Cherokee, North Carolina
It's hard to believe Don and I actually had reservations for this place with the peeling Wigwam Motel sign. But, it was autumn in the Smokie's, so we were lucky to get a room. Besides, we'd been curious about the town of Cherokee, headquarters for the Eastern band of the Cherokee Indians. We wanted to know more about this area, where years ago, many Cherokee hid in the hills and refused to join the forced movement to Oklahoma with on the Trail of Tears.
It's a little eerie to drive down the main drag of town and see these signs for motels. Does the Cherokee community feel okay about motels with tomahawks and names like Warrior Motel? Are they owned by Cherokee? Of course we could have tried out the Teddy Bear Motel if we'd wanted to be more politically correct.
It was dreary and cool as we drove down Highway 441, along the Oconaluftee River towards the main motel area. If I'd been a little kid, I think I would have been totally freaked out by the kudzoo covering the hills behind the motels. The tall shapes seemed to hover like armless beasts, ready to pounce on passing cars.
Home Sweet Home
As we arrived we chuckled to ourselves. Is this really where we would be staying? I felt confident earlier, when I'd called for reservations. The woman on the phone seemed friendly and welcoming. But maybe I should have been concerned that this place didn't even exist on Trip Advisor or Expedia.
Hello!? Anybody Home?
There didn't seem to be an office and we couldn't find anyone to help us. We finally realized the manager also worked at the Sundancer gift shop next door. We tracked her down and walked with her to a small room the size of a closet. She seemed a little overwhelmed as she sorted through a pile of notebooks looking for the spiral where she'd written my name down for reservations. I reminded her that we had requested a first floor, but she said she was sorry those rooms were all booked. To a group of bikers evidently.
Up We Go
She gave us a key and pointed to the stairs. Up we went, passing a tiny cart with a tan phone resting on a weathered phone book. We greeted a few who were using the balcony as a smoking lounge and headed into our room.
Feeling at Home
Don smiled as he unpacked. "Awesome wood paneling!" He always looks on the bright side. True, the paneling did bring back memories of my family room growing up. "And there's an ice bucket...and refrigerator and a choice of two beds!" But there were other things I didn't like.
There seemed to be some large, gnat-type bugs that were flitting in and out of the cracks and holes of the ceiling tile! Don and I are both fond of camping. We are not afraid of bugs. But I was not happy about this. I don't know what the little creepy things were, but I ended up standing on the beds (while Don laughed) and filled every opening with tissue from the bathroom. While in my detective state, I began investigating beds. I whipped off bedspreads and spoke to the sheets. "Prove to me that you are freshly laundered and pressed!"
Eventually Don and I relaxed. It was just one night, after all. I offered to make a trip to fill the ice bucket, which happened to take me past the area where the bikers were hanging out. They were actually very nice and not nearly as worrisome as the old gurgling ice maker with the rusty scoop. Don and I ended up sharing some kind of beverage (minus the ice) and it put us in better spirits. Eventually we worked up an appetite and walked down the road to a Cherokee owned restaurant where we enjoyed some Indian tacos. Then we were back to our home away from home for some motel TV and a birthday treat.
Poor Don has had his birthday on the road many a time, but usually we are able to celebrate with a little more style. At least we had picked up some pretty amazing cupcakes earlier and he did have some presents and pampering another day. He doesn't look a bit miserable in this photo. He is a very good sport.
In the morning I skipped a shower. The kudzoo looked intimidating from the jalousie windows in the bathroom. If you're familiar with the book/movie Jumanji, you'll understand my fear. It seemed to be creeping in through the cracks.
We packed up and headed down the road, passing the wonderful Pink (Tinkerbell) Motel. It brought out the kid in me for sure... "Oh please, please Donnie. Can we stay there next time? Can we?"
So, What's Notable? The bugs and kudzoo were the most memorable. The Wigwam Motel is one of the few quirky places I have no intention of revisiting. However, Pink Motel may need to go on the list!
I always love a colorful and welcoming sign!
I especially loved seeing this sign when we arrived in Taos, since the "NO" was not lit. Don and I didn't have reservations because we had expected to stay in an historic 4-room hotel in Creede, CO. Wild fires ended up closing the only highway to get to our little Colorado town, so we headed for Taos.
I'm surprised we got a room at all. The 2-lane road in front of the Inn was bumper to bumper with traffic and many of the rooms were already being given out to firefighters...who looked exhausted.
Only in the early morning could I get a good look at the cute building without cars. This wonderful little inn has a curious history. In the late 1800's Dr. Thomas "Doc" Martin and his wife bought the adobe house you see on the left. He was the first doctor in the county and he and his wife became popular and well respected in the community. After Doc's death his wife used their home and other nearby adobe houses to create the Inn in the late 1930's.
The Lobby area was hopping in the evening. Locals and guests gathered in numerous cozy seating areas to enjoy the live music. The lobby was once a courtyard in the center of a gathering of adobe homes. After Doc died, his wife enclosed the courtyard and connected the buildings to create the inn. The well is now a fountain with wooden pillars rising up to a stained glass cupola.
The thick, white adobe walls were nicely accented with colorful paintings and woven rugs. The fireplace corner was in demand in the evening. The only time I found it empty was when I grabbed an early morning coffee.
Live music plays at the Inn every night and there is never a cover. Inn guests and locals enjoy a variety of artists who play jazz, bluegrass, flamenco and folk. This group with sax, bass, keyboard and percussion squeezed into a tiny space near the hall entrance. People seated on the outdoor patio and in the adjoining restaurant were able to enjoy the festive vibe, as well.
We ended up staying two nights and our second night was in the Sandoval House. One of the perks about the place is they have a wide range in prices. You can stay in a room for anywhere from $79. to about $275. That means the guests are a little more varied, which to me is a good thing.
The courtyards and green spaces were nice. We took wine and snacks out to a quiet table one evening. We got to watch the firefighters returning from their shifts. We were actually beginning to smell smoke in the air, since the fires were no longer just in Colorado. I would have liked to have heard some stories from the firefighters, but they looked too weary to be bothered with questions.
Our first night was in the main building, which is a little nicer, but also a little noisier. It was fun to just walk a few steps from our room to dinner or to the Adobe Bar for music.
Too bad we weren't allowed to use the fireplace. But it looked cute.
The award winning Doc Martin restaurant, which is connected to the lobby, was the original home of the Martins.
In the daylight you can see the wooden ceiling and colorful chairs and art. At night I wish I would have gotten a photo of our waiter. He was quite festive in his black vest and bowler hat.
Food and Drink!
We had to sample some "cowboy Buddha" margaritas to go with our grilled rattlesnake and jackrabbit appetizer. The house special of corn-beer battered chile rellenos with pumpkin seeds and goat cheese was perfection! I would say our meal was the highlight of our stay!
We will always remember the cozy, casual feel of this inn. The colorful mix of visitors and locals made for some good people watching. Almost anyone you noticed looked like they might have an interesting story to tell. Oddly enough, with so many curious folks around we did not have any real people encounters in the inn itself. That's unusual for us. The staff was welcoming, but the guests seemed to keep to themselves. All in all, the location, charm and history was excellent. But we lacked a good "connection" to seal the deal. Return? Sure, we'd like to.
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!