Our trip through Route 66 took us through a tiny portion of southeast Kansas, only about a dozen miles. To be honest, at this point our main concern is to make Tulsa - ultimately, Oklahoma City - by nightfall. Even so, we stay on the lookout for the kind of motel that demands a closer look. In this segment of our travels, we aren't lucky. However, upon our return trip we find some wonderful sites. In Salina, we visit the Airliner Motel on old highway 40. In his office, Dick explains that this spot was named for its proximity to the local air base. Times have been hard since the interstate bypassed the Airliner and those signs you see at most every exit advertising food, fuel, and lodging cost about eighteen hundred dollars a year. During my conversation with Dick, I noticed that I had forgotten my tape recorder, but I had no difficulty remembering his words: "We came from California. I once had a project in Joplin, Missouri, but the timing was off so I sold out and bought this place. That was the worst mistake I ever made. I'd like to retire. Of course we've tried managers, but that didn't work out. They always seem to think they're entitled to some of your money. One day we're gonna drive off in our motor home and never look back."
On the way out, we pass St. Joseph's Military School ("Home of the Mule Skinners") before heading east for Abilene. In the birthplace of Eisenhower, there remains a kind of flag-waving patriotism that astounds us. But we are drawn here too. There are bed-and-breakfasts and a few old motels, but we must press on. Our hope is to make Topeka by twilight; that is the best time to shoot motels. However, our visit is not successful. Still, the rest is needed and appreciated. Next morning, we drive an hour until Kansas City. On route 40, we stop by the Crest Motel. There's rust on the arrow, dangling wire, and neon that hasn't worked for years. There's also a friendly women watering her geraniums. Jackie talks about the Flamingo that was torn down a while back - just down the road - and celebrates the Crest as a survivor. Of the eleven rooms here, her opinion is simple: "it's old, but they're clean."
West Haven Motor Court
In the kind of tangled web that always accompanies large cities, route 40 becomes route 24 before we discover the West Haven Motor Court. Near the office, you can find one of those old 7-up machines with the garden and rainbow design. Among the handwritten notes in the office: "no visitors, no pets, no cable, no phones in rooms, no refunds, no exceptions."
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Last update: April 6, 1999. All photographs copyright © Jenny Wood. Text copyright © Andy Wood.