Traveling from San Diego to South Lake Tahoe by car is about a 600 mile trek. My partner and I recently made the journey by car, driving up the 395 through the mountains.
On our way we noticed all the wonderful mid-century neon signs dotting the road through each little mountain town. I would guess the signs date from about 1940–1960. We decided to document the signs on our way back home.
We skipped a handful, and probably missed more that were off the main road, but captured 20 unique neon signs found at 18 store fronts.
Our first stop was the Stardust Lodge at the Nevada/California state line in South Lake Tahoe.
Fifty miles later we found ourselves in Coleville, California at the West Walker Motel.
Another 30 miles south and we arrived on the outskirts of Bridgeport, California where we came across the Redwood Motel.
Further into Bridgeport we discovered three more businesses with neons.
The Bridgeport Inn
Twenty five miles south, just past Mono Lake, we came across the Lee Vining Motel. This earlier streamlined moderne style of the 1940s makes this sign one of my favorites.
Just down the road we encountered Nicely’s Diner which has a partial neon in a later 1950s or 1960s style.
When we arrived in Bishop about 60 miles later we came across the largest amount of neons in one town we could imagine — both on the 395 and on some side streets. There were some further down a few side streets we didn’t have time to check out.
The Town House Motel
About 40 miles south in a small town called Independence we came across an abandoned building with its old neon sign for the Pines Cafe.
Fifteen miles later we arrived in Lone Pine and came across another of our favorites at the Mt. Whitney Motel.
Just down the road we came across a sporting goods store and a hardware store both sporting a variety of interesting neons.
One of our most unique finds was just a few doors down at Margie’s Merry Go Round. Not a children’s ride, this location is actually a Chinese restaurant. An article from the LA Times written in 1987 states it was always a restaurant (though only recently Chinese) and was named for the circular shape of the dining room.
Our last stop was on the southern edge of Lone Pine at The Trails Motel.
Our final 300 miles home sadly did not feature any more neon signs, or much of anything for that matter!
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