Glenrio… So This Is What Killed Route 66

We’ve heard of Route 66 and we get asked all the time if we’ve traveled the famed highway…but we never really understood all the hype.  It’s just an old highway…right?

route 66

So, when we noticed that the Route 66 Ghost Town of Glenrio was just a few miles off our route, we decided to find out what all the fuss was about and what killed this Route 66 town.



New Mexico ghost town

I mean, looking at what’s left of Glenrio with its busted windows and dilapidated structures it’s hard to believe there were once cars lined up for fuel, families stargazing on the motel stoop and travelers scarfing down burgers at a the diner.

ghost town


Texas ghost town

Glenrio straddles the Texas and New Mexico border and even though the permanent population was never over thirty people, the town was a popular stop along the famous Route 66. Now you’re lucky to find any signs of life other than a few barking dogs and West Texas tumble weeds.

So, I quickly looked up the history and here is what I found:

  • In 1901 the Rock Island and Pacific Railroad came through the area and two years later Glenrio was born.
  • Initially the area was populated by large cattle ranches then turned booming agricultural lands.
  • A post office was first established on the New Mexico side of the community.  Mail would be dropped off on the Texas side of the border and then the station master would carry the mailbag to the post office on the New Mexico side for delivery.
  • Glenrio was in the middle of a long battle between both states for tax rights.
  • By 1920, there was a hotel, a hardware store, several grocery stores, service stations, and cafes.
  • During the prosperity of the 1920’s politicians and entrepreneurs decided that America needed a national highway system, and years later Route 66 was born.
  • There were no bars on the Texas side of the community, because Deaf Smith County was dry, and no service stations on the New Mexico side because of the state’s higher gasoline tax.

From all of this I learned that border towns are awesome!  You get the benefit of both states and yet, don’t have to fully commit to either one.

Then, I finally came across the death sentence of Glenrio and probably most of Route 66.  The decision to build Interstates!  That’s right, the interstate killed route 66 (at least that’s what I gathered).

I can imagine it… a room full of men in blue suits… revolutionizing American Travel… why take the smaller highways… hop on an interstate… travel faster… bypass all those small annoying little stops…

Interesting right!?!  All that history scattered around, most likely never to be revived again.


Now the run on question is: on your next trip will you opt for the littered with history small towns, quirky stops and slightly slower highways and byways…or will you go for the straightforward, grey, it all looks the same, you could be anywhere and you never have to stop for anything other than fuel Interstate?

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Hello there! I honestly don’t know what to say, so I am going to tell you a bunch of random facts instead. I'm a fish eating vegetarian who hates spiders and loves snakes. I almost never took vacations growing up. I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking (still do). I misspell about every other word I write and still struggle with grammar. I love splurging on a good high tea (which is really hard to find these days). And whatever you do, don’t tell me I can’t do something, because then I'll HAVE to do it!

Comments (20)

  • Richard owens

    In the late early 70’s.I would stop in Glenrio Tx, for coffee before heading to Albuquerque. There wasn’t a lot of places to stop along the way back then. I would start in Amarillo after 6 pm. Then it was two lanes to Tucumcari N.M.

  • R. J. Dunnill

    The abandoned Chevron station was moved to the location after the Interstate opened in 1973, as was the nearby Texaco.

  • Scott

    Back in 1962, John Steinbeck said in Travels with Charley, that the Interstate system would soon enable Americans to travel from one end of the country to the other without seeing a single thing. He wasn’t far off.

    I try to stay off the Interstate as a rule when I travel; otherwise, you are just rushing from one place to another and missing everything in between. For some reason, it makes me a little sad to think about that.

    • Pamela

      We’re driving Route 66 for holiday. It becomes a quest NOT to travel a highway, but rather to drive any little stretch of the “real thing”. We’re trying to support any Rt66 business. Let’s bring it back!

  • I love the song that Nate king Cole sang. I have watched some cool docs on Route 66. It must have been so clean and exciting!

  • There has been a few towns in New South Wales Australia {and Queensland} where a newer highway went in, and the older one with all of the towns are left wondering what to do…..its almost like a ghost town driving through a place that once was very busy.
    Shame that with our upgrades that so many towns are left behind with no business to run.
    Guess a new route is needed because of too much traffic, just wished that those who own shops/hotels/café are not so affected by it 🙂

  • Bruce

    Nice post!

    Some Random Thoughts:

    Great Route 66 busineses right inside of Amarillo, Texas. Very popular motorcycle hangouts. I’m sure they’d welcome your RV, too.

    The ultimate Route 66 movie might be the cartoon “Cars.”

    As far as the Interstates – I think Eisenhower got a good look at the Autobahn in Germany while he was chasing the Third Reich back in WWII. He and others military types thought it was a pretty good national defense system. (Although, did they use the Autobahn to speed the invasion?)

  • Bj

    We love Route 66. Sometimes we dig out our copy of “Route 66: The Mother Road” and view the highlights as we travel. Fun to find the rabbits or the arrows. My friend Sandy’s Turquoise Teepee shop in Williams, AZ is pictured too! My husband recalls traveling with his parents in the old days as they traveled back and forth from California to Arkansas.
    I enjoy following your travels.
    Full time RVing is the best life!

  • Ron Frey

    Glad you guys got to experience a little bit of Americana. I was fortunate to be able to do the whole route 66 from Chicago to Ca on my motorcycle in 2007. Then, in 2008, I was fortunate to take a friend of mine on his motorcycle on it again! I loved the history, people and everything about Route 66. I hope you guys get to enjoy some other areas of it soon. Have fun on this years adventures!!

    • Thanks Ron, we’re hoping to hit Metropolis on 66 later this year…SUPER MAN!!!

  • mary

    I find myself on Route 66 from time to time. I have always wanted to spend a little extra time on this highway exploring the history and glamor of the days past. Maybe one day soon.

    The great thing about traveling full time is that you do have time to enjoy the beauty and the history of the places where you travel.

    • Glenrio was a total ghost town and very cool (and eerie) to explore.

  • Connie Schwanger

    Have you seen any wild life? My grandparents lived in Midland, Texas. We visited them most summers, but in 1959 we traveled for two months from Michigan to California by way of the northern route then back the southern route so I’m sure we went through that town. That trip was my greatest childhood memory. Chuck and I just purchased our Winnebago Via 25 P last week. As soon as the Michigan weather affords us some time to safely travel out of the area we will start our full time adventure. We plan to travel through that part of Texas so I can see my grandparent’s home. Thanks for sharing the treasures you’re finding.

    • Bruce

      Another cross-country route was the Bankhead Highway. Roughly includes what is now US Hwy 80 and even more roughly Interstate 20. Still a Bankhead Highway remnant in Midland, and I believe one in Longview, Texas – 400 miles away.

  • I think before my time, there was a show called Route 66, sort of a who done it…show…and the whole show was based on Route 66…
    We take a small section of Route 66 everytime my husband and I drive to Florida, to avoid the larger cities, and traffic…then we take 17… It’s quiet, (that’s why we take it)
    For us it’s a detour around traffic…

  • Interesting post. I “rode” on route 66 when was youngen’, in the mid fifties. I remember looking forward to the stops at the gas stations with the ice cold bottles of “pop” in the squatie machines. I was intrigued by the way you lifted the door up and seeing all of the bottle caps hoping to find the flavor you liked. Then sliding the bottles along the rails and pull them out, careful not to get your hand caught in the mechanism. The machine usually had a drinking fountain attached with ice cold water, for free! Also the Indian trading posts were interesting with all of their unusually painted crafts and trinkets.

    • It would be so cool to see 66 in its heyday! We can only imagine the cars lined up with happy people looking to purchase trinkets from their adventures. So cool.

  • the hubby & i have traveled Route 66 & love it … we got to see a bunch in Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona & Texas. i just don’t understand why they go rid of it??! it has such history. we love traveling in off the wall places … & you can see a bunch on Route 66. not sure why so many folks don’t understand or love the history??! i am 35 but i enjoy knowing where it all came from & it is so sad to see it being mushed up & throw away. i would rather have Route 66 any day over a bunch of strip malls. just saying. the hubby has a 70’s mustang so we love our history & style. ( :

    glad you had a chance to stop & see some Route 66 beauty.


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