We are a society of drivers, commuters and joy riders rushing around in our second homes, our cars, so loved by us that they become a part of the family and christened with names like the sailing ships of old.. We were all steeped in a culture of mobility and the quest to explore new horizons. Indoctrinated by our parents, who transformed American culture by “hitting the road.” After the anxieties, restrictions and the national shortages of WWII, is it any wonder that a whole generation of Great Depression and war weary citizens were literally driven to the open roads by the fastest growing consumer economy the world had ever witnessed.
The “road” has its own unique and fascinating history. The multitudes of hotels, motels, extended stays and rent by the hour No-Tells, sprung up all across the country to accommodate this new found past time. Car dealerships and “Inns” became the two most lucrative ventures in the country. They sprung up overnight, along every ribbon of asphalt in the country, and spanned the nation coast to coast. Sections of the country that had been isolated before the war now became flooded with “out of towners” and towns that maintained a distinct cultural identity became homogenized as the ideas and fads from across other parts of the country flooded in with rising tide of “vacationers.” For each one of these as with us the end of every day was punctuated with the ritual of finding a “nice place to stay.” As the sun dipped below the horizon those beckoning signals would invite the weary in to rest and relax.
But I wax nostalgia….these bastions of childhood fun have a much darker side than we were ever exposed to. As Americans became nomadic and the freedom and anonymity of the road appealed not only to middle class America but also drew into its sphere criminals of all shapes and sizes from serial killers to tax cheats, husbands fleeing their wives and wives fleeing their husbands, desperate lonely and lost souls drifting in and out of the thoughts they dare not act upon although many did.
These places, these oasis of the road became refuges for lost, wicked and desperate souls and with no where to go it’s not a large stretch of the imagination to believe that they stayed checked in even after death. Now that these places have almost completely disappeared from sight, passed over by the eye hidden within a landscape of high rises and chains that offer the same room, the same food and the same service no matter what city you find yourself in.
As we wiz down the super highways, whose construction sounded the death knoll a thousand quirky and kinky mom and pop motels, their construction designed to catch the eye, they have nevertheless become hidden by, accident or design? The typical commuter or tourist (HINT: keep an eye out for our brothers and sister on their steel horses) does not register their presence within the landscape and that once designed to attract turns on itself and shrinks from our reality and vision.
These places gather about them an air of mystery and haunting s, urban legends and real life crime swirl into each other and take on a life of their own. (HINT: when exploring hotels/motels look for asbestos and the dreaded black mold which this particular Travelodge was coated in) When they finally allow you to see them ,the first thought that comes to everyone’s mind is prefaced by “I wonder..who/what/when/why and sometimes where?” This very thought energizes the air around you because most of the answers are vast, a legion of events, emotions and actions, perhaps recorded within the very walls and furniture, damned to replay night after night like a broken record. If you are very unlucky you might come across an intelligent trapped spirit or diabolical nonhuman entity (HINT: do not go messing with things that were never human, they are alien to us and their thought process so different from anything, we cannot even imagine what their motives are since they have no human equivalent). Let’s hope and pray you do not encounter any of these!
Like a Stephen King novel do these places take on a life of their own? Somehow to us they have undergone an almost human life cycle.We have seen them born and nurtured, played with and visited during their youth and now we find ourselves presiding over their last days of old age, some of them with dementia and madness about them, some going quietly into the sunset.
We have come to the conclusion that like the people they mimic, those whose lives and deaths have passed through their rooms and lobbies that, they retain the essence of those with no where else to go giving each its own character and nature ranging from the benign to realms of high strangeness and hellish visions.
Next time you are rockin down the highway look to your right below the raised super highway you are on and there you will see these vanishing hot spots , if they want you to 🙂 (HINT: be careful what you wish for). Be wise and listen to your parents, I’m sure you heard it more than once on those distant family road trips..”be careful and don’t talk to strangers” but of course in those days they meant anyone who wasn’t like you parents not ever person in a one mile radius of your location like today. We would offer the same advise to you about abandoned friends, “don’t talk to strangers” because these particular abodes are stranger than most!