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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

"Kid, the next time I say, “Let's go someplace like Bolivia,” let's go someplace like Bolivia." ~ Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969.

When you win the lottery, and you will, we have a trip to plan. An airstream, some maps and away we go. My suggestion for a first stop? Have you slept in a wigwam lately?

The Wigwam Motel was invented and built in the early 30s by Frank Redford. As Americans took to the highway in the early 1930s in search of greater opportunities, buildings of creative shapes and sizes formed alongside the roads. You said that is what you wanted to see, right, ‘buildings of creative shapes’? Redford owned and "franchised" out his patent on the motel's design during this movement period, which led to a total of seven Wigwam Villages. Frank Redford built the first Wigwam Village in Horse Cave, Ky., and patented his idea in 1936.

When Chester Lewis saw the Horse Cave motel, he tracked down Redford and bought the plans and blueprints from him, to use in Holbrook, Arizona. The other five motels sprang up in New Orleans; Orlando; Birmingham, Ala.; Rialto, Calif.; and Cave City, Ky. Only the motels in Cave City, Rialto and Holbrook still are open.
Yessiree, we had one in Orlando and I remember it.

After Interstate 40 bypassed Route 66 in Holbrook, traffic through Holbrook significantly decreased, and the Wigwam Motel closed in 1974. Chester Lewis died in 1986. The Lewis family, which operates the motel out of love for the place, renovated and reopened it in 1988.

Many times, Lewis says, he has welcomed adult guests who have waited their whole lives to sleep in one of the tepee rooms. "Almost every other evening, they come by and say their parents wouldn't let them stay in a wigwam 35 or 40 years ago," he says. "As I walk them through their experience as children they remember throwing temper tantrums about not being able to stay there. Ahhh those fun family vacations of my youth! Had I ever thrown a tantrum during one, I wouldn't have lived to be 35 or 40......

"It's kind of a therapeutic thing for them. Some of them get quite emotional." Could be a new alternative for Prozac, a night in a wigwam.

Drawn to the romance of the Old West and Historic Route 66, these wigwam motels are quite the rage with our German, French and Canadian tourists. “It is a privileged place which wants to be accessory to your stay.” Huh? I think something was lost in that translation.

We will have to bring our own shampoo, soap, hair dryer, coffeepot and clock. And don’t expect any mints on the pillow. A night's stay at the Wigwam costs about $40.

One guest to the Wigwam Motel in Arizona gave this review, “me and my family stayed here while visiting the Petrified Forest, Painted Desert, and Meteor Crater (sounds like a blast). This hotel is a destination in itself, one of the most photographed features along the historic Route 66. The wigwams are actually teepees, made out of concrete or something molded around a multifaceted roundish frame. I am a route 66 buff and would have been satisfied with just about any level of accommodations, but I have to say that the Wigwam motel had the most comfortable beds we experienced over an 11 day vacation. The room/teepee was immaculate inside, and the bathroom, A/C, and TV were all updated. Everything was astonishingly roomy despite being fitted inside a giant cone. The one window was small and low, so there was little natural light inside. “

The bright, white, cone-shaped structures of the Wigwam Motel, with its red zigzag designs, stand tall against Arizona's desert sky. Conveniently located near the banks of the Little Colorado River in northeastern Arizona's high-plateau country, there are Navajo and Hopi reservations nearby where we can see ceremonial dances and Indian arts and crafts. Also nearby is the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest National Park, with petrified logs displaying an array of colors. To the north are canyons containing cliff dwellings, such as those found in Canyon de Chelly.........

Okay, well at least we will get to spend the night in a wigwam. One more thing to check off our life list.

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