Initially, I was discouraged by the lack of information that existed about Wagon Wheel. This interchange east of Albuquerque isn't listed in the placenames books or on any maps I've seen. There's no Wagon Wheel phone book and no mention of it in other books I have. Wagon Wheel apparently went ahead and became a location without checking with anyone first.


  • COUNTY:  Torrance
  • LOCATION:  Approx. 35 miles west of Albuquerque on I-40
  • NAME ORIGIN:  Unknown

    So I figured I'd skip it. If Wagon Wheel wanted to be incognito, that was fine with me. I could write instead about the smaller and more-popular Clines Corners just down the road, which is on the maps. No harm done.

    But something still didn't seem right. Why have a location and not tell anybody?

    And then I realized the truth: Wagon Wheel is a spy.

    As we go on about our business, Wagon Wheel takes note. It watches to see how many of us drive with one hand on the steering wheel and one reaching for another piece of jerky. It studies the way we hold our plastic Lot-A-Burger cups between our legs as we drive. It notes how many of us "Hear New Mexico" on AM 650. Every downshift, every stray over the center white line, every flash of the brights duly noted, recorded, studied. Wagon Wheel is watching.

    For what purpose?  I can't say. Maybe Wagon Wheel has plans to be the next Albuquerque and is quietly amassing knowledge before staging the coup. Or maybe, just as humans enjoy sightseeing, sites like Wagon Wheel enjoy humanseeing. Who's to say that a small roadside attraction isn't as interested in the people that pass before it as they are (momentarily at least) in it?

    I don't get the sense that there's anything sinister going on. It's hard to think that a roadside stop whose motel advertises FREE TV is up to anything bad. Maybe one day we'll know why we're being studied. Until then, keep yourself in line when you pass Wagon Wheel. No speeding, hands at 10 and 2, eyes straight ahead. And nod to Wagon Wheel as you pass. Even spies need a little recognition.


(click on the thumbnail image to see a larger picture)

The turnoff for Wagon
Wheel off I-40 East.

A Wagon Wheel vista.