Warm weekend

We are booked up for the entire weekend. Every biker in northern New Mexico seems to be taking advantage of this glorious weather. I don’t blame them. If I had a bike, you can bet I’d be on it. We’ll definitely be Mother Roading tomorrow when I finish the laundry….

— Sierra

Wintry feeling

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”

— Rogers Hornsby

Substitute “tourists” for “baseball,” and you’ve pretty much got my take on Route 66 in winter. I know a girl who loves the offseason. Loves it. She drives 66 all year, every chance she gets, and she swears the best time to be on the road is in the winter, because that’s when the crowds and the tourists are gone, and you can sit in a cafe and drink coffee and eat chili with extra hot sauce and listen to the regulars or check into a motel and have the whole place to yourself, absolute silence except for the buzz of the neon transformers, and look up at a cold, clear sky and catch your breath and think.

She obviously doesn’t own a motel. That silence gets old when you’ve gotten spoiled to daily adventures with tourists from all over the world. A day or two is nice — you can catch your breath — but the charm wears off in a hurry. I need a project of some kind, stat.

Maybe I should use the winter to work with Joey more. I wonder how much he could learn if I gave him my undivided attention for the next four months or so?

— Sierra

November 11

November 11 is important around here for two reasons.

First, it’s Veterans Day, which means Coldwater starts the morning with a sunrise presentation of the colors at Wallis Park — organized by our local VFW — and a prayer by Brother Jerry. All the schools hold assemblies to honor faculty, staff, and parents who have served in the military, and the kids spend the day learning the history of Armistice Day and writing thank-you letters to soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. I took Joey to the assembly at the grade school. The third-graders had made flags out of tissue paper and Elmer’s glue. Joey insisted on making one for Grant when we got home from the assembly.

Second, it’s the birthday of Route 66. Our guests this evening — a couple from Belgium and a photographer from Japan — were pretty excited about the fact that today was the 84th anniversary of the day Route 66 was commissioned as a federal highway.

I’m pretty excited about the fact that it’s cold and rainy, which gave me a perfect excuse to make a big batch of posole for dinner this evening. If there’s anything more wonderful than homemade posole with plenty of roasted green chiles, I’m sure I don’t know what it is.

Hope you had a warm-posole-on-a-cold-evening sort of day, wherever you are.

— Sierra


I was expecting something a little more dramatic right about now, but the primary emotion flooding my mind at this moment — three hours after Brother Jerry pronounced us man and wife, and fifteen minutes after I broke out a four-way lug wrench and wowed Grant with my best impression of a NASCAR pit crew after he ran over a broken beer bottle in the middle of the interstate somewhere between Dilia and Starvation Peak — is relief.

Flat tire notwithstanding, the day went very smoothly, and if the rest of the evening goes according to plan, I’m less than an hour and a half away from a long, hot shower, a cold bottle of champagne, and a much-anticipated evening at the beautiful El Rey Inn in Santa Fe.

In case you are wondering, I will be out of pocket for the next few days….

— Sierra


Remember the old Burma-Shave ad campaign, which involved little poems written on carefully spaced signs placed along roadsides during heyday of Route 66?

Yeah, I don’t remember them, either. Too young. But I’ve seen plenty of replicas along the road in recent years. They’re really popular with Route 66 travelers.

Set of Burma-Shave-type signs that mysteriously appeared along westbound 66 in front of the Tumbleweed yesterday afternoon as I was coming back from a grocery run in Tucumcari:


Set of signs attached to the backs of those signs at some point between the time I went to bed last night and the time I slipped out for a jog this morning:


Set of hastily made cardboard signs currently taped over the westbound signs for Grant to see when he picks me up for church this morning:


Lil Miss

Grant sent a diminutive blonde teenager named Lillian into my lobby yesterday afternoon to inquire about a job.

Lillian, who hates her first name and just goes by “Lil,” is an honor student and president of Coldwater High School’s FFA chapter. Lil drives a ’73 Ford pickup she inherited from her late grandfather, loves history and geography, and assures me that there is not a motel guest alive who can make a mess any nastier than anything she’s cleaned up on her family’s ranch.

A well-known Route 66 historian happened to check in while I was showing Lil how to run the credit-card machine this afternoon. Upon hearing her name, he told her about another Lillian with ties to a historic motel on the Mother Road, then announced that Lil should henceforth be known as “Lil Miss.”

Lil Miss nodded. “I like that,” she said, her eyes downcast and her voice soft. “I like that a lot.”

After our guest headed off to his room, Lil Miss looked at me, tears brimming in her eyes. “Nobody’s called me ‘Lil Miss’ since Grandpa died,” she said. “That guy called me ‘Lil Miss’ because it reminded him of someone he obviously loved a lot, who also died. Isn’t that odd?”

I glanced at the picture of St. Julian the Hospitaller pasted onto a jar candle above the fireplace and smiled.

“Around here, ‘odd’ is relative,” I said, pressing a heart-shaped milagro into her open hand. “Welcome to the Tumbleweed.”

Sunday Morning Coming Down

A quiet Sunday morning and a cup of coffee feel good after the day I had yesterday.

I went over to Tucumcari to pick up groceries and have breakfast at Kix on 66 while Grant and Joey were setting up for Coldwater’s annual back-to-school carnival.

I didn’t realize I’d forgotten my cell phone until I got to the grocery store and started to send Grant a text asking whether he wanted me to take advantage of a sale on his favorite cereal.

I was seven miles from home when the truck sputtered to a stop on the shoulder of Route 66.

Good thing I took up jogging this spring.

Hank Freed is on vacation this weekend, thanks to the holiday, but four miles into my unplanned jog, I heard the unmistakable beep of a Volkswagen’s horn, and Skinny Rodriguez pulled up and asked if I needed a ride.

Skinny, as I think I’ve mentioned once before, is the biggest gearhead in Guadalupe County. If your truck breaks down, Skinny is probably the first guy you’d want to see pulling over to offer you a ride.

Fifteen minutes later, Skinny had diagnosed the problem as a leak in the fuel line. One of the ancient hoses had cracked, and I hadn’t noticed that most of the gas had leaked out of the tank. Skinny took me to Teague’s, where we picked up a can of gas and a roll of duct tape, and I crawled under the truck and patched the hose well enough to limp the old girl back home. Hank will have to fix her for real when he gets back next week.

I got cleaned up just in time to catch the end of the school festival and help the teachers take down tents and streamers and tables and chairs.

It’s always something….

— Sierra