Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Get Your Kicks in a Wigwam along Route 66

San Bernardino -- We've seen the Kodachrome photos of families posing in front of windmill restaurants, coffee cup- shaped cafes and the largest ball of string, or was that from the movie "Vacation...?"

Recently I was forced onto a detour and happened upon the Wigwam Motel along Route 66. It was a vision out of Life Magazine! After taking a few photos and talking with the owner, I drove away feeling as if had left a site of an old Disney documentary; all that was missing was an Airstream camper and Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar.

Roadside vernacular architecture seemed more popular during the first few decades of the 20th century. I miss seeing them. As a kid in the 60s and 70s, I remember the giant dinosaurs on the way to Palm Springs and the magic of Clifton's Cafeteria in Los Angeles; all are examples of zany facades designed to entice the curious traveler. These tourist attractions were also a nice excuse to pull off the road and give the kids a break from asking the same, age-old "question" every ten minutes.

During my brief visit, I met up with a family owner of the Wigwam Motel, Kumar Patel. While he was showing me the teepees and grounds, he mentioned that the last owner allowed the old 1949 motel to deteriorate, almost to the point of disrepair.

Six years ago, the Patel family purchased the now historic landmark and renovated each of the 19 stucco teepees complete with air conditioning and free wi-fi. The pool was resurfaced and palm trees planted throughout the grounds. Due to it's landmark status, they cannot add buildings. However, they are allowed to make improvements, and to their credit, they have restored and maintained the personality of the 50s-era motor hotel to a tee.

For about $70 per night (about $10 more on weekends), the Wigwam Motel is quite a deal, as well as a pretty cool experience in lodging--even your pet, Charlie is welcome!

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Hope said...

This is amazing! I am so glad to read that the Patel family has restored this place to it's original glory and then some! $70 a night is a great rate...I would LOVE to stay there!

Nevermind pulling over to give the kids a break....Mom wants to stop and take photos and explore! I love this sort of thing. Roadside America at it's best!

Eric Salsbery said...

Very Cool.
I remember seeing this place on television. Was it a Disney Documentary? I can't remember.


JT said...

The Wigwam has been on many programs, although I wouldn't doubt Disney's use of the motel as a shooting location.

Huell Howser, host of California's Gold TV show, featured the Wigwam recently on his documentary of "The Main Street of America," Route 66. I've also seen the teepees in books and magazines.

Chris Fenwick said...

Go stay in Kumar's wigwams!!! We did... great guy... had a nice chat... used his wifi (doesn't work so well in the back Wigwams) and took a photo with the man too...

they love your business... don't be shy.