Balmorhea, Texas on Last Night of Road Trip
historic and curious overnights, we were going to be staying at a family owned, 11-room motel, serving travelers since 1946... kind of in the middle of Nowhere, Texas.
A Long Day
It shouldn't have taken quite so long getting to our tiny town, driving from Cloudcroft, New Mexico. But we squeezed in two more National Parks on the way. Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico and Guadalupe National Park in Texas. We managed 13 National Parks in 27 days.
It was nearly 7 when we pulled up to the little cement block, motel office. The NO VACANCIES sign didn't worry me. We'd made reservations a couple months before.
nice enough to plead with us to be guests in his home for the night. Don and I were stunned. After months of careful planning, why would we have our only glitch, in a tiny town, with no other options... or cell service for that matter! We said thanks, but turned down the offer and headed down the road.
A Cabin at Balmorhea State Park?
The reason we'd put Balmorhea on our route was that we had hoped to revisit the nearby State Park, with the world's largest spring-fed swimming pool. (3.5 million gallons!) It was just up the road, so maybe we could stay in one of their cabins. We spotted the empty pool, as we pulled up to the "No Vacancies" sign at the entrance.
Beautiful Texas Highway 17
The next closest town was Fort Davis, 30 minutes away. We have always loved this drive and it was extra lovely as the sun was setting. But the stress level was high. We knew of a few small inns in Ft. Davis, but it was a Saturday and likely they were booked. I tried to call as we drove, but there was no cell service.
Suddenly, my phone came to life and alerted me that I'd had a few missed calls. I listened to a voicemail from David, begging us to come back. "I have a room for you. It's being cleaned right now. Please come back." What to do? Return to the frustrating motel that looked pretty weary to begin with? Or drive on to a number of towns to discover no vacancies?
We were half way to Ft. David, but I texted David that we were on our way back to his motel. The pink sky and rising moon tried desperately to lift our spirits. It helped a little.
David and His Dogs
The dogs, like the sunset and moon, cheered me up. Even though we'd wasted lots of time and the whole intereaction had felt awkward and frustrating, we had a room. I didn't ask why a room was suddenly available. I'm guessing he must have called his wife, who was out of town. She must have prompted him in solving our problem.
Room # 2
The L-shaped motel was kind of cute with its western-rustic look. The moon was rising and all was quiet, except for a yapping Yorkie in room number 1. "I told them not to leave Molly alone in the room." David apologized. "They've just gone to dinner. She'll stop barking as soon as they get back."
We opened the screened doors (with decorative bars) and our room was revealed. It wasn't the Queen Room that David had delightfully described over the phone months ago. But it was freshly cleaned and we had a place to sleep on the last night of our fabulous road trip.
Moon Over Motel
All the pickup trucks that had filled the small lot were gone to dinner, I guess. I was glad everyone had deserted the place so Don and I could just shake our heads and quietly chuckle over this odd end to our trip. We grabbed a beer and a cup's worth of wine from our cooler and headed back, past a cow skull here and a wagon wheel there...
Peaceful in the Yard
David had told us, the motel was mostly filled with divers. Many guests who use the inn are often in the area taking scuba classes at the the state park's spring-fed pool. I had read the motel's website and knew not to expect your average tourist at The Eleven Inn. We might be sharing the motel with campers or cowboys... drillers or truck drivers... harvesters, hikers or hunters. I found this very curious.
An Old Playground
Tucked far back in the yard, we found a picnic table and some well worn playground goodies. Like the sunset and moon and the dogs... the playground put a smile on my face. I didn't play. That's how tired I was on night #27. Usually, I would have given the merry-go-round at least one rotation!
You could still smell the smoke from the fire pit, maybe from the night before. There were barbecue grills and more tables. I was reminded of how fun this place could be on any other night. If the guests were as varied as described, we could expect a very interesting evening around the campfire.
Best Part of Our Stay
So we sat for a short while and let the soothing sounds of the crickets and the balmy breeze ease us into the night. We were suddenly able to laugh at this final stop on our journey. We realized, out of 27 nights and 6 states, this motel was our only Texas stay. Instead of ending our month with a big splashy hotel, we were keeping it simple, coming back to reality.
We should have stayed put and had snacks in our room for dinner. But we headed across the street to a wooden icehouse that was serving food till late.
We skipped showers and headed off before sunrise in the morning. I dropped the key in the box with "Thanks, David" written on a note. I feel bad that David never got to show his best hosting skills... and we hardly got to share our good guest talents.
So, I think I'll choose to focus on the notable memory of sitting under the cottonwood trees, in that mosquito-free yard... the crickets, the white lights lining the roof, the moon... and of course that funny little playground. Let's end it positive!
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!