Tucumcari is a town on the eastern edge of New Mexico that was one of the inspirations for the Pixar movie ‘Cars’ along with Seligman, Arizona, Glenrio, Texas, and several other towns and places.

[box_right]If you’re into either the Cars franchise or Rt. 66 (or both), then read this post by Ron Warnick of route66news.com for more detailed information on the people and places that inspired the film.[/box_right]

If you’re like most people you would pull off the Tucumcari exit on i40 and stay at one of the new hotels right near the highway. There’s a Hampton Inn, a Super 8, even a Motel 6 within a block or two of the exit. There’s also a newish Denny’s for breakfast, a few gas stations and you can hop back on the road heading to either Albuquerque (west) or Amarillo (east) without a second thought.

Lasso Motel Sign
Lasso Motel Sign
And that’s unfortunate for downtown Tucumcari. You see, downtown Tucumcari is just like Radiator Springs in the fictional ‘Cars’. It’s either dead or dying, and at this point there’s not much anyone can do to save it.

That said, I hope that if you ever find yourself on i40 and see signs for Tucumcari that you’ll pull off the highway and drive through the town. I think it’s worth your time – and if you’re going to stop for the night you could do worse than staying at the famous Blue Swallow Inn near the town center.

I don’t mean to get all nostalgic on you, but I love backroads and byways and it makes me sad to see Rt.66 slowly disappear.

[kathy]”I was excited to see Tucumcari since it was one of the towns that inspired the Cars movie, and more recently the amusement park, Cars Land, which is part of the Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, CA. Before we left CA, we went to Cars Land for the day, and Disney did a fantastic job of bringing Radiator Springs to life! As I walked down the streets of Tucumcari I had to admit it looked like Radiator Springs before it was revitalized, which made me wish the same for this town. Travel changes your perspective, which is one of the things I love about travel-living.”[/kathy]

Cactus RV Park

Cactus RV Park
Cactus RV Park
As I said in my last post, originally we were planning to drive farther than Tucumcari for the night, but as severe thunderstorms were forecast for Oklahoma we opted to cut our drive short. In fact, it’s only 160 miles from Leisure Mountain RV Park to Cactus RV Park, so the drive took less than 3 hours and I didn’t even need to stop for gas.

Cactus RV Park accepts Passport America, so we paid only $19 for the night and that included full hookups (even 50amp), free wifi, and cable TV. After spending some time on the east coast I REALLY appreciate how reasonable RV Park pricing is out west.

Added to this, the park is completely level, so it’s easy to pull in and out, and very easy to level your rig – something that’s of paramount importance to you non-RV readers.

Cactus RV Park was originally the Cactus Club back in the 1920s, but at this point the buildings are all in a state of disrepair. This makes for excellent photos, but it’s a little bit creepy at night as the old motel surrounds the lot where you’re parked.

Home sweet home!
Home sweet home!
Fortunately when you’re in your RV you feel snug and safe regardless of what’s outside. It’s a very different feeling from tent camping to say the least.

We didn’t spend a lot of time in town, but did take a late afternoon walk to take photos, and enjoyed the sight of a group of bikers have a cookout at the Blue Swallow Inn. And speaking of the Blue Swallow – many of the old motels in Tucumcari have garages attached to the rooms. In the Blue Swallow Inn garages someone took the time to paint characters and images from Cars, and we both thought that was pretty cool.

We’ll get back on the road in my next post, but for now here’s more photos of Tucumcari:


Hi, I'm Rich - Perpetual traveler, photographer, writer, and web designer. Thanks for reading, and happy trekking!


  1. Hi! I recently found your blog, and it looks like we’re going to pass each other in opposite directions! We’re in Indiana, headed to Arizona, and taking “Route 66” to get there. We’re planning stops at the Big Red Barn RV Park (thanks for the pictures – it looks nice!), and Tucumcari. I was debating between Cactus RV and Kiva RV — it seems like there is some type of feud going on between the owners — would you recommend one over the other? We stayed at Leisure Mountain in Tijeras last spring, so it seems like we have similar experiences in RV Parks (LOVE Passport America!). Safe travels!!

    • Rich Reply

      Hi Marci – We actually took this trip back in July and are just writing about it now. It looks like Big Red Barn is no longer a Passport America park which is unfortunate. I still recommend it as it’s a very nice RV park. We weren’t in Tucumcari long enough to pick up on the feud between Cactus and Kiva RV Parks, however I think Cactus RV Park is a little bit nicer as the sites are on crushed rock and level, whereas Kiva sites are on dirt and a bit more rutted. That’s just in general mind you – I didn’t inspect Kiva too closely. Safe travels to you too!

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