Winter of our Discontent

Wagon Wheel Resort

Wagon Wheel, Ventura, CA. I passed by the Wagon Wheel in Ventura County, California for years but didn’t get around to checking it out until February 2011. I was heading north for an off season beach trip, and I couldn’t pass by the neon stagecoach sign another time without stopping. The Wagon Wheel resort was built in 1947, a piece of Americana roadside architecture with a wild west theme. In popular times there were restaurants, a bowling alley, pool, dance hall, and string of cabin-like motel rooms. When I stopped it was raining and cold. The bowling alley and bar were still functioning, and there was a gas fire in the cave-like bar. The motel rooms, restaurant, dance hall, and pool were in serious decay, but had taken on a new kind of beauty.

Wagon Wheel Bowling

Wagon Wheel Bowling

Wagon Wheel Dance Hall

Wagon Wheel Dance Hall

Motel Cabin

Motel Cabin

There were wagon wheels rotting in the ivy, orange trees growing through the cabin windows. Bright strands of flowers slummed it across the cracked asphalt.

I was going to write about the beauty of decay. I was going to throw in some philosophical rhetoric about whether or not I would preserve these places if I could. Of course I would, restore them to their former glory even if they were never glorious. The art of nostalgia. Now I have to write about staying one step ahead of the game. The Wagon Wheel was demolished in May 2011 to make way for a housing development with 1500 units. Some people put up a fight to try to preserve it, but in the end it got flattened. I’m glad I hopped the chain link fence in the rain and the cold. I’m glad I took so many pictures. I re-learned the lesson I already knew. That lesson is this: if something speaks to you, explore it. Don’t count on another day in some summery, distant future.

Where: Fwy 101 North, Ventura, California
From Los Angeles: About 1 hour 15 min.

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