On a Thursday in May, Don and I spent the last night of a TX-CA-TX road trip at the Hangar Hotel.
Our road trip of nearly 4 weeks had involved stays in a boarding house, a ship, a trailer, a yacht and a number of historic hotels and motels, but this was our first overnight in an airport hangar!
On the Runway
To be honest, this was not originally a hangar. The Quonset hut structure was actually built by Dick Estenson in 1995.
The NASA engineer with a passion for flying and WWII history built the 50-room hotel right on the airport runway. Pilots and fans of planes can stay in the aeronautical themed rooms and watch the planes come and go from teak deck chairs.
Or... look at planes that aren't going anywhere at all.
It was quite a jolt to step inside the metal structure where we were greeted by new hotel smells and the sounds of Glenn Miller wafting through the grand lobby.
My eyes first took in the 8 clocks, displaying times from Honolulu to New York. Next, I noticed the spacious rounded desk and old-time switchboard. Last I noticed the man in a flight crew uniform behind the desk. He was very quiet and somewhat rigid as he checked us in. I'm guessing he was retired military or an actor, doing a fine job.
I do appreciate a theme, so I loved seeing the vintage suitcases beside the leather chairs and old 1940's radio.
There was a distinct flavor or WWII Pacific from the air-themed artwork to the tropical plants.
All guest rooms were upstairs. We chose the swooping stairway, but an elevator was available.
It was odd (and sort of a relief) to see the retro colors, vintage looking woodwork and light fixtures, without layers of smell and dust... which is what we were getting used to after weeks of historic accommodations.
It was a guilty pleasure to walk into our spacious room and find no cobwebs and stains.
Again, I found the theme a bit fun, even thought I'm neither a big WWII or plane fan. The cartoonish artwork above the bed didn't fit the somewhat serious décor, but the leather chairs and vintage phone and clock were a nice touch.
A Well Made Bed
I pictured a guy in uniform, kind of like the guy working the desk, making this bed. Good job! The rattan sleigh bed made me think of the Pacific. The green army blanket folded at the bottom made me think of barracks.
I love the 2-toned bathroom! The tile and bead board below the sink were picture perfect. The sparkling tub and shower was a dream come true. You have to realize that the night before we'd had a canvas tent surrounding our outdoor shower.
The night before that, Don couldn't stand up in our bathroom! So we did indeed use the fine shower and dressed for the evening. It's not like we had big plans for the evening. We'd had a late lunch and didn't really want to drive into Fredericksburg... which is only a couple minutes.
An Evening of What?
We wanted to take in whatever the Hangar had to offer. Don happened to have the most appropriate clothing for enjoying our evening.
His lovely silk shirt with "China Clipper" embroidery actually matched a framed poster in the lobby. So after donning the airplane shirt. (I'm afraid I didn't have one) we headed to the upper observation deck and watched a few planes.
We also had a view of the parking lot.
We noticed a few motorcycles arriving. One couple had a dog in tow. He was wearing sunglasses. We decided to see where everyone was going.
The Officer's Club
They seemed to be headed to the doors of the Officer's Club, right between the big grandfather clock and a table holding a large plate of warm chocolate chip cookies.
We headed inside and found the hotel bar just coming to life. There was a large spread of complimentary appetizers and a lovely statue of a glamour gal holding a martini.
We sat in some comfy leather chairs beside the fireplace and I took this photo fast before the place filled with bikers, all wearing black leather jackets with "Deadwood Deacons" on the back.
The doors kept opening and everyone who entered seemed to be munching on cookies and greeting others by name.
A Change in Crowds
But the bikers only gathered for a short while. By the time Don and I had finished a couple plates of fruit cheese and nuts, the bikers had gone.
Then, a whole new group arrived and filled the bar. We felt even more like we had crashed a private party, because these were local folks who seemed to all know each other. It was like being at a wedding reception in a small town country club. Everyone who entered greeted with hugs and waves. Daniel, the piano player (and plumber by day) arrived to perform. He did a nice job was also able to answer a few of my questions.
The Crowd at Sunset
I wanted to be sure we hadn't invaded a private party, since the crowds were literally spilling from the lounge to the patio outside. I asked Daniel and he assured me the club was open to all. "It's like this every Thursday night." It became clear that this was indeed a weekly meet-n-greet happening for this comfortable crowd.
At one point I stepped out to see the sunset. I moved past a few cowboy hats, and a young woman holding a glass of wine in one hand and a small dog in the other. I excused my way through the group and took a look at the sky, that everyone else seemed to be ignoring.
In the past weeks I'd seen the sun set over a train, a boat, and a vintage trailer. This was not my best sunset, but my first over a plane!
Don and I saved our vintage martinis for sunset and took them up to the observation deck.
It was quiet and the deck chairs hadn't been snatched away by the patio crowd. We had a good chuckle about our evening.
Good Night's Rest
I slept just like the sign beside the 10-foot spotlight reads. There were no big jets landing in the night.
Don and I enjoyed some complimentary scones and juice near the lobby while we debated over the man in uniform behind the desk. I thought it was the same man, but Don said he was a new guy. Same uniform. Same quiet, formality.
It was a treat having a newish hotel with a retro gimmick. Of course I'll remember the planes, but I'll also remember feeling a little invisible during our stay. It was nice to have Don share the "wall flower at the dance" feel with me! It was sort of fun to go unnoticed as we watched the mingling locals. But it was a little odd being somewhat ignored by the uniformed desk clerk (or maybe it was 2 clerks)
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!