High Plains offers plenty for travelers

By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS Columnist

Summer tourists will soon be flocking to the shores of California, unbending their maps and looking lost on New York City’s subways and even popping their heads into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

While New Mexico has it made with places such as Santa Fe and Taos, until Julia Roberts wrecked it, more can be done to draw people to the eastern part of the state.

Clovis has so much to offer that is perhaps not sufficiently capitalized upon.

Like the zoo. Unique enough within itself, the zoo could be further enhanced by expanded marketing as “The most unlikely place in the world to find a giraffe.”

Since the giraffe is one of the zoo’s stars, it could get top billing — and a little exercise. They could offer giraffe rides, sort of like how people sit around on elephants in India.

Free peanuts for the visitors and residents would be another way to make people go ape for the zoo.

If the zoo worked in conjunction with local animal owners — like that really cool camel owned by a guy with a pool — they could offer tangent tours of nearby critter habitats. A massive map of Curry County could pinpoint the locations of llamas, ostrich and really longhorned steers while the streets could be painted with elephant footprints so one could walk along the animal route in wonderment.

The railroad, too, could be used as a mighty tourist attraction. After all, free up-close tours are offered several times daily when the train blocks off traffic to nearby Farwell. A tourist booth could be set up right near the state line, offering brochures, free conductor hats and a prize if anyone can guess how many train cars are in the particular lineup chugging by.

They could also start some train games — quizzing folks on how fast the trains actually go.

The Hotel Clovis is another big attraction. Tours should surely be given of this impressive structure and stories shared of how it could be haunted — even if it isn’t. Hey, once you get them into town, no matter how, you get to keep their tourist dollars.

Tucumcari already lucks out in the travel arena as people are constantly streaming down Route 66. They also get the overflow of folks who get lost on nearby Interstate 40 and those whose cars break down and they simply can’t go any farther.

A lot of the latter have actually stayed in town just because they couldn’t afford to go anywhere else.

Tucumcari Mountain is another — literally — huge draw.

Since some folks get woozy with the increased elevation, a tram could be set up to take people to its peak and back.

Stories already exist about outlaws frolicking at the mountain’s base or ghosts looming in its crevices.

Portales pretty much has it made for tourists already. Not only does it have a college campus dappled with actual trees — an eastern New Mexico rarity — it also boasts a peanut butter factory.

As one can see, there are plenty of opportunities to entice people into the High Plains.

Never mind the Empire State Building or the Pacific Ocean — people could scamper to eastern New Mexico as fast as a roaring freight train.

Ryn Gargulinski writes for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: