Editor's note: Russell's Travel Center was purchased by TravelCenters of America in October after acquiring its Springer location earlier in the year. It plans to maintain the car museum and other amenities.
MOTORISTS ZIPPING ALONG I-40 near the New Mexico–Texas border might spy Russell’s Travel Center in Glenrio and think it’s just another place to fill up the tank, stretch, and grab a snack. But for those who venture beyond the food aisles and beverage coolers, the service plaza off exit 369 is an oasis for high-octane car-lovers.
Here you’ll find Russell’s Car and Collectible Museum, where a mannequin dressed as a mechanic greets visitors with a wrench in one hand and a Welcome sign in the other. Behind it, 23 gleaming classic cars in cherry red, powder blue, and emerald green are arranged in rows. A cruiseworthy 1958 Chevrolet Impala sits next to a racy 1959 Corvette. A pair of Chevrolet pickups—the curvy 1955 in white and a brawny 1972 in red—showcases how the truck has evolved.
Route 66 murals, vintage Texaco and Coke signs, and oversize pictures of Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe adorn the walls. Display cases house semitrailer and NASCAR memorabilia, collections of spurs and knives, and so much more.
Director of operations Mark Russell walks toward the ’72 Chevy truck and admits to driving it when he was younger. “I say my dad didn’t know,” he says. “But he probably did.”
Mark’s father, Emory Russell, owns all these vehicles, 30 others that get rotated once a year (unless there is a special event), and another 80 or 90 that are in need of restoration. Emory, 86, began collecting cars in 1977 when he purchased a 1957 Chevrolet convertible. He continued amassing vehicles until storage eventually became an issue—a problem the Glenrio museum helped to alleviate when it opened in 2010.
The elder Russell grew up in a Montana logging family before becoming a truck driver in Cimarrón. By 1968, he and his wife, Barbara, had four sons. To help supplement the family income, she worked as a waitress at Rainey’s Restaurant, before eventually taking over as owner of the Cimarrón eatery and the Dairy Bar in town.
The Russells opened their first grocery store in Cimarrón in 1971, expanding across New Mexico and into Colorado and Texas. But Emory never quite lost that trucking fever, launching the first Russell’s Travel Center near Springer in 1995 with a car wash, truck wash, tire repair area, and a display of six classic cars from his collection.
“Because my dad and grandfather were truckers, we have a lot of respect [for them],” Mark says. “We know the sacrifices truckers have to make.”
The 28,000-square-foot Glenrio travel center features 125 on-site parking spaces for trucks and 50 more just outside the parking lot. Inside, a Route 66–themed diner serves up burgers, steaks, and burritos; a chapel offers Sunday services and a place for quiet reflection; and clean showers welcome weary travelers.
It’s a 24-7-365 operation, but Mark wouldn’t know any other way. “If you told me to lock the doors,” he says, “I don’t know if I could.”