Traveling Route 66 is an exercise in exploring the past, in recreating a time before super-slab and miles of chain hotels and restaurants, a time when travelers stopped in mom-and-pop businesses in small towns. Part of the modern appeal of driving this historic road is discovering things frozen in time, like Earl’s Route 66 Motor Court in Winslow Arizona.
According to the Winslow Mail Archives, Rex and Lillian Marble opened the motel on June 18, 1953. They called it the Marble Motel.
By the 70s, the classic motor lodge had become run down and went into foreclosure. In 1974, Lee and Floranel Earl bought the place, spruced it up, and renamed it Earl’s Motor Court.
The property needed a lot of work, which the Earl’s did, and at first, the business boomed. But then the bypass came and travelers stopped coming through town. The Earl’s other businesses kept them afloat: Lee, a former combat photographer, had his photography studio, and Floranel, her hair salon—both operated out of rooms in the motel. After the release of Disney’s Cars movie, though, the travelers began to return and the Earl’s reinstated the old Neon—giving the motel a striking curb appeal.
“My wife and I have talked about doing this for some time,” Lee said. “But after seeing the movie Cars, it gave us the inspiration to do this.”Lee Earl – from a 2006 Winslow Mail article
Also from that article:
The Earl’s are doing this for their love of Winslow and its history.Lee Earl – From a 2006 Winslow Mail article
“This is our dream to restore this motel,” Lee said. “If other businesses are willing to invest the money, I’d tell them, ‘Yeah, it was worth it.”‘
Floranel Earl–who had a deep Winslow history–ran the motel until her death in 2018.
Mrs. Earl was Wayne Troutner’s daughter, the man behind the Troutner’s “For Men” store with the famous twenty-foot cowgirl sign.
Many Troutner’s remnants were found in the motel when the new owners moved in, although the legendary sign had been buried in dirt and was beyond repair.
The New Owners
Like the Earls, the new owners have deep Winslow roots. Blas Sanchez and Angela Archibeque both grew up in Winslow.
Angela’s house was just a couple of blocks away from Earl’s. Her family owned and operated the Valentine Diner across from the La Posada—a place she worked as a teen, same as her mother had done before her. She still has the old Nesbitt’s mileage sign that used to hang in the diner.
Both Angela and Blas have memories of Earl’s Motor Court. Angela’s Aunt used to get her hair done at Floranel’s Beauty Salon, and Blas still has the family portrait made at Lee Earl’s photo studio in the late 60s.
Buying Earl’s Motor Court
In 2018, Blas received a settlement for losing his leg in an auger accident and wanted to invest in real estate. At first they looked at houses, but then they saw that Earl’s Motor Court was for sale.
Both of them enjoy meeting new people and the idea of running a motel appealed to them. On June 6, 2018–sixty-five years and twelve days after the motel first opened—they became the new owners of Earl’s Route 66 Motor Court.
The New Era of Earl’s
Part of the appeal for Blas and Angela is how original the place is, and they want things to stay that way, to give guests a true Route 66 experience.
“A lot of people think we are renovating, we are not. We’re not remodeling. We want to keep it as original as possible.”Angela Archibeque
The biggest challenge for Angela—who previously worked at Love’s Travel Stop in Joe City—was learning how to be a maid, but she’s doing a stellar job. While old, the rooms are spotlessly clean.
Angela replaced the polyester spreads with handmade quilts she’d found between the mattresses of a bedroom set she bought. They also added rugs to compliment the VCT tile and a few antiques. Blas doesn’t mind seeing the wear on old furniture, all part of the history, he says.
Outside, Blas has worked to level the parking lot and done some landscaping.
The one thing the couple does want to work on, however, is the bathrooms. The rooms have the old square tub/showers and the porcelain is chipped, but they want to try and save them. They’d also like to reinstate some of the vintage sinks.
The plan is to take one room at a time and gently spruce them up while retaining the original character.
I don’t see changes. We want to keep it as original as we possibly can, try to recreate the way they did it back then.Blas Sanchez
Angela is upfront with people when they call to book. She lets them know it’s an old motel with original tile and original bathtubs, and if they’re looking for luxury, this isn’t the place for them. She doesn’t want guests to be disappointed.
So what can guests expect?
Friendly hosts. Clean room. Handmade quilts on the bed. A homecoming.
Judging by the reviews, guests love what Blas and Angela are doing. Consistently people remark on the experience and how much they connected with the hosts and the host dog Buffalo and turtle Rudy.
Here are some of the things people are saying:
I thought it was a beautiful throwback to what a typical tourist would encounter while traveling Route 66. – Handmade blankets and decorations along with clean and charming rooms. If someone is searching for an authentic Route 66 experience without spending a ton of money, they should definitely stay a night at Earl’s.Roamin Rich
Earl’s Rt 66 Motor Court is a gem on the Mother Road. After a day on the bike , it was a delight to sleep on luxury sheets and nice pillows. Each room is amended with small frig, microwave, and TV. The owners were wonderful hosts and genuinely fine people. Thank you so much for a wonderful stay. Give Buffalo a scratch behind the ears for me.Valerie Smith Gautieri
Very nice people run this place, they are working very hard to make a pleasant stay for their guests. All the neon works and looks awesome at night! And Buffalo the pup is always ready to sleep or play. Really glad to have stayed here and am already looking forward to the next time!Jamie Jessop
A Route 66 Gem! Beds are a perfect combination of soft and firm, pillows are fantastic, linens are soft, the rooms are clean, equipped with fridge and microwave. Locate 5 minutes from “the corner” where you can also find dinner and cocktails. The owners, Angie, Blas and pup Buffalo are great! This is a piece of Mother Road history you don’t want to miss!Paige Combs
The Personal Touch
Don and Sandra Alexander–who stayed at Earl’s during a recent trip–told me Blas even made a ramp so they could pull the motorcycle under the awning and out of the rain. That’s the kind of service you just don’t get from a chain hotel.
For Blas and Angela, the people are what make running a classic motel fun. When asked about a favorite guest experience, Blas replied:
They’re all just great. We can’t favorite any of them. We favor them all.
Angela agreed, saying she’s made lifelong friends with many of their guests. Just take a look at the Earl’s Route 66 Motor Court Facebook page, and you’ll see that’s true.
Booking a Room
There are currently five rooms available, with plans to increase that number to eight, finishing up one room at a time.
The old portrait studio will be converted into a WiFi lounge.
Rooms rent for $66–fixed, no seasonal adjustments.
In Angela’s opinion.
My rooms don’t change so why should my rates?
If you’re looking for a true throwback to Route 66 travel, do yourself a favor and book at Earl’s.
EARL’S ROUTE 66 MOTOR COURT
512 East Third Street
Winslow, AZ 86047United States
To book, call Angela or Blas: (928) 224-0161 – (928) 386-1210 – (928) 587-8198
UNTIL NEXT TIME…