Tag Archives: Historic preservation

Headed for the light

Ron and I found a welcome light illuminating the darkness this evening on Route 66 here in Tucumcari.

For several weeks, we’d been seeing signs of life at the long-shuttered Apache Motel. Ron talked to the new owner today, and this evening, she sent him a photo showing the lightbulbs around the perimeter of the motel’s iconic neon sign burning brightly.

We immediately grabbed our cameras and headed out.

Apache Motel sign with lights on around edge
The Apache’s new owner got some of the sign to light again.

The Apache was open when we took our first Route 66 trip in 2001. Some of the paint was peeling from the sign, but the neon was still burning, and chasing lights raced dramatically around the edge, calling attention to the motel for at least half a mile in either direction. At the time, I hadn’t yet learned to leave the shutter open long enough to catch all the lights as they flashed on and off, but you can see how vibrant the neon was:

Apache Motel sign in 2001 with neon lit
The Apache sign on Aug. 4, 2001.

Not long after that, the sign went dark, and the motel sat empty until 2006, when new owners bought it and restored it to its mid-century glory. I stayed there during a November 2006 road trip, which I blogged about at the time.

The motel closed almost as quickly as it reopened, and it’s been quietly decaying ever since — a heartbreaking sight, given the work that went into restoring it.

The timing of the coronavirus pandemic — arriving in the United States just on the cusp of tourist season — couldn’t be worse for my beloved Route 66. But looking up at the Apache sign this evening, I was reminded of one of the things I love most about this old road: Its seemingly endless capacity for renewal.

Just ask the Over the Hill Gang in Arcadia, Oklahoma; the Illinois Route 66 Association’s Historic Preservation Committee; the owners of the “Murder Bordello” in Galena, Kansas; Dawn Welch, whose Rock Cafe literally rose from the ashes after a 2008 fire that gutted its interior and collapsed its roof; or Ned Leuchtner, who reconstructed Cool Springs Camp from a pair of stone pillars.

The Mother Road and her children may see some casualties in the coming years. But as Ma Joad said: “We’re the people that live. They can’t wipe us out; they can’t lick us. We’ll go on forever … ’cause we’re the people.”

Emily

Action alert: Save the Cactus Motel!

I got word this weekend that O’Reilly Auto Parts — which Route 66 enthusiasts will remember as the company that destroyed the historic Lewis Motel in Vinita, Oklahoma, in 2006 — is about to launch another attack on the Mother Road.

O’Reilly’s latest assault on Route 66 history comes with a side dish of disregard for Black history, as the company is poised to purchase and, presumably, demolish the historic Cactus Motel here in Tucumcari, New Mexico, so it can replace it with another of its nondescript stores.

The Cactus Motel is significant not just as part of Tucumcari’s rich Route 66 history, but also as one of the rare properties listed in the Negro Motorist Green Book, Victor Green’s famous guide to help Black families travel safely across the United States during the era of segregation. Tucumcari has long been known for its plethora of motels along Route 66, but during the Jim Crow era, only three of them accepted Black guests — and of the three, the Cactus is one of the only two still standing. (La Plaza Court is the other.)

If you care about historic preservation, here are a few ways you can help encourage O’Reilly to put the brakes on this destructive project before it’s too late:

1. Call O’Reilly’s store-construction department at (417) 862-2674, ext. 1277, or its customer-service department at (800) 755-6759 and politely explain that you will be deeply disappointed if the company tears down the Cactus Motel.

2. Write a short, polite letter to O’Reilly’s corporate headquarters. The address is:

O’Reilly Auto Parts
223 S. Patterson Ave.
Springfield, MO 65802-2298

3. Email a copy of your letter to thartley3@oreillyauto.com.

In your letter, consider including some or all of the following talking points:

  • The Cactus Motel is an irreplaceable part of Route 66 history.
  • The Cactus Motel was listed in the Negro Motorist Green Book.
  • The Cactus Motel is an attractive structure with several architectural flourishes of the sort that have helped other long-shuttered motels find new life as boutique hotels, event centers, and business incubators.
  • Many of O’Reilly’s customers are classic-car enthusiasts who love Route 66 and would be unhappy to learn the company had destroyed another historic property on their favorite road.
  • Several other commercial properties are for sale on Tucumcari Boulevard that appear equally or better suited to O’Reilly’s purposes, so destroying the Cactus Motel seems unnecessary.

4. Click here to send a copy of your letter to Tucumcari’s local paper, the Quay County Sun.

5. Share your feelings — and this action alert — on social media. If you’re on Twitter, please tweet to @oreillyauto, asking them to #savethecactusmotel on #Route66 and letting them know you won’t be doing any more business with them if they tear down another historic motel.

Please take a few minutes to help save a piece of American history.

Emily

Dress like a woman

I’m sure by now we’re all familiar with the Axios story making the rounds in which an unnamed person who worked on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was quoted as saying the erstwhile politician expects women working in the White House to “dress like women.”

As a journalist, I have some questions about the story itself (starting with the fact it’s poorly sourced and largely speculative, as Snopes was quick to point out), but I like the conversations it has inspired online about what it means to “dress like a woman.” I jumped in on the Twitter hashtag #DressLikeAWoman the other day, and several of my tweets were well-received, particularly by younger friends who undoubtedly benefit from seeing women in traditionally male-dominated professions or participating in traditionally male-dominated activities.

With that in mind, and thinking about how important it is for my nieces and other little girls in my life to grow up with such images in front of them, I decided I’d expand that collection of tweets into a blog post sharing what it means to “dress like a woman” in my world:

How a beekeeper dresses like a woman while rescuing a swarm.
Dressed like a woman while rescuing a swarm.

Here is how a distance runner dresses like a woman at the start of a marathon on a cold day.
Dressed like a woman at the start of my first marathon.

Dressing like a woman after an ice storm downed several limbs in my backyard in Tulsa.
Dressed like a woman the weekend after an ice storm.

How a martial artist dresses like a woman.
Dressed like a woman after a belt test. (Photo courtesy of Professor Carter Hargrave.)

Dressed like a woman while painting a mural in Tucumcari.
Dressed like a woman while painting a mural on Route 66 in Tucumcari.

Dressed like a woman while repainting the sign at the Vega Motel on Route 66 in Texas.
Dressed like a woman while priming the sign at the Vega Motel on Route 66 in Texas.

Dressed like a woman after a day spent doing preservation work on Route 66 in Amarillo.
Dressed like a woman after a day spent doing preservation work on Route 66 in Amarillo.

Dressed like a woman while restoring a sign on Route 66 in Chandler, Oklahoma.
Dressed like a woman while helping restore a sign on Route 66 in Chandler, Oklahoma.

Dressed like a woman who might spend a little too much time watching British sci-fi.
Dressed like a woman who spends too much time watching British sci-fi.

Dressed like a woman who came home from her newspaper-editing gig to turn the compost on her lunch hour.
Dressed like a woman who has compost to turn when she gets off work.

Dressed like a woman in the middle of a drywall project.
Dressed like a woman repairing drywall.

Dressed like a woman fangirling at the ballpark.
Dressed like a woman fangirling at the ballpark.

You get the idea. I could do this all day, but that’s probably enough to give you the upshot. Do what makes you happy. Help somebody if you can. And dress as you see fit for the occasion, whether that involves a ballcap, a bee suit, a pair of running shoes, a velvet skirt, or a pair of paint-spattered jeans with the knees blown out.

Do what you love. Be who you are. And never let somebody else’s limited notions about how women should look interfere with that.

Emily