Route 66 Monument
Tucumcari, New Mexico
Tucumcari is the quintessential Route 66 town, with its procession of snapshot-ready motel signs and buildings from a bygone era of highway travel. There's the famous neon of the Blue Swallow Motel, the arrowhead motel sign of the Apache, the perky Mexican hat atop the La Cita restaurant, and the Indian teepee facade of Tee Pee Curios.
The "Route 66 Monument," on the other hand, is a more recent addition, a semi-whimsical tribute to the Mother Road. Artist Tom Coffin was commissioned by Tucumcari, the New Mexico Highway Dept., and the NM Arts Commission to create the sculpture, set on a sloping base that looks a bit like a Tex-Mex temple made of sandstone tires and serpentine, two-lane road outlines. Dedicated in 1997, it's topped with a chrome, Cadillac-like fin, tail lights, and a pair of tubular Hippie Font sixes -- all headed west.
You may object, like we first did, that this is just another example of the two-lane snake eating its tail -- Route 66 self-celebration of a long-dead highway dream. But when you see it at the right time of day, all chrome-y in the sunset, your Route 66-worship zombie brainstem takes over, and you must snap your own photo.
Eventually the Route 66 Monument will grow old and cancer-eaten. And that's okay. For by then it will be appearing on murals, menus and windows all up and down the Mother Road, side-by-side with depictions of other Route 66 landmarks, as if it has always been here, in Tucumcari.