The sad old motels of Barstow, California
Barstow, California, once a shining oasis along the sweltering asphalt of Route 66, is now but a relic of times nearly forgotten. A photo gallery by Charles Platt.
Back in the days before cars were air-conditioned, Barstow, California was a popular stopover for travelers who arrived exhausted and thirsty from crossing the Mojave desert. Chuck Berry included Barstow in his homage to Route 66, and prior to that, it was a railroad town.
Alas, Barstow fell on hard times when Route 66 was bypassed by the Interstate highway system. You might think it could still lure some guests, being located beside I-15 halfway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. But the drive to Vegas has become so easy, no one needs to interrupt it anymore.
Consequently Barstow has become an elephants' graveyard for old motels. I spent a couple of hours, recently, photographing the rows of single-story cabins that used to be the default configuration for American lodging. I was amazed to find that many of the old places are still hanging on, offering rates for a mere $25 and up.
I have to admit, I stayed in a Best Western myself. But the next time I drive in to Los Angeles from my home in Northern Arizona, maybe I'll try a place with a little more history. I'm especially tempted by the Stardust Inn, with its name and even its logo plagiarized from the old Stardust hotel on the Las Vegas strip. That hotel was demolished in 2006, but the motel still survives as a source of memories of a time that most of us never knew.
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