Changing of the guards at the Motel Safari on Route 66 in Tucumcari NM. Richard and Gail Talley have owned and operated the motel for 10 years and now pass the torch to Larry Smith, the new owner.
Starting off with a love to travel, Larry Smith (or “2 Guns Larry” his newly given name) has driven sections of the route over the past decade or so. “I knew what Route 66 was about through shows, music and little things here and there, but I really didn’t know what Route 66 was about fully to the point I probably should have.” A trip from LA to Tennessee (Larry is from Knoxville TN) brought him to Tucumcari. “A buddy and I were driving from LA and we wanted to jump off of I-40 and stay the night somewhere and Tucumcari was the town we stopped in. Even back then there was some neon and these little historic businesses that I started to discover and enjoy’.
After a few trips hitting just a few segments of the route, he decided to embark on a full Chicago to LA trip in 2009 to see what the route was really about and to see and visit the places he researched online.
In 2016, and working for the Scripps Network in the International Division, he felt the open road calling. “It was getting to the point at work where it was nothing but Skype meetings and the same thing over and over and no person to person interaction and I needed a change.” The open road was calling yet again and that road ended up back in Tucumcari.
Ironically, a year later a good friend of Larry’s spotted the story of the Motel Safari being for sale on the Route 66 World website and Facebook page and told Larry this might be the time for something different. “A year earlier (2016) I never thought I would have gone from standing in the parking lot of the Motel Safari taking photos like your typical tourist to actually owning it. When I heard it was for sale I struggled with the time being right or if it was the right time for a change but it kept calling me back and after meeting with Rich and Gail and seeing how the operations are ran and how wonderful the motel was kept and all the neat little architectural details, I knew the time was right”.
Larry moved into the motel last Sunday and is spending the next few weeks going over business details and how to run it and even gets out once in a whole to start getting to know the town of Tucumcari and even stretches of the route – but this time as a business owner. “What should be a quick trip to the store takes a lot longer because folks want to know what my plans are, who I am and tell me about the town and all the other businesses. Rich and Gail not only have been fantastic hosts when I first came to check the motel out, but they have made this transition better than I can hoped for. I just need to keep up what they built so the motel will what the traveler has always known it to be.”
Larry also plans on opening a second suite; the first being the Rockabilly Suite with the new one being the Rawhide suite as well as open the remaining rooms. A small gift shop with Motel Safari merchandise will be available after a little while.
We wish Larry all the best and whole-heartedly thank Rich and Gail for bringing a classic motel back to be a destination on the route.
You can follow Larry and the Motel Safari via Facebook.