Friday, July 26, 2013

Las Vegas, NM to Stinnett Tx, via Route 66 and the Old West

Dilia Church
Wrapping up in the Las VegasNew Mexico area, we headed south on I-25 for just a few miles, then picked up Highway 84 to just west of  Santa Rosa. This is a stretch of Pre-1937 Route 66 in New Mexico before it was straightened out, cutting off this northern loop that used to go through Santa Fe.

Along the way to Santa Rosa you'll pass through a couple of spots in the road. Like Apache Springs with just a few scattered houses and some ruins off the side of the road, and Dilia which shows a little more life, but still a small ranching/farming community.  We experienced beautiful landscapes as we continued down in elevation, full of "nothingness" but gorgeous at the same time.

After a small jaunt on I-40, we veered back onto the Mother Road at Santa Rosa,
Sun N Sand in Santa Rosa
the City of Natural Lakes. Founded in 1865, the town began as nothing more than a large Spanish Rancho, and was called Aqua Negro Chiquita. Sometime around 1890, it took a new name honoring a chapel built by Don Celso Baco who named it for his wife and Saint Rose of Lima, the first canonized Saint of the "New World." Today, this popular town along America's Mother Road still provides area attractions through nearby lakes and streams, as well as plenty of photo ops through town of some of it's decades old and still operating Route 66 Icons.

Old Motor Court in Newkirk
Between  Santa Rosa and Tucumcari is what we refer to as a ghost town stretch of Route 66 that includes Cuervo, Newkirk and Montoya.  These small towns got their start from Ranching and Railroad and for a time they were bustling with activity from the many travelers of Route 66.  Today they are a shell of their former self with very few residents.  The buildings tell of a time before the interstate when these small communities were important stops. Read more about this stretch HERE.

Blue Swallow Motel 
After the ghost town stretch you'll find plenty more photo ops and some tasty choices in Tucumcari. Heading east into town you will first come to the New Mexico Route 66 Museum, dedicated to exploring the states 604 miles of original Mother Road.  Up and down 66 through town you'll find icon after icon, like the famous Blue Swallow Motel, or Del's Restaurant (mighty tasty mexican food by the way..loved our lunch here). Once nicknamed "Six Shooter Siding", this town started around 1901 with the railroad and quickly became a bit rowdy with saloons, gamblers, dance hall girls and the like. Today travelers can get a great feel for the 1940's and 50's era of the Mother Road as many of the businesses have done a great job keeping up the Neon, and others have been painted with Route 66 themes.

This would be all of the Mother Road on this segment of the trip though, as we cut north on Highway 54 for an overnight stay in Logan, just outside of Utte State Park, on our way to more old west history in the Texas Panhandle.  (Stayed at Arrowhead RV Park on the east edge of town.  Under new ownership for about a month, this was an alright stop for the night with full hookups, but was mostly long term campers working in the area. A little TLC, which the owner is in the process of giving, will go a long way here. Paid $15 (tax included) with our Passport membership). 

Logan to Stinnett and Hutchinson County History

At one time this bar was a bank
Not too far down the road from Logan on Highway 54 we came into Nara Visa, a ghost town lovers delight. This early 1900's town was built on the railroad, and started off as Narvaez, but English speaking settlers managed to mangle the name until it became Nara Visa. What is now just a small town with an open post office and Motel on the western end used to be home to several churches, eight saloons, dance halls, stores, and more.  What used to be the bank, turned into a bar and looks like something we've seen in a movie, but couldn't find anything in our immediate research.

This was a gem of photo ops for Kathy and I, but unfortunately for "me", my camera decided it was time to
There were quite a few old vehicles on
property along the highway in Nara Visa.
retire, so Kathy got all the fun.  We also heard from a reader on our Facebook page that the bank (now closed bar), which was the First National Bank of Nara Visa, was at one time the most robbed bank in the United States, including, according to our reader, by the Pretty Boy Floyd gang.

After some quality time in Nara Visa, we pushed onto the Texas Panhandle for Cal Farley's Boys Ranch, which used to be the Old West town of Tascosa.  This was once a rival to Dodge City for cattle markets, and was the capital of 10 counties. The post office was established in 1878, and by the 1880's it was already a rough town, famously known for a gun fight in 1886 at the Jenkins Saloon between two panhandle ranch factions that left four dead.  You can visit their graves at the Boot Hill cemetery on the way into town.

Once in Cal Farley's Boys Ranch you need to check into the main office, then walk across the street to the Julian Bivins Museum, housed in the original courthouse.  It, and the old school house are the only two original structures remaining from Tascosa, which died as a town after the railroad built 50 miles north of town.  By the 1930's the town was dead and Cal Farley's Boys Ranch was built on the site in 1938.

From Cal Farley's we headed onto our destination for the next couple of days, Hutchinson County seat Stinnett Texas.

For Legends' 10th Anniversary, Kathy wanted to pay tribute to her roots in the Texas Panhandle, as it was her Grandmother Irene Foster which gave her the "history bug" as a child.  Hutchinson county has a pretty interesting history, especially with the oil industry.  Like the wild and wooley town of Borger just a few miles down the road from Stinnett that was once so corrupt that the Governor of Texas had to send in the Texas Rangers. You can read our full story on Borger HERE.

Stinnett wasn't always the county seat. The extinct town of Plemons held that honor for several years after getting it's start in the late 1800's.  Hutchinson county is also home to Adobe Walls, the first trading post in this region established back in 1843.  Just a marker in a field now, Adobe Walls also has the grave of William Billy Dixon, famous scout, buffalo hunter and Indian Fighter.  Dixon was involved with the second "Battle of Adobe Walls", and is credited with being a hero two days into the battle, when a bullet from his Sharps buffalo rifle knocked an Indian off his horse nearly a mile away (perhaps exaggerated. Dixon himself never claimed credit for his "long shot."

Irene Womble Foster, the
inspiration for Legends Of America.
Kathy's great grandfather William Carson Womble settled in the area around 1902 and was good friends with Dixon up until Dixon's death in 1915.  Womble would go on to become a county commissioner and played an important role in building the new county courthouse in Stinnett in the 1930's, which has his name engraved in the cornerstone of the building.  Later, Kathy's grandfather Ben Foster (who married Irene Womble whom Kathy dedicates Legends Of America too) became the mechanical engineer for the courthouse.  He and Irene would live in the basement apartment at the building for years, raising their children there.  We took a tour of the courthouse so Kathy could relive childhood memories of playing in the halls.  Heard a lot of "tales" from her on this trip about life at the courthouse, from sneaking into the library, to her mom, Wanda, climbing out on the upper floors ledge as a child and actually walking around the building.

Kathy's written extensive history on Hutchinson County, it's towns and people which you can see HERE. Be sure to visit the link for Extinct Towns, Ghost Towns and Company Camps to see more about Plemons and other places that used to be part of the rich history here.

You can see our trip in photos via our Facebook photo album HERE.

(We stayed a couple of nights by the city park in Stinnett in a small (3 or 4 space) RV parking area.  Full hookups, and it was "Free" for 3 nights, then $10 per night after [no long term campers].  We think it's great promotion for a city to do this, and loved the fact we could take advantage of it.  The only thing we would suggest is that the city perform the same care with the RV area that they do with the park, as it was full of good ol' Texas stickers and hardly any grass)

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