Heading through Atlanta, Georgia, from Interstates 75, 85, and 20 requires a trucker bypass the city unless actually delivering there. Interstate 285 makes a large ring road around the town, bypassing most of the city, which lies within the ring. There are a great number of cities that offer alternate routes that bypass the main towns, even small towns like Statesboro, GA, and Dothan, AL, have some sort of ring road around them.
Then there are the towns all across America that literally got bypassed when an interstate highway was constructed. Sure, off ramps were provided so a traveller could get off and drive through the town. But travelers, and truckers, stay away from towns, opting for gas and food that are right at the off ramps.
Tucumcari, New Mexico, is a great example. It is located the famous Route 66. It flourished “Back In The Day.” Then Interstate 40 left it in the lurch. Now, driving through the town is a peek back into what it was, and could have been today if not bypassed. Empty stores and building abound. Yet remaining in Tucumcari are some things worth the drive through. There’s several nice restaurants, locally owned and better in both food and service than those chain-run eateries along the Interstate. Some of the many motels are still operating, and worth the stay. And then there’s the Lizard Lounge.
Traveling Route 66 as a young boy with my parents, I remember stopping along the way. I don’t remember Tucumcari, however. I know we stopped there. As a young adult I do remember one layover in that town. In the winter of 1973 I was heading to California from Georgia, where I’d been at Fort Benning for training. The weather turned ugly, it snowed heavily, and Route 66 was closed at Tucumcari. I spent the night in a small motel. I don’t recall eating a meal in town. I didn’t go into the Lizard Lounge, either. I do recall getting up early in the morning, going to my totally cool 1969 Mustang (jacked up with wide racing tires on the rear, and clearing the snow off, then turning on the CB radio. I went back into the room and listened to the truckers chat while awaiting word that the road was open. Finally a trucker said the barricades were removed, and he was heading out. I hustled my girl friend and our three-year old daughter into the Mustang, and we were off. We were going to beat the crowd. There was a line of cars and trucks, but few actually dared go on. I was the first car to get out of town, driving behind three semis. The highway wasn’t cleared at all. I drove precariously in the tracks left by those three trucks past cars and other trucks that had become mired in the snowfall from the previous day. The cars were abandoned, perhaps highway patrol officers had driven the owners into town. Truckers simply slept in their trucks, and now awaited tow trucks to help them onto the road again. It was a slow drive, but finally somewhere in Arizona the snow had melted off and we were back to our regular drive.
It wasn’t until sometime in 2007 that I returned to Tucumcari. There was no snow then. The Interstate had bypassed the town, but the owner-operator trucker I teamed with wanted to stop at his favorite bar and grill—The Lizard Lounge. We parked next to it for the night. It was late, the bar was open, but the grill closed. No matter. The bartender made us some tortillas and eggs smothered in salsa. We ate. We drank a few cold beers. The next morning we were back on the road again.
Last summer I made a trip out west. I followed the path of the Great American Eclipse, just a few days ahead of it. I drove from my brother’s home in North Carolina out to Oregon. I stopped on the way through Wyoming, picking up a bottle of Wyoming Whiskey Eclipse edition, only available in Wyoming. In Oregon I spent time with with that now-grown daughter. I spent some time, too, with her two children, who are now older than I was when I hustled her and her mother into my Mustang in Tucumcari so long ago. We watched the eclipse from a campsite in Gold City, Oregon. We drank a small glass of whiskey. I smoked a cigar. The eclipse from there was only 95%, but was incredible. Memorable.
On the way back to Georgia, after visiting two more brothers, I stopped again in Tucumcari. It had changed. Some. It felt darker, less inviting. I ate a great late breakfast at a small diner. In the evening I went to the Lizard Lounge. The grill was closed. The bartender was not going to make a couple eggs. I talked with a fellow traveler who’d stopped over in that forgotten town. It was an odd conversation. I don’t remember what was said, but it was just odd. I can’t put my finger on what or why. Just odd. I opted not to take a room at the motel attached to that bar and grill, staying in another cheap motel instead. In the morning I talked with a Christian woman that worked the morning shift at the motel desk. She filled me in on some of the local happenings, which weren’t many. One thing that stands out is how some of the town’s businessmen had successfully prevented competition to the one local grocery store. In the light of day, as I drove several times through town, I saw satanic pentagrams painted on some of the old buildings. That explained the darkness that had encroached on Tucumcari, I thought. I got a sense from the lady that there was a spiritual struggle brewing in town between Bible Believing folks and their opposites, their counterparts of another religion A pagan religion that invaded the town. The town seemed splintered. Light. Dark. Trouble coming, already there.
Salt of the Earth. It’s an English phrase referring to a person who is thoroughly decent. Christians are suppose to be the Salt of the Earth. “The role of salt in the Bible is relevant to understanding Hebrew society during the Old Testament and New Testament periods. Salt is a necessity of life and was a mineral that was used since ancient times in many cultures as a seasoning, a preservative, a disinfectant, a component of ceremonial offerings, and as a unit of exchange. The Bible contains numerous references to salt. In various contexts, it is used metaphorically to signify permanence, loyalty, durability, fidelity, usefulness, value, and purification.” —Wikipedia.
You are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his. savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good. for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men
— Matthew 5:13
There is a town in Montana that I’ve passed through many time while driving truck. It’s another bypassed town, on a nearly forgotten US route. Folks drive farther on the interstate, but avoid the small towns that are on that highway. Broadus, Montana.
My first trip through, heading north to Washington with a load, just after a stop at the truck scales, I drove down a hill and notice first that there where several churches, a large park, and a baseball field. I noticed, too, that the town just felt nice, bright, clean. Stopping at one of the small stores for a soft drink, I spoke with the owner. Nice guy. The town was doing well. Ranchers and some farming along the river areas, were the main stay of the community.
Another forgotten town that hasn’t dried up, fallen apart.
It’s off the beaten path of motorists in a hurry.
It’s a town filled with light, and the Salt of the Earth holds it.
L-RD Bless, Keep, Shine. . .