Today was supposed to be a fairly uneventful day. We were supposed to be on a combination of 66 and Interstate 40 and make one stop at a car museum and drive on the second incarnation of route 66, which is now a decent dirt and gravel road. We ended up having a couple more stops and some very interesting places however and met some good people.
As we were heading on 66 past Albuquerque I was supposed to take a turn and get back on the interstate; however I missed it and had to find another one. Luckily I did miss it otherwise I wouldn’t have met Mr. Archie Lewis and his dog Levi, or seen his toy and car museum. As we were driving along, I saw some old trucks behind a fence, so I quickly turned around to take a picture. However I saw a sign stating it was in fact a museum, so I pulled up and took a gander. I was dumbstruck merely looking at the treasures in front, but mom pointed out a sign saying to check in at the main office first.
The main office consisted of Mr. Lewis sitting in a chair right outside his museum talking to some folks. As my mother and I walked up he said that we were free to look around and the only fee for his museum was donation. In his garage was a good set of about 25 cars that were restored pretty well. Some were original, some were finished, and some were in progress. As we were looking around he said that he had some more cars out back if we wanted to take a look, so of course I did.
As soon as I stepped into his back lot, I was dumbfounded. There were easily 300 cars and trucks back there all lined up and organized. There was everything ranging from Model Ts all the way through the early 60s. Honestly I won’t be able to describe how I felt exactly or how this place was, so you are just going to have to look at the pictures and get an idea for yourself. Mother said that I was happier than a kid in a candy shop. I know I was bouncing all over the place taking pictures and going, “Oh look he has a…and Oh WOW here’s a…” and so on and so forth. I’ll highlight a couple though. First off I had never seen so many 40s Dodge and 50s Studebaker Pickups before. I’m pretty sure he just bought up all the ones in the area. There was also a Model A coupe that had a pickup bed where the truck or rumble seat would have been. I read about these once, that during World War II trucks received more gas rations than cars, so people would take their coupes and throw a pickup bed in it, making it a truck. There were also some Crosley’s as well as some Frazers. There were plenty of Model A and T bodies around the yard, as well as some White and Graham Brothers Pickups.
After wandering the grounds for about an hour we went back and talked to Mr. Lewis. Apparently he has had his current piece of property for the last 10 years but owned a restoration shop in Albuquerque where he previously owned about 600 cars. The reason he moved to his current property was because someone made him an offer he couldn’t refuse on the old property, so he picked up most of his cars and came out to where he is currently in Moriarty. After playing fetch with his Norwegian Elk Hound , giving a donation, and saying thank you, we headed out.
The next stop on our adventure was a museum in Santa Rosa. It was an okay museum. It was mainly a display for restored cars and hotrods, it had a route 66 theme and a few pieces of memorabilia. There were some pretty neat cars, however. There were, of course, some 57 Chevy’s, but there were also a few interesting things such as a 30 Auburn and a custom 56 El Camino (yes I know that there wasn’t an El Camino that year, however someone made their own version of it). There was also one thing that was very peculiar, a Datsun 280ZX (my sisters favorite car) . Somehow I don’t see an 80’s Japanese sports car being part of the Route 66 feel, but it’s a private collection, so it can have whatever the owner wants. The main highlight for me was a 39 Dodge Coupe. It was a resto-mod, in the sense that it looked very stock, until you lifted the hood. If you didn’t lift the hood the only other indicator would be the non-stock smaller steering wheel. After I ogled over the Dodge my mom and I took a photo in a 57 Chevy couch at the museum, which also had a matching 57 Chevy Front Clip desk at the entry way.
We needed to find a place to eat lunch, and read that there was a mini ghost town in the area. After much wandering we found it and had lunch parked in front of the abandoned church, after much photography and borderline trespassing we packed up the truck and cruised away.
Another random stop occurred as we were trying to get to Amarillo and get a hotel. We were delayed when I saw another collection of cars behind a gate, which included two 1949 Plymouths. As I was taking pictures two dogs came up to the fence and started barking at me, and within thirty seconds of that happening the owners pulled up next to me in their big pickup. Oh, and there were several “NO TRESPASSING” signs on the fence. Luckily…they were extremely friendly and asked if I wanted to come in and take pictures. Sure enough they had a large collection, and we spent about an hour talking with the Ellis’. While my mom was talking with Linda Ellis, her husband, Danny Ellis walked me around the property and showed me his little shop. In his personal garage were his two current projects, a 1956 Chevy two door, and a 1941 Chevy Coupe. It was evident that the Ellis’ were Studebaker fans, because there were quite a few Larks, as well as a 51 Coupe, and a 35 Four Door. Also on the property was a little Nash Metropolitan, a couple Dodge Pickups, and a 1939 Graham. They made a great team though, Mrs. Ellis did the upholstery on the vehicles, while Mr.Ellis did the mechanical and body work. Unfortunately time was of the essence and we had to skedadle. The funny thing is that they are good friends with Mr. Lewis. They also suggested another place to go, Russel’s Truck and Travel Shop. Again we didn’t have time. My mother said she had enough cars for the day, and my response was,”There is never such a thing as too many cars, only not enough time”.
For this trip we tried to stay as much as possible on Route 66, however, from time to time we have needed to jump on Interstate 40 for the sake of time. However we more than made up for it as we drove on a stretch of 66 where the pavement was demolished in the fifties and was replaced by another segment. This area is considerd “pre-fifties” which means it existed sometime between the late 20’s – 50’s. This area had some of the best photographic opportunities of this trip. I am going to talk about one in particular though, in which there was a side road that had a house and a junkyard in the back, which we wanted to go and take pictures of. When we pulled up there was a 1950 Packard that was just sitting there abandoned. Since it was so close to the abandoned house it made a perfect combo. We were there for at about 10 minutes trying to get the perfect angle in which the car, the house, the clouds, and the sky were all lined up. At one point I climbed on top of my truck in order to get the shot over the fence. Overall it was a fun experience, though I am sad to see a perfectly good car rusting away there. Maybe I can haul it home this summer, I’m sure nobody would notice it was gone.
Again onward we continued our journey. We pulled into our hotel late at night, after trying two others that were fully booked, and it began to pour. This was the heaviest and windiest rainstorm I have been in for quite some time.
Sorry this story did not get published yesterday, but we got into our hotel late, and the internet was spotty.