I have cruised through Groom, Texas on Route 66 more that a few times. We have spent a night or two there as well. Still, we never really took the time to explore the town itself.
So, after checking out of the Chalet Inn, and topping off the tank, we decided that sunrise might be an appropriate time to avoid morning rush hour traffic and see the sites. To be quite honest, I was pleasantly surprised.
There are a wide array of interesting historic buildings, commercial and non-commercial, that spark the imagination. However, it was the pleasant sense of community made manifest in the cared for laws and homes, the lack of graffiti defaced buildings, and friendly smile and wave from those we encountered that really endeared me to tiny, often overlooked Groom.
As we had explored Amarillo on the drive to Joplin, we zipped through town on the return journey and set our sites on the Midpoint Café for apple pie and coffee, an opportunity to visit with Dennis, the owner, and to check on Fran, the former owner who has opened the most charming little shop next door, Sunflower Station.
The next stop was in Tucucmcari for lunch with Kevin and Nancy Mueller (the owners of the iconic Blue Swallow Motel) at Kix on 66. We so enjoy an opportunity to visit with the Mueller’s as their passion and enthusiasm for Route 66, for providing the people who travel it a memorable experience, and for their adopted hometown is invigorating as well as inspirational.
We also met Heide Engman, one half of the new team of owners at the historic Tee Pee Curios in Tucumcari, and her son Riley. Three things were immediately obvious – these folks are going to do just fine once they settle in, they will be excellent stewards of this road side treasure, and the Route 66 community will be enriched by their contributions.
As our destination for the day was Gallup, and as it was mid afternoon when said goodbye to our friends in Tucumcari, the decision was made to suck it up and follow mind numbing I-40 at least as far as Grants. With the amount of road construction encountered I am not sure we really saved any time but we arrived at the historic El Rancho Hotel by early evening.
The old place is in need of some serious TLC but it is still a treat as well as a rare opportunity to experience a bit of Route 66 life as it was circa 1955. For the first time we had a ground room floor, surprisingly quiet, just off the lobby.
Among the many highlights of a stay at this historic hotel is the on site restaurant that serves excellent food at a price just above moderate in an atmosphere without equal. For me, however, it is breakfast the breakfast that has me hooked.
This is the only restaurant off the reservation that I am aware of where atole, a native blue corn hot cereal, and Navajo tea is listed the menu. I first discovered this treat when working up near Kayenta many, many years ago and am always pleased when there is an opportunity to start the day with a bowl of this hearty cereal.
Next, the last day on the road –