Oklahoma Motels

Check out our growing collection of motel postcards from this state.

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Route 66 carries us past the aging relics of the Green Acres Motel and the Rest Haven Motel in Horse Creek. Between these sites, we roll through lush fields and ancient filling stations, heading toward Vinita, Tulsa, and Oklahoma City. We stop at a motel sign whose neon letters have long been stripped. Standing in the high weeds, I pick out the shaded remains of the name - Avon. Vienna peers into the buildings and reports piles of old truck tires and then runs back toward the car. Moths and grasshoppers leap before her, forming a chain reaction of green halos.

[camera]Lewis Motel [camera]Holiday Motel

In Vinita, we stop by the Lewis motel where the manager complains about his sign as an "eyesore." He pledges to replace it with plastic as soon as possible. Further down the road, we discover that the Holiday Motel really hasn't changed much since its prime when huge plastic globes ringed the pool and the star boasted neon spikes. In his 1946 Guidebook to Highway 66, Jack Rittenhouse noted Vinita is "named for a famous sculptress, Vinita Ream, who carved the statue of Lincoln now in Washington."

We hit Tulsa by nightfall and visit the Western Capri Motel. The wind is cool for this 82 degree evening. Perhaps we've discovered that heat/humidity thing that Floridians envy so much. A plastic bag drifts in the breeze like a pomo tumbleweed. Vienna and I walk around the filled-in swimming pool. The feet meters are still visible. Andy the night manager tells me that the Western Capri's sign could be seen for miles, were it not for the interstate bridge. A block or so down the road, we stop by the Gateway Motor Motel. The sign features a plastic "Sleep American" logo. In the office, the manager notes, "you know, a lot of motel owners around here are Iranian, or Indian, or something." A customer walks in looking for a room. First she must endure the probing questions asked before anyone can sleep here: "I used to do that [work at a motel] about 20 years ago. No, I have no pets. I have a Rotweiller, but I wouldn't let him in the house - let alone in a motel." I'm not sure if her tone is one of disdain or commiseration. Maybe both.

On Route 66 past Bethany near a strip of motels, the Western Motel curls up under the 100 plus summer, its twelve-foot white satellite dish attracting only heat rays. Even more than our last visit, four years ago, local businesses strain to advertise some connection to the Mother Road, though their signs look brand new. Cross over a bit of Lake Overholser and the horizon opens up revealing an uncluttered sky, gleaming water towers and marching telephone poles leading the way west. In Yukon, where the flour mill advertises itself as the most modern in America, the politics are still a bit old fashioned: Lisa Collins, candidate for state representative announces, "it takes a woman to really clean house."

[camera]Western Motel [camera]Motel strip

Yukon offers as good a dividing point as any to that mythical frontier between the south and the southwest. There, we find the appropriately named Yukon Motel (image at top of page). Inside, an old women behind the desk shares pictures from a trip she took years ago to Jerusalem and recalls the many times that folks have offered to buy the motel from her. She speaks slowly with me, but a sign before her proves that she means business: "All rent must be paid in advance. We are not a rescue mission." Back outside, Jenny finds a soda machine that sells bottled Dr. Pepper. The original price is listed as fifteen cents, but we're glad to pay fifty.

Around El Reno, it used to be that some motorists got a little confused. The Big 8 Motel - now the Deluxe Inn - once advertised itself as "Amarillo's Finest." Of course, movie affectionados will recall that this motel was featured in the Tom Cruise/Dustin Hoffman flick, Rainman. Recent guidebooks promised that tourists can purchase a room from the actual manager that appeared in the movie. However, the Big 8's movie making days are long past.

Continuing along Route 66, we find that the Rio Siesta Motel is closed, though some of its strip of rooms are filled by the Tinee Tot Children's Shop. It reminds me of the many roadside relics reborn in new guises. How many Walter Dorwin Teague-designed gas stations have we discovered as tortilla stands, used car marts or headstone stores? Further down 66 in Clinton, we crash at the Glancy Motor Hotel with its highway shield door numbers and huge sign. The office, set among angular flying buttresses, looks like an insect waiting to leap into the air. The manager has a master's degree in mechanical engineering hanging on the wall, but he's worked here for five years: "It's going to waste. I can't get a job. I tried for many years, but I'm too old and they don't like the color of my skin. But I'm going to retire in two and a half years and buy a million-dollar house outside of Austin. I'm done making my money. I'm just waiting until retirement." We chat a while before preparing to take our leave, asking for directions to local institution Pop Hicks restaurant. Too late - it burned down last year. Further west, they're advertising 20 ounce bottles of pop, two for a dollar in gratitude for Western Oklahoma being the "#1 world consumer of Dr. Pepper."

[camera]Rio Siesta Motel [camera]Glancy Motor Hotel

We shuffle off to Canute and the Cotton Boll Motel, its brick surface roasting under the kiln sun. Further along in Elk City, the National Route 66 Museum is also worth a visit but if you must choose, stick with the museum in Clinton. Its audio tour (narrated by Michael Wallis, author of Route 66: The Mother Road) is augmented by musical selections from several decades of the Mother Road's existence and delightful exhibits of tourist courts, vacation spots, and diners. Of course, regardless of which site you visit, you'll get a chance to chat with some of the finest and nicest people in the country. Out in Sayre, we visit briefly with the owner of the Western Motel after being welcomed by two cute little girls twinkling, "welcome to the Western Motel" in rapid succession. "Is that the original sign?" I ask the owner. "Sure is. I have to repair it about twice a year . . . beer bottles. About ten cars a day come by here to take pictures of that sign - especially since all the European magazines show it. Folks gotta take a picture to prove they were there."

Rolling down an old alignment that parallels the frontage road, itself sidewinding Interstate 40 between Sayre and Erick, we slow down to about ten miles an hour, turning the wheel gently to avoid roadrunners and trying not to cut the fuel line on the bush that grows in the sweaty cracks of pavement. At times, we must lean out and push the tree branches out of our way, waving at the old timers who look amusedly at us from their tractors. Near the Texas border, Erick is rolling up the streets on its way to assuming ghost town status. Just in earshot, SUVs and tinted tourbuses roar down the highway.

[camera]Cotton Boll Motel [camera]Western Motel

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De Luxe Courts
28 Units 28 Baths
New, Modern, Quiet and Restful.
Accommodations for from one to six persons. Ten minutes from downtown. Near good cafes. Mrs. And Mrs. J.H. Powers (Owners and Managers) - West on Highway 66 - 5500 N.W. 39th Street - Phone 9-0027 - Oklahoma City, OKLA. Call or write for reservations. Mail addr. Rt. 10, Box 91A - Okla. City, Okla.
Lakeview Motel
Floor Furnace Heat in Winter - Beautiful Tile Bath in Each Court - Simmon's Beds - Ace Springs - Beautyrest Mattresses - Some Cabins equipped with Cooking - Magic Chef Stove and Electric Refrigeration - Locked Garages.
Will Rogers Motor Court
Tulsa, Oklahoma - Tub and Shower in Each Unit
Year 'round Air-Conditioning
Individual Thermostats
Room Phones - Playground
Free Television
Visit the Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore

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All photographs copyright © Jenny Wood. Text copyright © Andy Wood.