September 3: Santa Rosa, New Mexico
For decades, Santa Rosa was a popular stop along Route 66. Because of Santa Rosa’s lakes and location near the Pecos River, the city was considered an oasis in the hot, dusty desert. Travelers stopped at the Club Cafe, a Route 66 landmark from 1935 until the route began to lose traffic.
Today the city has only 2000 inhabitants and less traffic, most of it spilling over from nearby I-40. For a small town, it has rich history. Scenes in Rudolfo Anaya’s novel Bless Me, Ultima and John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath took place on Santa Rosa’s Route 66 at the Pecos River bridge. A scene from the 1940 movie “Grapes of Wrath” was filmed there as well.
The town was first settled in 1865 by a rancher named Don Celso Baca. In 1879, he built an adobe chapel to honor his wife. The chapel was dedicated to Santa Rosa de Lima, the first canonized saint of the New World. Ruins from the historic chapel still stand. In the early 1900s, workers on the Southern Pacific Railroad settled in the area and the city became the seat of county government.
Santa Rosa is known as the “City of Natural Lakes” and with 15 separate lakes and streams the name is well-deserved. Hunting and birdwatching are also popular because the area is abundant with small game including deer, antelope, quail and duck.
Locals and tourists also scuba dive in the Southwest Blue Hole, an 81-foot-deep natural artesian spring. According to divers, the pool is so clear divers can see stars at night from the bottom. The Blue Hole is inhabited by goldfish, catfish and snails that cling to the walls.
Next stop: Amarillo, Texas
Petro Stopping Center
I-40, Exit 75, Lakeside Drive