As previously noted, our first day’s ride took us from Vail, AZ to Silver City, NM, and, after lunch in Silver City, we ended our day at Truth or Consequences, NM.

Our next day’s ride was from T or C, through Albuquerque to Santa Fe. We stayed at the Silver Saddle Motel. Like the Rocket Inn, the Silver Saddle Motel was remodeled and had a similar “Normal Rockwell” design, reinforced by the early 1950’s truck parked outside the office. The co-owner, Dawn Aley, had an interesting story. She was born and raised on a boat by “hippy” parents in Tahiti. A former banker, she found herself drawn to the southwest and the unique blend of culture often found in New Mexico, as evidenced by her being fluent in Spanish.

3 Silver Saddle MotelWhile getting coffee in the office area of the Silver Saddle Motel, early the next morning, we got into an interesting conversation with Dawn. She told us how Route 66 and the local areas are very popular with Europeans and somewhat overlooked by Americans. Dawn pointed out that she actually had more European guests than Americans! This was a surprise to us. Apparently, the lure of the open road, the charm of the Southwest, and the legends (and movies) of Cowboys and Indians all contribute to a mystique that makes Route 66 a very popular travel destination for Europeans.

As we were talking about this, two young Austrian men, Philipp Summereder and his brother Christian, who were traveling with their Uncle Karl from Dallas to Los Angeles, walked in. Surprisingly, upon our return from Taos, later that day, we met three Englishmen who were rooming close by. Two men from Manchester, England along with their ex-patriot friend, who now lives in Dallas, were on a motorcycle journey with rented Harley-Davidson motorcycles traveling from Dallas to Los Angeles, just like the three Austrians.

All six of the men validated what the owner told us earlier. For many Europeans, Route 66 represents and offers something about America that is not easily seen in the big cities, which is an opportunity to see the real undisguised and unfiltered “Americana.” Apparently, many European tour companies offer special Route 66 tours.

Even though I lived in New Mexico for over a decade (and now Arizona), I have to admit that many times, I did not take the byway, but instead took the highway, as a default. I chose speed of travel over quality of travel. This trip taught me, and our European visitors reminded me, to recognize the local treasures of travel right in our very own backyards! Most of the local motels and restaurants that you might encounter in these off the highway excursions are so called local “mom and pop” operations. They can be excellent sources of where to go and what to do in the surrounding areas. Even in many of the local gas stations you could find locally made arts and crafts.

There is a lot of the original Route 66 in New Mexico (and Arizona). Often much of it is right next to the freeway, as a frontage road or a parallel road a mile or so apart. It is worth taking the detour off of I-40 or I-25 to the original route 66 to experience the unique character of the many small towns along the way. It is a very scenic ride with beautiful hills and valleys and all of the roads are in good condition (being on motorcycles that was a concern). In some ways, it feels like a trip back in time as you sometimes pass abandoned buildings built in the 1950’s or see an old rusted truck from the 1940’s parked in front of an old adobe café. It could be hard to tell if the truck and café were a form of retro artistic design, or just actually a café that has not changed in 40 years or so, with a local patron’s currently owned truck parked out front. Many of the towns had art galleries and it was not uncommon to see a sign, some of them hand painted, advertising some local art event or historic place to visit.

The next issue will cover traveling to Taos on the “high road” and taking the “low road’ back to Santa Fe and then traveling to Show Low, Arizona, and then on to our homes in Vail.

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Lucretia Free