Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
When traveling from TX to CA in February, I was excited to know we could actually spend the night in a town with such a silly name!
Hot Springs was the original name. That changed in 1950, when Ralph Edwards' famous radio game show offered to broadcast from any town willing to change its name to Truth or Consequences.
The original name made a lot more sense, since the town of about 6,000 sits on top of hot springs.
There used to be 40 bathhouses in town and now there are 10. I studied the internet to pick the one that sounded most inviting and curious.
This image does not look inviting.
It was cloudy and windy. The corner where our little in inn was located, did not exactly look like a spa resort.
But I was ready to check out La Paloma! When I'd made reservations a week earlier I'd spoken with a very nice woman. She made it clear that the baths might be a bit busy on President's Day weekend. I was curious to see what kind of guests visited a motel with bath houses in the middle of nowhere.
Don and I arrived and headed for the cute office building. I wish I could have taken a photo inside where things were really hopping.
Two Mennonite couples were having a hard time checking in for some reason. The women, wearing long skirts and bonnets spoke to each other in some kind of Dutch German, I'm guessing. The gentlemen were trying to figure out which accommodations would work for them. I had a hard time picturing this foursome hanging out in the bathhouse.
Once a Motor Court
The office was crowded, so we waited outside in a whipping wind. I studied the line up of light blue doors and windows.
It was intriguing to know that the motel was really made up of individual cabins, that once had garages between them.
From the Rear
This rear view, shows the office and guest rooms and one of the old outdoor soaking tubs. The cabin shapes with pointing roofs, are only evident from the back.
The individual cabins (ordered from Sears) once housed workers who helped construct Elephant Butte Dam in 1912. The structures were later moved to this location, where they became part of a motor court for travelers.
Shower House... not Bathhouse
I knew the room we had booked didn't come with a shower. I thought it would be sort of retro-amusing to head from our room to the showers, in my robe.
I figured there would already be people wandering around in robes, since there was a bath house. But it was crazy cold and windy! The last thing I wanted to do was walk 3 feet, outside, with wet hair. I never saw the inside of this cute building. No showers for me.
Signs and Walkways
Before we found our room, I was already in love with the white and blue paint.
I loved the star sign and the passageway to the second bath house in back.
I paused for a quick lounge in front of our door.
Too bad the winds were gusting or we could have made good use of the courtyard area.
There were hammocks and fire pits and mountains to enjoy. But we headed inside.
Room # 3
I loved the retro screen door. The gusting winds did cause a problem, though. I learned to grip the innocent, blue door, whenever I entered or exited.
Even then, the wind sometimes grabbed the door from me and whipped it out of my hands, slapping it against the exterior wall... with a sound that I'm sure made our neighbors jump.
But in truth, our cozy little room was very quiet and I'm sure we never bothered our neighbors.
Our rooms had once been separate cabins with garages, that had since been turned into bathrooms.
Sort of a Bathroom
The interior reveals more of the house-shaped cabin, that once was home to construction workers.
The box-like closet reveals the fact that our guest room was not one of the higher priced ones with a remodeled garage bathroom. That little box held our toilet! We did however have 2 beds. We should have brought along friends!
The toilet closet door held our cozy robes.
We needed those robes for our dash to the bathhouse a little later.
We did at least have a sink to wash our hands. We also had a fridge, microwave and toaster oven.
That came in handy later when we realized it was easier going to the grocery store and making tuna melts than going out, after our spa time. We even had a sweet back window, next to the sink.
Time to Spa!
You can tell I am not a spa person because I'm trying to use the word like a verb. But Don and I were pretty excited (and a little nervous) about figuring out how to do this bathhouse thing.
We waited until the Memorial Day Weekend crowd was gone and headed to the Baths, late evening.
There were about 4 doors and a sign up sheet. The attendant had left for a while, which meant we were on our own to read all the rules and figure out the sign-in board.
We chose Door #2, since it had space for 2 people. There were rules about behavior and keeping the noise down. The 2 "fainting couches" were at the ready in case we over-cooked.
Our funny little soaking tub looked ancient. My camera flash lit the dim room up after we lit the candle. The only light from outside, was the teeny tiny peep hole at water level.
I made sure to pack a spa cap for our adventure. I thought it would make me feel like I was Joan Crawford in some old movie. It actually made my head so hot I had to remove it.
Don and I had to mute our laughter as we used the rope to step down into the pool. We knew there was a guest in the next door tub and we wanted to be respectful.
But it was hard to let the healing, mineral waters do its calming work, when we were standing there melting. There was no place to sit and I was feeling giggly. We didn't last long. We explored the rest of the bathhouse. There was a sweet black cat, sitting on a chair. There was soft music playing and gurgling water sounds. We peeked in a 1-person soaking room. There was at least a window!
There was a neat little line up of foot soaking circles on the floor.
I tried to imagine the place earlier, when the bathhouse was crowded. How odd to picture 5 people sitting in a row with their feet soaking.
We could see out the back windows to the soaking pool that is no longer in use.
The next morning I walked around and found the open air, soaking pavilion (to the right) that was actually very inviting with nice wood and tile.
I wish this photo could show the winds gusting. I warned Don to hold his robe closed as we headed back to the room.
We may not have taken our bathing very seriously, but we did actually feel relaxed and content to enjoy our little room with our tuna melts.
I know we didn't make good enough use of this wonderful little spa. We failed to get the full retro bathhouse experience. But I'm so glad we stayed. I'm glad the town has preserved a few of the historic bathhouses. Our stop was a little off our route to California, but it was well worth the detour! I will fondly remember the curious, rustic bathhouse and our cabin-like room with knotty pine!
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!