Welcome to the fine art blog of San Diego photographer Stefanie Poteet. Here you will find photographs of everything from vintage hot rods to rubber ducks and everything in between.

If you are interested in Stefanie's wedding and event photography or portraiture, please visit her client blog.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Motel Monday - Loop de Loop

Most of my road trips are centered around groupings of signs I want to photograph that can be found within a city or general area. This makes my trips more efficient, allowing me to capture as many signs as possible and attempt to save gas in the process. But every once in a while I'll stumble upon a vintage sign that is so extraordinary I will drive well out of my way just to photograph it and nothing else. That one sign is the trip.

Perhaps it's just a function of it's location, but the Loop Motor Lodge in Venture was one of those signs for me. I've had it on my maps for years, and with every trip to Los Angeles I'd wish I'd made it farther north and west. A few weeks ago I finally took the trip and was thrilled to finally see it in person.

I love the neon details that adorn the outside of the sign, and I bet it looked amazing when fully lit. A vintage postcard I found of the motel shows that some changes have been made to the sign over the years, but the core remains unchanged. The design is so classic and simple it makes me smile. 
Here's hoping that smile lasts all week!

Happy Monday!

- Stefanie

Monday, May 14, 2012

Motel Monday - The Sun and the Sand

Today's feature is by far one of my favorite photographs ever, in part because this sign is no longer the one that got away.

The Sun 'n Sand Motel sits on Route 66 in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. The first time I spotted this sign was from afar during the summer of 2009. We'd stopped for gas in the midst of our cross country road trip and the motel was just down the street. For the life of me I cannot figure out why I didn't photograph it then... whatever reason I had for not getting out of the truck, putting on my shoes and walking the few blocks in the late July heat with my camera became completely feeble and inexcusable just a few hours later.

I've been kicking myself ever since that summer and with every disappearing sign I read about I kicked myself even more. Thankfully when I made it back to Santa Rosa last year the Sun 'n Sand was still standing as beautiful as ever. Apparently the sign was restored sometime before June 2006, and you can definitely spot it from Interstate 40. Take the exit into Santa Rosa and you'll drive right by the motel.

The motel also has it's own restaurant but it was closed for the Thanksgiving holiday. The restaurant comes complete with it's own great vintage googie inspired signage. I'll save it for a Foodie Friday feature.
Here's to checking this one off my list!

Happy Monday!

- Stefanie

Monday, May 7, 2012

Motel Monday - Awaiting Restoration

A few weeks ago I featured the Route 66 Motel of Needles, California. Ed Klein of Route 66 World is in the midst of restoring the sign and last I heard all that is missing is the new neon tubes. Our course the Route 66 is not the only motel sign in Needles in need of help. Just down Broadway street is the Sage Motel and it's sign that has certainly seen better days.

Most of the neon tubes are completely gone, the few remaining letters to spell vacancy are hanging cattywampus, and the only portion that seems to still be in place is the tip of the arrow. On the plus side, the sign is still standing and the property appeared to be in the midst of a restoration. I can't find any additional information about the property or who might be fixing it up, but I did come across this undated vintage postcard.
 The property looks much different now and is completely fenced in with a rolling gate and a decorative cement tile wall. I seem to remember a pool too, but perhaps I just imagined it.
The next time I'm in Needles I'll definitely check up on this place. Maybe I'll have more to report... 

Happy Monday!

- Stefanie

Monday, April 30, 2012

Motel Monday - Just After Dusk

I'm posting today's Motel Monday a bit later than usual so I thought an evening motel shot would be more appropriate. Lucky for me I've got just the thing...

The same day that I photographed the Supai Motel in Seligman, I spent the night in Flagstaff. Also part of Route 66, Flagstaff has kept it's historic downtown area and several vintage motels, motel signs, and cafes. The Hotel Monte Vista sits on the corner of Aspen Avenue and San Francisco Street, one block north of Route 66 itself. The hotel actually predates Route 66 as it was built in 1926. I guess it was just in the right place at the right time.

The Monte Vista has had quite a few famous guests including Bob Hope, Michael Stipe, Bing Crosby, Michael J. Fox, Jon Bon Jovi, Clark Gable, and my personal favorites John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart and Freddie Mercury. The hotel is reportedly haunted by several friendly ghosts as well, but I'm going to leave the supernatural out of this.

During my brief stay in Flagstaff I ate dinner at the Galaxy Diner, which I highly recommend, before driving to the downtown area to take a walk around. I was serendipity that I took this photo of the Hotel's vintage rooftop signage just after dusk had fallen and I love the colors. Maybe next time I'll check out the interior.
Happy Monday!

- Stefanie

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Retro Roadside Photography's New Look

In case you haven't noticed, my Retro Roadside Photography shop is rocking a new look these days. The amazing logo is the creation of my good friend Nicole, who happens to be one heck of a graphic designer.

No shop overhaul is complete without a new banner and avatar which you can find here. Purchase a print and you'll get to see my new business cards too! Subtle, right? 


- Stefanie

Monday, April 23, 2012

Motel Monday - Googie Spectacular

One of the most brilliant signs you'll see driving down Route 66 through Grants New Mexico is for the Sands Motel, directing travelers a half block to the actual Motel itself. The sign, with it's red flags, giant arrow and beyond amazing lettering will grab even the most distracted driver's attention.  The 1/2 block in neon just makes me smile. 

The Sands Motel was established in 1950 and has had a few famous guests in it's 62 years of business. Room 123 is known as "The Elvis Room" and the motel has Elvis memorabilia including a copy of his marriage certificate. After reading this I'm sure my grandma will want to know why I didn't take more pictures. Oopsy daisy...
Happy Monday!

- Stefanie

Monday, April 16, 2012

Motel Monday - A Restoration Project

Last September I drove a stretch of Route 66 from Kingman, Arizona to West Hollywood chasing vintage sign beauties. A few photographs from the trip have already been featured here, including the Hill Top Motel, Lo's Chinese Food, the New Corral Motel, and the abandoned Motel sign standing alone in the middle of the Arizona desert. Today's feature is the well known 66 Motel in Needles, California.

Over the weekend I learned that Ed Klein is fundraising to restore this sign to it's former glory. The broken neon and bulbs have been removed and the sign has received a much needed coat of paint. While I appreciate peeling paint as much as the next sign lover, it is an important barrier needed to protect the metal from the elements. You can see Ed's progress and support his restoration project of the sign on his indiegogo page. At this moment the project needs an additional $1700 over the next three days to be funded. I've got my fingers crossed.
When Ed is done with the restoration I'll have an excuse to make another trip to Needles. In the mean time, all the progress Ed has made officially makes this Retro Roadside Photography image a classic.

Happy Monday!

- Stefanie

Monday, April 9, 2012

Motel Monday - Buck Season

I love Arizona. Between Tuscon and Mesa and Route 66, Arizona is a mecca of vintage neon signs. And thankfully those signs are within driving distance. Today's Motel Monday feature is the amazing Bukhorn Baths Mineral Wells and Motel located on East Main Street in Mesa.

The Buckhorn Baths were originally opened in 1926 as a gas station but things changed when the Sligers purchased the property and discovered a mineral hot spring in 1939. In 1947 the New York Giants decided to make the Buckhorn Baths and Motel their spring training home, and they kept coming back as the San Francisco Giants until 1972. In short, the Sligers and these baths helped give birth to the Cactus League. A rather detailed article about the Buckhorn Baths' contribution to Arizona's Cactus League is on PlayBall's website. That's right, my love for baseball and vintage roadside americana has officially collided. The baths also included a wildlife museum, a huge taxidermy collection, a sand golf course, and more vintage memorabilia than could possibly fit in one location. The property was closed in 1999 but the lobby just looks like someone stepped out to lunch.

In 2005 Buckhorn Baths was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and it was recently listed as the most endangered roadside location by the Society of Commercial Archaeology. Thankfully the Mesa Preservation Foundation is working to restore the Buckhorn Baths property so that it is available to travelers and little league players for years to come. I can't wait to do more than just stare through the windows.
Happy Monday!

- Stefanie

Monday, April 2, 2012

Motel Monday - Sometimes It Storms

Desert Sun
Like any good traveler, I check the weather before heading out on a road trip. If it's definitely going to rain all weekend or snow, there's just no point in going. A few trips to Los Angeles have already been cancelled this year due to weather... yes, it does rain in Southern California.

Last fall there was a chance that tropical storm Hillary would cause some problems in Tucson, Arizona. If it rained at all, it wasn't going to be until much later on Saturday, and Mesa was supposed to be clear on Sunday. I decided the wealth of vintage neon signs was worth the risk and we took off on Friday night for Tucson. Saturday morning was beautiful, but there was too much neon in Tuscon for me to shoot it all before Hillary blew in. By the time we made it to West Miracle Mile the clouds had rolled in and I was getting pelted by dirt and pebbles that had been picked up by the wind.

Miracle Mile has several beautiful vintage neon signs but I was only able to shoot three of them before the wind became too much. Of the three, this photograph of the Sun Land Motel is the only one that makes the Retro Roadside Photography cut. I usually prefer blue skies, but there's just something about the moodiness of this shot that I enjoy. 
Happy Monday!

- Stefanie

Friday, March 30, 2012

Foodie Friday - The Original

Believe it or not, there's a bit of a fight in Los Angeles about just who originated the french dip sandwich. Two restaurants share this claim to fame, Philippe the Original and Cole's Originator's of the French Dip. Both places were opened in 1908 and neither one of them is budging an inch about who made the popular sandwich first. They both also have great neon signs and darn good food. 
Philippe's was the first of the originals that I tried. I loved the old brick building, the sawdust floor and the vintage style counter service. Their famous french dip is different from the mainstream version you'll find in that the bread is dipped in au jus instead of the au jus being poured over the meat once it's in the sandwich. Believe me when I say you won't need extra au jus on the side. Cole's was a completely different take on the sandwich, but I'll save that for another Foodie Friday post. I do have to say that of the two places, I prefer Philippe's french dip. 
"The Original" in my Retro Roadside Photo Etsy Shop 
Have you eaten at either Philippe's or Cole's? Do you have a preference? And what's for lunch today?

Happy Friday!

- Stefanie

Monday, March 26, 2012

Motel Monday - More for the Cowboys

I've always found the idea of a western themed motel to be a little humorous. Cowboys slept under the stars, next to campfires with their guns. There was no roof over their heads, no protection from the elements and no warm bed waiting with turn down service and a mint on their pillow. At least there wasn't in any of the western movies I've watched. 

Not withstanding the irony of a western motel aimed at Cowboys and Cowgirls alike, the theme certainly makes for great signs. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've started to amass quiet the collection of western themed neon signs and there are more waiting on my list.  

The Silver Saddle Motel was a recent photo subject that falls under the western genre. Located in North Hollywood, the motel is small with less than 30 guest rooms and an outdoor pool typical of Southern California. According to a local, the motel used to have quite a bit of western memorabilia on the grounds but all that remains is the giant plaster horse on top of the roof. Oddly enough the horse isn't wearing a saddle, let alone a silver one. Maybe they keep it in the lobby?
Whatever happened to the saddle, I sure hope they keep the sign. It's a metal and neon classic.

Happy Monday!

- Stefanie

Monday, March 19, 2012

Etsy Finds - On the Road Again

Here's to opening your email on Monday morning and finding your hard work front and center.  Yes... that's my woody print top left. I must have looked a little ridiculous with the smile this put on my face. 

Want your own woody? You can pick up the print in any size from 4x6 to 20x30 in my Retro Roadside Photo shop on Etsy.  
Until next time!

- Stefanie

Motel Monday - Rollin' Like a Celebrity

St. Patrick's Day weekend is over but I'm still feeling the green and have decided to run with it. Thus, in the spirit of my favorite color, today's Motel Monday feature is the famous Beverly Hills Hotel. The Hotel was built in 1912 and the city of Beverly Hills eventually sprang up around it. The surrounding streets lined with palm trees are a beautiful place to spend a warm afternoon.

I have loved these Beverly Hills Hotel signs for as long as I can remember... meaning I loved them before I loved signs. The gorgeous typography, the color, and their presentation are striking. In the evening green neon glows from behind the elevated letters of the signs which keep the neon tubes and cathodes hidden from view. They are vintage simplicity and beautiful appeal. In short, the Beverly Hills Hotel sports the Audrey Hepburn of vintage signs. Yes, I said it. 
I just managed to reference Weezer, Audrey Hepburn and Beverly Hills in 200 words or less. I think it's going to be a good week. Happy Monday!

- Stefanie

Friday, March 16, 2012

Foodie Friday - Bring the Green

I don't ever need an excuse to wear my favorite color, but if I did, this Saturday is it. That's right... I will be wearing green every second of St. Patrick's Day. It's not my fault it brings out my eyes. 

In celebration of tomorrow's unique and color specific traditions... green beer, really?... I have two Irish themed Foodie Friday photographs for you. These signs fit together like two peas in a pod. And at this very moment I'm chuckling to myself because peas are green making my analogy even better. Now on to the good stuff.

The first St. Patty's Day beauty is the Shamrock Dinners sign from Yreka, California. Heading north on Highway 99, take the Easy Street exit, take a right and make your way back towards the freeway. The restaurant building is still standing and seems to be rather large. Shamrock Dinners shut it's doors at least 4 years ago and the property was for sale back in 2008. Like most of these closed down places, I can't find a single thing about the restaurant. Based on the sign, I'm guessing they served liquor and food, but that's really not much to go on. I do know that I trespassed to take this shot and was in great fear of being chased off the property. Thankfully my fears were unfounded and this snap was completely worth a little anxiety. A large print of this beauty is on it's way to a new home today. I hear it's going to be the centerpiece of the kitchen decor. 
Not to be left out is Tom Bergin's Steak and Chop restaurant that touts itself as the House of Irish Coffee. Tom's Bergin's Tavern was established in 1936 and has been around for 75 years. They're in the midst of remodeling and apparently are hoping to be around for 75 more to share their Irish heritage with Los Angeles. I must say it's wonderful to see their neon signs in such great shape. Once they've reopened I'll have to return to capture the neon lit at night. I think I"ll have some dinner while I'm at it. I always love a good steak.
 Happy Friday! Enjoy your St. Patrick's Day weekend wherever it may take you.

- Stefanie

Monday, March 12, 2012

Motel Monday - Destination Unknown

One extremely hot day last summer I was driving down Highway 99 through central California and I needed water. A car with black leather interior is a bad idea when you're in direct sun for an 8 hour drive. As soon as I see a gas station sign I take the next exit. The station is understandably packed so I opt to park in the empty dirt lot across the street. There's a building and dumpster to my left. I figured it was just an abandoned restaurant waiting for some new owners to try their luck. 

As I'm getting out of the car I notice that the building 500 feet in front of me looks oddly like a motel. To my right are remnants of an old pool that has since been fenced in. And hiding in the palm trees above me is the motel cousin of those famous Waffle House signs I have yet to photograph. 

Unlike the rest of the signs I've shot, I don't know a single thing about this motel. I don't know it's name... I couldn't find one... or if it is still operational in some way. I can't even tell anyone with any certainty where the sign is located. It's on the west side of Highway 99 next to a gas station somewhere between Stockton and San Diego. That 8 hour stretch of freeway and this photograph are all that I have. Thank goodness I was carrying my camera. 
Stay tuned for this week's Foodie Friday. I found something special for St. Patrick's Day!

- Stefanie

Friday, March 9, 2012

Foodie Friday - Hey Vince!

A few weeks ago I drove up to Los Angeles to chase some neon over the long weekend. I headed as far east as Rancho Mirage to shoot the most awesome car wash sign ever before making my way back towards the valley. I also stopped off at the World's Famous Dinosaurs of Cabazon but we'll save them for another post. Saturday evening ended in Ontario and Covina where neon signs used to be king.

One of the most amazing signs still standing in Ontario is Vince's Spaghetti. The restaurant opened in 1945 and has been in the same location ever since. Apparently Vince's started as a french dip stand before customers caught sight of a member of the family eating his grandmother's spaghetti. Sorta funny how some business decisions are made... Anyway, more than 60 years later that sandwich stand has grown into a 425 seat restaurant that keeps family friendly hours. 

I stopped by Vince's between lunch and dinner service so they sadly were closed when I photographed their sign. I remember thinking their parking lot was rather large, but it you're going to feed 425 people at a time you're going to need quite a few parking spaces. And a lot of spaghetti. 
So who's got pasta on the menu tonight?

- Stefanie

Monday, March 5, 2012

Motel Monday - You're a Shining Star

Baby You're a Star
On my last trip to Las Vegas I made sure to take a tour of the Neon Museum, commonly referred to as the Boneyard. The museum has been saving signs since 1996 and currently boasts over 150 donated and rescued signs. It's also been responsible for the restoration and installation of several formerly retired neon signs around Las Vegas and managed to save the iconic lobby of the historic La Concha Hotel which closed in December 2003. I'll have to tell you more about the concrete paraboloid building and it's architect another time...

Yes, I paid attention on the museum tour. My guide would be so proud.

You're probably wondering what any of this has to do with today's Motel Moday post. Well here goes... The majority of the signs in the boneyard are the original products of Young Electric Sign Company, more commonly known as YESCO. You can see their logo on the bottom of the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign. YESCO loans out signs to the casinos and then trades old signs for brand new ones as the need arises. The retired signs are then turned over to the boneyard.

According to my museum guide, YESCO currently has a grandfather, father and son team working for them as their neon crafters. When interviewed, the son stated it takes about 10 years to master the art of bending or curving neon tubes for signs. He said they also receive several inquiries about custom signs, but many people are discouraged by the cost. Expressed in it's simplest form, neon signs cost approximately $20 per bend in the neon tube. Not only does this explain how expensive neon is to maintain, but it makes me marvel even more at today's Motel Monday feature.

The Starlite Motel opened in 1952 in North Las Vegas on what used to be called Main Street. Not surprisingly the street was later renamed to Las Vegas Boulevard North. The Starlite still seems to function as a genuine motel and the neon sign out front has been impeccably maintained. I didn't see a broken tube or an unlit star on either side.
Did I mention it's 60 years old? I'd love to look that good at 60.

Happy Monday!

- Stefanie

Friday, March 2, 2012

Foodie Friday - It's the Cheese

In the last Foodie Friday post I brought you Canter's Deli, a New York style delicatessen that's been around for more than 80 years. Today's feature isn't quite as old, but at 66 it is still a senior citizen. 

Cheese 'n Stuff Deli was established in 1949 on Central Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona. Their awesome globe shaped sign includes the tag line "From Everywhere" because the deli carries several food items from around the globe. According to their website, a truck load of goodies from New York arrives the third week of every month. So if you're jonesing for something from the city, make sure you stop by then. The site also includes a vintage photograph of Central Avenue and the Deli in all it's glory.
This part of Central Avenue doesn't look remotely the same any longer, but Cheese 'n Stuff has survived. I really wanted to eat at the deli on my trip but sadly they are closed on Sundays. So after staring longingly through the front windows, I photographed their beautiful sign and went on my way. I don't even remember what I had for lunch instead. 
If you've eaten at Cheese 'n Stuff, please send me your recommendations. I want to make sure I order something delicious the next time I'm in Phoenix.

Happy Friday!

- Stefanie

Monday, February 27, 2012

Motel Monday - Another New Mexico Find

Last  fall I drove to Tucumcari, New Mexico during the Thanksgiving weekend for the longest sign chasing road trip I've yet to enjoy. You may remember my post about the Blue Swallow Motel a few months ago. Today's Motel Monday feature was the very first photographic stop on the trip.

Sitting at the far eastern end of Route 66 in Tucumcari, the Pony Soldier Motel was demolished sometime before 2010. What is left behind is a concrete slab, several rusted and gutted old cars, and this glorious sign. In searching for information about the now gone motel, all I was able to dig up is this vintage undated postcard on 66postcards.com
The sign has changed a bit since the postcard photo was snapped, but the core items remain the same. I wish they had saved the marquee, but I definitely love the "Here We Are on Route 66" addition. A close up of just that sign will be up in my Retro Roadside Photography shop soon.
Happy Monday!

- Stefanie

Friday, February 24, 2012

Look Mom, I'm on Design Sponge!

I know today is supposed to be Foodie Friday. I know... but I have something awesome to blog about so Foodie Friday will have to wait.

Late last night I got a message from a friend about a recent Design Sponge post that included a piece of artwork she thought might be mine. She thought right. The post in question was a DIY Before & After: Penny Wall.
Care of Design Sponge
I love that wall. That wall got me on Design Sponge. Thank you Lizzie and Ryan for your countless hours on your penny wall and for the after photo that includes my photography. I am thrilled.

Happy Friday everyone!

- Stefanie

Monday, February 20, 2012

Motel Monday - It's Still the Weekend

I dig the star mobile...
This President's Day Motel Monday is a little late because let's face it, it's still the weekend. I've been too busy chasing neon to be blogging. Sometimes there's just not enough hours in the day.

I have yet to find a Presidential themed or named Motel, so instead I'm opting for the Holiday Lodge Motel in Los Angeles. At least it's got the Holiday part right. I also find humor in the naming repetition of both Lodge and Motel.

If you're a fan of the cancelled television show Numb3rs you may have caught this sign flash by in an episode or two. The motel was used as a filming location for at least one perpetrator hide out.
Enjoy the holiday!

- Stefanie

Monday, February 13, 2012

Motel Monday - Third Star to the Right

"Third Star to the Right" available through my Retro Roadside Photography shop
I signed up for the Disneyland Half Marathon recently and this morning it seems to be my inspiration for Motel Monday. Sometimes it's easy to decide which signs to feature, other days I wish my computer could play row sham bow to help me choose. Today Disney won.

Las Vegas is the king of neon and I'm sure they have single-handedly kept YESCO in business. For this I am obviously very grateful. The strip is full of neon that is replaced and repaired constantly. But off the strip along historic Fremont Street sit several motels and their signs. Some have been restored, some have fallen into disrepair. Some of them are long gone, and only their signs remain. One of these signs was featured in an earlier Motel Monday post.

Today is another Fremont Street friend. I have no idea how long it's been around, but the Peter Pan Motel was recently renovated and the sign was restored. The colors pop, the typeset is awesome, and Peter Pan is outlined in neon. Now if he could just teach me to fly I'd appreciate it. 
Come on, a girl can dream. Happy Monday!

- Stefanie

Friday, February 10, 2012

Foodie Friday - Since 1931

One of two Canter's Delicatessen photographs available on my Retro Roadside Photography shop
In need of a Restaurant, Deli or Bakery? You've come to the right place. Canter's is open all day almost every day of the year to feed your food needs. Canter's opened in 1931 but moved to Fairfax Boulevard when the neighborhood changed. In 1953 Canters moved just down the street to it's current location. That's almost 50 years in one spot and it has the neon signage to prove it. 
Canter's on Fairfax
All of the neon, including the signage on the front of the building, is in full working order. I can't wait to take another trip to LA and photograph this sign at night.
 Happy Friday!

- Stefanie