The Classical Gas Museum in Embudo, New Mexico

Classical Gas Museum as viewed from the nearby road

photography by: psyberartist/ Wikiemdia Commons

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On first glance, the remote unincorporated community of Embudo, New Mexico, might seem like nothing more than a place to pass through while on State Road 68. Looks can be deceiving, though, as within this tiny community, one of the country’s quirkiest museums holds court. Paying a tribute to the history of American gas stations, the Classical Gas Museum houses a vast collection of highway-themed memorabilia, offering a glimpse into the "good ole days”.

Running across the arid expanses of New Mexico, Rio Grande leaves a trail of greenery in its wake, supporting cities, towns and villages along its route. Straddles the river about 50 kilometers of Santa Fe is Embudo, a townlet known for its wineries, and even more so, for a rather bizarre roadside attraction that baffles anyone who happens to be around.


Nestled between Espanola and Taos on NM Hwy 68, Classical Gas Museum was the brainchild of Johnnie Meier, a former scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory who turned his passion for “road culture” into a full-fledged museum. After retiring, Meier dedicated himself to hoarding an extensive array of trappings associated with gas stations and the open road, including gas pumps, commercial sculptures, neon signs, lubricant containers, pop dispensers, to name just a few.


The museum’s collection, which began in 1987, features items that span several decades, providing visitors with a tangible connection to the past. The eclectic assortment includes everything from vintage petrol pumps adorned with iconic brand logos to a smattering of classic cars that evoke the spirit of adventure and romance of road trips throughout the vast American landscape.


Perhaps the most striking feature of the museum is its medley of neon signs, a hallmark of mid-20th-century design that became synonymous with roadside establishments. Crafted to be highly visible and enticing to motorists, this signage represents an era when the aesthetics of advertising were integral to the American roadside experience.


To be clear, the museum is far from being a mere collection of objects; it’s a curated experience that transports visitors back in time. Meier has arranged the artifacts in a way that tells the story of the American gas station and its role in the culture of travel and transportation. The museum serves as a reminder of an era when the journey was as important as the destination, and gas stations were more than just places to refuel; they were essential waypoints on the road, offering services, comfort, and a sense of community to travelers.