After a relatively pleasant nights rest, with a few terriyaki bowl induced dreams, at the Sandia Peak Inn we dusted a fine layer of ash from the Arizona wildfires off the windshield, loaded up on granola bars, coffee, and juice, loaded our gear, topped off the tank, and set out along Central Avenue, Route 66, in Albuquerque. Less than a few miles into our adventure the flood of morning traffic forced us to take to the interstate but we refused to let the Route 66 frame of mind be washed away.
So, as our first destination was Santa Fe and the pre 1937 alignment of Route 66, we abandoned the interstate highway and the modern generic age at Tijeras and turned north on highway 14. The ancient old towns embraced by stunning landscapes along this highway were on the fast track to becoming ghosts before their rediscovery by eclectic artists and refugees from the hippie movement a few years ago.
As it turned out it was a delightful morning and with the exception of the few miles near where the highway joins I-25 at Santa Fe, we had the road to ourselves. This provided ample opportunity for steeling ourselves before running the gauntlet that is modern traffic squeezed into the narrow roads of the ancient capital of Santa Fe. 

The historic Pigeon Ranch on the pre 1937
alignment of Route 66.

The plan had been for a stroll and coffee near the historic plaza but that idea was quickly abandoned. With thoughts solely focused on escape and survival we instead drove the maze in the desperate hope that we would find an exit even if it was I-25.

1921 bridge on the Pecos River at San Jose, New Mexico.

At exit 299, just east of Glorietta Pass, once the highest point on Route 66 and the scene of a pivotal battle during the American Civil War, we again bid the modern era adios and took to the pre 1937 alignment of Route 66 that twists and turns its way through the forested hills to Pecos and on to the ghost town of Romeroville. At the historic Pigeon Ranch, an important stop on the Santa Fe Trail as well as the field hospital during the battle of Glorietta Pass and an early tourist attraction on Route 66, we dug into the ice chest for some lemonade, took some time to unwind from the Santa Fe trauma, and gave free reign to the imagination at this magical place that has served as center stage for almost two centuries of history.
San Jose, New Mexico

With spirits renewed, we set out for the little village of San Jose located on an even earlier alignment of Route 66 that dead ends at a iron truss bridge on the Pecos River that dates to 1921. But Route 66, 1921, and even World War I is recent history in this quaint little village where the only intrusion from the modern era is graffiti left by taggers on the vintage bridge.
Here, to drive Route 66 through town is to follow the very ruts of the Santa Fe Trail. Here, the quaint little adobe church has cast its shadow across the road west since 1826.

With the urge for lunch, and another special treat for my dearest friend as incentive, we reluctantly climbed back into the Jeep and left the beauty of the Pecos River behind as we returned to the more modern incarnation of Route 66. Old 66 originally turned south at Romeroville but long ago it was replaced by U.S. 84. However, I had my sights set on something a bit more in tune with the Route 66 experience.

The plaza in Las Vegas, New Mexico

So, we made a ten mile detour into the modern era on I-25 and exited into the year 1890 at Las Vegas. This beautiful old city shows its age but it has long been on my list of places yet to be shared with my dearest friend.
After cruising the historic district with its narrow streets and tree shaded plaza in search of a parking place, we found one in front of a western wear store that has been owned by the same family for more than fifty years. Across the street was a neat little book store, Tome on the Range, that just begged us to explore.
As it turned out they had my book, Ghost Towns of the Southwest, on display. The offer to sign copies was heartily accepted and provided an excellent opportunity to introduce the owner to my latest book, Ghost Towns of Route 66.
Time, and hunger, seemed to vanish as we explored shops, strolled the streets, and listened to a Mexican band in the plaza. Skipping between the past and the present we moved around the plaza making our way to my surprise destination, the stunning landmark that is the Plaza Hotel.
Built in 1882 for the staggering sum of $25,000, this historic gem is well preserved with but the slightest overlay of the modern era. Upon entering the lobby you can almost see the ghostly vestige of Teddy Roosevelt as he presides over the first reunion of the Rough Riders or the shocked faces of the crowd as the sheet draped body of the man killed by Doc Holliday is removed from the saloon.

Plaza Hotel, Las Vegas, New Mexico

As we still had miles to go, and the afternoon sun was still high in the sky, we postponed a nights stay for another time and instead settled in for a delightful lunch. What could be finer than a setting such as this and a wonderful meal with my dearest friend?
As every effort was being made to maintain a Route 66 state of mind, we elected to follow highway 104, a venerable old two lane road that does a fair job of emulating the more famous highway. At first the landscapes that rolled past the windows and that stretched to the horizon in front of the hood were rather mundane ones of open rolling prairie but without warning, just south of the old town of Trujillo, the highway made a dramatic and precipitous drop through a narrow canyon onto the desert floor.

We enjoy the mountains with their pine scented breezes but it is the deserts that hold our hearts. So, as traffic was light we drove slowly to savor the landscapes and made frequeant stops to revel in the raw beauty of the land.
As we rolled onto the ghostly streets of Tucumcari, the sun was fast settling toward the western horizon and into the haze of smoke. But that was okay as it was here, at the historic Motel Safari, that we had decided a perfect day would end.