Essential No. 12: The roadside motel

After a long day's drive, your piece of Route 66 paradise for just $49

The summer road trip is back ― and triumphantly back, too, is the road trip's essential component, the inexpensive roadside motel.

The motel is sometimes dubbed an American icon, but that's wrong: It's a Western icon. We invented it (with, specifically, the Milestone Mo-Tel in San Luis Obispo, California, in 1925).

And we perfected it with neon-lit oases like the Blue Swallow Motel on U.S. Route 66 in Tucumcari, New Mexico.

"We found it on the Internet," says Bill Kinder of the 11-room, 1930s-vintage motel he and wife Terri bought and restored four years ago.

Of course, in 2009, even classics benefit from a cyber-boost. Kinder brags about his TripAdvisor standings (number one in Tucumcari), his in-room Wi-Fi, and a website that draws guests from as far as Japan.

Worldwide popularity is in fact the sole downside of operating an icon. Says Kinder: "You get tired of telling people you're full up for the night."

Stay the night
Blue Swallow Motel (rooms from $49; 815 E. Route 66 Blvd., Tucumcari, NM; 575/461-9849)

More Western essentials

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