Pueblo and grabbed green  chile cheeseburgers at Laguna Burger. As you drive west through Laguna you’ll pass remnants of old historic buildings made from local stone.

Budville

New Mexico Route 66 - The derelict Budville Trading Co., photo Steve Collins

The derelict Budville Trading Company, photo/Steve Collins

This almost ghost town, was named for Bud Rice, who with his wife Flossie, opened a garage in the Route 66 town in 1928. As with many small towns the service station was a lot more. The Budville Trading Company was also a grocery and housed the post office.The town became infamous and got the nickname “Bloodville” when Bud and a woman who worked for him were killed during a robbery. The Budville Trading Company is also featured in the animated film, Cars. Stop and take a photo of the derelict garage.

Cubero

New Mexico Route 66 - Villa de Cubero Trading Post had an exciting history, photo Steve Collins

Villa de Cubero Trading Post had an exciting history, photo/Steve Collins

As you drive through Cubero, stop at the circa 1937 Villa de Cubero Trading Post. It’s rumored that the shop and service station’s long-gone tourist court once housed celebrities including Ernest Hemingway and Lucille Ball.

San Fidel

New Mexico Route 66 - St. Joseph's Church in San Fidel, NM,, photo Billie Frank

Angels guard the entrance to St. Joseph’s Church in San Fidel, NM,, photo/Billie Frank

Almost each hamlet along the way had a photo op to offer. Going through San Fidel we stopped to snap a photo or two of St Joseph’s Church built in 1920.

McCartys

New Mexico Route 66 - Whiting Brothers, service station had a mote; and grocery , photo Steve Collins

Whiting Brothers, service station had a mote; and grocery , photo Steve Collins

McCartys, located on Acoma Pueblo, is the western gateway for Acoma Sky City. It’s also the site of an abandoned Whiting Brothers service station. The Arizona-based company operated over 100 service stations on highways across America including 40 on Route 66.

New Mexico Route 66 - Trees have taken over this former gas station in McCsrtys, photo Steve Colins

Trees have taken over this former gas station in McCsrtys, photo Steve Colins

Down the road a bit from Whiting’s on the north side of the road we spotted an old service station almost completely taken over by trees. We had to stop and take a photo.

New Mexico Route 66 - Santa Maria Mission in McCartys, photo Steve Collins

Santa Maria Mission in McCartys, photo Steve Collins

We detoured on Pueblo Road to visit Santa Maria Mission.

Grants

New Mexico Route 66 - We loved the Grant's Cafe sign, photo Steve Collins

We loved the Grant’s Cafe sign, photo/Steve Collins

Grants, the Uranium Capital of the World, was once a thriving town. Today, you’ll see abandoned buildings with great signs, remnants of Route 66’s heyday. We had a great time taking photos of some of these. It’s also home to the New Mexico Mining Museum where you can visit a simulated underground uranium mine.

New Mexico Route 66 - You can take a selfie at Grants' neon drive-through arch, photo Steve Collins

You can take a selfie at Grants’ neon drive-through arch, photo/Steve Collins

The town clearly has a sense of humor. They’ve erected a drive-through neon arch that lights up at night complete with instructions on how to take the optimum selfie.

Gallup

El Rancho Hotel, Gallup, NM, photo Billie Frank

Gallup, bordering the Navajo Nation, is known as a great place to buy Navajo handcrafts including silver and turquoise jewelry and rugs. It used to be known for the incredible “dead pawn” jewelry at Tobe Turpen (now Perry Null) and Richardson’s Trading Posts. While both places are still going strong, the days of great pawn finds are mostly history. Don’t miss El Rancho Hotel. Built in 1937, it hosted many famous movie stars back in the day including John Wayne Gregory Peck, Errol Flynn, Humphrey Bogart, as well as Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. The rooms are named for many of the stars who stayed in them while shooting films in the area . The magnificent lobby is worth a visit.

Our next trip on NM Route 66

We have yet to drive the stretch of New Mexico Route 66 between Grants and Gallup but have been to Gallup on several occasions including a two-night stay in 1991 when I was buying Navajo jewelry for  a boutique I owned in Rhinebeck. On our next trip west we plan to pass through Bluewater, Prewitt, over the Continental Divide and through Wingate (home to the remains of Fort Wingate, built in 1868), Thoreau and Manulito retracing the mother road. Some offer a few things to see and others are just a blip on the map.

There are two reasons to ride Historic New Mexico Route 66 between Albuquerque and Gallup: you’re on a mission to ride what’s left of the mother road or you love getting off the Interstate and driving blue highways. We enjoyed our ride and as a bonus avoided some bumper to bumper traffic through construction sites on the interstate. We got our kicks on New Mexico Route 66!

Have you traveled Route 66? Here’s another post about the mother road.

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2 Responses to “Cruisin’ New Mexico Route 66 Albuquerque to Grants”

  1. Kelly
    September 26, 2017 at 10:26 pm #

    I’m done the trip!

    Never ate at Laguna Burger though. Maybe next time 🙂

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