#16 La Loma Del Chivo
This is where we stayed on the last night of our road trip.
Hostel in West Texas
We had begun our journey with eager anticipation, knowing we'd be experiencing overnights in retro motels, haunted hotels and even a mysterious guest ranch.
This curious hostel, way out in West Texas was to be our last stop, of a sort of whacky road trip, filled with a variety of unusual overnight accommodations!
Night 9...at the Hostel
I've never stayed in a hostel. In fact I hardly know what one is. I associate hostels with youthful backpackers in Europe. A cheap place with a bed, when you're trying to see the world, on little money.
Well, Don and I are in our 50's and not exactly poor. But, when we spotted this place a year ago we were both open to the idea. Neither of us had done the backpacking thing after college, so we agreed, "We should try this sometime."
I had spoken on the phone with the owner a few weeks earlier. Ingrid had an Eastern European accent... at least I thought. And she had an intriguing sense of humor. I looked forward to meeting her.
But when we arrived on that afternoon, a young woman greeted us, saying Ingrid had gone out of town. The woman, who was a short term renter at the hostel, said she would be happy to show us around. First she showed us the community kitchen.
There was even an outdoor wood burning pizza oven, with a pile of wood ready to go!
Inside the Hostel
Don and I had planned on staying in the shared hostel portion, even though there were options with private quarters. We've done the shared bathroom thing in European hotels, so why not experience a little of the community spirit? But when entered the little building with words "Oh That Sweet Unrest" written on the roof, I grew uneasy.
It was a bit darker than I expected. My eyes adjusted and I could see a few well worn couches and cluttered tables. Our guide showed us the fridge, that we were welcome to use. She apologized, since it needed cleaning. She pointed to a couple of single beds tucked into a darkened space and she mentioned a loft, but hinted that we might not want to sleep up there. I asked if anyone else was staying. She said she didn't expect anyone else, but then paused. "Well, last night a guy arrived at midnight and needed a place to crash. You never know."
I suddenly felt my age and wondered, What were we thinking?
We headed outside to continue exploring the rest of the little desert community. The odd assortment of buildings had been created with a variety of materials.
The people who had built the structures over the years, were as varied as the materials. Some skilled, some not. Many had come upon the place and just ended up helping and staying.
This little building was easier to understand. It had a roof and 4 walls. It looked more like a work shed on a farm.
This is where our young friend was staying.
She said she kept some of her stuff in her car, since there wasn't much space inside.
This little structure was called the sauna, but I'm not sure why. It was cute and tiny, but looked more like a grave to me.
This was actually sort of a green house, with walls made from cement or adobe.
I thought this little cube looked like the inflatable Jump Castles, you see at birthday parties. But the cute castle was actually the bathroom/laundry room.
It was spacious inside with a toilet in the corner and a large bathtub, that we were told was "great for relaxing". The washer and dryer rumbled away with full loads, across from the tub. I sort of winced, wondering when the castle would next be available. Our new friend admitted she was getting caught up on some long neglected laundry that day. But she made it clear, she would step out if needed.
Don and I hadn't communicated with each other since we stepped out of the car, but luckily we are usually on the same wave length regarding our limits. I knew I just wasn't up for a night in the hostel. But when I spotted this little "papercrete" constructed building at the south end of the tiny community, I felt a bit of relief.
When we opened the door (It even had a lock) I just blurted out, "Hmm...so, is this rented out for tonight? I know I told Ingrid we'd be fine in the hostel, but if this is available, then this would be great. We don't mind spending a little more... do you think we could...?
Inside The Marshmallow
We were told there shouldn't be a problem upgrading, to the little Casita, (That I wanted to call Marshmallow or at least Igloo) I promised we would settle with Ingrid over the phone.
Our friend headed back to her laundry and Don and I closed the door and began exploring the space, chuckling to each other. The tall rounded room was absolutely packed with curiosities. The cement floor was covered in a patchwork of dusty woven rugs. Each rounded corner had a special surprise. A door painted with planets, hid some shelves in one corner. In another corner, a curtain revealed a showerhead and a ladder leading to a somewhat creepy loft.
The third corner displayed a wooden "throne" with a lid. I did not dare peek.
We had been told, the only bathroom was in the castle. Since there was no odor at all, I was happy to assume this toilet idea, had been abandoned before it was ever used. The 4th corner had a painted ceramic sink and an assortment of statues and treasures, quite obviously from someone's exotic travels.
We headed to the car to get our sleeping bags, although sheets were available. We stopped to greet a number of friendly dogs and a sweet cat, when we were approached by "our neighbor" who was the only other temporary boarder, at La Loma.
His appearance and mannerisms reminded me of a cross between Tim Robbins and Norman Bates. He scratched his head and seemed a bit bewildered by Don and me. He offered to collect our $50. for Ingrid, but I assured him we would settle with her later. After he helped us get the power turned on in our little Marshmallow Casita, we stepped outside and made awkward small talk. By this time the winds were whipping up the dust, making the atmosphere extra ominous.
Home Away From Home
Back inside we tried to settle in. I climbed the ladder to look down at our whimsical, storybook house. It was actually pretty cool and I knew that lots of hard work went into creating this unique space. But what was all this about?
I had so many questions and I needed a host with real answers. I wanted Ingrid to be there to welcome us with stories and history! But I'm not sure that would have put me totally at ease. The wind began to howl and I felt like I was in some kind of surreal, fever dream. The 2 who had helped us had seemed somewhat distant and mysterious. Maybe on the 9th night of our road trip, we had finally encountered some ghosts!
Evening in Marathon
Maybe Don and I would have embraced our stay with more enthusiasm if it had been the first, rather than the last day of our road trip.
Maybe we could have been more positive, if we hadn't been exhausted from spending most of that day in Mexico on burros, sampling tequila and meeting village locals. (Thanks to the new legal border crossing in Big Bend) But we were sort of tired after 9 days of "being game" for anything! We unpacked our sleeping bags and headed into Marathon, (1 minute drive) and had a drink at the delightful Gage Hotel. Then we walked outside to watch the sunset before heading back to the Gage for a delicious dinner. Our car wheels crunched over the gravel outside the Marshmallow at about 9:30. That's usually way too early for bedtime, but we set the alarm for 5:30 and zonked out.
The appearance of La Loma, is what is most notable. It looks like a colorful Paper Mache creation, I might have constructed as a child. I mean that as a good thing. It's charming. But the absence of our host made the place feel uncomfortable or eerie.
The fact that there were no other guests (besides the temporary boarders) made us feel like we had invited ourselves to a place where we didn't belong. But I'm glad we stayed. The winds died down and I ended up sleeping well. We took off in the morning before sunrise and I mailed a check to Ingrid after we returned home. I'm not sure we'll ever return, but I'll always be curious about our missing host. I think she might have been fun.
#15 El Dorado
Terlingua Ghost Town
We stopped here on the 8th night of our West Texas road trip.
We wanted to be in Terlingua that Friday night so we would have a shorter drive into Big Bend National Park on Saturday. There weren't many options in the old Ghost Town, but the price was right at this one!
Don and I have experienced Terlingua a few times. It's hard to explain what makes up this ghost town, that was once home to 2,000 when the mercury mines were operating.
Now there are only about 60 who live here, with a constant flow of characters wandering through. It's good we already knew about the flavor of this "town" or we might have been a little uneasy about our accommodations.
We finally found a sign for the office and spoke to Judy through the window.
Her attached office was down lower, so the handy chairs made it useful for speaking face to face. While Don paid up, I studied the walls and tables with posted notices of upcoming events.
What's Happening in Terlingua?
If it had been Chili Festival time, there would have been no rooms available. About 10,000 "chili heads" attend the festival that's been going on for nearly 50 years.
But we were just in time for the 11th Annual Desert Chihuahuan Challenge - Dog Races! (My spell check says there's no such word as Chihuahuan)
That would have been an interesting option if we hadn't already made plans for Big Bend.
Cafe and Bar
It was dinner time and we heard the food wasn't bad at El Dorado. I'm guessing the café was upstairs where I'd seen a deck could have offered spectacular views of the desert at sunset.
I talked to a man who was sweeping the downstairs bar and he said there would be entertainment that night. The plastic palm trees and longhorn skull had character and I'm sure there would have been an interesting crowd, but we were holding out for dinner at the Starlight Theatre.
I was a little disappointed to see the motel rooms were behind the somewhat building that housed the office and restaurant. And what was with the gigantic parking lot?
I was beginning to get the picture. That huge lot looked like it could hold a good number of motorcycles and it was still early on Friday evening.
Our Fine Room
There weren't exactly many hotel choices in Terlingua. We refused to pay over 100 for a rustic room up the road near the Starlight, when we just needed a bed and shower.
We both laughed when we stepped into our room. It was quite spacious and clean, but there wasn't a single thing on the wall or a even a chair. There was however,a tiny TV on table with 1 channel. That was more than expected since Judy had warned us that the channels had been messed up since there had been a lightning strike.
Here's one more picture, as if the first didn't capture it all. Don wondered why I wasn't taking a bathroom photo... which I often do.
He seemed to think I wasn't fully appreciating the shower curtain. "Look! It divides in the center, like a bathtub curtain!" I refused to get excited about that, but I did like the counter space and mirror with the sink.
Off to Dinner
After we cleaned up, we headed up the road to dinner. We could have walked I guess, but it would have been a dark walk back.
We drove by the wonderful little cemetery with an assortment of wooden crosses and stone shrines.
Then we arrived at The Porch, which is the center of all Ghost Town activity. At sunset, locals gather at this covered area between the general store and Starlight Theatre.
There are cans of beer, dogs, cigarettes and usually a guitar or two. We hoped to see who eventually climbed into the yellow cycle-car, but we were eating dinner when the little yellow rocket disappeared.
We were up and loading the car before the sun rose the next morning. I
had expected to see a million motorcycles in the lot, but there was no noise in the night and only about 8 bikes in the morning. We dropped the key in the office box and headed out for Big Bend.
The room was clean, but as dull as they come. The view could have been stunning, had we lingered at either end of the day.
Luckily there is nothing to report about oddball characters in our motel area. I learned the next day, that a local, who had been charged with murder, got out on bail during our stay! Oh my.
#14 The Holland Hotel
We spent the 7th night of our road trip at this historic hotel in Alpine. T
he night before we were in Alpine also, staying at a southwestern adobe motel, The Maverick.
It was fun to go from a 1930's motor court to a hotel that probably got a lot of railroad travelers when it opened in 1928.
Both places were bought and renovated nicely by the same owners a few years back. So our stays at the Maverick the Holland were our most upscale nights on our 10-day adventure exploring curious accommodations.
A Trost and Trost Building
If you've spent any time in West Texas you've probably seen a hotel, school. post office or even a home designed by Henry Trost.
At a glance The Holland is not overly impressive, but there are a few details that show off the Spanish Revival design Trost was fond of. In this photo you can see the wrought iron work and the concrete ornaments on the flat façade. I'm not sure about the ball and eagle on the roof...but it captured the light nicely!
Once inside, it's easy to imagine this old hotel 85 years ago.
The decorated beams, smooth tile, round archways and chandeliers hint at a grander time, when folks dressed up to walk through hotel lobbies.
Well, maybe not so dressed up. There were a lot of old framed photos on display so I was able to peek at the past a bit more.
This photo shows a man with a tie, but no jacket behind the counter. Even the sofa looks less formal than the lobby furniture today. Never mind what I said.
The staff greeted warmly at the front desk, but I especially liked being welcomed in a side room off the lobby... by a few stuffed beasts on the wall and some inviting coolers of iced tea and lemonade.
This was also the area where continental breakfast was served in the morning. There was a huge selection of bakery goods, homemade granola, fruits and fresh juices.
Don and I took our cold drinks and some books out to the courtyard for a little relaxing.
It wasn't chilly, so the outdoor fireplace wasn't needed. But the chairs were comfy and the café tables and fountain looked inviting.
In the evening, we took a couple seats at the hotel bar where our bartender, Zora was chatty and helpful with our questions about Alpine.
I did have a bit of a fright at one point when she disappeared, right before our eyes. (We had been hearing a lot about haunted hotels on our trip) As it turns out there was a trap door in the floor behind the bar, and she had simply headed down some stairs to a storage area!
We didn't have dinner at the hotel, but the restaurant menu looked wonderful. The dining area had a great mix of old woodwork and modern mixtures, painted ceilings and artwork.
We would have stayed in to dine, if we hadn't been so excited about how all a variety of clubs and restaurants with in walking distance. For being a small city/town, Alpine does have a few fun places and location of The Holland is a real plus.
The hotel does have a new elevator, but we chose the stairs since we were just 2 flights up.
The first time I arrived at the 3rd floor I had to laugh that I noticed I was breathing heavily. Then I remembered that Alpine has an elevation of 4,475 feet. So... that's high for me.
Our suite had all the luxuries of a nice hotel, along with some charming reminders of the original hotel room.
I think the bathroom tile was old and the windowsills. But I must admit, I was happy to have new carpet and comfy linens and no musty odors.
There was a stylish opening to the sitting room.
It was nice having that extra space since old hotel rooms can often be kind of claustrophobic.
There was even stuff to read in the sitting area. (The courtyard chairs were much more comfortable) On the small table I found bound collections of old LIFE magazines.
That was fun. And the bathroom was nicely updated with at least a little counter space around the sink. I'm going to start carrying a port-a-table for all the historic places we've stayed, that haven't had enough space to lay down your tube of toothpaste!
Charm and location should be noted. But I must say, the thing I will most remember about our stay was that we ended up moving our luxury mattress at 2:00 am to the floor of the sitting room. An odd whirring, clunkity sound came and went all night.
Our complimentary earplugs (For train noise) did not help, so we pulled the mattress close to the bathroom door where the fan could drown it out. We were both wide awake after that task, but luckily the predicament made us both laugh and we soon fell asleep.
So our middle-o-night-campout will never be forgotten. But what's most noteworthy is how the manager, Mark handled our complaint in the morning. He was so sincerely apologetic that I'm sure the broken "thing" on the roof was fixed immediately. And when he handed us a certificate for a 2-night stay in the future we were pretty thrilled. We'll be back for sure! Thanks, Mark!
#13 The Maverick
Ahh! It was a treat seeing this sign on our 6th day of our Texas road trip. We knew this would be a step up in the luxury department.
You have to love the name Maverick Inn. And you have to love the sign itself, even if it's not the original.
This refurbished motor court once had a different name.
I love the old sign that stretched between 2 stone posts.
Historic hotels can be found in many Texas towns, but it's hard to find refurbished motels and motor courts.
This one on Highway 90, way out west in Alpine, TX was built in the 1930's. The original office is on the left and the mountain to the right goes back a little further. Alpine is a good name for a Texas town with an elevation of about 4,500. It's known for having the best climate in Texas, but I talked to a few residents who told me not to talk it up. Alpine remains small-townish, with no stop lights. I think they hope to keep it that way.
Georgie let us check in early and we shared some stories. I told her how excited we were to be staying there, after a couple of odd nights on our road trip. (previous posts)
She told me that she remembered driving by this motor court back in the 1960's when the little buildings were getting overgrown and run down. She told me about meeting the original owner once, who shared old photos of the Grandview Courts.
I loved looking around the lobby at the Maverick movie poster, antique saddle and interesting books.
What I really liked was the guitar with the note "...for guest enjoyment." Quite a nice switch from the hotel piano in New Braunfels reminding guests, NOT to play.
There were a number of adobe buildings, all "Masculine Texas Chic" as I read in a travel review. This one had a little courtyard.
The night before The Maverick was booked due to Alpine's Cowboy Poetry Weekend.
But at 2:00 pm, I caught a glimpse without any cars. The fog (that finally left us) made the place look like an eerie western ghost town.
As a kid I loved exploring a new motel and I still do.
This one had lots of discoveries. There was a great yard through this entry, with a fire pit and a horse shoe pit and lots of comfy chairs.
Georgie said they were still prepping the blue trailer to become a guest room option.
She said I was welcome to peek inside. I loved the doors with porthole windows and the Adirondack chairs.
The interior held onto its 1950's décor! There were fruits and flowers painted on the kitchen cabinets.
And a mini sized gas stove where I could picture Lucy cooking for Ricky in the The Long, Long Trailer movie!
Pool and Animals
The chili bean shaped pool, I recognized from an old photo in maybe the 1960's.
But it looked cute with lots of lounging options as well as grills and dining areas. And I did get to meet a kitty. Don and I like to get our animal fixes on our travels, since we have no pets waiting at home.
The moisture in the air brought out some recent repairs on our adobe building. But besides that, I loved the appearance with a wheel and a barrel thrown in.
But the best part of a motel stay for me is the luxury of pulling your car right up to your door! No valet parking or stairs to climb. Love it!
A Nice Change
After a few nights of roughing it road travel, this was a treat to see.
I love the fun of an old motel, but I'll admit, I was pleased to see that our room was 2014 modern and luxurious. The wood beamed ceilings and Satillo tile floors fit the style beautifully. The bed and linens were heavenly!
I loved the jar glasses resting on the woven mat. And the earplugs were a nice touch, since the train tracks were nearby.
No complaints about our coffee maker, microwave, fridge and flat screen. And an extra bonus point for the Mexican pottery. Coffee tastes much better in a cute blue and white cup!
I stayed in motel once that actually had the same framed print over both beds. That was somewhat amusing to me. But if I am not going to be amused by my décor, then I appreciate a little good taste.
I did like the woven Indian rug and baskets on the wall. There were a couple of nicely framed western prints as well.
Big bonus points for pleasant décor at The Maverick!
The bathroom was lovely and boy did I make use of the tub after the ranch the night before. But here's the thing. I've been married almost 35 years, but I still would like a little privacy in the bathroom.
I've dealt with glass door like this in Europe. They look cool, but they bug me. In the middle of the night I woke with a headache, so intense I thought I would be sick. I think my Advil would have worked faster had I not been fretting about the fact that it was impossible to hide my sickly image if I needed to make a dash for the toilet. Luckily I was fine by morning.
A Nice Breakfast Treat
In the morning I forgot my griping when we wandered to the cozy kitchen area for breakfast. Georgie had reminded me the day before to help myself to anything in the fridge.
At breakfast there were some decadent bakery treats from a local shop. Don and I sat under the buffalo and stuffed ourselves on gigantic scones and cinnamon rolls. If the weather had been warmer we could have sat outside next to Jake in the cowboy shrine. He must have been a treat for all those cowboy poets.
Probably the fact that it is a luxury motel. I love idea of an old motel, but you usually have to put up with some discomfort to enjoy the nostalgia.
At the Maverick they give you the best of both worlds. We had the quirky retro feel and the luxurious bed and bath. Yeah, the bathroom doors were glass, but I won't plan on getting sick next time!
#12 Cowhead Ranch in West Texas
Night 5 of West TX Road Trip
We didn't just end up at the Cowhead Ranch by accident.
Don and I discovered the place over a year ago, when visiting the Big Bend area.
We spotted the intriguing sign on the 2-lane highway and turned down a dirt road, to find a cluster of wooden sheds and shacks. We also found the owner, Cowboy Chris.
Chris, looked more like a Big Bend hiker than a cowboy in his down vest and cap that day. We'd heard about this curious fellow (more cowboy than hiker) who came to the land over a decade earlier to build his dream from discarded and donated scraps. He proudly gave us a tour of the saloon, social club, church and bathhouse, pointing out details, as his tiny dogs followed along.
He showed us the guest quarters which had electricity and small air conditioners.
Some had bunk beds and one had a double bed. "You need to bring your own bedroll." Chris reminded.
So in January, when Don and I started planning our road trip, I called Chris and he put us down for a stay, on February 24.
I called a week before arrival and left a message on his voicemail to remind him we were coming. Late afternoon on the 24th, Don and I drove down the dusty road chuckling to ourselves. We had no idea what our stay would be like, but we were ready for an adventure!
Just as our car came to a halt in the center of the scattered buildings, 5 yapping dogs appeared, followed by a woman in a red visor. I laughed as I shut the car door, "The dogs are giving us quite a welcoming!" The woman's smile looked worried, but it was obvious she'd been expecting us when I told her my name.
"I tried to call y'all, Beth." She spoke with a drawl that fit the scenery beautifully. "I've got you set up in the Cow Palace, 'cause it has a double bed. Everything's set, but I have some sad news," She paused and continued, "You see, my dad, Chris. Well he passed away." She sort of winced a bit and I stammered my condolences. In the following minutes my head swirled as she explained he had died a month ago. But didn't I talk to him last week? I thought. Eventually my nerves settled and the pieces of the story made sense. Chris' daughter, Sunny had found her father (possibly the day I called) in bad shape and got him to the hospital where he died on his birthday, 3 days later. She remembered him telling her that he had spoken to me about a February visit.
Stay or Leave?
Sunny insisted we go ahead and stay. "You're the first guests since Dad passed." That didn't exactly make me more excited to stay.
Sunny said she lived about 20 minutes away. "I'll leave the house open (her dad's mobile home) in case you need anything. I'd stay over, but I can't do that just yet. It's too soon, Beth. Think y'all will be okay out here?"
Unlike some of the little shacks with bunk beds, The Cow Palace was set up for a couple. Sunny referred to it as the Honey Suite. I removed the plastic covering that revealed a blanket with a pink horse.
I looked at our little room and hoped I would somehow be able to relax enough to sleep that night.
Sunny asked if we'd mind if she relaxed a while with a beer, before she headed off. She and the 5 dogs settled on one of the long benches by the fire pit and Don and I joined her for a spell. We learned that Sunny had moved from Paris, TX to help he dad, 6 or so years ago.
You could tell she thought the world of her dad and every now and then she'd pause to take a deep breath. "I don't know, Beth. I don't know if I'm gonna make it." I tried to play my mom role and assure her it would take time, but she just wasn't sure. It helped that her dad's 3 dogs and her own 2 white ones kept her happily distracted. The sweet tan pup had been her dad's favorite. She showed me his tricks.
When Don lets a dog in his lap, you know he's warming up. These funny little critters did break the ice in an amazing way. When we left the car door open and a few took their dusty paws on an entertaining romp throughout the interior, all we could do was laugh.
It was nice to see that Sunny had taken over her dad's dogs by spoiling them rotten. "Every night, I get out the ice cream and these old dogs each get a scoop of Bluebell Ice Cream!" she announced proudly.
I lounged with a couple dogs myself as Sunny talked about the worries of taking over the ranch. She hoped to get some services going in the little church and looked forward to some big crowds during spring break. It was hard work she admitted, especially since she spent her days working as a welder.
She wasn't sure how she was going to manage. And there were other concerns. "Like last night, I came over to gather the chicken eggs, and there was a guy prowling around with a flashlight. People hear someone died and they just think everything's up for grabs. He saw my car lights and ran off that way." Gulp. Now that was something I really didn't want to hear. As if staying in the middle of nowhere in our little wooden guest shack with the winds blowing in a cold front, wasn't eerie enough!
Then we saw a blond woman wearing red shoes and a red top, making her way down a path from a distant house. She greeted Sunny with a big hug, then offered hugs to Don and me. She held a sheet of paper, flapping in the breeze. "Read it over Sunny. Let me know if it's okay." She had written something for Chris' memorial service.
Voni turned out to be a delight. Not only did she appear to be a gracious and upbeat neighbor, but she had an interesting claim to fame. Voni had ridden over 1 million miles on a motorcycle! Some might think a million dollar rider would be a quirky, recluse who spent years doing nothing but roaming on her cycle. But Voni was a bright and caring special ed teacher who did a million other things, while she racked up a million miles.
Chickens and Other Animals
While Voni visited with us, Sunny went off to collect eggs. She returned, announcing she had 48 which is more than the number of hens. I would have liked to have collected a few eggs for the experience, but Sunny warned, "Now you keep your distance from that rooster. He'll attack ya."
Voni bought some eggs and headed home, letting us know if we had any problems that night, she and her husband were "next door." That was actually very encouraging.
What was not so encouraging was when Don made the mistake of asking about the most interesting animal Sunny had seen in the area. She told about the mountain lion that lived near her house. "First time I heard that animal. it sorta screamed. I thought some child had got run over by a car!" Then she pointed out to the east. "And we have a black panther that lives out here." She sighed and shook her head. "Oh he is beautiful! His eyes are beautiful! He must be 200 pounds. When you see him, you just gotta respect him and keep away."
About Cowboy Chris
Before Sunny left, she asked us a favor. "Would y'all mind me sharing a slide show?" She took us in the mobile home, where I know she had found her ailing father a month ago. It was surprisingly cozy, with checked curtains and a tidy kitchen. She showed us an incredibly touching slideshow on a laptop, with images of her father and his horse, Little Feather. He looked like a character in a movie. "He loved that horse." Sunny said proudly. "Little Feather was killed, though...struck by lightening."
There were photos on the wall and on tables, as well. Pictures of Chris as an award winning auctioneer and one of Sunny (Or Shine as he called her) with her daddy before her parents divorced. Sunny played a recording of her dad singing with his guitar. She wiped tears a couple times, but always managed to find a little bright something, to lift her up. "But he's here, watchin'! Before he died he told me when I saw a red-winged hawk it would be him. I saw one earlier today when I was waitin' for y'all."
Sunny put the chickens up for the night so I walked over to visit with one of the few horses, left on the ranch. It did make me wonder what our visit would have been like, if Chris had been there.
Would he have pulled out his guitar, around the fire pit? What horse stories would he have shared? Sunny said he would have cooked us up a cowboy breakfast for sure. She offered, but we said we'd be off early in the morning.
As the sun slipped behind the distant range, Sunny asked again, "Will y'all be okay?" We assured her we would, and wondered why she kept asking. We were ready to get our evening started, but Sunny insisted on starting up the wood burning stove in the "Social Club". She pointed out the propane burners, for cooking.
Sunny frowned at the stubborn firewood and gave it another good dose of kerosene. Flames shot through every crack in the stove and a few flames lit some straw on the dirt floor. A little stomping took care of that. "We'll be fine." Don told Sunny.
Sunny Stalls a Little Longer
Sunny gathered the little dogs in the cab of her truck. "I left the light on in the bathroom, Beth." I thanked her, since it would be a short walk down the boardwalk to find it in the dark. "Now, it ain't fancy you know. We don't have one of those fancy Poo-days for washing up... or whatever you call 'em!" She sort of hooted at the humor. "Well, that's okay, Sunny. I'll expect one by next visit, though."
"And Don..." Sunny grew a bit more serious. "If you by any chance see that guy back here with a flashlight... well, if you're up to it, could you just chase him down and take care of him!" Don laughed and I was suddenly reminded of an important question. "So, is there cell service here?" The answer was a bit complicated. When Sunny heard we had AT&T, she pointed off to a raised deck and let us know we could probably get service just fine up there.
On Our Own
After thanking Sunny and handing her about double the expected payment, we just laughed as the truck rumbled off down the road. The wind was picking up and every loose piece of material, metal, wood and leather creaked and clanked and squeaked and rattled.
We pulled our own camp chairs into the Social Club, that had filled with smoke by now. Don fixed the stove and after a little fanning I told Don I wasn't very hungry, but I might need that bottle of wine from the car.
Inside the club we could feel the warmth of the stove. We made a toast and admired the scribbled walls from visitors over the past decade. Visitors from as far away as Japan and Scotland. An odd thought. I made Don investigate one creepy sound that turned out to be some dripping water. He teased me about being prepared, by sporting a knife necklace!
We decided to give up on the idea of making chili and just grabbed one can of baked beans and a camp spoon from the car. Neither of us had much appetite at this point.
Our tiny stove was hot, but the can of beans was slow to heat...
So, we crunched across the flattened bottle caps to the enjoy the nearby saloon for a bit.
As we stepped through the swinging saloon doors, we remembered when Chris proudly showed us the little bar with a mini pool table and bar.
Chris had pointed out a small TV and let us know they even had wifi! I posed with a hat and one of the bottles behind the bar, before heading back to eat our luke warm beans and head to bed.
The morning was cold and drizzly, but we were glad for it. No surprises in the night.
We left a message, along with all the others on the wall of the Social Club.
We packed and drove past the big cow head on the sign. I had to smile at the rock reminding us to be safe and happy, as we turned onto the road.
What Was Noteworthy?
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!