Self-appointed Tucumcari tour guide Larry Klaverweiden points out highlights of the map mural on the Chamber of Commerce building to former residents Paul and Rosa Trujillo. Sun photo: Ryn Gargulinski
When former Tucumcari residents Paul and Rosa Trujillo came back to visit this week for the first time since 1956, they said they did not expect a lot of what they saw.
Yes, Route 66 was still there. Yes, the Spanish Baptist church where they were married was still standing. And yes, they were surprised about all the murals around town — even more surprised when a man walked up to them and offered to take them on a mural tour — for free.
But that’s just what Larry Klaverweiden does. Klaverweiden was born, raised and is well-versed in Tucumcari. The retired retail worker rounds up tourists from all over the nation as he spots them in town and shows them the local hot spots, namely the murals painted by local artists Doug and Sharon Quarles.
Klaverweiden started his self-appointed tourist business last summer. There is no charge for his tours, though he said some people who spend the day with him often end up buying him dinner.
“This has been neat,” Klaverweiden said of his touring with tourists. “All I have is time and I’ve made some lasting friends and good contacts while I promote Tucumcari.”
One contact that sings high praises for Klaverweiden’s tour is Mallory Lessard from Louisiana. In April, Lessard and his wife Kaye fixed up their 1967 Camaro for a 16-day road trip down Route 66 from Oklahoma to the Pacific Ocean.
“We happened to stop in Tucumcari to get a bite to eat when another 1967 Camaro drives up and I see the guy looking at my car. We get to talking and the guy says ‘C’mon, let me show you the sights.’”
Hence another friendship was born. Klaverweiden ended up spending a good five hours with the couple, Mallory Lessard said. Not only did they view the murals, but got to meet the artist Doug Quarles who is also from Louisiana.
Klaverweiden said he’s guided folks of all ages from Kansas City, Virginia, Oklahoma and Washington. Their professions have included a private investigator, a retired fire chief and the World’s Smallest Basketball Team — The Tiny Trotters.
“They were a bunch of midgets who played basketball,” Klaverweiden said. “They were great.”
“I live here because I choose to,” he said, adding he tries to tempt tourists he sees on the fringes of town into the heart of Tucumcari.
“I get them into the main part of town,” he said. “They are impressed with the old theater. I give them the history of Tucumcari.”
Mallory Lessard said he and his wife got more than just a history of the city with Klaverweiden, but one of their fondest memories.
“We talk about Tucumcari all the time,” Lessard said. “It was probably one of the most pleasant trips. Larry was so nice, it wasn’t even funny. Tucumcari needs to hire him as a tour guide; he’s great.”