April 17, 2012

Route 66 Beacons in the News

The classic 66 Motel in Needles: will she beckon travelers again?
Two landmark Route 66 motels are in the news: the El Trovatore in Kingman, Arizona, which has not only reopened but restored its neon tower, and the 66 Motel in Needles, California, which is the subject of an intense fundraising effort to save its classic sign.

Relighting the 66 Motel: There's a reason why most tourists drive to Laughlin instead of Needles, but the Route 66 town will always be my first choice. Between 100 BNSF trains a day, the nearby Colorado River, a Harvey House hotel and a parade of vintage motels and diners, Needles has plenty to interest the Route 66 traveler. Now preservationist Ed Klein is raising money to restore the classic 66 Motel sign in Needles, Calif. I last photographed the sign in 2004 while working on my Route 66 Railway book (back then I was still shooting film!). For as much as it's been immortalized in books, documentaries and artwork, this is the first serious restoration effort I can recall. Ed's goal is to raise $3,600 by 11:59 p.m. PT on Wednesday, April 18; about 35 hours remain as of this posting. Click HERE to see a 90-second video on the restoration and donate online. (Donors get cool Route 66 perks!)

Can you imagine this lit up at dusk?
A Southwest Beacon Returns: I've lost count of how many times I passed the hillside El Trovatore motel and prayed that a savior would one day restore its midcentury glory. Thanks to Monica and Sam Frisher, that prayer has finally been answered. The soaring red and green neon tower was relit in early April and 20 rooms have been refurbished in classic Hollywood themes. A ton of work remains, but the Frishers have already overcome huge odds by saving this Kingman gem. I can't wait to visit and capture that marvelous tower at dusk . . . hopefully there's a way to frame the motel with a passing train in the cut below. For more info, visit their website at http://eltrovatoremotel.com/. You can read a great article on the motel restoration by clicking HERE. Also, author Jim Hinckley has photos of the restored tower -- click HERE to see them.

A big "thank you" to these preservation heroes who are keeping the Route 66 mystique alive!

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