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Harris Blackwood: Enjoying the adventures along Route 66
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Sometimes I think I may have fit in better in an earlier generation. I would have loved to have been around in the heyday of Route 66, the great American road that stretched from Chicago to the Santa Monica pier in Los Angeles.

I have had the occasion to be at both ends of the great road this year.

I have a strange affinity for two spots along the great road. They, along with a third in Kentucky, comprise the last remaining Wigwam Motels.

Frank A. Redford developed the tepee-shaped motel units and eventually was granted a patent for the design. Seven Wigwam Villages were built between 1933 and 1949. Two are in Kentucky and one each is in Alabama, Florida, Arizona, Louisiana and California.

One is in Cave City, Ky., near Mammoth Cave National Park. It has 15 wigwams arranged in a semicircle and used as guest rooms. The diameter at the base of each tepee is 14 feet. And they are 32 feet in height. Behind the sleeping room is a small bathroom with sink, toilet and shower.

I’m not here to write a critique of the wigwam villages, but the one in Kentucky is in need of new mattresses.

The one in Holbrook, Ariz. is my favorite. It was the inspiration for a scene in the animated movie, “Cars”.

It was our first wigwam experience and I think it has the best setting of the three remaining. Vintage restored automobiles from a bygone area are scattered in the
parking area.

The last one is in San Bernardino, Calif. At one time, this village fell into disrepair and the rooms were rented by the hour. It was renovated and in 2012 became the last of the remaining three to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

I think the guest registration forms may have been left over from a seedy time. The receipt has two warnings at the top: “No Refunds” and “No Prostitution.”

If I am blessed with grandchildren, I think I would like to take them to visit at least one of the wigwams. I think I may avoid the one in San Bernardino so I won’t have to explain anything about the world’s oldest profession.

I have now enjoyed a night’s stay at the three remaining authentic Wigwam Villages. It won’t win me an award, but it is an accomplishment few people can boast.

Whether or not it ends up on my tombstone is a decision I’ll leave to those who survive me, but it will make a good story at my funeral.

I listened one afternoon when gospel pianist Hovie Lister played all the music he performed at Elvis’ funeral. It was just the two of us and a slightly out of tune spinet piano, but it was a moment I will never forget.

I’ve talked with people who have been stars on the big screen, had big songs on the radio and had an office at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington. One of my favorite conversations was with a woman who left her uniform shoes in her basement locker in the World Trade Center. Going after them on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, saved her life.

Someday, some young person may talk to me and I will regale them with the story of staying in a tepee on a once-grand highway.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on