Welcome to the Thunderbird Motel

Aurora Avenue seems like it probably has a storied past.  These days, the story is urban highway and blighted business districts.  At one time, it seems like everyone decided it would be a great place to build glorious old-timey motels.  Back before the Motel 6s and Holiday Inns, everyone had cool names and even better signs.  At present, most of those places are out of business, but some remain, and better yet, they haven’t torn down the relics quite yet.  I don’t think they’ll last long, so this will be the first in a series of what is left.  All of these are on Aurora Ave N (State Route 99) north of downtown Seattle.  First up, the Thunderbird Motel.

thunderbird motel, aka fremont inn

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Most recently, this place was actually called the Fremont Inn, but I’ll defer to the huge neon thunderbird.  This was actually one of the first of the motels to be forcibly shut down under the nuisance laws.  I can’t say I’m sad that it isn’t up and running but I hope they turn it into something worthwhile instead of just another vacant lot or hole in the ground.

I think it’s safe to say, this place has seen better days.

Thunderbird Motel, fenced and vacant

Welcome to Seaview

South of Long Beach WA is a little town called Seaview – more of a community really.  Many of the houses date from the 1800’s and the whole place feels like what I imagine New England would feel like if transported to the west coast.  I mean… I imagine because people have told me that, not because I’ve been to New England.  Anyway, Seaview is a nice place to stare at the ocean, or attempt to drive into it.

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Diesel – A Reason To Advertise

Commercial detritus has always been a fascination of mine, especially things like old signs.  I’m not the only one – you see the pictures everywhere.  If I was making one up in my mind, I’m thinking a rough kinda industrial product, big letters, old peeling paint, decrepit building.  I’m thinking something like this:

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That wasn’t really how things started.  If you want to see the original and hear a little more, hit the jump.

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Stay Back – Unstable Cliffs

Sunset Cliffs in Ocean Beach is my kind of place.  I spent a lot of my formative pre-college days listening to the pounding waves against the cliffs and enjoying the distance from the hippies and crowds of OB proper.  Usually out on the cliffs you have the company of a few joggers, a few more seagulls, and a lot of wind.  It’s just a nice place to be.

Sunset Cliffs - Unstable Cliffs

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If you’re a property owner, however, I’d be a little more worried.  The cliffs are always eroding, sometimes in a spectacular way, and I wouldn’t want my house right across the street.  They put up these little fences around areas of particular danger, and I thought the sharp man-made lines just seemed so out of place in all the rounded nature around it.  I like the lines in this picture, and it’s one of the few that makes me feel ok breaking the rule of thirds.  Maybe even more than in this one.  I think that because there is one man-made object in the whole frame, it makes sense to sort of hide it in plain sight.  It lets nature stay balanced all around.  I think it would have looked sort of funny anywhere else.

Update 2009/11/19/16:25:

Oh yeah… one more thing I didn’t mention above.  I threw a little vignette on this picture.  I don’t use this a ton and when I do, it’s mostly for portraiture.  I tried to keep it pretty subtle too, but I think it works well here for the same reason it does in portraiture – you’re bringing all the eyes into the middle and you don’t want people drifting out the sides.  Just thought I’d mention it!

This Elephant Wants To Wash Your Car

It must be one of the most iconic signs in Seattle.  The car wash itself?  Pretty plain.  But the sign… the sign!  There are other locations.  There are better car washes.  But this one is by Seattle Center and this one has the sign.

Pink Elephant Car Wash neon sign

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I was in a big hurry.  I only had my 50mm, which makes it hard to frame something this big from up close.  Unfortunately, farther away means standing in the middle of a major street or getting some unfortunate buildings and power lines in the background.  You shoot now and decide what you like later.  I surprised myself and liked the one shot I got with a very partial view of the sign.  I gotta remember that.

Leaping Dogs – Too Apt?

Nothing says Americana like neon signs, right?  This is one from my trip to Corvallis from a few posts back.  Downtown Corvallis has a few blocks of old-timey cute, and although they don’t have much that ties them to the rest of the world, I suppose Greyhound still counts.  These days, the reputation is that of the crazy and the can’t-afford-Amtrak, so maybe a leaping dog doesn’t have the cache it used to, but the signs always make me think of a time when it meant a lot more.

corvallis-greyhound-neon-bus-sign

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I would have liked to come back and shoot this at night, but we didn’t have time.  Also, hanging around a bus station at night with a camera?  Not necessarily the best idea.