The Lope: Big Trip, July 31: Cowboys and Indians

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Big Trip, July 31: Cowboys and Indians

We awoke in the bunkhouse of the Big Texan; we were in the back section.

The whole dining room is an internet hot spot...

...and our best reception was in the NE corner. As Ace's valet and driver, I outfitted myself in a retro shirt appropriate for a journey from the Texan to a wigwam motel. The sunglasses were utilitarian...really.

Ahh, Texas!

Hooters always has this billboard by the main Big Texan sign. I wonder how many times it has caused vacationing dads to secretly wish they hadn't promised the family dinner at the Big Texan.

The American Quarter Horse Heritage Center and Museum has a neat building. Notice the landscaping on the multiple roofs.

Its almost impossible to pass the Cadallac ranch.

I'm afraid our grafitti did not last long. One of my traveling companions drove back this way about two weeks later and discovered the cars had been painted pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I can't get enough of the Midpoint Cafe sign at Adrian, TX. You may remember that the cafe is located on the midpoint of Rt66 between Chicago and LA. I'd first entered it in May.

Inside the cafe, framed pictures show previous Adrian cafe's, some of which are part of the history of the present establishment.

This pair of friendly British tourists was on a Rt66 motorcycle trip.

Gotta say hi to Midpoint Pete.

The Midpoint is famous for it's ugly crust pie. Ace's entourage gave it a rousingly positive review.

An unpleasant reminder of the risks of roadtrips.

I'd seen this shot in May, but had not been able to stop to get it. This is Glenrio, TX, right on the New Mexico border. Glenrio, you may remember, is a ghost town.

We zoomed past Tucumcari, NM, which was fine since I'd photographed the heck out of it two years ago, and my favorite place, The Blue Swallow Motel, was out of business anyway. This is Tucumcari mesa; hence the huge "T" on it.

New Mexico has the only cool-looking lottery signs I've ever seen.

Long abandoned, the Rio Pecos Truck Terminal in Santa Rosa, NM still grabs my attention.

The East end of Rt66 in Santa Rosa has a nice cache of cool buildings and signage.

I always love seeing the Native American Zia symbol used in tasteful, yet modern ways.

Many of the overpasses in New Mexico are nicely decorated.

Like "The Thing" in Southern, AZ, the Jackrabbit Trading Post in NE AZ, or Wall Drug in South Dakota, Clines Corners of central NM has a jillion signs along the road.

Clines Corners is not a town; it's just a big store...years ago the owner managed to talk the map companies into listing him, and Clines Corners is on every New Mexico map I've seen.

The El Comedor "rotosphere" in Moriarity, NM, was restored via a grant from the New Mexico Rt66 Association through the National Park Service a couple years back. The motor that turns each hemisphere against the other as well as rotating the whole thing was not working this day; I hope it still does. The only rotosphere I've seen comparable to it is at Joe's Spirits in Memphis, TN, and last I saw, it was broken. I shot this one working at night two years ago and really should post the pics. It was like the Sputnik mother ship to which all other Sputnik balls reported.

Dairy Queen seems to dominate the Southwest the way Stuckys used to.

I-40, West of Moriarity, with old 66 on the right.

Mesas...can't get enough of them.

The black material by the roadside is lava from an ancient volcano; Rt66 and Hwy 40 cut through it from about McCartys to Grants, NM. The lava flow is called “The Malpais,” and I've read that it means “Evil Country.” It occurred between 1,000 and 2,000 years ago, making it quite recent in geological terms. Locals have told me that, according to Navaho legend, the lava is the blood of a giant who was slain by twin war gods in the Zuni Mountains.

I like this: "dust storms *may* exist"...then again, they may be figments of your imagination?

This fellow waits patiently with us in an I-40 traffic jam, behind an accident. Meanwhile, traffic on Rt66 (just a few yard away, yet unobtainable) zipped by.

We tried a place I'd never stopped before, Earls in Gallup, NM. It was pretty good.

Nice older-looking decor, althought the building dated from the 1980's, I believe. The business itself was much older than the location.

I'd never seen this sort of sign before.

One of the goals of this trip was to stay in the Wigwam motels in Holbrook, AZ and Rialto, CA. I'd already stayed in the third surviving one in Cave City, KY. We pulled into Holbrook after nightfall.

We arrived just in time for me to get this tripod shot. The light streaks behind the wigwams were left by the BNSF Westbound mainline.

The old cars on the property belong to the owner.

John Lewis now owns and runs the Wigwam Motel; he's the son of the original owner, Chester E. Lewis, who built it in 1947. John had stayed up to check us in.

Of the three extant Wigwam Motels, only this one has these ceramic lamps for sale. I didn't buy one as they were $29.99 and we had miles to go with our already voluminous luggage.

The lobby and an adjacent room of the Wigwam held a nice exhibit of artifacts, including this huge dinosaur bone.

We had two wigwams, one with two beds...

...and one with one bed.

The rooms, at least the ones we stayed in, were equipped with some of the original furniture; I'd seen very similar pieces in the Cave City, KY Wigwam Village #2.

The bathrooms were small but had everything you need.

The owner turned off the neon shortly after we arrived. He'd kept it on for a bit as a courtesy to me. Afterwards, I savored the quiet of the place and crept around to shoot a few more time exposures by the light of security and street lights. I could set up a tripod in the middle of Rt66 with no cars visible either direction while I contemplated the history of the place.

As every student of roadside America should know, wigwam motels were the brainchild of Kentuckian, Frank Redford. Redford grew up in the second decade of the 20th century and was enamored of the silent film, The Great Train Robbery. In later years, he was struck by the structural similarity of a cone-shaped ice cream stand he'd seen on a trip to California, and tee pees he'd seen in South Dakota.

By 1933, he'd built a gas station in the form of a 60 foot wigwam; by 1935 he had expanded the idea to a row of wigwam-shaped motel cabins and, thus, Wigwam Village #1 was born in Horse Cave, KY. In 1937, Redford built Wigwam Village #2, which still stands in Cave City, KY. It's the first place I ever saw a touring jackalope.

Redford eventually made deals with other motel enterpreneurs, trading his blueprints and expertise for the right to extract the dimes from coin-operated radios in the five other Wigwam Motels that were built around the country. In addition the the one in Cave City, KY, the other two surviving Wigwam Motels are #6, which I'm photographing as I think back on all this, and #7 in Rialto, CA, in which I hope to sleep two nights from now.

And so, because a boy nearly a hundred years ago was crazy about a nickelodean cowboy and indian film, I'm standing in the middle of a silent Rt66 with a digital camera gazing affectionately at the motel wherin reside two friends and a jackalope.

I had to have one more train streak shot before I went to bed. this was another BNSF Westbound.

Close your eyes, sleep in a wigwam and dream of Indians.


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