Before moving to Albuquerque seven years ago, I wondered why Nate “King” Cole didn’t include Albuquerque in his great musical travelogue Route 66 and why the only city in New Mexico included in the tune is the tiny town of Gallop. (Later I found out that Weird Al Yankovic and The Partridge Family did in fact write songs about The Duke City.) I finally got hip as to why drivers on the “Mother Road,” as John Steinbeck used to call it, might choose not to get their kicks on Route 66 in Albuquerque, where it is called Central Avenue, a street that is often cited as the longest avenue in the world (It runs for 18 miles through the city.) Here are some of the timely reasons why Amarillo or Winona might be a better choice to stop than Albuquerque:
- Sunday, November 9, 2014 An Albuquerque police SWAT team responded to an armed man holed up inside a room at the Luxury Inn on The Mother Road (Central Avenue), which they closed for six hours. Said one letter to the editor referencing recent police shootings in the Duke City: “Police encounter a mentally ill man with a gun and he is NOT SHOT. This is a step forward.”
- November 3, 2014 An employee at Best Choice Inn, another one of those Mother Road motels (East Central Avenue is known locally as “The War Zone”), told police he heard shots around 2:30 a.m. and saw someone lying on the ground, the victim of a homicide.
- Friday, October 31, 2014 A traveler was shot and killed at Best Choice Inn on Central Avenue. As Steinbeck might have worded it, “The front desk clerk, who was working the graveyard shift, early Friday morning, said he heard three shots around 2:30 a.m.”
Some east Central Avenue motels that once catered to Route 66 tourists for decades are now besieged by prostitutes, drug dealers, and people in crisis mode.
- October 28, 2014 For the second time in three days, Albuquerque police officers shot a man after he crashed his car at Jefferson and Central and got out of his car with a gun and tried to rob one person and then carjack another.
- Friday, October 24, 2014 On the Islamic day of prayer, someone threw a Molotov cocktail at the Islamic Center of New Mexico a few blocks south of The Mother Road. This incident reminded Albuquerqueans of when a Jewish delicatessen had similarly been hit by anti-Semitic vandalism earlier in January, 2013, .also not far from The Mother Road – in fact just a few steps from it.
- August 25, 2014 A rider on the 777 Central Avenue Rapid Ride bus in Albuquerque was photographed by a fellow-passenger injecting himself in his arm with heroin.
- August 7, 2014 A car crash that killed a pedestrian shut both directions of Central Avenue between San Pedro and Florida.
- July 25, 2014 The Director of Government and Community Relations for the University of New Mexico, just south of the Mother Road, was arrested on DWI charges at the intersection of 14th and Central. He had two previous DWI convictions. UNM’s latest crime report shows four stalking, four dating violence, and 13 domestic violence cases.
The reader may think that because all of the aforementioned harmful incidents occurred along eastern and central parts of Central the western part of Albuquerque’s Mother Road must be a tranquil, safe zone. No.
- July 20, 2014 Three Albuquerque teenagers took turns killing two sleeping Native American homeless men by smashing cinder blocks on their heads of two sleeping homeless men in a vacant lot near 60th Street and Central Avenue. One of the killers told APD police the three had attacked dozens of other homeless people throughout the city.
John Steinbeck would be appalled, as appalled as many residents of Albuquerque are about events occurring on this stretch of The Mother Road.