Hunting Signs in Albuquerque on Route 66

A few months ago, Richard and I traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to visit our friend Dean and his mother.  Our visit with them was wonderful, full of conversation and stories of past travels.  Part of our time in Albuquerque was spent doing a couple of the things Richard, Dean, and I enjoy best, traveling Route 66 and sign hunting.  We have fallen in love with signs and the hunting thereof.  Not all signs will do, however, as old signs are among the best finds, but neon signs?  Now you’re talking!  There are great signs everywhere, big cities, little towns, along beaches and roadways too, but as Route 66 lovers, great signs found on Route 66 are the most beloved signs of all.  It’s like treasure hunting, but for signs.  (OH! And you don’t steal the ‘treasure,’ you photograph it, then continue the search.)

Driving up and down Central Avenue, aka: Route 66, you will see there is no shortage of signs.  Many are vintage and downright iconic, like the sign outside the Westward Ho! Motel, with its large Saguaro Cactus outlined with neon.  What a GREAT sign!  A day time photo of the Westward Ho! Motel is shown below.  Unfortunately, we were not able to take a night time photo, so I can’t tell you if the neon works or not.  Hmmm, maybe that means another Route 66 trip to Albuquerque in my future?

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During our sign hunt, we happened across a well preserved sign uniquely colored to match the colors detailing the motel…or the detailing on the motel was uniquely colored to match the sign.  Either way, it was a great sign!  The pine trees near the sign and motel entrance made a grand view, which was the name of the establishment, the Grandview Motel.

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There was one sign we specifically sought out: the El Vado Motel sign.  Like the Westward Ho! Motel sign, this sign was very iconic as well.  Two different banners are tied on to the building; they read, “The Purest Route 66 Motel Surviving” and “70 years of Continuous Hospitality on Route 66.”  Well, one of those signs may have been true.  For several years now, a tall chain link fence has surrounded the adobe style El Vado Motel, as it sat vacant and deteriorating.  Awhile back, the once beautiful El Vado neon sign was removed from the property to be restored to its former glory.  Once the neon restoration project was complete, the exquisite sign was proudly displayed in an Albuquerque museum, before being returned to its home outside the El Vado Motel.  I believe anyone seeing this sign in its current glory would be in awe.  Although a colorful sign during the day, the sign glows with brilliant colors at night.  The name of the motel is outlined in neon.  The photo on the sign depicts an Indian Chief, adorned in a magnificent headdress consisting of a rainbow of neon.  As for the former motel, it is reportedly being restored, not as a motel, but a boutique shopping area.

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Before our trip was concluded, we stopped at 66 Diner, with its red and blue neon on the outside, and 50’s style décor inside.  I’m certain the food is great, but I opted for a shake.  It was the most delicious shake I’ve ever tasted-chocolate with Oreos…trust me on this one!

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Please remember, a great sign does not always equate to a great motel or restaurant.  Research establishments online, ask friends who have traveled the area previously, and maybe even ask a local.  Have FUN on Route 66 and as always, have safe travels!  (And don’t forget to take photos!)

Author: Judy Walker

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