They’ll get their kicks near Route 66 (now Central Avenue) — and you can, too.
The New Mexico Route 66 Association, celebrating its 30th anniversary, is having its annual meeting Saturday, from 10 till noon, at the Enchanted Trails RV Park and Trading Post, 14305 Central NW in Albuquerque — along what used to be part of the actual highway.
Why the fascination with an old highway? Think pre-Interstate 40, when travelers going west or east through the Southwest saw a lot more of what the region had to offer — mom-and-pop shops, gas stations, eateries, stores and countless motels.
The association plans Route 66 adventures, such as caravans along I-40, with stops at one-time iconic Route 66 sites. It’s open to anyone interested in the old highway or potential memberships.
Although the “Mother Road” never passed through what became Rio Rancho, it didn’t miss by much.
When Route 66’s original route was laid out in 1926, it went through Santa Fe, following the old Pecos Trail, which is how it meandered from Santa Rosa. Heading south from Santa Fe, it wove its way down La Bajada and US 85, through Sandoval County — past Santo Domingo Pueblo, through Algodones and Bernalillo, past Sandia Pueblo — and into the Duke City via Fourth Street.
That route changed in 1937, omitting Santa Fe to make it more of an east-west route — and saving travelers as much as 90 miles. Once the stretch that led south to Los Lunas and then west via NM 6 was also straightened out, most of the present-day I-40 path was established.
Also known as the Will Rogers Highway and the Main Street of America, Route 66 stretched for about 2,400 miles, from Chicago to Santa Monica, Calif. It was decommissioned in 1985.
You can bet Rick and Jan Trent and Jim and Cathy Wray plan to be at the meeting. The couples have three things in common: They live in Rio Rancho, both men drive Mustangs and all four are fascinated with Route 66.
All the way from Memphis
Married 32 years, Rick and Jan Trent are big fans of the Southwest, after moving here from Memphis. One day, Rick — a member of the association for 17 of its 30 years — hopes to traverse the entire length.
This “love affair” began in 2014, he said.
“I’m also a Mustang aficionado. The 50th anniversary of Ford Mustang had an event in Las Vegas, going from Memphis to Vegas,” he said. “We did as much as we could, at least from Tulsa, to hit the museums and attractions. There’s a ton of things to do on the route, and we love to travel.”
That 2014 adventure was epic: 17 days, 3,200 miles.
The Trents began planning to relocate to New Mexico.
“We were looking at Albuquerque in general,” Rick said. “Memphis and Albuquerque have similar crime issues; we wanted access to the city without the crime. A Realtor in Tennessee recommended a Realtor out here; she ‘sent’ us about 19 different homes in the area, and this one (in Mariposa) stood out to us.”
The Trents moved into their home here in April.
“I like the mountains and rivers; we like hiking. And Albuquerque provides a real good jumping-off spot,” he said.
That’s “jumping off” as in driving off in their 2014 Mustang, after he racked up 190,000 miles on his previous Mustang, a 2005 model.
Going ‘Wray’ back
“My parents moved (to Albuquerque) in 1940, when I was just born,” said Jim Wray. “They came down from Pueblo, Colo. From the late ’40s to the ’80s, my parents owned a store on Fourth: ‘Wray’s 5&10.’ Jimmy Stewart came in there one time.”
The family lived in a house on Carlisle NE, less than a block from Route 66.
“In high school, we cruised Central a lot; I loved the hotels and signs. I also rode the bus down Central, transfer to Fourth to the store,” he said.
His favorite spot on the Mother Road? “I like Washington and Central because I would go that direction to go to high school; there used to be a Horn gas station there where I would buy my gas.”
Wray attended Jefferson Junior High School and graduated from Highland High School in 1958.
After attending college in Abilene, Texas, he got a job at Sandia Electric downtown. He taught school one year in Abilene, and then one year at Rio Grande High School.
“Then I decided I wanted stuff — so I left teaching and went to work at IBM for a number of years,” he said, listing places he’d lived: “Marin County, Calif., as a sales rep; Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; Santa Fe; El Paso; and then Albuquerque in 2000 or so.
“In 2016, I moved to Rio Rancho with my new wife (Cathy); our spouses passed away in 2008,” Wray said.
When the Observer caught up with Wray, he said he was working on his 1,000-horsepower Mustang.
“We’re going to be sustaining members (of the Route 66 Association),” he said. “I’ll go on trips as long as I can drive. I’d like to see the club grow; I think it’s neat.”
He said he and his wife want to see more of Route 66’s path: “I’ve gone west, but I haven’t gone east. We’d like to take a run as far as we can — part of her life was growing up in Oklahoma and we’re looking forward to exploring more.”
Need more information?
The nonprofit New Mexico Route 66 Association is “dedicated to education, promotion and preservation of (the state’s) historic Route 66 Byway and economic revitalization along its 604-mile stretch throughout the state since 1989.”
You can see more about the association on Facebook.
Or enjoy a film about the Mother Road at newmexico.org/route66/route-66-film/.