Borrego Springs, California - May 2014
Don and I finally spotted the sign at the base of Indian Head Mountain, but where was the hotel?
Oasis with Curious History
We drove down a long dusty drive to get to the gravel parking lot. There we found our little oasis hotel, in all its modern glory. This classic mid-century hotel, with lots of steel and glass was built in 1958, to replace the 10 year old original hotel after it burned down.
The hotel was then called The Hoberg Resort. It was quite the retreat for Hollywood stars and socialites who wanted to escape the public spotlight.
We parked next to 2 Vespas in the nearly empty lot and headed inside to look around. We were greeted by this modern floating staircase that must have really been something in 1958. But there didn't seem to be a person in sight. We wandered the dimly lit space, enjoying some of the reminders of earlier days.
There was something almost eerie as we explored...like a modern version of The Shining. So many reminders of the past when the hotel was buzzing with guests...but no real people to greet us.
Almost 20 years ago, the current owners David and Cindy began restoring the property. The hotel and bungalows had been empty for years, but this couple embraced the history and took on the challenge. I had hoped to meet them...or anyone. Obviously someone was around, since there was a fresh pitcher of ice water with cut lemons.
We did see a few faces at least...on a painted brick wall. It was fun to see Bing and Marlon, Marilyn and Clark... and even the Wizard of Oz! These were a few of the celebrities who once escaped the stress of Hollywood by hopping on planes and landing on the hotel's private airstrip.
A Key and Towels
A woman finally appeared from the kitchen and for a moment she seemed perplexed to see us. Then she acknowledged our reservations and handed us a key and some pool towels. We headed up the floating staircase that took us to the outdoor walkway on the second floor. All 8 hotel rooms were upstairs, overlooking the pool and mountains. We kind of chuckled as we used our hotel key to open the sliding glass door. (Strange for a hotel) The door was a little feisty and reminded me of large and clumsy, sliding doors in my childhood. I hope renovations continue and the roof area becomes a terrace again. It was a little neglected and we stayed safely on the walkway, but it could be such a fun space for sitting out and enjoying the view.
Spacious and Comfy
We didn't have much of a greeting at the desk, but we did find a plate with fresh cookies waiting for us in the room. The cookies and water pitcher seemed to be reminding us that we were being welcomed...by someone. The closet was huge and there was a floor fan, in case the window unit didn't do its job. I liked having the comfy chairs and a large coffee table. We could have done a jigsaw puzzle, since there was a basket of games and books. And there was a flat screen TV, so we did have some modern conveniences.
The Palms Pool
The Olympic sized pool was a big deal in 1947 and it still is the star of the hotel, to me. The busy spring season was ending, so we had the pool to ourselves. (The extreme temps make summer the off season) The empty pool deck made it easier to imagine the ghosts of Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe lounging with their martinis nearby. The pool must have been just dazzling back in the day. I loved the way the shadow of the date palm was resting on the bottom of the pool, not far from the mosaic palms!
This photo reveals an underwater window in the deep end. On the deck above the window, there was a platform that once held the diving board. I can just imagine a few Hollywood gentlemen in the viewing room holding martinis and cigars, watching divers cut through the surface... with hopes of catching one of the ladies with a swimsuit malfunction.
Enjoying the Pool
Don made use of the lap lane, and I tried to figure out which chaise lounge had the best view. I liked this view with the mountains and that wonderful west coast modern building.
Hot Tub View
This was nice, too. There was a lot of bunny activity to watch in the surrounding gardens.
But I picked this spot with the two soft chairs, enclosed by a rounded brick wall.
After a swim, we wandered the grounds a bit more to explore some of the "ruins" from a different time in the hotel's history. The hotel once included 56 private bungalows and the remains are just down the road. After those glam years in the '40's and '50's, the property spent 20 years hosting other kinds of visitors besides Hollywood stars. It was a nudist retreat for some time and a detention facility for young boys. When the current owners bought the property, it had been vacant for 15 years. They turned their focus to the hotel and the two casitas by the pool and have been continuously renovating over the years. For some guests, this reminder of the past would be an unsettling eyesore. Why is this still here? But I loved snooping around and pondering the past.
Food and Drink
The hotel does have a cute little bar and a couple of dining areas which, were quiet but open! We had a drink in the colorful bar with bold artwork and curatins made of ribbons. There was one man sitting at the bar who appeared to be a regular and I was pretty excited to talk to him because he looked like he was old enough to actually remember The Hobert Hotel in its prime. But too bad. He had come to the area in the 1990s and although he knew the current owners he had very little inside scoop about those celebrity years.
For dinner we had a quiet meal in the Coyote Restaurant overlooking the pool. The food was amazingly good. It's hard to believe it's possible to have a good chef in such a small desert community!
In the morning we ate on the patio, which was heavenly. Our room included our choice of breakfast off the menu. Again, we were incredibly impressed by the choices and quality of food. (I had eggs benedict!) But a warning for travelers who come "off season" since the restaurant does not have regular hours in the summer.
Location, Location, Location!
For some, the desert location is not a plus. But the fact that we could slide open our glass door at 5:45 in the morning and walk to Anzo-Borrego State Park was an amazing plus. We hiked the shady Palm Canyon Trail for 1.5 hours (Spotting coyote and jack rabbits, but sadly no big horn sheep) until we arrived at the palm grove...just as light was hitting the top fronds!
I will remember our stay at The Palms as our Mystery Oasis Night. It did seem like something was missing. I guess the lack of hosts was odd. But I kind of liked the eerie empty feel to the place. I will always remember the giant pool, surrounded by blowing palms and miles of desert and distant mountains and how we seemed to own it. If we'd come to be pampered, we would have been disappointed, but we know how to pamper ourselves, just fine. I wish we could have stayed more than one night.
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!