The Motel had its apogee in the USA during the years of the postwar boom. Route 66, named the Mother Road by Steinbeck, changed from the migration route of the 1930s, epitomised in Grapes of Wrath, into a tourist route & destination during the 1950s.Americans, freshly out of the Armed Forces, with jobs, houses & cars, now wanted to explore their own country.
The building of the Interstate led to the decline of many of the towns built along Route 66, captured in Pixar’s Cars. Along the road are ghostly collections of derelict service plazas, whole frontages of garages, motels, diners, mostly abandoned, some still struggling, others turned inwards, downsized to serve a local population.
Motels along Route 66 are re-emerging in the 21st century in different guises. Some of the original motels from the 1950s have survived with their signage intact & hang on, tidy, clean if tired & run-down; others market themselves as examples of original Americana, as part of the Route 66 tourist experience. In Albuquerque we’re experiencing another route to survival: temporary accommodation for migrant workers, homeless, transient populations. The rooms fill up the day after people receive their welfare cheques, empty as the money runs out & people return to the streets. Some owners are reportedly offering rooms in exchange for work. The motel we’re currently staying in has rooms occupied by families who have lost their homes but still have jobs. Their savings will eventually run out & they’ll gradually descend the motel hierarchy.