Travelling the Main Street of America
If you get into Santa Rosa in time for a coffee or meal stop, you'll find a warm welcome and real New Mexican food at Joseph's, one of 66's great survivals. I-40 is built right over the top of original 66 for the next section, but if my experience is anything to go by, you'll be pulling off several times to take in the attractions. Clines Corners at Exit 218, for example, has been inveigling innocent passers-by to spend money in its incredible cave of tat since the 1930s.
The descent to Albuquerque through the Tijeras Canyon provides as grand an entrance to a town as you're likely to find. And what a town! I loved Albuquerque the first time I visited it several years ago, and every time I go back I find more to enjoy. Founded by the Spanish in 1706, it is one of the oldest European settlements west of the Atlantic fringe, and it has kept something of value from each phase of its chequered history since. The Old Town is an absolute must-see. Clustered around the Church of San Felipe de Neri on the shady central plaza is a charming knot of Spanish colonial streets crowded with shops and cafés. Just a mile away is the present business district, established in the 1890s alongside the newly-arrived railroad. Make sure you look into the wonderfully restored Kimo Theater on Central Avenue. Its Hi-Ho Rococo style (sometimes called Pueblo-Déco) draws from both Indian and European influences. An evening in Albuquerque offers the visitor a head-spinning range of options. There's every kind of cuisine at every kind of price in the hundreds of restaurants, but for me it has to be the Mexican/New Mexican fare on offer in several excellent establishments downtown.
Restored Kimo Theatre from http://www.cabq.gov/kimo/
The route out of Albuquerque is another that I ran twice, once on the post-1937 alignment and once on the original 1926-37 Los Lunas trajectory. The latter wins on most counts, although it would be a pity to miss the views over Albuquerque from the top of Nine Mile Hill. Perhaps there's a case as at Springfield, Illinois, for sneaking a look at one before doing the other. The daily mileage target is certainly low enough for the keenites to dash off and satisfy their curiosity. There's the bonus of some super old 66 businesses to see on the climb up Nine Mile Hill, too. The old alignment crosses the Rio Grande and cuts left for a long run down Isleta Boulevard. Much of this is through rather sleazy ethnic slums; colourful, but keep the doors locked. Things pick up dramatically after Los Lunas and the thirty miles from there back to I-40 are truly beautiful. The road itself is a joy to drive, but it's the scenery that will take your breath away. I did this section in the early morning, the rising sun lighting up the grass and painting the desert hills the richest burgundy. There are several stretches of old Portland roadbed alongside the existing surface between Los Lunas and Correo. Some can be driven with care, but don't stray too far from the highway and always be prepared to turn back if things become too hairy.