Sunday, August 1, 2010

cycling to Vegas

Well, not really.  But I've always been intrigued by the stretch of motels along West Capitol Avenue in West Sacramento.  There are a fraction of the number that used to be there, but there are still plenty compared to most other streets in the world.

Someone explained once that these motels predate the interstate highways; they're from a time when West Capitol Avenue was not just a street in Sacramento's poorer neighbor, but the route to San Francisco.  And, if you're traveling by bicycle, it still is the road to all parts west.  So, a bicycle journey to Davis takes you along the road and beside the motels that greeted motorists half a century ago. I suppose with the east side of the river dedicated to the boulevard leading up to the state capitol, it made sense for the motels to cluster just west of the river.

What remains a mystery, though, is why so many of them share names with famous Las Vegas hotels of the 50s and 60s.  There's a Sahara, a Fremont and a Flamingo.  I so wish I had taken pictures of the half-dozen or more others that used to line the road.

At the east end of the avenue sits a true link to Vegas.  It's a Buddhist convent today, but for decades it was the El Rancho resort.  Just like the El Rancho Vegas, the first hotel/resort on The Strip -- no matter what the Flamingo says.  The ranch-style design, the stand-alone bungalows and even the awnings are all straight out of the 1950s incarnation of the El Rancho.  I'm told they shared common ownership, so the similarities are no mystery.  Why you'd develop a resort in West Sacramento, however, is very much a mystery.

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