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No Lifeguard on Duty
June 2, 2009 7:15 AM   Subscribe

J. Bennett Fitts traveled some 20,000 miles to produce “No Lifeguard on Duty,” an investigation of America’s forgotten roadside motels. These vestiges of an earlier era—when families packed into their cars for summer vacations via two-lane highways—now exist in various stages of operation and disrepair. [via, by way of]
posted by filthy light thief (29 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
In looking for more pictures of interesting abandoned pools, I found a video and a flickr set on a pool in the abandoned town of Pripyat near Chernobyl, but thought I'd leave it as a comment, since there are already plenty of Chernobyl gallery posts.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:18 AM on June 2, 2009


Man, I love stuff like this.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:33 AM on June 2, 2009


When I was a kid we were a family of eight, so, motels being too expensive, our road trips were camping trips until we got to a destination (which was also camping, sometimes).

Fast forward to the Nineties, going on road trips with a child. Staying in motels. Always trying to find one with a pool. Sometimes we did, although some of them looked like this. In any case, staying in any kind of dumpy motel still feels like a luxury, after my childhood.
posted by kozad at 7:42 AM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I never have understood the point of having a pool within sight of the ocean though. If I'm at a beachfront hotel the pool holds zero interest for me.
posted by COD at 7:48 AM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]



COD is clearly not afraid of:
Sharks
Jelly Fish
Rip Tides
and lots of other ocean things.
posted by notreally at 7:51 AM on June 2, 2009


Point taken notreally. However, if you are afraid of all that what are you doing at a beachfront hotel? Stay 5 miles off the beach and reduce your hotel bill by 50%!
posted by COD at 7:54 AM on June 2, 2009


Swimming in a pool is quite a different experience than swimming in the ocean. If you are spending more than a day or two at the beach, you just might want to enjoy a freshwater swim.
posted by lyam at 7:56 AM on June 2, 2009


Another interesting phenomenon, Patel Motels. A friend and I drove cross country in 2001 and the even in the most backwater, dirt farming whitebread small towns from Texas to North Dakota the cheapest place in town was inevitably staffed by Indians. I can also vouch for the "American owned" signs in the competing motels, which seemed to code for "white owned".
posted by electroboy at 7:57 AM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


The beach is awesome for walking, playing, collecting and just hanging out. The pool is awesome for swimming.
posted by DU at 8:02 AM on June 2, 2009


Every time I go to Asheville, NC, I stay at the wonderfully kitschy Mountaineer Inn, simply because of the great neon sign. My friends are convinced I'm nuts for staying at old hotels like these, but I love 'em. I mean, how often do you get the chance to sleep in a concrete teepee?
posted by 1f2frfbf at 8:02 AM on June 2, 2009


the golf pics look pretty cool as well.
posted by fuzzypantalones at 8:09 AM on June 2, 2009


The beach is awesome for walking, playing, collecting and just hanging out. The pool is awesome for swimming.

Also cool about the beach: that ocean right next to it.
posted by xmutex at 8:27 AM on June 2, 2009


Ocean: usually cold, salty, and you probably can't see the thing that's going to stab or bite you (if you're afraid of such things).
Pool: usually warm, chlorine-ey, and the biggest threat are kids who like to do cannonball dives.

I liked this set of images, as most photographers focus on the neon signs. Making a series of the pools is a keen idea.

1f2frfbf - I'll be suggesting a road trip next time I'm in NC, thanks!
posted by filthy light thief at 8:32 AM on June 2, 2009


I actually have a lifelong fear of swimming pools. It's completely irrational; I actually love to swim in rivers, lakes, and oceans. Only swimming pools squick me out. Don't know why, but I've always thought they were inherently creepy. I just hate having my feet touch the bottom, all that cracked concrete and chipped paint. Even worse is when you're walking towards the deep end and suddenly sense that the "ground" has disappeared. And those sucking things. And the pumping machinery. And the drain. And the fact that when you look down into the deep end, it looks like you're looking down the side of a building. YUCK! Some of these pictures (and especially the Chernobyl gallery) capture a bit of that creepiness.

Fortunately, it looks like I'm not alone.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:50 AM on June 2, 2009


Point taken notreally

Heteroantonymisterical?
posted by zippy at 9:57 AM on June 2, 2009


Another interesting phenomenon, Patel Motels. A friend and I drove cross country in 2001 and the even in the most backwater, dirt farming whitebread small towns from Texas to North Dakota the cheapest place in town was inevitably staffed by Indians.

I offer this as an anecdote only, because you've just triggered a Proustian response in me here.

I drove cross-country at about this time, solo (which is no mean feat for a woman, let alone one who rarely drives), and got thoroughly lost somewhere in East Kansas. After having a mild breakdown in a chicken restaurant in the middle of nowhere, I was cheered up and sent on my way by a couple sympathetic waitresses and a trucker who gave me directions to Wichita, which was about 90 minutes away. But I was exhausted and it was dark, and so when after 20 minutes I saw "gas/food/lodging" on a sign on the next exit, I said "hell with it" and got off the highway.

The town I ended up in was Fredonia, Kansas, population of about 300. The "lodging" was one such small hotel run by an Indian gentleman. I gratefully went to the counter, and he began to check me in: "Okay, make of your car?" I told him.

"Just one night?"

"yes."

"Just one person?"

"Yes."

At this last bit, he looked up at me. "Really?" he asked -- and I swear the man was leering at me.

I froze only for a split second, and then blurted out, "yeah, I'm meeting my fiance in Vegas." He blinked a couple times, then turned back to processing my paperwork -- just as I remembered that I had no ring on my left hand. I shoved it into my pocket and conducted the rest of my checkin one-armed, with left hand crammed firmly into my pants.

Mind, I've stayed in other places with Indian proprietors who didn't do this, so I'm not making any kind of a claim other than "the guy running the motel in Fredonia was kind of a creep." ...Oh, and "if you're going to pull the 'I have a fiance' trick, WEAR A DAMN RING."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:58 AM on June 2, 2009


Love this.

Oddly, though, it reminds me of the movie _Cars_, with its fetishization of this kind of place. These old run-down places in what is now the middle of nowhere are a neat window into the recent past, but I definitely don't see any reason why it would be a good thing if they were somehow revived.
posted by gurple at 10:01 AM on June 2, 2009


Also, _Lolita_. Any collection of images that manages to remind me simultaneously of _Cars_ and _Lolita_ is worthwhile.
posted by gurple at 10:02 AM on June 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Or horrifying.
posted by gurple at 10:03 AM on June 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


My experience with shady motels goes back to my college years, when a friend and I decided to go to the Palm Springs area for a two-day music fest, rather on a whim. We didn't plan ahead, and realized we needed to sleep somewhere. We called all the decent sounding motels in the general vicinity, but they were all booked. We remembered seeing some smaller hotels earlier in the evening, so we back-tracked and found a few motels. They all looked a bit run down, but it was there, or sleep in the car.

Motel #1: $75 for the night, and it looked a bit shady. There was a pool, but I'm not sure if I would have used it. Motel #2: $100 for the night, maybe a bit less shady. My friend and I, being frugal, returned to Motel #1.

Inside the room was worse than outside. The bedspread had cigarette burns. There was a short table leaning against the between-room doors, possibly to keep the door closed, or maybe because the table was missing a leg. Oh, and there was a mirror across from the bed, hanging about knee height. It took us a minute to figure out why.

The bathroom had a paper floormat, and one of the towels was a third the size of the other towel, due to being on fire some time in the past. I think we actually showered there, because we felt really gross.

In the morning, we woke up and were getting ready to go. The manager opened the door without knocking, and closed it without saying anything. This was not a motel for long stays. I think a teepee would have been a welcomed option that weekend.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:17 AM on June 2, 2009


20,000 miles seems like a lot for 18 photographs.
posted by xod at 10:24 AM on June 2, 2009


The town I ended up in was Fredonia, Kansas

Hail Freedonia, the land of the free!
posted by Afroblanco at 10:34 AM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


>The town I ended up in was Fredonia, Kansas

Hail Freedonia, the land of the free!


Heh. I called a friend of mine to kvetch a bit when I got in the hotel room there, and told him where I was; he's a huge Marx Brothers buff, and when he heard that, he begged me to get a copy of the local paper as a souvenir. ...I did -- I think the top story that week was "Tractor Accident Sends Local Man To Wichita."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:41 AM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Tractor Accident Sends Local Man To Wichita."

Yeah, that's about what it would take to get me to return to Wichita.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:46 AM on June 2, 2009


I never have understood the point of having a pool within sight of the ocean though. If I'm at a beachfront hotel the pool holds zero interest for me.

I used to think this too in my East/Gulf Coast experience, then I went to the West Coast of the US. Everything I thought I knew about the Southern California beach scene has been a lie! That water is freaking cold!
posted by Pollomacho at 10:59 AM on June 2, 2009


EmpressCallipygos

We had a weird similar experience with the proprietor of one of the many shitty motels we stayed at. Except the manager told my friend and I (both male) were told that we weren't allowed to have any women at the motel or he would kick us out. My friend shot back with "Well damn, is there somewhere I can buy some lube then?"

Then would only give us toilet paper (there was none in the room) after making sure we weren't going to waste it.
posted by electroboy at 11:13 AM on June 2, 2009


This reminds me of the string of seedy-looking (but also kitschy and retro) motels on Lincoln Ave. in Chicago. US 41 used to be a major thoroughfare to Milwaukee, apparently, which explains all the independently owned motels on that stretch. It later earned the nickname Sin Strip, aka the hooker motels.

That strip has changed a lot even in the 7 years I've lived here. I kind of miss those retro neon signs.

My friend threw herself a cheesy/80s After-Prom themed birthday party a couple years ago at the Heart 'O' Chicago motel. We rented out a bunch of rooms, decorated each with a different theme, all dressed up in old prom/bridesmaids dresses and the like... it was pretty awesome.
posted by misskaz at 11:44 AM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


My little town in central Kansas has several old independent motels because we used to be on the main highway before the interstate system was built. The proprietors keep a few rooms saved for "real guests" but the vast majority of their income is derived from running the motels as rooming houses. They appeal to a wide variety of people (old alcoholics, middle aged meth heads, recently divorced and/or recently laid-off people who are in transistion, young adults just starting out who want to live away from home but don't want a lot of responsibility).

For the most part, these old motels are safe and clean (a couple of them have owners who live on-site and treat their tenants as an extended family), and they're way cheaper than a real apartment, so they're providing a much-needed service for people who need a place to call home.
posted by amyms at 12:09 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Years ago I gave up on old motels. Too often, the plumbing is no good and you can't get a decent shower. Without a decent shower, I'm not getting what I pay for (water pressure being the issue. A trickle doesn't get it with me). In cold weather, you'll often find the heat doesn't work, and in hot, the AC makes way more noise than cool air. Last time I got stuck in such a place (Mackinaw City, Nicolet Motel, 1997) it was infested with fleas.

As a kid, growing up in Michigan, I never stayed in a hotel/motel with my family. We didn't do those kinds of trips, my father's idea of a vacation was a cabin on a lake, and fishing. There, that means a few hours of driving. The first time I was ever in a motel, it was for the usual short-term reason. For years, I had such a strong association between hotels and sex that any hotel stay ramped up my libido.
posted by Goofyy at 9:31 PM on June 2, 2009


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