When we roll into Winslow, Arizona on Day 2 of the Chrome Thunder Canyons & Cacti 2015 luxury guided motorcycle tour, we’re following the footsteps—or wheels, or wings—of many people who’ve traveled to and through this northern Arizona town in the last 100 years. And our overnight stay at La Posada Hotel connects us to American transportation and hospitality history.
La Posada, “the resting place,” opened in 1930 as a hotel and restaurant built by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (A,T & SF) Railroad to serve travelers on its important Chicago-Los Angeles route. The hotel was a so-called “Harvey House,” which the A,T & SF had been building since the 1880s to feed its passengers in style while they crossed the “Wild West” of the United States.
As the last Harvey House (or Harvey Hotel) ever built, La Posada fully expressed the vision of Fred Harvey, the English immigrant who had sold A,T & SF on his idea of bringing high quality food and service to the “uncivilized” expanses through which the trains traveled. With its red clay tile roof, Southwestern-style stucco walls, wrought ironwork, custom-designed china, and art from Mexico, La Posada was truly an oasis in the desert.
People also arrived in Winslow traveling one of the most famous roads in America, U.S. Route 66. From the time it was named as part of the original U.S. highway system in 1926, Route 66 served as the main road between Chicago and Los Angeles. La Posada’s hotel, restaurant, and gardens would have been a welcome stop for auto travelers before the age of air-conditioning.
By 1929, you could even fly into Winslow. Charles Lindbergh, world famous because of his nonstop flight from Paris to New York in 1927, had chosen Winslow as one of the fuel stops on the cross-country route he scouted for his employer, Trans Continental Air Transport (later, TWA). Lindbergh designed the airport, supervised its building, and with his wife enjoyed time away from public attention.
Hollywood discovered La Posada in the 1930s and 1940s. Stars like Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Carole Lombard, Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, and John Wayne took full-service flights to Winslow from Los Angeles for La Posada getaways. Or, they rode the Super Chief, the A,T & SF railroad’s luxury line between Los Angeles and Chicago, famous for its gourmet meals and known as the “Train of the Stars.”
If you join our Canyons & Cacti 2015 motorcycle tour of the American Southwest, you’ll arrive at La Posada on a brand new Harley-Davidson® motorcycle instead of a train, plane, or automobile. And, the hotel today is a careful restoration of the original beautiful building and grounds. (The La Posada Harvey Hotel closed in 1957 and served as A,T & SF’s headquarters for 30 years.)
No matter the changes, you’ll still be following the footsteps—or wheels, or wings—of all those people who traveled in the “Wild West.”