While popular memory evokes images of a highway lined with diners, motels, and roadside attractions catering to postwar travelers headed west, the Sandoval County section of “Mother Road” reflects the original purpose of the “Main Street of America,” to provide isolated rural communities with a major thoroughfare and access to urban centers.
Before 1938, Historic Route 66 meandered north, around the Sandia Mountains to Santa Fe and then turned south through Sandoval County to Albuquerque. Back then, the road was part pavement, part gravel, and part washboard dirt.
Farmers took produce to market, dustbowl “Okies” headed west and an emerging trucking industry favored this temperate, all-weather route to its northern counterparts.Route 66 changed its course in 1938 when national efforts to make the thoroughfare a continuously paved highway merged with the directives of an ousted state governor. Engineers built a new stretch of highway through the Sandias to Albuquerque, diverting travelers from the original, circuitous route.
Today’s travelers can immerse themselves in a blend of historic rural communities, farm and ranching culture, and bucolic scenery.
From the north, begin your journey into Sandoval County on I-25. Exit at Algodones (Exit 248) to NM 313 southbound. Drive this portion of Route 66 through the community of Bernalillo, home of several historic buildings, including the Old Convent building and Our Lady of Sorrows Chapel. Built in 1922, the Old Convent’s Salazar building is the largest adobe structure in the Southwest. Our Lady of Sorrows Chapel was originally built in 1716, right on top of what had been the kiva of the ruined pueblo, one of the few remaining examples of “pueblo-gothic” architecture.