Sanderson, Texas in February 2014
Since Don and I were on a road trip through west Texas, we were up for experiencing a variety of curious overnights. This was our 4th stop along the way from Houston to Big Bend National Park.
The Night Before
The previous night we stayed in a tent in Garner State Park. That doesn't get a write up in "90 Notable Nights" because it wasn't a hotel, inn or motel, but it's worth mentioning. Knowing that we hardly slept in our tent due to unusual distractions, meant we arrived in Sanderson ready for a good night's sleep. Hopefully at the Oasis, we would not have a couple sitting outside our motel room talking in loud voices till 7 am. ( our camping neighbors packed up their unused tent in the morning) And certainly there would be no wild goat invasions!
Options in Sanderson
This little town of about 800, along US Highway 90, not far from the Mexican border only has about 2 motels. There would be no luxury options in Sanderson. However, the Trip Advisor reviews spoke highly of the Engeldorfs, who owned the Oasis and we were looking forward to our stay.
When we walked through the double doors we were greeted by a cozy and cluttered office, with a shop to the left displaying glass boxes containing snakes and small reptiles. Through the door straight ahead we heard TV and laughter, a frisky border collie suddenly burst through. Ruth, the owner followed, reprimanding the dog. "Fergie! Stop that!" She had been expecting us and seemed hurried to give us out key and directions to our room. I was sort of hoping to peek at those snakes!
Our room was at the end of a newer strip of motel rooms. We even had the option of parking in a little built in carport. There were a couple picnic tables and a grill nearby, but they were a little too close to a neighbor's yard. The view would have been entertaining with a car on cinder blocks and an old school bus, but we figured we'd unpack and take a drink to the patio instead.
Some of the other rooms had porches with large wooden chairs. I inquired about those rooms, but Ruth reminded us we'd asked for one of the deluxe rooms.
Our Deluxe Room
Well, this might not thrill the traveler who expects room service, but we were in Sanderson and the price was right! We had a queen sized bed and a spacious room with Mexican tile floors and beamed ceiling. And our room was clean!
There was a wardrobe with TV and a good sized sitting area with refrigerator and microwave. There was ample counter space around a brightly painted ceramic sink. There were a few framed prints on the wall. The eagle and flag went well with our patriotic bedspread and a few bits of art reflecting the west...cowboy boots and a rattlesnake. I'm not sure about the framed leopard. Are there leopards around here?
The Bath and Sitting Area
The sink and toilet were updated and clean. The shower was efficient. But I did have to chuckle when I read the waterstained note sitting on a folded washcloth. (There was another such reminder on the door) They must have a lot of visitors who are tempted to scrub their dusty motorcycles and vehicles with bath towels. The notes firmly invited us to ask for cleaning rags if needed. The words also reminded us to not throw the note away. I had a hard time protecting the wilted piece of paper when showering. I'm tempted to surprise the Engeldorfs with a set of stylish, lamenated notes that can dangle from colorful ribbons in each bathroom! As for the sitting area. That's a nice plus. I used my computer there. We could have sipped our gin and tonics there, but took them outside instead.
Don and I watched the sunset from the patio near the goldfish and frog pond. The windmill whirred near the highway and a breeze rustled the dried grasses and palm fronds. Even the Oasis is showing signs of drought. It could have felt a little awkward since the patio was right next to the Engledorf's house and they were grilling dinner...
Chatting with Family and Pets
...but we had a nice visit. Roy took a break from his grilling to chat about how he and Ruth had left jobs behind in Kansas and bought the motel over 10 years ago. He told us how capturing a gray banded king snake years before had lured him to this part of the country. He catches maybe 100 snakes a year, but hardly keeps any. The motel keeps him busy, but he shows snakes and reptiles regularly and I think he breeds small pythons? He seemed eager to tell us about a local rattlesnake known for its ability to turn white at night. Maybe he picked up on Don's science background because he said he'd been hoping to find someone to do research on that snake. But before we had a chance to peek at the snakes inside, a truck pulled up and a daughter or 2, along with a granddaughter and puppy climbed out. It was time for Roy to attend to the food. And he reminded us to get to town for dinner. Places close early.
Food in Sanderson
Our motel stay was made complete by our local dining. There were 2 choices that night and we were lucky to find the recommended Dairy King since there was no sign. Jessica our rather delightful waitress chatted with us quite a bit while she served me some great Tex-Mex and Don, an Eagle Burger.
As for breakfast, the only weekday option was the Stripes truck stop directly across the street. The easily annoyed woman working behind the tiny food counter intimidated me into ordering quickly. We took our breakfast burritos and coffee back to our sitting area and chuckled over our meal before hitting the road.
I would say the most unusual part of our stay was discovering the connection the Engledorf's had with snakes. Even the pipe near the gas tank was painted to resemble a snake. I didn't find it creepy at all knowing there were poisonous reptiles a few doors away. I only saw Roy playing fetch with Fergie and stroking Casper, the albino kitty. If he'd been chatting with while one of his pythons climbed over his shoulders or around his waist, that might have been different. In fact now that I think about it, I feel like we missed out on a big part of the motel experience at the Oasis! If we ever return, and I'm not sure we ever have reason to go through Sanderson again, I will demand a tour of the reptile collection!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!