Thursday, July 31, 2008

Touring The Gold Country - Mariposa, CA

California history has always been a favorite hobby of mine, and I especially enjoy visiting the areas where gold fever took root way back in 1848. The Highway 49 town of Mariposa is one such place…

We’ll begin our tour at one of the oldest buildings in town, The Schlageter Hotel. This hotel was the best in town way back in 1864:

Today, the Schlageter still stands at its appointed corner, although it no longer takes in boarders. The building now houses an assortment of gift shops and a wine tasting bar.

Next stop is the Freemont Motel which is a bit farther up the street. Also advertising Tourist Homes and Cabins with Steam Heat, the Freemont no doubt fit the bill for many of those taking the “…all year Highway to Yosemite National Park”.

The Freemont Motel front desk office became a real estate office some time back. My guess is that business isn’t so good right now, so maybe they're renting those old motel rooms out as apartments for local gold miners:

My reason for being in Mariposa centered around a family trip to the same Yosemite National park that the Freemont was touting back in its day. The entrance to Yosemite via Highway 140 includes a massive natural rock entrance just past the ranger station. Here’s what it was like back in the 1940’s:

Funny how rock never seems to age:

How was Yosemite? Was it as pretty as I’ve heard? I think so:

And speaking of Highway 140, this ambassador of the muffler trade holds court in the sleepy town of Planada. His current dominion is a roadside farming museum:

Now let’s get back to Mariposa and its environs...

Near the town of Midpines (about 5 miles East of Mariposa), the former Hyatts Rancho Motel once vied for its share of the tourist trade:

Today, the site is kind of dumpy looking and the economy-minded Muir Lodge offers rooms with little frills…

The pool was empty even though it was warm enough to warrant a filling:

At the Midpines Country Store, I stumbled upon a 70’s style telephone booth. These things used to be everywhere when I was a kid. I can remember standing by such booths while at parks or at the movies, hanging around while my brothers made calls to the folks for a pick-up.

I even found an identical twin back up the road in Mariposa. What do you bet that both were installed by the same phone crew around the same time? Seeing these brought back the days of summer and soft serve…

And where do you think the locals would find their soft serve in this mountain town? Why, at the Frost Shop of course!

Alas, the Frost Shop passed into history around 2004. However, I’m happy to report my consumption of one delicious (if a tad greasy) hamburger during a pit stop way back around the turn of the century:

A bit up the road, we pass the Mariposa Motel:

Now known as the Mariposa Lodge, business appears strong and the grounds are well kept:

Mariposa is a friendly town, and I heartily recommend a visit to anyone passing by on their way to view Yosemite’s wonders.

The locals have had a tough time lately with wildfires, not to mention a rockslide that temporarily closed 140 a couple of years back. They will appreciate your patronage and you’ll have a relaxing time besides. My family and I are heading back in mid September, and we'll once again tie up our 150 horses at the KOA in Midpines.

Next time out, we’ll tour the alpine shores of beautiful Lake Tahoe and take in the vintage collection of motels that still grace the area known as ‘Stateline’.

See you in a few weeks…

Friday, July 4, 2008

Motel 6 & Sambo's Restaurant - Bakersfield, CA

Just off the 99 on Oak Street in hot and dusty Bakersfield, a pair of 1960's relics soldier on...

First up, here is one of the original units in the now ubiquitous Motel 6 chain. Motel 6 was founded in 1962 when the original room charge was $6.60. Although their rates have risen some since then, they still provide basic rooms to those travelling on a budget.

Here is the Bakersfield '6' back in its heyday:

It looks like a warm day and the parking lot is full. It's hard to tell, but there appears to be a late 1950's Imperial parked in the lot, judging by the Flight-Sweep deck lid in evidence.

The pool is located right in the front, just off of the street. You'll also notice that there was a Sambo's restaurant located right next door; we'll stop in for a cup of coffee in just a few minutes...But first, let's visit the Motel 6 today:

The 40 year old building looks pretty much the same. It was never stylish to begin with, but then again Motel 6 wasn’t known for setting standards in the field of design. The place is now an Econolodge and rooms are advertised for $39.96 for a single. That’s a 600% increase from its Motel 6 glory days!

OK, OK…I know you’re wondering about the pool area. You ask if the remaining water is all green and slimy? Is it filled in with dirt and pushing up weeds? Or paved over for additional parking perhaps?

Can weary travelers still be refreshed after a long and tiring drive?

Well, I'm happy to report that the answer to that last question is a big fat ‘Yes!’

The whole pool area doesn’t look bad at all; and there’s even a life-ring to throw in for those having trouble staying afloat:

I’ll take the second floor room closest to that overhanging balcony. I like to be able to keep an eye on the kids while they work up an appetite for dinner…

Which will be served next door at Sambo’s!!!

And what a fine sight this place must have been when twilight was setting in and dinner was calling. Of course, pancakes were available 24-7 and I’d bet that the Club House was cut in quarters as is proper. Steaks and Chicken were also in the spotlight.

Featuring a rakish and somewhat different design than the Sambo’s in Modesto, this beautiful building calls out to passers by (and those staying next door) quite effectively.

When I was seeking out this location, I expected to find very little remaining of the original design. Boy was I surprised to see how much was still intact:

Let’s take a tour around the former Sambo’s, which now moonlights as Lamina (“Plate” in Spanish) and serves down-home Mexican food to hungry Vaquero’s…

Here’s a side view:

You don’t see decorative fencing like this anymore (but I do):

I’m not sure if they chose the six letter ‘Lamina’ so that they could still use these fanciful oval billboards to display the name...But I'm glad they did!

And if you stare at the sign without blinking for a minute or so, the letters will slowly change to: S-A-M-B-O-S ...

This area would have held lush landscaping, as befits a family restaurant. Looks like they lost a palm tree sometime back:

And here’s a close-up of the terrific rock work, which is one of my favorite elements of coffee shop design circa the Space Age. Too bad the ‘Sambo’s’ lettering no longer floats in front of the rough hewn surfaces (is that corn growing in the flowerbed?):

Why don’t they design buildings with angles like these anymore?

Lastly, a parting glance at the former Sambo’s; still standing out on site and holding up well some 40 years on:

Thanks for visiting. As before, please accept my apologies for the infrequent posts…I’ll try to do better going forward.

Happy travels!