Throughout our entire trip there was lots of yelling “I’m pulling over!” or “Pull over!” depending on who was driving. Sometimes it was quite frantic. I have been called “dramatic” at times. But I just can’t help myself when I see a good vintage neon sign! And boy were there a lot of good ones! Some were attached to businesses still operating, others abandoned. So, in my last road trip post I share a collection of all of the gorgeous signs we saw, plus a few images of their accompanying buildings if the were pretty neat looking too!
I literally took thousands of photos on our road trip, 3322 to be exact. Most were of abandoned buildings and killer vintage signs, which are my two favorite things to photograph, and our road trip was full of them! So much so my photos are coming to you in three, yes, three, separate posts! First up I’m sharing the sights of Reno! Now, if you follow me on Instagram and checked out any of my stories while we were on the road, you may have seen me fawning all over some of these signs, and I am so happy to finally share them with you in all of their glory in this post!
Most of the signs you’ll see are from motels, and I’ve even included some images of the actual buildings if the building was cool too!
If you liked this, there will be another signage post in the near future! So stay tuned!
If you only go to one museum in Las Vegas, it should be the Neon Museum. The Neon Museum is rich in what made Las Vegas famous – neon. That spectacular glow of gases swirling inside glass made the lure of Las Vegas so bright and people flocked. Sadly though, over the years, many motels, hotels, casinos, and businesses have either bit the dust or “updated” their signage. But thankfully some of that signage is laid to rest in the “Neon Boneyard”.
The Neon Museum doesn’t just let these old signs sit out, they are also actively restoring their signs, slowly, one at a time. The Neon Museum offers both daytime and nighttime tours, and Patrick and I did both during our stay in Vegas, so we got to see the restored signs lit up. You’ll see a combination of both visits throughout the post.
The Neon Museum is a photographer’s dream, and I took hundreds of photos! And even though I narrowed it down, it was still quite a lot!
On our way back, we stopped in Baker, mostly because I was starving. There isn’t much in Baker, though it is home to the world’s largest thermometer, and just before getting back on the freeway I eyes caught sight of one of my favorite things about road trips, abandoned Americana. There among dead, decapitated palm tress was Arnie’s Royal Hawaiian Motel, windows broken, signage faded. I couldn’t get out of the car fast enough to capture it.
Well, that wraps up our Vegas road trip! There was another abandoned site we had planned on visiting on the way back, but as Patrick wasn’t feeling too well, we passed. I do hope it is accessible next time we find ourselves headed toward Las Vegas.
Yes, we are still in California! Although the Disneyland portion of our trip is over, we still have lots of plans! Meanwhile I want to share with you our detour to the Wagon Wheel.
As some readers of this blog will already know, I am a complete and utter sucker for roadside Americana. Seriously, I brake for old neon signs, or in this case, frantically exit the freeway.
On our way south on the 101 my eye caught sight of a ginormous neon sign featuring a buckboard wagon with horses pulling it. I quickly changed lanes to exit the freeway as Patrick attempted to locate the sign on his phone for us to get there without getting too lost. We ended up on Saddle Avenue, and also saw signs of Winchester Drive and Cactus Drive before coming upon a pile of rubble with this gorgeous sign towering above.
As I snapped pictures through the chain link fence, my mind raced with thoughts of what this place must of looked like, and my heart ached to think that yet another piece of roadside Americana bit the dust. Patrick meanwhile was busy looking up the history of the Wagon Wheel on his phone.
Built in 1947 by Martin “Bud” Smith, the Wagon Wheel Motel and Restaurant quickly became an icon of the city of Oxnard, with its stunning neon, and western themed building. Later Smith added more buildings, including a roller rink and a bowling alley, both of which still stood during our visit, though the Wagon Wheel itself had been reduced to a mound of concrete hunks and twisted iron rods.
The restaurant portion closed in 2005, and the motel shut its doors the following year. Preservationists attempted to get landmark status as plans began to roll out to demolish the motel and build bland, cookie-cutter homes, and a group even sued the city of Oxnard over the project. But, as you can see, history lost in the end, making way for housing. Though it seems like it’s slow going, as I was shocked to learn that the site was bulldozed back in 2011, though it looks as if it were just yesterday!
Lots more to come from our trip to California! Stay tuned!
It’s no secret that I am a fan of roadside Americana. While I love to see these 50-plus year old businesses alive and well, my real passion is photographing the abandoned Americana. I love seeing what time and nature does to man-made structures and objects. So when my dad said he wanted to drive down the less traveled Californian portion of Route 66 (west from Needles to Victorville) I was all for it. Camera in hand, Ghost Towns of Route 66 as a guide, we got in the car and drove on a clear and sunny day.
We started in Amboy, which is in the middle between Needles and Victorville, but directly north of Palm Springs, worked our way east on Route 66, then after arriving in Needles, we took I-40 west to Amboy, and dropped back down to 66 headed west, so if these photos seem out of order, in a manner of speaking, that’s why! I originally shot over 600 photos for this post, but of course with the glory of digital one can shoot as much as they please, and I often take two to six shots of the same exact frame, as well as multiple angles of the same object. I have narrowed this down to 30, and boy was that difficult. Most of these images are of long forgotten buildings and signs that dotted the Mother Road, but there are a few images of places that are still in business, because their signage was just too great, and, the sad truth is, you never know when a place might close. And just for fun, I have included a quirky roadside attraction that was just too amazing not to photograph. I hope you enjoy.