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Midpoint to … where? February 4, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Signs, Towns.
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A story a few days ago in the Mountain View Telegraph detailed about how local officials and volunteers in Moriarty and Edgewood, N.M., want to play their Route 66 history.

The story often cites Roger Holden, who served as Edgewood’s parks and recreation director:

Replacing a few stolen signs is high on the list of priorities, as well as placing Old Route 66 logos on Moriarty and Edgewood banners, he said.

There could also be a tray liner with a map marking significant points along the route. “The Sunset Motel, Lewis Antique Auto and Toy Museum, Whiting Brothers. There is a whole host of them,” Holden said.

So far, so good. But there’s this sentence that, again, cites Holden:

There also is an effort afoot to locate the exact midpoint of Old Route 66 and place a marker, which he said lies somewhere in the Edgewood area.

This is where veteran roadies will scratch their heads.

That’s because the semi-official Route 66 midpoint is in Adrian, Texas. A restaurant there has the name due to that, and a sign across the road proclaims it the center of Route 66 — 1,139 miles east of the western terminus, and 1,139 miles west of the eastern terminus.

The reason I said “semi-official” is because it depends on what alignment. Instead of 2,278 miles, old Route 66 is often cited as totaling 2,448 miles (or 2,451, if you believe Wikipedia). Early versions of Route 66 didn’t always go in a straight line. Driving from Chicago to Los Angeles in the late 1920s added about 170 miles to the journey. It took until the late 1930s or ’40s for highway officials to forge a shorter path.

The imprecise mileage of Route 66 is why towns such as Vega and Bushland in Texas and even Tucumcari in New Mexico could lay claim to being the middle of the Mother Road.

But Edgewood lies more than 140 miles west of Tucumcari. Even factoring the most generous distance, there’s no way it could be old Route 66’s midpoint. It’s not close.

Perhaps Holden means Edgewood lies at the midpoint of Route 66 in New Mexico. In that case, it makes sense. According to Google Maps, Edgewood sits 187 miles from the Arizona border, and 187 miles from the Texas border, give or take a mile or two.

But even that claim contains a catch. That midpoint would be only for the post-1938 alignment of Route 66, which ran straight west from Santa Rosa to Albuquerque. But U.S. 66 before 1938 veered north to Santa Fe before heading south to Albuquerque.

The older path of Route 66 through New Mexico adds nearly 100 miles. That would place the midway point of Route 66 in the Land of Enchantment on the western edge of Santa Fe. Also, the old Santa Fe alignment bypasses Moriarty and Edgewood entirely.

This analysis may seem too “inside baseball,” but an inaccurate or incomplete sentence such in that article drives fact-checkers crazy. And I suspect a few folks in Santa Fe — and other businesses in northern New Mexico that embrace Route 66 tourism — will take issue with Edgewood’s claim.

(Image of the Midpoint of Route 66 sign in Adrian, Texas, by iwishmynamewasmarsha, via Flickr)

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