Often people come through Tucumcari because of an interest in Route 66, but 13 university students and two professors came to Tucumcari because of a class being offered by the two instructors in Connecticut on the “Mother Road”.
It is the second year that the two Central Connecticut State University instructors have offered the class and have found sufficient interest to take the road trip/course with the students “We wanted to expose the students to the meaning of the road and people along it in places like Tucumcari,” said Bruce Day. “In fact, in this year’s course we are examining the aspects of pilgrimage that Route 66 has come to embody to many people.” Fellow instructor John Mitrano said that places like Tucumcari provide a source of people whom their students, all sociology students, are not familiar with and can learn of other cultures and societal norms that living in a New England state like Connecticut might not provide them.
According to a number of the students on the cross-country trek, they are amazed at the openness of the local people and their willingness to put themselves out for the group.
“The people have all been so nice and willing to help,” said junior HeatHer Cowles about the people they have met since they have been traveling the “Mother Road” with their professors. All agreed that one of the most memorable things so far about the trip, at least geographically, was the difference in the land as they entered New Mexico at Glenrio. After traveling for days following the route of 66 through the Great Plains they said they were “astounded” by the mesas and the Southwestern geography of Quay County with its mesas and desert.
“It’s amazing,” said Jennifer Kelly, “so different.”
Also different, they felt at first when they arrived in Tucumcari was the accommodations where they would be staying. Their professors had booked rooms at the Blue Swallow Motel with its classic “Tourist Cabin” styling dating from the mid-20th century. “They didn’t know what to think,” said Day. “They’d never seen anything like it before. They didn’t know what we had gotten them into.” But their professors, choices proved to pass muster with the students after they saw the rooms. “They’re excellent,” said Zach Gitlene about the rooms at the Blue Swallow. “We were very happy with them when we saw them.”
One of the sites that the “class” visited while in Tucumcari was Tee Pee Curios because of its identification with Route 66 and owner Mike Callens said the group was “a pleasure to have in here.” Callens said he had visited with Day last year when he came through and had established a credibility with the university professor so when he was contacted this year, Callens arranged to have an “expert” on the highway to meet with the class when they dropped by.
“I think the whole idea is great,” said Callens about an East Coast university teaching a course on Route 66. “It gives a whole new generation a perspective on Route 66. It gives them an insight into us who work and live along it. They asked very intelligent questions. Yeah, I’m really positive about this.”