Monday, April 13, 2009
We've traveled the I-40 corridor that runs east-west several times, so many of the towns were familiar to us. Last night we had stayed in Albuquerque, one of my many favorite places. But unfortunately, we just pulled into the campground and stayed put for the night. Now we planned to stay in the little town of Tucumcari, NM.
Tucumcari is the largest city between Amarillo, TX and Albuquerque, NM. This little hole-in-the wall town was once a booming place when Route 66 was popular, since it runs right down the main street.
At night the streets light up like the Vegas strip with cheap motels and gift shops.
The town's slogan "TUCUMCARI TONITE!" is seen all over town and along I-40 for many miles to the east and west of the town inviting motorists to stay the night in one of Tucumcari's "1200" motel rooms.
On the pop culture front, this little town has been featured on TV and in movies:
"1) Many of the scenes in the television show Rawhide (1959-1966) starring Clint Eastwood were shot in the Tucumcari area.
2) One of the killers in Truman Capote's 1965 book In Cold Blood asks about the travelling distance to Tucumcari. This scene appears in the 1967 film version of the novel.
3) Tucumcari is the setting of one of the first scenes in Sergio Leone's 1965 film For a Few Dollars More, starring Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Gian Maria Volonte.
4) The city is mentioned in the 1988 film Rainman by the character played by Tom Cruise. However, the location in the scene is clearly not Tucumcari."
(Above info from Wikipedia)
There are several stories how Tucumcari got it's name, but the most romantic one is as follows.
Apache Chief Wautonomah was dieing and was troubled by who would succeed him as ruler of his tribe. He had two great braves, Tonopah and Tocom. They were not only rivals but both were vying for the hand of the Chief's daughter, Kari. Kari loved Tocom. Chief Wautonomah called the two braves to his death bed and said, "Soon I must die and one of you must succeed me as chief. Tonight you must take your long knives and meet in combat to settle the matter between you. He who survives shall be the Chief and have for his squaw, Kari, my daughter."
The braves fought while unbeknownst to them, Kari hid nearby. When Tonopah killed Tocom, Kari rushed out and plunged her knife into Tonopah, then killed herself. When Chief Wautonomah saw this tragedy, he grabbed his daughter's knife and buried it deep within his heart, crying "Tocom-Kari", today a slight variation of the town's name - Tucumcari.
The campground that we stayed at was nondescript; it too was a hole-in-the wall. As a matter of fact, the campground owner seemed surprised when I told him that we were staying for two days! But I didn't want to travel on Easter Sunday and it was nice to stay put for two nights.
Jim and I drove around the town and took pictures of the several murals that were painted on the buildings of local businesses.
There were a few landmarks leftover from the heydays of Route 66 like the Blue Swallow Hotel, the Tee Pee Curios and the La Cita.
I was a little sad Easter morning, thinking that I forgot to leave the trailer unlocked so that the Easter bunny could come in and leave me some chocolate. Jim opened the door and stepped outside. "Look!" He called out. "The Easter bunny came!" I peeked out the door and there, much to my surprise, was a plastic egg, opened up on our mat, spilling out three chocolate eggs wrapped in foil! I was so touched by this gesture. I have no idea who left this for us, I mean, yes, thank you Easter Bunny! You made my day!