Roadside Motel in a Big TX City
Don and I have spent a lot of time in Austin, especially after we became UT parents.
We've stayed at some dumpy and swanky hotels on visits, but we've always been curious about the iconic Austin Motel on SOCO. In September of 2013, we finally got to stay at the "Far Out" motel!
SOCO, might just be my favorite part of Austin. The wide road (at least when you cross it) has a dramatic view of the Capital.
Congress Avenue is lined with inviting shops, even for non-shoppers like me. There are kitschy junk/antique shops, an old fashioned barber, Big Top's for candy, Allens Boots for cowboy attire... street music, food trucks and fine dining! Of course if you stroll at dawn, you may have to wait a while for some activity.
The motel may be a little hidden behind a wall and large trees, but the sign refuses to be ignored.
It's been there since 1938, when Jennie Eck inherited the land her parents purchased in 1888. Jennie and her husband built the motel to cater to folks enjoying the new craze of car travel! They sold to the Mr. & Mrs. Thompson in 1961.
I wish I had a photo of the inside of this 77 year old lobby when I checked in. I remember there was a sweet cat who greeted.
There were areas for lounging and and enjoying free coffee and reading materil. But the gentleman at the counter made me feel a little shy with the camera. He probably was just shy himself. I read great things about the staff and the family that still owns the motel since the Mr. and Mrs. T passed away. I love family businesses!
We wandered the grounds after checking in and saw lots of colorful Tejas-style detail.
Painted tiles, fountains, statues and pots.
When Dottye Dean inherited the biz from "Mom" Thompson in 1993, she left behind her opera singing career in San Francisco and used an artistic approach to renovating the motel. This
rusty car garden, might not have been her artistic doing, but it might be a playful reminder of what Dottye found when she arrived at the motel Austin...
Original 1939 Building
When Dottye inherited the motel, the property and rooms were being vandalized regularly.
Don and I stayed in one of these small original rooms for around $80. Luckily the rooms were safe and clean, unlike a period in the 1980's, when SOCO was more known for drug dealers and prostitutes, than shoppers and diners. There have been renovations since Dottye took over, but much has stayed the same.
The bathroom was small, but colorful. And our window had hand-painted flowers! Kind of like stained glass?
We could have spent a lot more, like $180. for a suite. But this was all we needed.
Our Tiny Room
Nothing too fancy here, but it was fun to know we were in a room frequented by car travelers in the '40's and '50's.
There was a small TV and the AC worked fine. There was no closet, but we had some hangers on a hook. And maybe those were original tile floors?
Lounging at the Retro Pool
You'll have to take my word for it, but this pool was indeed kidney-shaped! It was built in 1950, to keep up with the new motel built across the street. (which is now gone)
Don and I fixed some cocktails brought them along for lounging in the awesome metal lounge chairs. We didn't need to make use of the red and white metal umbrellas, because the sun was going down. We stayed until the motel light was all aglow!
I'm in awe that this place still exists! In the 17 years that we've been coming to Austin, it has become so much more expensive and crowded.
I think it's pretty wild that you can stay in a motel within walking distance of great restaurants, shops and the Capital itself if you have good walking shoes... for $82.00! If this had been my only visit to Austin, I would have wanted something a bit more cushy, but I got a little retro Austin for retro prices. Hard to believe!
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!