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Cover: Plane Image by OpenClipart-Vectors; Train Image by clker-free-vector- images; and Car Image via open-icons via Pixabay

In the 1987 John Hughes Film “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”, straitlaced and serious advertising executive Neal Page (Steve Martin) tries to make it from his job in New York to his home in Chicago two days before Thanksgiving.  After trouble getting a taxi, Neal finally makes it to LaGuardia airport only to find his plane is delayed. However, once he gets on the crowded plane, he is seated next to gregarious shower curtain ring salesman Del Griffith (played by John Candy). Because of a snowstorm in Chicago, the flight is diverted to Wichita, Kansas. When Neal can’t book a room while he waits for the next flight, Del offers to share a room he’s already booked.  Neal hesitantly accepts and is subsequently stuck with the cumbersome

Photo of the El Rancho Motel Sign as seen in the film
The El Rancho Motel sign as seen in the film. Image courtesy the Jim Seelen Motel Images Collection.

Del for the rest of the seemingly doomed trip.

Braidwood Inn /Braidwood, IL

One of the funniest parts of the movie – the “They’re not pillows!” scene – was filmed at what was once known as the Braidwood Inn. Located alongside Interstate 55 about 45 miles southwest of Chicago in Braidwood, Illinois, the future of the motel, however, wasn’t as hilarious. In fact, it seems to read right out of an episode of “True Hollywood Stories”.

Years after shooting, the motel first became a Days Inn. In the last decade or so, however, it’s been known as the Sun Motel. On March 28, 2019, the owner of the Sun Motel was arrested for allegedly promoting prostitution following an undercover police investigation that was ongoing since the previous August. The manager of the hotel was also arrested after being accused of inappropriately fondling a female guest at the hotel. What’s more, the police had received 14 calls about drug overdoses at the Sun Motel between January 2015 and February 2019.

Today, the motel seems to be under new ownership, but still gets an average review of 3.5 starts out of 5. Most of the positive ones seem to come from movie buffs who like visiting filming locations.

On the Road Again

So, getting back to the film, after a rather unpleasant stay at the Braidwood Inn, the hotel manager’s son gives Del and Neal a lift to a local train station where the two hop aboard a train to Chicago. However, the train breaks down near Jefferson City, stranding the passengers in a nearby field. The two eventually end up on a crowded bus to St. Louis where they have a fight and go their separate ways.

This separation is, nonetheless, a short-lived one as Neal drops numerous f-bombs on the car rental agent when he finds the car he was supposed to be renting is gone after being rented out to another customer (who turns out to be Del). Next, he tries to take a taxi, but losing his patience, insults the dispatcher there as well and ends up getting punched in the face. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it we suppose), Del was able to rent his own car, and seeing Neal in his bad predicament, offers him a ride.

Hilarity ensues again when Del nearly gets the pair killed after driving down the wrong side of the interstate. What’s more, the car catches on fire after Del throws a cigarette out of the window that, unbeknownst to the two, lands in the back seat of the car. Still, they manage to drive what’s left of the burnt out vehicle to the nearest nightly accommodations– the El Rancho Motel in Gurnee, Illinois.

The El Rancho Motel

Postcard photo of the exterior of the El Rancho Motel.
Postcard of El Rancho Motel c. 1970s. Public Domain.

Though it’s under new ownership and now known as River Trail Gardens and Inn, back when filming of “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” took place, it was really known as the El Rancho Motel as shown in the movie.

The back of a postcard from the 1970s says that the motel was located 35 miles from Chicago on U.S. 41 and IL Rt. 63. Amenities included “Beautyrest and Airfoam mattresses” along with each room being “individually gas heated” and having their own private baths.

Only exterior shots of the motel were filmed here at the former El Rancho Motel. Interior shots of the room (Room 6) were filmed back in a Hollywood studio. Still, the studio room was modeled to look almost exactly like the interior of Room 6 since a glimpse of it is seen when Neal first opens the door after paying $17 and a “hell of a nice watch” for the room.

Though they have no website, apparently you can still stay at the motel today – maybe even in Room 6. However, we can’t be sure it looks the same or how many watches it will cost you. And since there is also no contact number, we guess you’ll just have to drive in and find out for yourself.

Spoiler Alert

After a night at the El Rancho, the two try to drive their burnt out rental car back to Chicago only to have their car impounded for not being roadworthy by an Illinois State Trooper. Eventually, they hitch a ride with a trucker who takes them to Chicago. There at the “L” station the two part ways again.

On the way home, however, Neal starts thinking about how it seemed Del wasn’t in much of a hurry to get home. He then goes back to the station where he finds Del who confesses that he doesn’t have a home and that his wife died eight years before. The movie ends with the two at Neal’s house sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner where he introduces his family to his new friend.

Though the motels in today’s post get an average 3.5 stars today, we give the film a five-star rating.

Photo of the Stuckey's Mystery Box
Let your next order be as surprising as Neal and Del’s trip in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” by ordering our Stuckey’s Mystery Box.

Whether it’s home for the holidays or a family staycation to the local drive-in movies, wherever you go, be sure to take some Stuckey’s along for the ride.  After all, is it really a road trip without our iconic Stuckey’s Pecan Log Rolls, Pecan Pralines, or other pecan treats?

And don’t forget about all of our awesome swag that’ll help keep you warm and feeling cool even if your motel roommate likes to sleep with the windows open. What’s more, our coffee and travel mugs make a great souvenir to sip your java juice from while your bragging to your co-workers about the great friend you made on your last road trip.

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