Motels of Mesa

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The Hiway Host Motel sign on Main Street in Mesa, AZ.

The Hiway Host Motel sign on Main Street in Mesa, AZ.

On a multi-block strip of Main Street in Mesa, Arizona, one can find several old motels. The rates are cheap (especially for folks who go the weekly or monthly route) and the living can be rough. Yes, it’s a part of the city I wouldn’t care to walk in alone after dark (although I have before). Many of the folks walking around the area seem to dabble in (or perhaps concentrate on) methamphetamine, which leads me to refer to the neighborhood places of lodging as “meth motels.”

img_5963As is often the case, it wasn’t always this way. Main Street in Mesa was once part of U.S. Route 80. According to a vintage postcard website,

U. S. Highway 80 was one of the original Federal Highways commissioned in 1926 along with some of its more famous newly numbered cousins such as U. S. 66 – “The Mother Road”, U. S. 30 – “The Lincoln Highway”, and U. S. 40 – “The National Highway…”

[I]t was probably more important [than the other, more famous, named highways mentioned above] because it was an all-weather, all-year route that was dependable to transcontinental travelers.

Wikipedia says,

U.S. Route 80 (US 80) also known as the Ocean-to-Ocean Highway was a major transcontinental highway which existed in the U.S. state of Arizona from November 11, 1926 to October 6, 1989.[2][4] At its peak, US 80 traveled from the California border in Yuma to the New Mexico state line near Lordsburg...[5]

Low weekly rates appeal to the modern clientele on Mesa's Main Street.

Low weekly rates and kitchenettes at the Trava-Leers Motel probably appeal to the modern clientele on Mesa’s Main Street.

US 80 was a particularly long highway, reaching almost 500 miles (800 km) long within the state of Arizona alone.[7] With the advent of the Interstate Highway System, Interstate 10 and Interstate 8 both replaced US 80 within the state.[8] US 80 was removed from Arizona in 1989; the remainder of it now being State Route 80.[5]

The folks who named this hotel didn't know--or didn't care--that kivas are used religiously and people from the Pueblo tribes don't wear feather headdresses.

The folks who named this hotel and designed the sign didn’t know–or didn’t care–that kivas are used religiously and people from the Pueblo tribes don’t wear feather headdresses.

 

In a 2012 article about preservation of the neon history on Main Street in Mesa, president of the Mesa Preservation Foundation Victor Linoff said,

I think "refrigerated" meant "air conditioned."

I think “refrigerated” meant “air conditioned.”

From quite a distance, you’re traveling in your car, you’re tired, you want to stop for the night or get something to eat. These signs pulled you in. They were like beacons in the night.

In the aforementioned article, Demion Clinco, president of the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation, said of neon signs,

They are emblematic of the classic automobile age in America, [t]hat mid-century modern highway culture that just doesn’t exist anymore.

Not all of the old motels on Main Street have neon signs. Maybe some of them never had neon and simply relied on their competitors’ signs to draw enough people into the general area. There were probably enough drivers passing through to ensure every business got a piece of the pie.  Some neon signs have been lost to the ravages of time. At least a couple of the motels lacking cool signs still boast cool architecture.

This photo shows a view of the Citrus Inn. There are parking spots for cars between the rooms.

This photo shows a view of the Citrus Inn. There are parking spots for cars between the rooms. The Citrus Inn has a really boring, modern sign, but its architecture is old-fashioned cool.

I particularly like the motels with parking spaces between the rooms. The Citrus Inn is designed this way. The open space between the two rooms is big enough for two cars. A covered parking area is a huge luxury for anyone whose car would otherwise be pounded by the Arizona summer sun.

I think this photo shows the Kiva Lodge, but I'm not positive. In any case, it's another example a motel with covered parking next to the rooms. I also like the turquoise accents and the red Spanish tile on the awning.

I think this photo shows the Kiva Lodge, but I’m not positive. In any case, it’s another example a motel with covered parking next to the rooms. I also like the turquoise accents and the red Spanish tile on the awning.

The motels of Mesa and their signs are part of Arizona history and U.S. history too. They are relics of a time before motel chains, when each motel on the road was part of a unique travel experience.

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

About Blaize Sun

My name is Blaize Sun. Maybe that's the name my family gave me; maybe it's not. In any case, that's the name I'm using here and now. I've been a rubber tramp for nearly a decade.I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. For most of my years on the road, my primary residence was my van. For almost half of the time I was a van dweller, I was going it alone. Now my (male) partner and I (a woman) have a travel trailer we can pull with our truck. We have a little piece of property, and when we're not traveling, we park our little camper there. I was a work camper in a remote National Forest recreation area on a mountain for four seasons. I was a camp host and parking lot attendant for two seasons and wrote a book about my experiences called Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. During the last two seasons as a work camper on that mountain, I was a clerk in a campground store. I'm also a house and pet sitter, and I pick up odd jobs when I can. I'm primarily a writer, but I also create beautiful little collages; hand make hemp jewelry and warm, colorful winter hats; and use my creative and artistic skills to decorate my life and brighten the lives of others. My goal (for my writing and my life) is to be real. I don't like fake, and I don't want to share fake. I want to share my authentic thoughts and feelings. I want to give others space and permission to share their authentic selves. Sometimes I think the best way to support others is to leave them alone and allow them to be. I am more than just a rubber tramp artist. I'm fat. I'm funny. I'm flawed. I try to be kind. I'm often grouchy. I am awed by the stars in the dark desert night. I hope my writing moves people. If my writing makes someone laugh or cry or feel angry or happy or troubled or comforted, I have done my job. If my writing makes someone think and question and try a little harder, I've done my job. If my writing opens a door for someone, changes a life, I have done my job well. I hope you enjoy my blog posts, my word and pictures, the work I've done to express myself in a way others will understand. I hope you appreciate the time and energy I put into each post. I hope you will click the like button each time you like what you have read. I hope you will share posts with the people in your life. I hope you'll leave a comment and share your authentic self with me and this blog's other readers. Thank you for reading.  A writer without readers is very sad indeed.

One Response »

  1. “A clean, comfortable place to spend the night.”

    Well, they used to be, thirty years ago, but not anymore. Now they’re loaded with bedbugs and the normal-volume (and louder) conversations outside your door all night tend to keep a person awake. And they may break into your van.

    Their main (and perhaps only) value is for their showers, and it’s cheaper (and probably cleaner) to buy a membership in a widespread chain of gyms.

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