Fotoeins Fotografie

faces of home & place-story
Bugs Bunny, Warner Bros. Cartoons, Bully for Bugs (1953)

That Left Turn in Albuquerque, 1938-2019

Above/featured: “Bully for Bugs” (Warner Bros. Pictures, 1953).

Something is burrowing through the desert when a creature pops up through a hole in the dirt. A grey rabbit stands, brushing himself off and looking at his surroundings. Realizing he’s not where he should be, he checks his map and says aloud with mild irritation:

I knew I should’ve taken that left turn at Albuquerque.

That Bugs Bunny statement is a frequently used gag in a number of Warner Brothers cartoons. But seriously, that is one very specific geographical reference. What does Bugs mean by “that left turn?” Is it a real thing?

Let’s go to New Mexico in the American Southwest, to Albuquerque, whose modern development has been shaped by the car and high-speed roads. The city’s history is tied with the creation of the American highway and with one of the most well-known highway, US route 66.

After the 1937 realignment of highway US route-66, Central Avenue became the east-west “Mother Road” through the city. Driving west on Central Avenue towards the city’s Old Town district, the road bends slightly right and northwest to run parallel with the Rio Grande river. The road eventually comes up to a junction, and drivers are faced with choices at the intersection of what are now Central Avenue and Rio Grande Boulevard.

•   Turn right, and drivers are headed away from US-66 and north towards Santa Fe.
•   Jig slightly left, and drivers continue west on US-66 towards Arizona and the highway’s west terminus in Los Angeles, California.

John Deeth wrote about this in August 2011.


The evolution of “that left toin”

The 20th-century has seen rapid urban expansion across the city, spreading into areas covered in desert scrub. Drivers tracing old US-66 and heading west on Central Avenue now have the option of remaining straight ahead (west) on Central Avenue, turning right (north) onto Rio Grande Boulevard SW, or turning left (south) onto Rio Grande Boulevard NW for local access. The last third option did not show up until the 1950s. In the following 1938, 1940s, 1954, and 2019 maps, the intersection of Central Ave. and Rio Grande Boulevard is marked with a black asterisk; north is at the top of each map.

Albuquerque, 1938 USGS map, US Geological Survey, US 66, US route 66, New Mexico, USA, fotoeins.com

USGS 1938 map: the post-1937 alignment of US-66 occurred after map printing (source).

Albuquerque, 1938 USGS map, US Geological Survey, US 66, US route 66, New Mexico, USA, fotoeins.com

USGS 1938 map: zoom into section around the Old Town; black asterisk for Central Avenue & Rio Grande Boulevard (source).

Albuquerque, 1940s driving map, US 66, US route 66, New Mexico, USA, fotoeins.com

1940s driving map: black asterisk for Central Avenue & Rio Grande Boulevard (source).

Albuquerque, 1954 USGS map, US Geological Survey, US 66, US route 66, New Mexico, USA, fotoeins.com

USGS 1954 map: black asterisk for Central Avenue & Rio Grande Boulevard (source).

Albuquerque, Google Maps, US 66, US route 66, New Mexico, USA, fotoeins.com

Google Maps 2019: black asterisk for Central Avenue & Rio Grande Boulevard; westbound to Arizona and California, and eastbound to Texas.


The intersection

That’s how we came to visit and photograph this ordinary looking intersection in Albuquerque during our journey through the American Southwest.

And in the picture below, we remained on Central Avenue, crossing Rio Grande Boulevard.

Central Ave, US 66, US Route 66, Rio Grande Blvd, Old Town, Albuquerque, NM, USA, fotoeins.com

Westbound, on Central Avenue (US-66) at Rio Grande Boulevard – 7 Oct 2018.

I made the picture above on 7 October 2018. Thanks to AB for making this memorable trip possible. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at fotoeins.com as https://wp.me/p1BIdT-cDo. Last edit: 14 Oct 2020.

2 Responses to “That Left Turn in Albuquerque, 1938-2019”

  1. Albuquerque: big balloons & highlights in the Duke City

    […] I spent many hours in childhood watching Warner Brothers Cartoons. One theme was a lost Bugs Bunny with a specific catchphrase, and the rest of the cartoon dealt with circumstance and consequence. It turns out if you happened to be driving west through Albuquerque on US route 66, there was a left-turn you had to make to remain on the highway towards Arizona and California. I wrote about “that left toin” here. […]

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