There’s something about Route 66 border towns. I first noticed it along the Oklahoma/Texas border, at Texola, Oklahoma. There was nobody there. Buildings were abandoned, the streets were empty–it was a ghost town. After crossing the Texas panhandle, I was once again ready to jump into a new state, and once again found myself standing in the middle of a town that didn’t exist anymore.
It probably has more to do with Interstate exits than state line proximity. Route 66 towns bypassed by an interstate all suffered, but the ones that received two exits (and designated a business loop) still had a fighting chance. Towns like Glenrio, which were given just one interchange, never had a prayer. Making matters even worse, the old alignment of Route 66 turns to dirt, just west of town. The odds of anyone driving through town (besides a hardy road-tripper on a Mother Road quest) dropped to zero.
As you drive into Glenrio, there are some signs of life at a couple of buildings at the side of the road. These signs of life consist mostly of junked cars and other durable goods scattered around the front lawns (“lawn” being a very generous term to describe a field of weeds and grass).
Someone does care enough about this neat old art-deco cafe, to have posted “No Trespassing” signs around the property.
The most photographed site in Glenrio is the First/Last Motel in Texas. The motel sits immediately east of the state line (the buildings west of the motel are all in New Mexico–but there’s no state welcome sign). Unlike that cafe a few blocks up the street, nobody seems to care if you wander around the motel.
By the way, the old sign used to say “First Motel In Texas” on this side.
Walk inside, and you find the ceiling falling down, the tiles on the floor peeling up, and miscellaneous furniture and debris scattered all around. It’s hard to imagine travelers staring out this window as they downed a hamburger and a milk shake, on their way to Santa Fe or Amarillo.
The now-missing plastic sign used to read “Last Motel In Texas” on this side.
A row of motel rooms surrounds the cafe and office. Once again, there are no fences or warning signs, and most of the doors and windows have long since been kicked in or broken. I looked inside a couple of the rooms, but didn’t dare venture inside. Most looked like they were filled with some kind of animal droppings.
One state away (but only about 100 feet), the old post office at Glenrio, New Mexico hasn’t served a customer in decades. A few mailboxes stand as evidence of the number of people who live nearby.
Just as the path of old Route 66 turns from blacktop to dirt, there’s one more abandoned building. This one must have been an old gas station. Like all the others, it’s slowly decaying in the dry southwestern air.
Leaving Glenrio, Route 66 swings far enough away from Interstate 40, that you can truly feel the desolation and the overwhelming flatness of the landscape. There’s just one “town” along the way back to the interstate: Endee. A couple hundred people lived there at its peak, half a century ago, but now it’s nothing more than a crossroads with NM Rte. 93.
Note: This trip was first published in 2008.