Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tradewinds Motor Hotel - Fresno, CA

Here's a fun scene from the 60's...elderly folks (and a few young ones) being served by the poolside at "The Tradewinds" in Fresno, California.

"The Tradewinds is centered in the heart of California's vacationland at the Gateway to Yosemite, King's Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. We are a Master Hosts Motor Hotel with 112 delightfully air conditioned rooms overlooking a lovely garden patio and heated swimming pool."

Ahhhh...the good old days...

As of 2007, the Tradewinds was still holding out against Father Time, but things weren't looking up.

When I paid a visit, the only guests appeared to be a busload of German tourists who had recently made their arrival. Sure, they appeared content enough, and the pool was a big hit on this 100 degree afternoon. But signs of decline and decay were everywhere: the vegetation was overgrown, a broken fence gate was left wide open to the street, and the parking lot was deserted.

At that time, The Tradewinds was part of the Best Western chain, an affiliation since terminated. The Tradewinds now faces the future as an independent motel, a tough task in today's nationally-branded lodging market.

My picture was taken from a second story balcony, the same perch used by the postcard artist I believe.

Another sure sign of trouble was the status of the Gaslight Room Steakhouse: CLOSED. This colorful space is now used only for the free breakfast and coffee service. The brick barbecue pit, rustic fittings, and carving stations remain. Wagon wheels and other Western flotsam adorn the neglected walls.

Likewise, the former cocktail lounge was shuttered to the German masses. After their long journey from who knows where, they probably could have used the services of this mid-century watering hole.

At least the sign still stands proudly...

Of additional note, The Tradewinds was once affiliated with the Ray Douglas' Pine Cone chain, with sister restaurants in Merced, Modesto (my home town), San Jose & San Leandro. Pictured below is the former Modesto location.

Note the similar signage and the steakhouse name: Branding Iron. This was the original name used at The Tradewinds also. Why or when the name was changed to the Gaslight Room remains a mystery.

All the Pine Cones are now gone, but the Modesto outpost soldiers on as an Acapulco Mexican Restaurant & Cantina.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Noyo Harbor - Fort Bragg, California

Let's journey now to California's rugged North Coast...

Highway 1 skirts this beautiful area and crosses over the Noyo River Bridge near Fort Bragg.

Back in the 1950's, "Fishing is one of the main industries of the Fort Bragg area, and commercial fisherman, as well as sportsman, find this the most abundant locale in Northern California."

In May of 2007, Noyo Harbor is still a bustling place for those seeking adventure on the choppy seas just beyond the river's mouth. However, the most advertised industry now seems to be whale watching.

Comparing the two shots, it's clear that "new" construction has filled in a few of the gaps, but happily the harbor remains a charming backwater. The bridge was widened recently, and traded it's steel-girder frame for one of reinforced concrete.

This perspective is from the shoulder of the narrow road that winds down to the harbor.

The two story building located on the left side at the rivers edge, is Silver's At The Wharf, a comfortable watering hole where the food is equaled only by the friendly service. If you ever drop anchor in these parts, make sure you pay them a visit. I recommend the Noyo Fish Tacos and Silver's Dungeness Crab Cakes.

You can find them on the web at:

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Motel 6 & Century Bowl

Returning from Anaheim, let's exit Highway 99 and rest for a bit at the Motel 6 in Merced. This chain was started in 1962 and this unit was probably one of the first 50 or so. Unlike a modern Motel 6, this one featured an attached restaurant and bar.

After 40 years, the pool area layout hasn't changed much. This veteran lodge now flies under the Super 8 banner but otherwise looks to be a survivor. The very tall Richfield gas station sign remains but now pushes the Vallero brand.

Just down the road, the long-shuttered Century Bowl awaits it's fate. This classic alley used to be a friendly haunt for those seeking a little ten-pin fun, and for now the great sign continues to call out to passers-by. But the fate of this urban relic appears all but certain. Does Merced really need another Walgreens? Perhaps, but it will be sad to see this old palace torn apart and hauled away...leaving one final 'open frame' on the community scorecard.