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Route 66 will always be a popular road trip, but no matter what, it’ll never be the same as it was back at its peak. The thing that made Route 66 so special, the thing that people actually miss when they feel nostalgic for that era, are the tiny towns along the way. Each had its own distinctive personality, and since this was a time before highways, it was more about taking your time to explore the things that made each special, instead of trying to get from point A to point B ASAP. A lot of these little roadside towns are struggling to get by, and even more have died out, like Glenrio, Texas/New Mexico, a little desert oasis between Amarillo and Tucumcari (two Route 66 towns that haven’t died out) built on the state line.

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Having a town on the state line proved to have some advantages. Fuel was dispensed in Texas, because gas prices in New Mexico were higher, and all the bars were on the New Mexico side of town, because Deaf Smith County, Texas, was dry for awhile.  There were also disadvantages… like postal delivery. The railroad station was in Texas, so the mail would start at the Texas post office, then the mailbag would be lugged over to the post office on the New Mexico side of town to hand out the rest.

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The fact that it’s on a state line might be due to a surveying error, and the eastern, Texas slice of the town might actually rightfully belong to New Mexico, and despite the fact that the New Mexican government filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court top reclaim the land, it amounted to nothing.

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It wouldn’t matter in the long run, anyways. Even though the railroad did a lot to boost Glenrio’s economy, the town started to peak when Route 66 was established. Motels, diners, and filling stations popped up to serve weary travelers on their way through. The Motel/Cafe sign that still partially stands, at one point, read “First in Texas” to travelers heading east from New Mexico and “Last in Texas” to those heading west. The town’s population wasn’t huge, but it didn’t need to be; it just needed enough people to run the few establishments that kept Glenrio going.

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Of course, it holds to reason that once the railroad bypassed Glenrio, the town started to struggle… and the final blow was dealt to the town when I-40 was built and bypassed Glenrio. Lots of other little settlements along Route 66 were abandoned when the new interstate passed them by, just like Glenrio. Today, it’s a virtual ghost town; just a collection of empty buildings that once marked a bustling town filled with people from all over.

But just because it’s a ghost town now doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant. It’s now part of a historic district, plus a scene for the film adaptation of Grapes of Wrath was filmed here, and in the animated movie Cars, the abandoned Glenn Rio Motel is turned into a racing museum.

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  1. Rode through it when I rode all of Route 66 in 2010 as part of the national Harley Owners Group (HOG) rally tour, and ‘Route 66: The Mother Road’ author and historian Michael Wallis (voice of the sheriff in ‘Cars’) waxed poetic about Glenrio particularly, noting that one may straddle not just state lines but time zones in the town.

    The article does have a slight error: the state line sign at the Texas Longhorn Motel and Phillips 66 Service Station read “First Stop in Texas” to EASTBOUND traffic entering from New Mexico and “Last Stop in Texas” to WESTBOUND traffic leaving Texas.


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