|The delightfully named Ho Hum Motel|
Motoring is a word that is cruising away. We drive now. Drive has intention. Destination. Purpose. Motoring was leisurely. Fun. Adventurous. When you motored you stayed at motels, a word derived from motoring.
While I have been visiting my hometown of Reno, I have felt a certain level of anxiety. I don’t recognize the skyline, the buildings, or the streets. I have been searching for any vestiges of familiarity; it has changed so much. Oddly the motels are what look familiar. Yet, they no longer seem to be the adventure that they once were.
Chain link fences guard the driveways and grass grows in the parking lot cracks.
Swimming pool windows are empty of children peering out the corner windows.
Signs are derelict.
Empty lots have made odd juxtapositions with motel signs.
Registration is by the week. Week after week. An alternative to home. No longer a vacation. Motels have become Reno’s solution to a lack of adequate housing for veterans and those with mental and physical illnesses. Has the city counsel noticed that their failure to provide for those in need creates an unpleasant downtown experience for tourists of Reno? Is this a city lacking in compassion for its own citizens?
Reno has an area called Mid-Town. It is the up-and coming-cool neighborhood housed in mostly old little brick storefronts and houses. It is the neighborhood of the Ho Hum Motel. Maybe this is the neighborhood that can take a stand on the architectural and cultural significance of motels. “Motor to the Ho Hum Motel and walk to Mid-Town,” the advertising could read. Give the sign a little paint. Make sure the lights work. Add comfortable beds.
Reno has tried to move with the times. Unfortunately significant old buildings were removed in the 70’s and 80’s, making way for redevelopment. The destruction happened with a vengeance. The motels with their stylish signs mostly survived that era, but slowly hotels shadowed their low profiles and their clientele have shifted. The motel days appear to be numbered.
Yet, I wonder if Reno were willing to grasp an opportunity to bring back the cool motoring era and preserve its motels before it is too late. Here is an advertising campaign waiting to happen. The motel signs alone would make incredible copy.
“Motor up to Reno. We’re open and waiting to give you the western experience.”
It could be cool.