Do Not Disturb sign collection, 1993-2005

In the mid-'90s, while living in Las Vegas, I was obsessed with traveling and car-based transient American culture. I had this theory that the American southwest, and its Route 66 legacy, was to the mid-to-late 20th century generations of Western white men what the Grand Tour had been to my kind for centuries before; that Rand-McNally, Kerouac, truck stops and diners, Devil's Tower, the Painted Desert, Green River, UT, and thousands of Gideon bibles in motel bedside tables along the Interstates were to me, in my grandfather's hand-me-down '74 Plymouth Valiant, what Richard Lassels' "Voyage of Italy," gap year, Calais, Venice, Mount Vesuvius, and Greco-Roman antiquities were to thousands of men of privilege before me (if you can forgive me my early 20-something naiveté).

So I drove across the country at least twice a year and set a goal to hit every state in the lower 48 by the time I was thirty (I never made it to Maine for some strange reason, despite being 15 miles from the border on the same day I was in New Hampshire for the first time). Along the way, I started to pick up crap from everywhere I'd stay (when I wasn't couch crashing, that is). I wrote letters to friends on motel stationary. I gathered up the free soaps, shampoos, and toothpastes. And at some point I started to collect Do Not Disturb signs. Not every place had them. Few were specific in design to the places I was staying, but I collected a bunch here and there that stood out. Ten years after I stopped my yearly journeys, I now realize how rarely I stay in motels in the US anymore: my two most recent examples in this collection are from a trip to China in 2005.

Paul Lloyd Sargent: enolagrey [at] hotmail [dot] com