blogging kp!

some of my travels with random musings & silliness mixed in

Arizona Route 40/66 – The Wigwam Motel January 3, 2011

Have You Slept in a Wigwam Lately?

That is the slogan of one of the most beloved attractions on Route 66… The Wigwam Motel.

Built in 1950 in Holbrook, Arizona, The Wigwam Motel was opened and very quickly developed a very enthusiastic following.

The Wigwam Village concept actually began in 1935 east of Holbrook in Horse City, Kentucky. Frank A. Redford was the gentleman behind the concept. All of  the “rooms” are individual concrete wigwams… errrr…. teepees.

While visiting Cave City, Kentucky, Chester Lewis, saw his first Wigwam Village and decided he wanted to build one in Holbrook. Chester and Frank talked and hammered out a deal to make this happen. Frank would provide the building plans. Chester would build out the plans in Holbrook.

Back then the franchising concept wasn’t really around.  So, all fifteen rooms would have a radio in them. Motel guests who wanted to listen to the radio, would drop a dime in the radio for 30 minutes at a time. Chester would collect the coins from the radios and the proceeds would go to Frank. This agreement was in place for awhile.

The Holbrook Wigwam (#6) was one of seven built from Kentucky to California. Ole #6 was quite popular since it is located on Route 66. At the time, Route 66 was the only way to cross the US… it was the “Mother Road”.

Unfortunately for the Wigwam, the new highway… Interstate 40… opened in 1974 and bypassed downtown Holbrook. Business slowed and eventually, the hotel was closed. Chester’s children renovated the motel and re-opened it in 1988. In 2002, the motel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  

Classic car buffs will enjoy walking around the parking lot. Fords, Buicks, Chevys all found their permanent place in the Wigwam’s parking lot.

Oprah fans might remember the Wigwam from her roadtrip across the United States with her friend Gayle. Unfortunately, Oprah couldn’t stay. The interior of the room was too small for her and her claustrophia kicked in.

While I understand claustrophobia… the inside of the wigwam can feel small and there is only one small window… I felt the editors of her show portrayed her issue in such a way that made the Motel seem subpar. I have stayed here and have always enjoyed my stay. Remember, this is a 60 year old MOTEL not a Hyatt.

Those of you with children, might recognize the motel as the “Cozy Cone Motel” from the original Disney / Pixar movie “Cars”.

Today, only three the of the original motels remain: Cave City, Kentucky; Holbrook, Arizona; and Rialto (San Bernardino), California. Now I want to stay in the other two Wigwams!


Arizona Route 40/66 – Holbrook, AZ

Pow Wow Trading Post

Once I left Exit 303, I continued on to Holbrook, Arizona. Holbrook is a great little town full of all the old vintage signs I love and the history of Route 66.

What’s crazy is that five days ago on my way to Santa Fe, NM, I drove through Holbrook and I was in the middle of a BLIZZARD. Driving through it today, there is hardly any snow on the ground. Pretty amazing how quickly the weather can change… like “on a dime”!

I have always wanted to go back to Holbrook. I have been through once or twice and have always been in a hurry. I really want to photograph the vintage signs at night… get them in all of their glory. However, I never seem to make it through at night.

I pulled off the 40 onto Navajo Boulevard into Holbrook. Straight down Navajo is the Pow Wow Trading Post. I have always loved that place, but alas, it appears to be closed. There is a large chain link fence all around it. I really hope that somehow new life is breathed into it. I got my camera out anyway and took what photos I could… the chain link fence and electrical wires made it difficult to get some shots but I was out of the car and enjoying myself.

The Plainsman

My next stop is a little further down from the Pow Wow on the opposite side of the road. It is a fairly famous bar called Young’s Corral. I have never been inside but the horse’s ass on the sign always makes me laugh. On the side of Young’s there is a mural the length of the building. The mural is an homage to the desert, motorcycle riding and classic cars. Of course I stopped to photograph the mural. I wonder to myself why residents look at me funny… you would think that being a big city on Route 66 a tourist taking photos wouldn’t be an oddity!

I turned right onto West Hopi Drive and found myself in old motel / restaurant sign HEAVEN. My favorite is the Plainsman… a steakhouse whose sign is in the shape of a rifle with a powder horn! I’d get out snap some photos and then drive to the next place… I was lost in my own little world.

Sadly, the one sign I want to photograph…. is somewhere in Holbrook (I know because I have photographed it before.) but I could not remember where. It is of a large neon Indian Chief… not the motorcycle… I suppose I could have asked but I really needed to get back on the road. sigh. Next time I WILL FIND IT!

Next stop on my photo expedition… The Wigwam Motel!

See more of my photos here:

Young's Corral


Big Bear Lake, CA August 14, 2010

After a bit of kvetching on my part about wanting to ride somewhere outside of my county, I came up with a plan to do an overnighter to Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead.   I talked to a few friends to find out if they would be interested and they said yes.  We rented two cabins and I planned our trip. I chose the route we would take as I wanted to take SR38 from Yucaipa to Big Bear… it appeared to be a longer and more scenic route.

The day before leaving, I walked out of my office and my bike wouldn’t start. I called my shop and we guessed it to be a short or a dead battery. I then called a friend for a tow. We dropped the bike at the shop and I waited til morning for an answer. It seemed to take forever… but I suppose that is what happens when you are anxious for news (and for a new battery to charge). I told my riding partners to go without me and that I would catch them… provided it was just a battery issue.

While this was happening, my riding partners were having issues of their own! One of them had a cracked case and was puking oil. Another friend needed a new tire desperately! So, two of the group rode up to Temecula for a tire change. Once I got the word my bike was done, I got on it, met another friend and took off to Temecula. It was about 2:00pm before we finally… really… got on the road.

From Temecula we took the back roads through Winchester to Beaumont and eventually to Yucaipa. We stopped for a quick coffee at a Starbucks before heading up the 38 to Big Bear Lake. SR38 was pretty awesome in that it was curvy, not too busy with traffic, lots of trees and the weather was hot and sunny. Along the way, I noticed there were many hot rod cars on the road… it was very difficult to concentrate on riding when I wanted to rubber neck! We pulled into town and there were even MORE hot rods. Turns out Big Bear has an annual run the second week of August.  I was in heaven! Well, we kept riding through town looking for our hotel and missed it. We had to double back and really search for the turn off.

No wonder we missed the cabins! They were on a side street off the main drag of Big Bear. The cabins were cute.  A little threadbare but cute.

Window @ Chad's Place

Window @ Chad's Place

After we checked in, we went looking for a place for dinner. We decided on the Italian place around the corner.

We will not be going there again.  My pasta was mushy… two bites and I gave up… I sent it back. Then I had to argue that I shouldn’t be charged for something I had two bites of. The highlight of the dinner was the stuffed artichoke. And we all felt kinda queasy the next morning. Not a pleasant experience.

From there we headed down the road to the famous “Chad’s Place”. Biker friendly. Rock n Roll. Multiple bars. Pool tables. Appetizers. (Wish we had eaten here.) The band was really good. We had to giggle though, everytime the band stopped the jukebox came on and it was hip hop, rap and top 40 dance.

We got back to our cabins around 1:30am and fell asleep to the sound of the bars emptying out.