This old truck, along with a lot of other old automobiles of varying condition, are scattered throughout the parking lot at the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona, located along the old Route 66. I stumbled across the motel just as the sun was setting last week. (Photo ©2016 Lee Anne White)
Holbrook, Arizona. I’ve never met anyone who told me it was their vacation destination or on their bucket list. But it was on mine, and not because I expected it to be exciting. In fact, I really didn't expect much at all. But my mom lived there for several years in her early teens before moving east to Georgia, and I felt it was important to see where she lived. She never said much about Holbrook until a few weeks ago when I told her I was going. Then the memories began flowing. Still, my expectations remained modest.
Indeed, Holbrook is a sleepy little town. Yet I was pleasantly surprised when I visited this past week. It had a charming main street district and was like stepping back in time—probably to the time that my mom lived there. Imagine traveling west along Route 66 in the '40s and '50s, and you’ll have a pretty good image of this town. I was delighted by the beautifully maintained Wigwam Motel and its antique auto collection and there are wonderful old buildings and signs throughout the town. I kept wishing I had more than just a short evening to explore with my camera phone.
The Wigwam Hotel was built in 1950 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. It consists of 15 concrete and steel teepees that stand 28 feet high. And yes, you can still "sleep in a wigwam."
The nearby Petrified Forest National Park and Painted Desert were also wonderful, and I didn’t allot enough time for fully exploring these natural wonders, either. When heading south toward Phoenix through the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, where my grandfather served as a forest ranger, I was caught off guard by the lushness of these high, snow-capped mountains—not what tends to come to mind when you think of Arizona.
As a photographer, I do my best to research a place before going there to shoot. I identify key locations, views or elements I wish to photograph and think about when and how I might best do that. When working with editors, I am often provided with shot lists. But in the end, I must respond to what is actually there and adapt to the the current light and weather. Often, my preconceived ideas have very little to do with reality.
If you ever find yourself heading west on I-40 through Arizona, hop off the interstate for an exit or two and drive through Holbrook. If you have time, stop by Joe & Aggie's Cafe (established 1943) for some huevos rancheros smothered in red sauce. If you’re lucky, Tammy will join you at your table and tell you all about Holbrook after she takes your order.