The Roadrunner closed in 1973 when Interstate 40 was opened between Needles and Barstow and this section of the highway was bypassed. All of the roadside businesses on this stretch of Route 66 through the Mojave Desert between Essex and Ludlow died almost overnight. Businesses that depended on tourist and commercial traffic – service stations, restaurants, motels, car repair shops – were all forced to close. Duke Jr. remembers that when his father made the decision to close they were in the restaurant for most of the day and their only customer was a railroad employee who stopped in for a cup of coffee and not a single car went by on the highway.
After the Roadrunner’s Retreat closed Dotson sold the property to the Murphy family who are still the current owners. Mr. Murphy never intended to reopen the restaurant; his interest was more toward having a desert retreat and in maintaining the site for its historic significance on old Route 66. Before he passed away Mr. Murphy was able to enjoy memorable weekends on the property with his family.
The distinctive neon sign next to the highway that advertised the Roadrunner’s Retreat, although weather-beaten and pale, still stands and is immediately recognizable as one of those iconic symbols on this stretch of old Route 66 and there are tentative plans in place to re-light the sign although the service station and restaurant will remain closed.