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Route 66 Amarillo to Albuquerque: the Half Way Point, a Ghost Town + World Famous Neon

Driving from Amarillo to Albuquerque takes about four hours on the interstate, but you’ll spend a lot longer stopping to see all of the sites…especially if you spend the night in Tucumcari to see all of the neon (which you totally should ; ) 

I’ve written a full post about Route 66 in Amarillo here so start there if you’re looking for the scoop on Cadillac Ranch and the Big Texan!

So leaving Amarillo and traveling west, here’s what you’re going to see…

Vega, TX

There are only a few small towns in the Texas panhandle west of Amarillo and it’s several miles before you come to Vega. 

Magnolia Station: Vega, TX

This fully restored gas station was originally built in 1924. This one has actually been done on the inside too which is cool to see. And there’s a little lending library out front if you need a book or have one to leave. 

Dot’s Mini Museum: Vega, TX

A small family museum that may be open or maybe not…if it is, it’s one of those special places along the route where you’ll have the chance to visit and hear stories. I’ve heard that Dot Leavitt served as the inspiration for the Lizzie character in the Pixar Cars movie. 

Adrian, TX

Adrian is a don’t miss town in the Texas panhandle. It’s the official midpoint of Route 66 (1,139 miles from both Chicago and Los Angeles) and because of that it’s usually pretty hopping. 

Stop for an official photo op on the midpoint line. 

Midpoint Cafe: Adrian, TX

What’s a roadside attraction without a restaurant and gift shop? Thankfully you won’t have to find out here. We didn’t do a full meal here, but their pie was very, very good (the chocolate was probably my favorite I’ve had anywhere). 

Bent Over Midway Station: Adrian, TX

This old gas station is my favorite type to find along the route: in a state of decay but still with a ton of interesting details. 

Glenrio, TX

Route 66 is littered with ghost towns…once thriving communities that just shriveled up when they were bypassed (or in many places cut in two) by the interstate. And so far, Glenrio is probably the one that’s been the most interesting to me. 

You’ll cross back over the interstate to the south side and the road feels a little more remote. There’s a motel, diner, and service station all in various stages of decay that straddle the Texas New Mexico border. 

The Road from Glenrio to Tucumcari

When you’re done in Glenrio, there are two ways to get to Tucumcari (different alignments). One follows I-40 which obviously isn’t very exciting, BUT it’s the route you’ll take if you want to stop at the Russell’s Travel Center where there’s a small auto museum with a ton of 1950s Route 66 memorabilia (all free to look at) and several different people told me it was worth a stop. 

The route I took (which was more interesting to me) was to continue on through the Glenrio ghost town and take the road through Endee (another ghost town) to San Jone (pronounced San Hone). It’s a dirt/gravel road and kind of rough, but very passable (if it’s been storming it might get muddy) and a nice slow drive. 

Tucumcari, NM

Tucumcari Tonight! is the marketing slogan that plastered Route 66 back in the day in an effort to attract travelers to overnight in Tucumcari. I guess it worked because Tucumcari is still home to a large concentration of vintage motels, diners, and some of the best neon on the route. 

I’ve done a full post on Route 66 through Tucumcari here that covers every single thing, but the absolutely do not miss list is:

Blue Swallow Inn: Staying overnight at the Blue Swallow Inn should be at the tippy top of every Route 66 traveler’s bucket list. It’s been so pristinely preserved that it feels like it could be a movie set or in a museum or theme park (hello ever been to Carsland at Disneyland??), but it has such a great community atmosphere. Make reservations well in advance because it only has a dozen or so rooms and regularly sells out during peak travel seasons. 

Teepee Curios: The neon here is unmatched along Route 66 and if you’re in need of a postcard or any little chotchkies, this is your spot. 

Del’s Restaurant: The best spot for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in Tucumcari with a fresh salad bar, all your greasy diner favorites, plus New Mexico regional cuisine. 

Santa Rosa, NM

Santa Rosa is pretty much the only town between Tucumcari and the outskirts of Albuquerque so it’s a nice place to stop and break up the drive. 

And there’s some nice neon and old buildings downtown. 

Route 66 Auto Museum: Santa Rosa, NM

I’m not really much of a car person, but I’d read good things about the auto museum in Santa Rosa and there wasn’t much else in the area so I decided to stop and check it out. 

It’s $5 per person and IT’S TOTALLY WORTH IT. It’s one man’s private collection and I seriously couldn’t have been more impressed. Besides the cars (of which there are around 30), there’s a ton of vintage memorabilia in the warehouse and it’s well air conditioned. 

I’ll drop a bunch of photos here because I couldn’t even describe what I saw very well, but I will say that there were some teenage boys that came in with their parents while I was there and they were pretty thrilled. It’s definitely a place that the whole family can enjoy. 

 

 

 

 

 

The Drive into Albuquerque

From Santa Rosa, Route 66 follows I-40 most of the way until you get to Moriarity and Edgewood. 

You’ll pass through the mountains around Tijeras and then it’s one long shot all the way across Albuquerque on Central Avenue. 

Albuquerque is a large city…there’s roughly 15 miles of Route 66 that goes right through the middle of town. 

Read my full post of Route 66 in Albuquerque here

Planning a Route 66 road trip? I’ve got all of the info you need! 

I’ve broken down each segment driving westbound so you know exactly what to expect: Chicago IL to St. Louis MO, St. Louis MO to Springfield MO, Springfield MO to Tulsa OK, Tulsa OK to Oklahoma City OK, Oklahoma City OK to Amarillo TX, Amarillo TX to Albuquerque NM

Plus I’ve rounded up my absolute favorite experiences (things to do, where to eat, where to stay, etc.) by state here: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico

And I’ve got more in-depth posts on certain cities: Chicago, St. Louis, Tulsa, Amarillo, Tucumcari, and Albuquerque.