(Almost) Abandoned America: Glenrio

Glenrio sits on the border of Texas and New Mexico just off Interstate 40. At first blush, it looks like a Route 66 ghost town, a sad reminder that getting an Interstate exit often wasn’t enough to save a town: the lucky ones got two, forming a loop. The Longhorn Motel, the “First and Last in Texas,” as the sign no longer says after years of decay, is falling apart, within sight of the highway. A gas station is barely identifiable.

The dogs barking threateningly are the first sign that the town’s abandonment may not be complete.

The dogs, as it turns out, are at a house behind another old gas station, where the modern, clean cars in the driveway indicate current residence. This puts something of a damper on exploration: I’m not sure why someone would live here, but it’s probably not because they enjoy random people hanging around.

A house well off the other side of the road appeared to be occupied as well. But it’s the dogs that put me off.

Glenrio’s population never exceeded about 30, but in its day, it had a railroad depot (the tracks are gone), a post office, a diner, a newspaper, and a welcome center. Scenes from Grapes of Wrath were filmed here. The town straddles the border: everything west of the motel is in New Mexico. It’s regrettable that I don’t feel very comfortable exploring off the road.

This last time through I had resolved to at least check out the Longhorn Motel—but someone was there, with a truck and trailer, the nature of their business unknown. An encounter on a lonely road like this wasn’t what I was looking for, so I left it for another time.