The Roadrunner Truck Stop is history. Earlier this month, more than three years after changing traffic patterns forced the gas station-cum-hash house out of business, bulldozers and steam shovels descended on the onetime truckers' paradise located west of I-17, just north of McDowell Road.
When the dust had settled over the ten acres, there was little evidence that the bustling diesel oasis had even existed. Stripped of the chalet-style restaurant and dozens of fuel tanks that had welcomed the 18-wheel elite since 1960, the property now looks like a bombed-out wasteland.
But the truck stop's neon Roadrunner sign managed to escape the wrecking ball. Today, as it hovers over the pockmarked ruin, the spectacular mascot resembles (depending on your sense of aesthetics) either a phoenix rising from the ashes or a Japanese-movie behemoth surveying the havoc it has wrought.
But no matter how motorists look at it, the Roadrunner sign--itself as big as a semi rig--is a landmark that's hard to ignore. Along with a handful of other high-profile signs--My Florist, Courtesy Chevrolet and the diamond-shaped Goodyear (now KNIX) sign on I-17--the Roadrunner is one of the Valley's most recognizable roadside advertising symbols.
The neon Roadrunner's fate has local sign aficionados scratching their heads.
"It'll be real interesting to see what happens to the Roadrunner," says Bo Kvetko, owner of Elbo Antiques in Glendale. Although the collector has salvaged a number of neon signs from defunct motels, bars and gas stations around the state, he explains that because of the size of the Roadrunner sign, his interest is strictly academic. "I personally don't know what anyone could do with it--it's too big. I wouldn't know what I'd do with it. But you can bet there's someone out there who'd want it," says Kvetko, whose own largest-size acquisition to date is the red-neon Pegasus sign he bought from an old Mobil station in Flagstaff. (That sign now occupies an entire wall of Spinner's restaurant on East Van Buren.) Since the Roadrunner closed in 1991, owners say they've heard from several people who want to cannibalize the sign piecemeal. "I heard from one guy who just wanted to buy the word 'TRUCK'--he apparently had some kind of a gas station himself," says Jim Viano, one of the owners.
Viano refused the offer, hoping instead that a future tenant might incorporate the sign into a business. Citing today's more restrictive sign laws, he explains, "We left the sign there because if we take it down, nobody can ever put it back up again."
When the day comes that the Roadrunner must finally leave his perch, one collector has a suggestion about where the big bird can roost anew.
"I've always thought that instead of spending all that money on the pots of the Squaw Peak Expressway, the city should have bought up neon signs, like from all those motels that were torn down on Van Buren, and installed them along the freeway," says Doug Patterson, owner of Do Wah Diddy, a local pop-culture emporium. "The Roadrunner would have fit right in. Wouldn't that look cool?