A Unique Roadrunner Watches over Las Cruces, New Mexico

Did you know there is a larger-than-life roadrunner sculpture made from recycled rubbish hovering over a stretch of Interstate 10 just outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico?!

Well, I had no idea myself. That was until I saw the words Recycled Roadrunner on the Google Map for the area. I was searching for interesting places to explore while I was in Las Cruces for a week.

That certainly sounded like an interesting enough adventure for me, so I hopped in my truck and off I went to find a special roadrunner I lovingly nicknamed Mr. Roadrunner.

Back in the day

Welcome to Las Cruces, New Mexico sign.

Back in the early 90s my husband Steve and I lived in Las Cruces, New Mexico.   Steve was a full-time New Mexico State College student and I was a full-time hamburger flipper at the local Whataburger.  I was also working toward earning my General Education Diploma (GED) at the Doña Ana Community College.   

On our treasured days off, we used to dig for gas money inside the cushions of our not so shabby-chic dingy-green, crush velvet couch.  

Oh, how I remember that awful couch, but we were broke college kids back then.  I swear that couch must have went through three fraternities before we inherited it. 

Date night jackpot

After hitting the couch cushion jackpot, we’d throw a few bucks into the gas tank and with the leftover change we’d hit the local Wendy’s for dinner.    

I remember presenting the cashier with our well-guarded All-You-CARE-To-Eat Wendy’s Chili coupons that we had carefully cut out of the local paper. 

Oh yeah, those were the days, we saved the good stuff for those extra special date nights.  Ha ha!  

After our gas tank and bellies were full, we’d continue our date by driving to the outskirts of town for a little city lights show and star gazing extravaganza.    

Scenic Overlook at Mesa West Rest Area

Recycled Roadrunner Sculpture overlook at Mesa West Rest Area near Las Cruces, New Mexico

Like old times, I found myself driving out to the Mesa West Rest Area about 20 miles west of Las Cruces.  This time, it was during the day, so there wouldn’t be any city lights or star gazing going.

Instead I was driving out to check out a peculiar sculpture of a roadrunner that, to my recollection, the sculpture wasn’t there the last time Steve and I went on one of our extra special date night excursions.     

This is a great rest area as it gives you a bird’s-eye view (pun intended) of the city and the surrounding Oregon Mountains.  I couldn’t help myself, sorry, but not sorry!

The view from up there is an extra bonus. 

A roadrunner is sculpted

A bird standing on a dry grass field

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I learned that back in 1993, artists Olin Calk and Dan Smith created a gigantic replica of New Mexico’s State Bird as part of a school-aged recycling project.   The peculiar roadrunner is made up of various landfill artifacts and weighs almost a ton and is almost 40 feet long. 

Now, that’s a BIG roadrunner.  

For about eight years Calk and Smith’s recycling art project stood loud and proud out at the city landfill.  Mr. Roadrunner’s message was to reminder people to consume and discard responsibly and to practice proper recycling methods. 

Mr. Roadrunner gets a makeover and is relocated

After many years of environmental and human abuse, it was time for a much-needed makeover and to be relocated to a more respectable location where it could keep a watchful eye on the city and surrounding area. 

Artist Calk deconstructed the bird and Mr. Roadrunner spent a few years in retirement while officials determined the fate of the iconic state bird. 

From landfill to artistic expression

Person (Lori) standing by the Las Cruces Roadrunner sculpture of recycled materials.

As I stood insignificantly under the gigantic bird, not yet knowing the story behind the art, I pondered its existence. 

At that moment, it was a walk down memory lane with the familiar and somewhat nostalgic artifacts of yesteryear.  My eyes scanned the bird’s body parts trying to identify the various artifacts that made up his body.

It was like a “How many artifacts can you detect?” fun filled discovery game.  Standing all alone under the sculpture, I took my time to discover as many items as I could…

  • Guitar Hero Game guitar
  • Old TV and VCR remote controls
  • Crutches
  • Trampoline mesh
  • Old cordless phones
  • Computer keyboards
  • Cheese grater
  • Paintbrush
  • Old Nike tennis shoes
  • Car headlights
  • Flip flops
  • Gold Army Man
  • Golf Clubs
  • Bike tires
  • Black Batman figurine

Just to name a few.  What interesting items can you identify?! 

Large roadrunner sculpture with recycled artifacts from local landfill in the desert

Wile E. Coyote FINALLY meets his match

A large body of water

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Well, I think Wile E. Coyote would have had no problem capturing this idle roadrunner.  (If you have no idea who I am referring to, be sure and check out the funny tactics of the  Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner for a quick and entertaining lesson.) 

As I walked back to my car, I was grateful for such a unique and interesting experience.  I had fun exploring the beautiful rest area and spending time with my new feathered friend Mr. Roadrunner.   I was impressed by the huge imagination of the artists and also their ability to transform rubbish into an artistic statement. 

Well done Calk and Smith and thanks for the fun discovery game too!

Who knew there was a larger-than-life recycled roadrunner in the middle of the New Mexican desert?!  Well, now that you do, I highly recommend that the next time you’re in the Las Cruces area that you stop by and visit with Mr. Roadrunner and to try your hand at the fun discovery game.    

If you do visit, let me know what cool artifacts you identified and be sure to share your roadrunner adventure experience with us. 

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Ponder the Experience:

  • Share with us some trash to art pieces you’ve seen around the world? 
  • What’s your thought on artists reworking trash into art?
  • Does is help you to be mindful of consumption and recycling? 

Share and Enjoy !

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