Hiway House Motor Hotel Chain!
Don and I had one night in Albuquerque.
We were excited to stay in the historic Nob Hill area, in a retro motel with an awesome orange sign!
As we headed towards the Nob Hill area on the old Route 66, we enjoyed quite a festive display of old motel signs.
We hoped our motel would not be as creepy as the ones we passed.
There It Was!
We spotted it on the left. The sign with the cartoonish jalopy and the words "Sleep Is Our Business" was hard to miss. This was going to be one of those "Stay before it's gone!" places.
The HiWay House chain, was started by construction magnate, Del Webb in 1956. The chain was never as popular as Howard Johnson's or Holiday Inn, but they were scattered over the western states. Now there are just a couple of these Colonial Style Motor Hotels (with goofy orange signs) left!
Experiencing the Retro
At a glance, the 2-story motel, with alternating pinkish-orange and blue doors had a fun throwback feel.
But as we drove into the parking lot, the place looked a little wearier than the images on the website. There was an outdoor area with a grill and some plants. But judging from all the full ashtrays, I think it was just a smoking lounge.
When I was a kid, a pool was all that mattered. This motel had one, but I wasn't tempted. As I glanced at the pool, my eyes followed the stairs upward, to some chairs and a table that had been pulled out of the motel room.
The door to the room was wide open (at that moment) and the middle-aged couple enjoying a few smokes and beers on the porch, appeared to be living there. I began to wonder if the Airstream parked in the lot was inhabited as well. In fact, maybe all the "guests" were long term.
On the other side of the parking lot, we spotted the hotel office. I headed over, but found the door locked. I pressed the buzzer and waited. Then I realized who our hosts were. The woman who had been lounging on the porch perch above the pool, headed down to unlock the office door. "You need a room?" The woman spoke firmly, with (I guess) an Eastern European accent.
I wanted to take a picture of her as she frowned down at her desk, as if the act of searching for our reservation, was a huge inconvenience. But I didn't dare. I snapped a cell pic of the Li'l Snack machine instead... as if I could somehow capture her reflection in the glass. ( Not sure why I felt I needed some photo to capture this awkward memory) Finally, she reached into a wooden slot and handed me the key to room 105.
Flowers and Shutters
After weeks of travel, I had to admit it was a treat pulling the car right up to the door... even if our room was pretty much underneath the lounging couple's door.
Our host may not have been a bit welcoming, but I appreciated the flower pots and baskets. And our room had a real wood door and shutters with many layers of blue paint. I'm all for flowers and wood.
Grand in Its Day
I've certainly seen worse. The room was dated, but spacious. There was a fridge and microwave and a coffeemaker... with no coffee.
And there was also an odor. Don and I argued a bit, since he thought it was some strong cleaning product and I was pretty sure the product was trying to mask the smell of vomit.
Are We Staying?
We left the door wide open as we examined the room. Nobody was making us stay, although I couldn't picture our frowning host giving us a refund, too easily. So I looked around and admired a few items. "Awesome lamp!" I exclaimed.
I'm sure I saw one of those swag lamps in a Dean Martin movie once... with cigarette smoke swirling in its glow. And what an impressive set of controls just over the bed. Heating, cooling, volume and music? No Magic Fingers, though.
More Windows and Space
Behind the partition was a dressing area, with a carpeted bench for suitcase storage. You don't see that luxury anymore.
We opened the back window to get a little cross ventilation and noticed a nearby Pilates studio behind us. They had nice music, which floated through the window, along with fresh air.
I'm pretty sure the tub and sink were original from when the motel opened in 1958.
And what a hoot to open the shower curtain and see the logo from the sign, decorating the wall tile. You just have to laugh at the idea of sharing the shower with this proper little husband & wife in their red car!
Okay We'll Stay
Don and I have weathered a few bad ones with all our oddball overnights.
So after we looked around, I was a little surprised to hear Don ask, "So do we stay?" I had to laugh. "Unless we are in some kind of danger, we can make it work." So Don settled in and made a phone call, while I headed back to the office for ice.
A Blurry Memory
We didn't really need ice, but I wanted to have another encounter with our host. I needed to be sure I was comfortable here. My blurry photo, shows her once again refusing eye contact. The woman's husband (I assume) took my bucket while she busied herself at the desk.
"So, I guess this motel has some history!" I said, trying to open up some conversation while the man scooped my ice. He was busy, inspecting my ice... then discarding it and scooping up some more. (yikes) The woman behind the counter answered without looking up. "1959." That was the end of the history conversation. I gave up and thanked them for the ice, although I wanted to say, "Well, the website says, 1958!!"
Enjoying Nob Hill
I had to laugh with Don about Mr. and Mrs. Norman Bates. Although that's an insult to Norman, since he at least smiled. But we decided to stay, since the surrounding area had some fun places in walking distance.
We refused the adjoining Korean BBQ place, that had once been the motel's coffee house. It's under separate ownership, but we wanted to get a little further away. Next door there was an old Texaco, converted into a bar/restaurant. It looked sort of fun.
Across Route 66
And across the road there were a number of popular looking places, with colorful signs and good aromas.
We heard some pleasant sounding live music from one direction and some siren sounds coming from the other way. It's an intriguing area, what can I say.
Two Fools Tavern
We settled on the charming Scottish pub right across. We shared Scotch Eggs, Irish Whisky cured Salmon and a Cottage Pie!
The atmosphere was festive with a good mix of clients, from scholarly to artsy to blue collar. The servers wore kilts and Don and I chuckled over a young server with a permanent scowl. Maybe she didn't like her kilt. Don nicknamed her the "Angry Little Clogger", although she was not seen dancing.
The Business of Sleep?
Our dinner put us in good spirits for a good night's rest. But I didn't get much of that "sleep business" during the night.
Even with our windows closed there were sounds from a live band, then too much silence in the middle of the night. Come morning, I was ready to check out and move along.
We didn't see mice, but there was a hole under the sink, with evidence that mice had visited. I was eager to have a reason to speak to our host one more time. I was going to be friendly, and just inform her of the problem.
I figured I was giving her one more chance to be a good host... to be apologetic. Maybe she was a morning person and she'd leave me with a better impression. So I rang the buzzer. And I rang it again and again. No one ever came. The door above was closed and the chairs were empty. I dropped the key in the box, just as an young arguing couple stomped by on the sidewalk. I so was happy to be leaving.
I will remember this as the retro motel stay, where we never felt welcome! We gave it the "happy traveler try" and there were no rewards for our efforts!
This motel has such potential. The Nob Hill area is "coming back" with music and good food and this worn, old motel is right in the middle of it. It perplexes me that no one has swooped in to renovate this place. There are many Baby Boomer Travelers would spend decent money to stay in a well renovated boutique motel with reminders of travel life in the 1950's and '60's. Someone needs to come to the rescue! It won't be me. .. I'm still irritated.
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!