The name Tucumcari is derived from the Comanche word, “tukanukaru,” meaning “to lie in wait for something to approach.” By the mid-19th century, the flat-topped peak served as a lookout for Comanche raiders preying on cowboys driving cattle along the Chisolm and Comanchero Trails.
The birth of Route 66 in 1926 brought new travelers to Tucumcari by the carload. Wagon yards, livery stables and blacksmith shops were soon replaced with gas stations, motor courts, gift shops and cafes along the seven-mile stretch of Route 66 known as Tucumcari Boulevard.
The Route 66 sculpture that welcomes you at the western edge of town was created by Thomas Coffin in 1997. The chrome and rock sculpture evokes cars and road trips of the 1950s. Coffin carved the red stone base with the shape of tires, and the sculpture’s chrome upper looks as though it’s a tailfin from a classic car—it even has taillights that glow red at night.
Many of the historic motor lodges are still lovingly cared for as family-owned lodgings.
Tee Pee Curios has reached icon status along the Mother Road thanks to its novel architecture: the entrance is shaped like a teepee. The striking façade calls travelers off the route and inside the souvenir shop to browse all manner of Route 66 paraphernalia. The building dates back to 1944 when it was a Gulf gas station, grocery, and, yes, it was even a souvenir shop then. The teepee entrance was added, and the pumps removed in 1959.
Tucumcari has nearly 100 public murals, which is an impressive number for a town of 4,900.
Tucumcari is indeed the “Gateway to New Mexico”, and even if you think you can make it to the next town, you will never regret stopping here to check it out.