Our brief visit with Sam Frisher and his dear wife, Monica, on Friday evening fueled my enthusiasm for the renovation of historic Route 66 infrastructure such as motels, cafes, and trading posts. It also convinced me that this amazing old highway is currently the last bastion of old fashioned mom and pop enterprise.
It also solidified my belief that the spirit of innovation and passion for independence that permeates the every atmosphere at places such as the El Trovatore Motel, the Wagon Wheel Motel, the Blue Swallow Motel, and countless other locations along Route 66 just might be infectious enough to encourage imitation. Perhaps similar properties can be refurbished along U.S. 6 and U.S. 50, U.S 1 and U.S. 12. Perhaps a little of the excitement discovered with an adventure on Route 66 could rub off on other travelers encouraging them to seek vestiges of a non generic world.
Ideas have less value than a politicians promise during an election season and a sunny summer day in Phoenix. It is in the transformation of those ideas into something tangible where the magic was unleashed.
Time and again I have met with people who have grand visions of breathing new life into a tarnished roadside gem. The intentions may be sincere, the owner may even be ambitious but the component of tenacity is missing and as a result the project is doomed to failure.
In Kingman we now have a monument to both types of dreamers. Pat and Renee Davis dreamed of transforming the long closed Brunswick Hotel into the crown jewel of the historic district. They did manage to brink it back from the brink but were not able to transform the dream into a reality.
When we first met the Frisher’s, Sam regaled me with ambitious plans to renovate neon, old sinks, and vintage tile. As I often do when meeting dreamers and visionaries such as Sam, I listened politely and hoped for the best. Still, over the years I have learned that the odds of ever seeing the neon again casting its glow or a motel such as the El Trovatore competing with the Holiday Inn were slim.
Then I saw the honest effort to breath new life into the old motel rooms. Then I saw the neon at the front of the motel light up the night. Then, on Friday night, we basked in the glow of the red and green neon letters that spelled out “El Trovatore.”
Now the dream became infectious. Now, with clarity, I could see Sam’s vision for a gazebo on the knoll below the tower where visitors could savor the stunning views of the Hualapai Mountains and watch trains roll through the canyon below. Now it was possible to imagine the gentle pink glow of a neon Route 66 shield on the historic tower and hear the sounds of laughing guests splashing in the refurbished swimming pool.
This contagious exuberance is at the very heart of the Route 66 experience. It is found anywhere that time is rolled back through perseverance and hard work to reveal the glory of what once was. It is made manifest at the Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, Missouri, the Blue Swallow Motel and Motel Safari in Tucumcari, and the Midpoint Cafe in Adrian, Texas.
This year take to the open road, the one signed with the double six, and get a little neon inspiration. Dare to dream and imagine what might be possible in your home town.