Saturday, May 8, 2021

Saturday's postcard: Willcox Travelodge

Here's another vintage postcard of an Arizona motel. (I also featured one on April 22.) This one is for the Willcox, Arizona, Travelodge. It's undated and was never mailed. Here's the text from the back:
On The Old Spanish Trail
On Hwy. 86 and 666 — 590 S. Haskell Ave.
DUdley 4-2266
In Famous Sulphur Springs Valley, supported by Cattle, Cotton, Lettuce, other agriculture, Mining and Climate. Where West is still West and Cowboys are real. Entrance to Spectacular Chiricahua National Monument. 28 new units — TV — Room Phone — Heated Pool — Air Conditioned. AAA.

The photograph is by Tom Reed and the postcard was published by Phoenix Spec. Adv. Co. of Phoenix, Arizona.  

First off, I'd like to note that we're all "supported by Climate," and we should take steps to avoid making that climate uninhabitable. 

Sulphur Springs Valley, in southeastern Arizona, is home to thousands of roosting sandhill cranes. The Arizona Game and Fish Department has a Sandhill Crane Cam, where can watch them live. 

Chiricahua National Monument is called the "Wonderland of Rocks" and also appears to be a destination for viewing some interesting wildlife. I'm going to add that to my list of outdoor adventures to check out in Arizona.

You might have noticed the reference to Highway 666. That was once a highway designation, but it no longer is. I'm sure you can guess why. It's now the much less beastly U.S. Route 491, a change that only dates to 2003. According to Wikipedia:
"With the 666 designation, this road was nicknamed the 'Devil's Highway' because of the significance of the number 666 to many Christian denominations, which is the Number of the Beast. This Satanic connotation, combined with a high fatality rate along the New Mexico portion, convinced some people the highway was cursed. The problem was compounded by persistent sign theft. These factors led to two efforts to renumber the highway, first by officials in Arizona, later in New Mexico."

The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration's website has an in-depth article by Richard F. Weingroff about why it was numbered 666 in the first place. It's a little dry, because numbering the nation's interstate system was often a fastidious and humorless affair. However, the political fight over Route 60 that resulted in Route 66's designation is compelling history, and it helped lead directly to 666. As Weingroff notes in his piece, "The change to '66' meant that the former branches of '60' had to be renumbered as branches of the new number. Therefore, the sixth branch, U.S. 660, became U.S. 666." (Some of the Route 60/66 controversy is detailed in The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways by Earl Swift, which I've been reading this spring.)

So, what happened to the Willcox Travelodge? It's not 100% clear to me. It seems that the location — 590 S. Haskell Ave. — is now a Royal Western Lodge. I don't know if it's the original Travelodge building or not. I suspect it might be. The online Google reviews are ... not great. But they're also interesting from a modern anthropology perspective. Some excerpts:

  • "Its a place to stay u know like what do u expect for this price?  Its at least clean and quiet which is more than u can say for the motel 6."
  • "Place needs some serious maintenance, everything is very old, needs carpet, paint, fixtures, I had to clean the place to even stay after looking at 3 rooms, if I wasn't ready to fall asleep at the wheel I wouldn't have stayed there, it was much cleaner when I left then when I got there."
  • "[From 3 years ago] We have been living here for 6 months, yes 6 months, we have not had bed bug issues ever in our rooms that we have been in, we also have not had any issues with Roaches, fleas and or mice. The owner is a really nice somewhat older lady, she is beyond more then willing to work with honest people!! Prices are reasonable as well, is also in a nice quiet little town!"
  • "[From 3 years ago] Was driving from vegas to Texas and back and stayed there both times. It’s simple and clean. It has personality too. Give it a shot, it’s actually pretty cool."

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