Way Out in West Texas!
There's not much in Van Horn besides motels and gas stations, but the town is a good stopping point for travelers in West Texas.
Don and I saw Taylor's when we were in town once before, staying at the iconic El Capitan. Taylor's was just one of the many dated motels that line the highway, but Don noticed it had a little hidden charm. When planning a recent road trip to California, Don looked up reviews for the old motel. He was delighted with all the positive write ups, but I was skeptical. There was no website and no way to find prices or book on line. But Don made an old fashioned phone call and seemed pleased. "I made a reservation for under $40.00!" "Hmm." I thought.
Motel on the Highway
I love a retro motor court, but we might have missed this one on the old Highway 80. It doesn't have an old neon sign to catch your eye.
The covered entrance in the center of the u-shaped complex looked very much like what you see on chain hotels. But we could see little garages between units and hints of the old Spanish style motor court, as we pulled in.
We pulled in, under the motel's original stucco and stone cover. We buzzed the buzzer and Jose opened up the office to check us in. He was pleasant and soft spoken, answering all our questions about the hotel's history.
He even pulled out some photos and news clippings, that explained how the 18-unit motor court was moved in the 1930's... and how the latest renovations began over 10 years ago. Don had a few things he was curious about and he just kept asking questions.
Don asked if there was any more news about the border patrol agent, who was mysteriously murdered in the area last year. For a less eerie subject, Don wanted to know what Jose knew about Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and his space tourism project, Blue Origin. Jose actually knew plenty. He knew the patrolman who died and he'd been invited to watch a rocket launch at B.O., not far from Van Horn. It turns out, our very humble host was the owner of the motel. He said he loved living in the quiet town and meeting the interesting people who choose to stay at his motel. And no, he has no desire to go up in one of those rockets.
Photo from the 1930's
Jose showed us this photo of the hotel, when it re-opened in its new spot, more than 80 years ago.
The photo makes me crave more photos. I want to see the cars and the people and what the rooms looked like. It was funny to see the covered carport in front of the office. That style looks so much like today.
For over 10 years, Jose and family have worked to restore the units.
You can see the new metal roof and the tidy bushes.
Here's a view of our unit, beside the garage. The garage dividing units, meant our 2-room space was completely quiet. I could have sung opera in the shower and bothered no one!
Road Trip Luxury
Our neighbors had requested to use the garage, but we were happy to park right in front of our little motel home.
It was the first night of a road trip and we were still organizing a lot of car stuff. Parking right in front of our door was a treat.
Clean and Comfy
It really was a pleasant surprise to find 2 tidy little rooms with fresh paint and comfy linens.
The price of our motel stay was about the same that we pay for a night's parking at an Austin hotel!
We hardly needed another room, but it came in handy since we wanted to shuffle some of our packing around.
I kind of wondered if there was knotty pine under the lower half of the painted wall. I loved imagining the motel, back in the day.
I love some pink in my motel bathroom! The mosaic floor and pink wall tile was pretty fun. I love vintage, but I was happy having a new toilet!
The sitting area in the first room was another handy perk. We also had a microwave and refrigerator, across from a spacious sink area. I hardly cared if we had a TV, but the cable included the Turner Classic Movie. Vintage movies in a retro motel!
We had a few views actually. We could see the motel office and highway, out the front windows.
When I slid open the frosted bathroom window, I could see some open land and train tracks. Luckily trains don't bother us. There were a few guest units that backed onto the tracks. They might have had more of an issue.
I like to rise early when we're on the road, just to see what's going on before the town is awake.
Looking both ways on Broadway (Old Highway 80) things looked pretty quiet. I imagine back before nearby I-10 was put in, Broadway must have been a lot more hopping.
Hints of the Past
I wandered to the opposite side of the motel and studied this cute little building with its Spanish style stucco and original wood windows.
I half expected to see a tumbleweed roll on by, like in a scene from an old western movie.
It's easy to miss! It doesn't jump out at you on the internet, or when you drive by. Even when we pulled up, I wasn't quite sure.
But once we met Jose and he warmed up, I was totally comfortable with our roadside motel. When we checked out the next morning, we made sure to tell Jose how pleased we were with every detail. It's clear that the work has been gradual and steady. Jose's family has worked hard over the years to make their motel feel comfortable, safe and homey! I'm so glad we could give them our business.
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!