If I Only Knew Then

It was Mid-June in the summer of 1976, and it was already hot and sticky.

A young man and a young woman, dressed in their wedding finery, stood in a small church before the Minister, God, and a small gathering of family and friends, to exchange vows.

The young woman was 17 1/2 yrs old, 5-months pregnant, and scared shitless. She was about to embark on an unknown journey — pregnant and so far from everything and everyone she knew.

She always knew her destiny was to marry young, to be a mother — she just didn’t know it would be so far from home.

Their married life started at Cannon AFB in Clovis, New Mexico. It was here where they would start their new life together, here where their two boys would be born. But to someone at the tender age of 17 1/2, Clovis was dry, hot, and boring as hell.

It’s 43 years later since we left Clovis, New Mexico in early 1979 with two young children. We are older, a bit wiser, and more appreciative. We are returning to New Mexico, traveling in our Airstream, exploring Route 66.

If I only knew then, what I know now…

The New Mexico today, doesn’t match the memories from 43 years ago. I was too young and naive to appreciate the Land of the Enchantment and the beauty it had to offer.

We lived paycheck to paycheck on an Airman’s wage, sometimes just barely making it. Traveling and sightseeing were not an option or a priority for us.

As a young person, I had heard of Route 66, but I always thought it was too far away and I didn’t quite grasp the draw to it?

If I only knew then, what I know now…

Tucumcari was just a road sign we saw on the highway when traveling from Clovis to Denver. It seemed so far away and I did not know then that Route 66 went right through it.

I wished I had seen it…

In the mid-’70s, Tucumcari must have been something to see. This town would have been a GEM on Route 66. Fine hotels, neon lights, restaurants bustling with hungry patrons, and the finest automobiles cruising the main drag.

Today, it is a struggling town, hanging onto its past while trying to find its present. Some of the hotels have been remodeled and updated, vying for the business of travelers and Route 66 enthusiasts amongst the Chain Hotels. Some hotels are just a former shell, a faded memory of years past.

Old gas stations line the Route, some abandoned, some turned into another form of business. I could almost imagine the classic cars of that era, vrooming in for a fill-up, while an attendant cleaned the windshields.

Unfortunately, I cannot know then, what I know now, but I can appreciate what is there today. I can also be grateful I was able to explore a time past and use my imagination to remember a time long ago.

We also spent an afternoon in Santa Rosa, New Mexico.



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