Discovering the world on $20 per day ......................

Post 172: Route 66, New Mexico

"Questo treno ferma a Tucumcari?" I'm sorry to disappoint all of you 'Spaghetti Western' fans, but today I learned that it doesn't, ... in fact there appears to be no railway line anywhere near Tucumcari. Perhaps there once was, .... perhaps like a lot of this 'once was' small town in New Mexico, the railroad has closed, ... gone,... failed, .... filed 'Chapter 11', .... or perhaps it was a different town altogether. I'll make it my goal to discover the truth, if Lee Van Cleef really did alight here, ....if the railway did ever exist, .... I'll find it.
Last night I enjoyed a great meal with Jason, we ate Mexican. He uses his Triumph Tiger the way that it should be used, ... he travels. Jason's seen places that I'd love to visit, he mentions State Parks and Heritage Sites along my route, he talks of the 'Natural Splendor', ...... he adds to my list of choices. Jason has followed Poor Circulation from the start, if fact on the day of departure, Jason and his family had actually been on holiday in the UK. We talk for a couple of hours, Jason considers it 'Brave' to be travelling like this, he's not sure that he could do it, ..... but I beg to differ. In the middle of this changing economic and social climate, Jason and his wife are raising a son, paying a mortgage and changing jobs, .. that's the brave thing to do. By comparison, cocking around a bike for six months is a breeze. In the car park behind the restaurant, we take photographs. Jason says he wasn't sure that I'd want to meet him, he didn't think that a 'World Traveller' would want to meet a guy from New Mexico who just happened to ride the same model of bike. He couldn't have been more wrong, this journey is all about meeting people, none of us are so different, .... I'm just lucky enough to have the opportunity to do this, .... and this opportunity will never come again.
I left Albuquerque this morning, I was late, I'd forgotten to set the alarm for 5am, .... perhaps I just didn't hear it, ... perhaps the motel bed was just too comfortable. The result was that I overslept and missed the dawn Balloon Fiesta, a spectacle that once upon a time was the worlds most photographed event. I'm not sure how such statistics are compiled or verified, .. but I do know that I've seen pictures of it in the past. Instead, I headed East on Route 66 towards Amarillo in Texas. (Yes, .. that Amarillo, .... Yes, it is annoying and No, I can't stop singing it either). I'm in New Mexico, it's hot under the cloudless sky, .. for the first time in my life I'm riding without a helmet, .. I don't feel like a rebel, ... I just feel slightly unsafe.
I stopped at a small 'Diner' for breakfast. I drank my bottomless coffee and waited for the waitress to finish researching her discounted 'Medicare' options with the gentleman wearing the white stetson on table five. With her health insurance issues resolved and her tip safely pocketed, she eventually arrives at my table to take the order. I ask for the 'Cowboy Joe' with a side order of bacon, .... she shouts towards the kitchen. It's too late, breakfast finishes at 10:30am. I check my watch, .. I check the clock on the wall just to make sure that I haven't secretly passed into another time zone, .... I haven't, it's 10:32am. I'm refused 'Breakfast'. I begin to leave, ... I'm asked to pay for my coffee, .. I count to ten, .. and continue out of the door, ... nobody followed me.
Route 66 is not what it used to be, the traffic flows past on the Interstate, .. the businesses and residents along Route 66 receive only the noise and pollution, ... they miss out on the dollars. For a traveller it's very 'artistic' but for the traders along this road, it's a slow and painful financial death. Its a very long road, San Bernardino to Chicago and I've only seen a few hundred miles of it, but on the stretches that I've travelled, at least half of the diners, motels and stores are closed. Route 66 is something of a 'Ghost Road', ... but they tell me that things are improving. Perhaps the trends in tourism are cyclical and maybe the towns along Route 66 will once again flourish. I hope so, because with the exception of the odd waitress, Route 66 definitely has a soul.

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