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.
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.