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.
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.
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.
6 Responses to “That Left Turn in Albuquerque, 1938-2019”
[…] 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. […]
[…] Albuquerque, Brooklyn […]
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So many times, I’ve watched that Bugs Bunny cartoon where he pops out of the ground and then meets Yosemite Sam (as a middle eastern sheik). I just used (this morning) the phrase ” I knew I shoulda taken that left toin at Albakoikee” and the younger guy I was talking to asked me what the heck I meant by that. Tried to explain it to him with not much luck, so turned to my good friend, Dr. Google. I was led to this page and viola!! So happy to learn about the origin of the phrase. As I think back on many of those amazing Warner Brothers cartoons, It’s interesting to contemplate the origins of many of the sayings and interactions, even IF some of them are not so politically correct these days. Some of my favorite sayings are from characters like Bugs Bunny and Foghorn Leghorn. Pure comedic GOLD!! : ) Looks like I took the right turn for this expedition!!! Thanks much for the history lesson.
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Hi, David. It’s a lot of fun to see that there’s a direct reference to real life. As time passes, I imagine fewer people will recognize the cartoon or gag about Bugs Bunny ending up in an unknown location because he missed “that left toin in Albakoikee.” Thanks again for your comment and for stopping by.
I’ve either lived in Albuquerque or visited Albuquerque my entire life, and I never thought about where Bugs made his wrong turn. You are correct. I make that turn often, but from now on I will always think about Bugs.
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Hi, Nancy; thanks for your comment and for passing by!