Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Arizona: Route 66 Gem -- Wigwam Motel

I've got a soft spot for all those mom-and-pop retro motor courts along ol' Route 66. The Wigwam Motel in eastern Arizona, just outside Petrified Forest National Park and its scenic detour through the Painted Desert, is a time-tested fave.

By the railroad tracks in the small town of Holbrook, these 1940s concrete tipis all have classic cars parked out front. Inside, you'll find some handcrafted furnishings, simple beds and challengingly small bathrooms. It's all embarrassingly endearing, especially once you find out that this humble motel is actually on the National Register of Historic Places.

Holbrook's Wigwam Motel is one of the last three remaining wigwam-style tourist villages built across the US between the 1930s and the '50s. You'll find the other cool wigwam motels in Cave City, Kentucky, and Rialto, CA. (The latter was once a down-and-out, no-tell motel with the infamous sign beckoning motorists to "Do It in a Tee-Pee," but new owners have cleaned up its act.)

And if you happened to catch last night's episode of NBC's The Great American Road Trip, a reality-TV show that I consulted for about Route 66, you'll have already gotten a glimpse of this charmer. One of the contestants said that he thought a night at Holbrook's Wigwam Motel was better than staying at a four-star spa resort in Phoenix. That made my retro Americana-loving heart sing, especially since Oprah had unfairly poo-poohed this place during her cross-country road trip in 2006.

For all you retro motel lovers out there, the last page of this month's Sunset magazine features another classic Route 66 motel, the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico. Beautiful!

Photo: Wigwam Motel (Sara Benson & Michael Connolly Jr.)

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