This is the Henning Motel, on old Route 66 in Newberry Springs, California. It sits next to the Bagdad Café. If you’ve seen the movie of the same name, you know that much of the action takes place here in the motel. One of my favorite scenes has Marianne Sagebrecht’s character on a ladder, dusting the neon sign.
I love that sign. It’s a classic design, and it’s huge—ridiculously out of proportion to the tiny four room motel it advertises. Even in the glory days of the 1950’s, at the height of both the Great American Roadtrip in general, and Route 66 in particular, when owning a motel must have been something of a no-brainer business-wise, that sign surely cost more to buy and operate than the nightly rentals could ever have justified. I imagine a sleazy, cigar-chomping salesman in a loud sport coat pitching the sale in a raspy voice: “You gotta have a good sign. The bigger the sign, the more revenue. It only makes sense. A good sign is your ticket to financial security.” But I suspect if the motel ever turned a profit, that money was made in spite of the sign, and not because of it.
Today, the motel and sign are both in ruins. Their role in Bagdad Café (1987) was the last hurrah. But in case you’re interested, the property is for sale. The hand-lettered sign out front offers 3.5 acres of Route 66 property with a 3-unit commercial building for $125,000 or best offer. Sadly, there’s no commercial potential here. The building is beyond reasonable repair. This property will never generate revenue, and I’m guessing one could probably do better if looking for a residential parcel in this area. This will be a purchase born out of affection or nostalgia for what was once here. In practical terms, the buyer will be taking on a real white elephant. But it comes with a good sign.
80 seconds @ f/8; 23 mm; ISO 200; star trails (16 * 80 seconds); xenon flashlight on sign