The Main Street of America, as it has come to be known, is arguably the world’s most famous route, which is exactly why I’ve decided to focus this post around Motel Signspotting on Route 66. With no shortage of visual splendor –old-fashioned service stations and iconic water towers, all-American diners straight out of the 50’s and charming small-town cafes, big blue skies blanketing rolling hills and deserts, famous rivers and landmark bridges – one of the most iconic sights on this historic route remains the colorful array of vintage Motel signs.
As a vintage American sign aficionado, I’ve explored the interesting history of the neon light (with a special focus on motel signs) in my post When Signs Ruled America: The Surprising History of Motel Neon. Now I’ve decided to explore this passion in its most natural habitat. Spanning over 3 940km, the variety of motel signs on Route 66 is an indescribable visual feast for the eye that is without a doubt a national treasure. Starting in Chicago, Illonois, the drive passes through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona before ending in Santa Monica, California, near Los Angeles. Hop on in, we’ll blast the infectious tunes from my Route 66 playlist on the stereo and venture down the world-famous Mother Drive for a motel signspotting on Route 66 expedition.
Name: Westward Ho Motel
Where: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Sign: This motel from the 40’s flaunts a green sign complete with cactus as well as yellow and white neon that still illuminates the Albuquerque desert skies today. You can almost see tumbleweeds rolling down the street when admiring this weathered beauty.
Name: The Dude Motel
Where: Haltom City, Texas
Sign: The name of the motel might outshine the actual sign on the outlandish scale, but the classic typeface mounted on a retro brown brick wall makes it a archetypal specimen in my opinion. But be warned, Motel Signspotting on Route 66 isn’t all fun and games: one Yelp user’s one-star review stated “the owner is the rudest ever” and “he barks like a dog.” Maybe this one is best admired from the roadside …
Name: Space Age Lodge
Where: Gila Bend, Arizona
Sign: Besides already having everything from meeting rooms and gift shops to a salad bar and high speed internet, the Space Age Lodge also has a sign that is as Jetsons-esque as it is antiquated. Awe inspiring.
Name: Route 66 Inn
Where: Vinita, Oklahoma
Sign: This classic design is a good example of the average motel sign you’ll encounter motel signspotting on Route 66.
The arrow pointing towards the lodge features neon lights with additional information and names displayed on an
illuminated backboard (with a bit off a bit of an Art Deco feeling), giving it that quintessential motel sign aesthetic.
Name: Buckaroo Motel
Where: Tucumcari, New Mexico
Sign: This sign says it all with a cowboy riding the rodeo, that instantly recognizable typeface, neon light bulbs and the changeable black and white board below. It’s a true American classic that gives a nod to the rich “cowboy country” history of New Mexico. Online reviews hero Buckaroo as a reliable stop on your motel signspotting on Route 66 adventure.
Name: Flamingo Motel
Where: Various locations
Sign: Opening up for business in the late 50’s, The Flamingo was a post-war favorite among American families wanting to
stay in the newfangled motels. This is perhaps where the “flamingo” acquired its eternal association with all things kitsch …
Name: Motel Safari
Where: Tucumcari, New Mexico
About: This motel shows the diversity and playfulness of the structures when motel signspotting on Route 66. There is very little that doesn’t go, and tying in an North African theme that actually makes sense (with NM being a dry and arid region), just adds to the visual appeal. But I think the motel slogan says it best: “Don’t just dream about legends of the road – stay in one!”