Idaho Springs, Colorado
Soda Creek Road
We arrived in Idaho Springs on a cool morning. We drove through the cute little town and turned onto Soda Creek Road.
We'd been warned about the congestion and road work. At least the dusty, dirt road was quiet, before 9 on a Saturday.
We parked near the sign and briefly studied the rambling building. We could see the enclosed dome at the end. I was reminded of a few comical, Holidome experiences in my youth.
Don and I always appreciate a little history with our overnights and the hot springs history goes way back. Long before the Westward Expansion, these healing spring waters were discovered by Native Americans.
We crossed the walkway, to the entrance. The center section of the complex was built in 1869, as a bath house. Now it holds the lobby.
The lobby was quiet at 8:45 am, but the staff behind the big corner counter rushed around like they were expecting weekend crowds. Hours later, we would see day guests lined up, between the black poles.
Waiting for Friends
Don and I studied the wall decor while we waited for Martha and Bill to arrive from Denver.
We had a 5-minute history lesson, as we studied the old photos. I loved seeing the black and white image of Indian Springs in 1915, after construction was completed.
Showing Us Around!
Martha and Bill arrived at 9. Martha and I did some squealing and gabbing in the parking lot, then we 4 headed for the stairs. Martha kept pointing to different things and gasping. Her last visit was years ago and the place had changed. We headed down the stairs towards the locker rooms.
Women's Locker Room
The air in the locker room felt warm and steamy. Luckily there were no sulphur smells!
Martha laughed to see how spiffed up the decor was, compared to her last visit many years ago.
The air became more moist and tropical as we headed towards the "translucent dome". We paused to look at the old gazebo, which was actually built, in 1869.
Don asked an employee if the gazebo had ever been a tiki bar. The man nodded and laughed and hinted at the wilder days, when there were fewer rules at the lodge. Alcohol is not allowed today, although one employee winked and reminded us that he wouldn't know what we had in our thermal mugs.
The pool had just opened when we arrived. We were glad to get in before the indoor paradise filled with families and floaty toys.
Posing With Props
Before soaking in the therapeutic waters, I insisted we do a little posing with our Hawaiian leis! Then, I let Martha show me how to "take the waters" as they say in Spa Speak. Martha has a dramatic flair with everything she does!
Luckily Martha and Bill already knew that I sometimes pack or purchase a few props for travel adventures. Two years ago, we met up in nearby Georgetown, CO. We had some fun that day, posing with candy cigarettes and necklaces!
We soaked and gabbed until we were only slightly prune-y. Then we wandered a bit, studying the flowers and palms and banana trees. The humongous rubber tree plant was over 130 years old. Bill said he'd never seen one that big... even in Vietnam.
On our way out of the pool area, we took some time to read the rules that we'd missed earlier. There were no signs telling us to whisper, like we'd seen at a recent Hot Springs Hotel in New Mexico. In fact our Indian Springs experience had little in common with the NM Hot Springs experience... except hot water.
Before heading off to town for a bite of lunch, Martha showed us around, pointing out things she remembered. She was impressed with some of the renovations and disappointed to learn of some changes. The lodge no longer has a restaurant or a bar. And in the evening, they no longer have live music.
The Historic Main Resort
After lunch, Don and I were on our own. We got our key for a room in the Historic Main Resort... not the inn or lodge or cabin. We insisted we wanted to be in the original 1915 building, just off the lobby.
Upstairs, to Room 208
Who knows what the halls and rooms looked like in those early years. The people who visited for health benefits, probably didn't expect luxury.
However, I read that the Vanderbilts and Roosevelts were guests at one time. Clint Eastwood is the only still-living celebrity guest, I saw mentioned. He probably was not as demanding as those wealthy guests from the east, but I'm not sure he would have put up with our lumpy mattress and 3 flat pillows. It was sort of comical.
Fine For a Night
Don and I did chuckle a little at our accommodations. For $128. we had a half bath only. We may not have had luxurious robes, but we did have free all-day use of the soaking pool, on the days we checked in and out.
We were given a room facing the steep hill behind. Much better than the parking lot!
There was no a.c. and no need for one. However, the room was a little stuffy and we wanted some of that mountain air. Luckily, someone left a rock on the windowsill, which came in handy for window propping. The bathroom window was better. I love open windows.
It was kind of crazy that we couldn't even buy a cup of coffee at the hotel. But luckily the walk to town was easy... at least on a construction free weekend. We ate at The Buffalo, in the evening and I had a pleasant jog through town, the next morning.
I grabbed my things and headed to a different area of the basement,where two caves were carved out of the rock, 100+ years ago. I didn't dare use my flash when I snuck a photo in the eerie, "gender specific, clothing optional" soaking cave! I was too hot for the 104-112 temps, anyway. I just grabbed a shower and then Don and I hit the road.
If we'd stayed another night, I would have wanted a full bathroom and a better pillow. But mostly, it was fun to experience the camp-like feel... showering in the basement... open windows... My only regret is that we didn't head back to the pool at 8 pm, to experience the Saturday night, local crowd. That would have added to the fun!
Motel at 8,000 Feet
This winter, we started planning our June road trip to Colorado. We included a stop in Granby, just because of the motel.
I called up months before and made reservations. Mike sounded very pleasant and laid back on the phone. When we arrived and saw the NO Vacancy sign, I wished that I had asked for an email confirmation.
Mike and Max
We parked and headed toward the office in the corner. Inside, we were greeted by Mike and the sweetest dog ever.
Mike gently reprimanded Max for jumping up, but I begged for a photo. Mike did indeed have our reservations and gave us one of the original motel rooms, that I requested months earlier.
Changes Since 1950
Mike said that he and his partner bought the motel a couple years ago, from a wonderful couple who had fixed the place up in the 1990's. Before their ownership, the parking lot had been gravel. They added the second story apartment and a new wing. Our room was in the older section, below the apartment.
Zig Zag Motel
I liked the zig zag style of the newer wing. I've seen this in a few vintage motels and I'm curious if there's a name for it. The shutters and pine tree decor added a little homey touch. Colorado had a very long 2019 winter, so the flower boxes held melted snow instead of flowers.
Our entrance had no zig zag, but we did have chairs. If you looked over the parking lot and Highway 40... there were mountains!
Inside, our sweet motel room was filled with knotty pine! Don and I are big fans of the stuff. It must have something to do with happy childhoods, spent in 1960's family rooms.
I'm so glad that Jack and Donna Kolin remodeled carefully, when they rescued the motel nearly 30 years ago. They updated just enough and didn't mess with the retro radiators and pine walls. They added special touches, like lace doilies under glass!
The little L-shaped room functioned very well, for travelers with lots of stuff. There was a desk, a bench and a large counter for organizing. The closet held a fan, which I used to cool down the room... after I cranked the radiators too high.
Some Modern Conveniences
I hardly expected to have a microwave and fridge and coffee maker. I totally expected to have a big fat TV, instead of a flat screen. I must admit, the paper towel holder was incredibly useful.
Cool Green Bathroom
Our bathroom was spotless. I was delighted with the shiny green, wall tiles and the retro linoleum floor. The glass block window, sturdy sink and teeny tiny Dial soap were fun, fun, fun!
I happily took it all in, from the glass door knob, to the plastic info guide, mounted on the door. "Have you left anything? Thank You. Come Again."
We were "moved in" within minutes. Motels are such a treat, when you can park at the door and your car acts as a closet.
Don and I put a few things in the room and headed off to a nearby Brewery. I made sure to admire the grounds before we crossed the street. The little cottage was really just for storage, but it made the little picnic area feel homey.
I checked out the motel decor facing the highway. The big red letters made a proud announcement, in case you missed the neon sign.
There was a day when I didn't think the word MOTEL was much to brag about. But today, a good motel is hard to come by. I'm glad this one has a spotlight!
The yellow sign reminded me of our good fortune to have run across this place! I feel lucky that we had a chance to spend a night in a charming, 1950's motel!
There are quite a few write-ups about vintage motels, scattered on this blog. Most of those motels were a little worn, or sketchy. Trail Riders Motel allowed us to step back in time, but it also felt clean, comfy and safe. Yay for motels!
Historic Hot Springs in New Mexico
Oasis in Northern New Mexico
We arrived on a cool and windy afternoon. We let the air blow us right through the entrance!
As we headed down the path, I wondered about the Pueblo ruins that I heard still remained above the property. Pueblo tribal communities flocked to these sacred waters, long before the tourists did.
A stone walkway took us by the historic building that housed the restaurant and original hotel. There were a number of newer options for overnight accommodations, but the historic inn was the most authentic... and cheapest.
We headed towards the lobby and gift shop, to see about checking in. The wind whipped at my hair and blouse.
The gusts added a comical flavor to our arrival, but I sobered up before heading in. I had read earlier that the resort had some kind of Quiet Zone policy. I got serious and used a half whisper to inquire about our room. The man behind the desk looked at me oddly... I grinned and continued in a normal voice.
Our room wasn't quite ready, so we headed back, to check out the historic building. I tired to imagine the stucco structure, in 1917. I'll bet there was less landscaping and more dust.
A long porch covered the front of the building. I wish we could have made use of the rockers or a porch swing. Verandas and porches always a delight me, but the wind and dust did not.
The Artesian Restaurant
We peeked into the restaurant, at the end of the building. I took a photo of the cozy fireplace, but refrained from snapping pictures of the guests, who were seated at the wine bar. I had expected to see spa guests wandering in robes, but I hadn't pictured robed guests at the the bar. That amused me.
Taking The Waters!
As soon as we were able to check in, we changed into suits, wrapped up in the hotel robes and headed for the healing waters! It was 3 pm and there were nearly a dozen pools to be experienced! It was time to Take the Waters... which I can't say without laughing.
This is the courtyard scene that met us, after we walked through the lobby. However my photo doesn't show all the people I saw, walking and lounging... and whispering. I held off with my intrusive camera and took most of my pics in the early morning.
This pool was the only one large enough and cool enough, to actually swim a stroke or two. But the air wasn't warm enough to tempt me. I skipped this one.
Lithium, Sodium, Arsenic, Iron and Soda
The Ojo Caliente Springs are known for their unusual and rare mineral combinations. Each pool had its own special mix of minerals. The temperatures varied as well, so it seemed like Don and I should have had some special plan for Taking The Waters. But we didn't have a clue. We just headed for the first pool we could find, that wasn't too crowded or intimidating.
This pool was nice and warm. The iron-rich water bubbled up from a pebbled floor. We gave it a few minutes to be sure we'd gotten our iron benefits... to our blood and immune systems.
Lithia or Lithium?
I believe this one was the Lithia Spring... or do we say Lithium? Don and I joined 8 others, all quietly allowing the minerals to aid digestion and relieve depression. I'm glad there were no quizzes with all this info.
This little house held the Soda "Steam" Pool. It was the most memorable. Don and I read the sign, Silent Relaxation and decided we were ready to take on the challenge of soaking without even whispering.
We joined about 6 others in the little rock building. One woman was reading a book while she soaked. Another woman was doing some kind of exotic stretching. 2 young women stood in the pool, staring into their cell phones. "Oh come on!" I thought.
The sounds of the water lapping and echoing were indeed soothing, but I also felt like a kid, on the verge of laughing in church. Especially when I saw Don, floating on his back... drifting towards a meditating soaker. I couldn't alert him fast enough. The two had a surprise encounter and the quiet was broken with some muffled laughter.
So Many Pools
Each pool had its own vibe. The sunny pools beside the rock cliffs, seemed to be the most welcoming.
The Arsenic Pool (not pictured) seemed to be filled with the most serious soakers. One woman was clutching her head like she had a migraine. I'm not sure if the waters helped her head, but at least the arsenic was good for her arthritis, stomach ulcers and skin conditions. I just relaxed for a while and thought about Cary Grant and those hilarious little ladies in, Arsenic and Old Lace.
We found this bowl-shaped pool in a covered space, up some stairs. The small, circular shape, encouraged guests to acknowledge one another.
When the drain suddenly made a long and loud, burping noise, we strangers suddenly became grinning friends. Don quietly responded to the sound with, "Excuse me." Suddenly there was laughter and a quick debate about whether laughter was admitted in the whisper zone.
Don wasn't up for the getting dirty, but I headed into the mud bath area and climbed into a pool of murky water. After sitting a while, I realized I was in the rinse-off pool. I eventually climbed out and headed over to the mud faucets, that I failed to see earlier.
First, I slathered some of that watery mud onto my legs and arms and then I baked in the sun. The toxins were supposedly releasing from my pores as the clay dried. But it was chilly, so I didn't bake long, before I headed to the warm pool. I finished it all with a little sprinkle-bucket-shower. So fun!
Before heading to the real showers, Don and I peeked around at all the peaceful, resting spots. I didn't see anyone making use of the labyrinth.
A few people lounged on the Adirondack chairs, waiting for the sun to pop out from behind clouds. (It was all blue skies in the morning!)
If I'd had a warm cup of tea or cocoa, I would have gone for one of the rocking chairs... later in the evening when a fire was crackling.
We headed by the potted flowers, to the locker rooms... leaving wet footprints behind.
Old Bath House From 1868
Before reaching the Ladies Locker Room, I was tempted to turn in at the old Bath House. I could smell the heavenly scented products that were being used for luxurious spa treatments, inside. I skipped the pampering and continued on, for my free shower.
The steamy shower and dressing area, seemed to be occupied with day guests. Most overnight guests have their own shower, but Don and I were in one of the historic rooms. I showered, then headed back to our shower-less room, in my robe.
Back at the Inn
On the way back to the inn, I paused to check out the old phone booth. The vintage booth amused me, with its "tin can" hanging, where the phone should be.
It was nice having a room right down the hall from the dining/bar area. If we hadn't dampened our robes, we could have kept them on and conveniently strolled down to dinner.
I liked our old door. We hardly needed a lock at all, but I had some fun with the old chain lock. I decided not to play with the metal bar that opened the transom, above the door. I love hints of the past.
Our little room was quiet and comfy. Our window looked out towards the porch. Maybe it was good that the weather didn't lure crowds to the area outside our window.
Reading Lamps and Robes
We were glad to at least have a half bath with our room. The robes and towels and linens were all soft and comfy. Since there was no TV, we were especially appreciative of the good reading lights.
All was peaceful in our little room, until we stepped on the squeaky floor! The noise was ridiculous... like a sound you'd hear in a "3 Stooges" movie! I was so glad there wasn't a second story, above us!
Dinner at 7
The restaurant looked inviting when we had a peek in the afternoon. The food reviews were great, so we made sure to have reservations.
Clothes at the Bar
We headed to the bar first. Luckily we were dressed, since we spotted no robes. No one was whispering, either. Jeremy was our welcoming bartender. He made me a refreshing, prickly pear margarita, with wine. Before long, everyone was chatting around the bar, as if we were in someone's living room.
Socializing into the Evening
We ordered mouthwatering fish tacos and Caesar salad from the bar menu. After eating, we continued conversing outside, around a fragrant pinyon fire pit, with other interesting folks. It was an unexpected and pleasant surprise to have a social ending to our quiet afternoon, in the soaking pools.
I may have chuckled about "taking the waters" and all the whispering. But really I was so impressed with our legendary oasis! It's too bad we had to rush back on the road the next morning. I was just beginning to learn how to relax and enjoy!
Conrad Hilton's 4th Hotel
Don and I avoid chain hotels, but not this one! The Hotel Andaluz was Conrad Hilton's 4th hotel, when it opened in 1939. The 10-story, 160-room hotel was considered the first high rise hotel in New Mexico.
I was excited when we approached this hotel, last May. I knew this could be the nicest stay on our road trip. We'd driven from Silver City that morning, with a stop for lunch in San Antonio, NM. Oddly enough, tiny San Antonio is where Conrad Hilton was born. We'd eaten lunch at a bar that his father had owned. Now we would stay in a hotel where C. Hilton had honeymooned with Zsa Zsa Gabor in 1942.
Our Albuquerque hotel had some similarities to the hotel where we'd stayed the night before, in Silver City. The Murray Hotel (built a year earlier) was sort of a mini version, with its lower building connected to the tower of guest rooms. I'm still learning to appreciate the history of this boring, high rise look. At least the plain, earth-tone stucco on the Andaluz tower, had some decorative brick.
Both of the Andaluz entrances had original murals from the 1930's. The arches and wood beams and glowing light fixtures added some fun drama.
While Don parked, I tried to figure out how to check in. I walked past the colorful, hoop dance mural and found a small room, with a woman at a desk. I half-wondered if I would be interviewed before I got my key.
"Nice!" I replied, as if I knew that Mr. Goodman was the current owner, who bought the hotel in 2008 and brought it back to its glory days.
My ignorance made me want to know more history. I asked about a brochure, or info sheet... but was reminded that the Andaluz is a green hotel... evidently the most sustainable historic hotel in the U.S. So no paper write ups for me.
Not far from the Reception Room, there was a cozy library with some actual books and a few historic photos. I could have done some old fashioned research, but I was excited about exploring.
After checking in, I quickly began my exploring mission. I knew the empty lobby would be less quiet, after 5. A huge conference was being held on the second level and it was also a Friday...
The arched openings along the wall, were the most exciting lobby feature. Years ago, small shops were set up in some of them.
There were 6 curtained casbahs, each begging for a cozy gathering of characters! Each had its own festive decor. One held a framed mosaic of glass tile, with trickling water. Another held carved doors and candles. There was one at the end, that had closed curtains and a sign that tempted me to peek...
Obsessed with the Fountain
Besides those exotic casbahs, my other favorite feature was the fountain.
I kept snapping photos, but none captured the wonderful bird statue in the center. One photo shows the Spanish tile on the side. The other angle shows an orange fish, swimming round and round.
And of course I had to go up to the mezzanine and take a photo, looking down on the fountain. I was tempted to toss a coin. I didn't.
I found a beautiful stairway off the side hall. The rounded railing was so smooth and slick it invited me to take a ride... or a bite. I felt like Gretel, in the witch's candy house. The frosted, marshmallow structure, looked as delicious as the licorice hand rail!
I found the ornate elevators behind another edible-looking, artistic structure! My camera skills just weren't able to capture the colorful mix of Spanish antique furniture and modern see-through art! It really was lovely.
The area near the elevators looked like a museum, where we should not touch. Heading into the classic elevator, I felt like a kid sneaking through a door, when the guards weren't looking. But the elevator was clearly functional and for our use. Inside the ornate doors, there was a colorful tapestry, behind glass.
Our room was on the 7th floor and I kept fingers crossed for a good view.
We booked the most reasonable room we could get. It wasn't huge, but it was nicely updated.
Gazing Out the Window
Before I peeked through the blinds, I noticed the couple, in the framed photo next to the window. They seemed to gaze out, along with me. She looked downward, like she was a little disappointed with the view. He seemed to be looking out, insisting the view was fine. "Come on now. There's a mountain, way out there."
I was obviously in a playful mood, when I took in all the details of this beautiful hotel. The artwork above the bed, fit my mood! It took me a moment to realize the art was created with pencils. I wonder how many people have slept here and not noticed?
I loved the tricky archway. Was that a Spanish detail? The tiny reading lamps were handy.
There's probably a name for the "shoe protector" thing at the foot of the bed. Whatever the name, it was an unusual one, with weighted bars at both ends.
Large TV & Small Bath
The room was narrow, but the wall TV was nice and large. The bathroom was small, with a retro sink that held no bath products. I'm starting to get used to green hotels that use refillable containers. But this is the first hotel that has given us complimentary, reusable water bottles. Nice touch.
By 6, Don and I were ready to check out Ibiza, the rooftop lounge.
The roof-top lounge was actually on the roof of the lower building, not the tower. But the open air options were wonderful. We could sit out by the wall and watch the people below, or lounge inside, with a breeze coming in open doors.
The hotel's restaurant, Mas Tapas y Vino, looked out of a movie set. If we'd dined, I would have asked for a table next to the rabbit... who looked like he had some boxing skills! The food reviews were excellent, but the prices were high. We headed off to explore the area.
We made good use of the hotel's location and did a little exploring on Central Avenue. The colorful street was once Route 66, so there was much to see.
At one point, we wandered a little out of the comfort zone, searching for a Speakeasy we'd heard about. After a couple wrong turns, the secret bar was found. We ended the evening with some great JC's NYPD pizza, right next door to the hotel.
In the morning we grabbed some complimentary coffee in the lobby bar. It was hard to decide where to enjoy our morning brew. Don settled into a chair, near some beautiful beaded artwork.
I headed into the casbah that had been curtained off the night before. Evidently the exotic plants in this special space, are on a very specific schedule with their greenhouse lamps! I felt honored to spend a few moments enjoying the colorful wall-garden!
I will remember this beautifully restored hotel because of all the wonderful surprises. We needed much more than a night to discover them all! This little pair of donkeys was one of the many tiny surprises I found. They were part of one of the hall murals.
I feel like we just scratched the surface of what this hotel is all about. I feel the same way about the city of Albuquerque. Both the city and hotel made me curious. I hope to come back and learn a little more!
Art Deco Hotel in Historic Downtown
A Fine Entrance
It was blustery and cool, when we arrived, late May. Luckily we could park in front on Broadway, just past the mint green curb.
I absolutely loved the Art Deco entrance, with its rounded sign and glass block. The long, one-story, corner building seemed much more intriguing than the 5-story "tower" that held the guest rooms. However the tower is what gave The Murray a spotlight, back in 1938. It was and still is, the tallest building in town.
The renovated building reopened in 2012. The nearly 80-year-old hotel looked fresh, with some bright colors and art. I liked the porthole windows with stained glass, on both sides of the door.
The main lobby area was up a few steps. The space was lit by a large skylight, which was part of the original hotel design. Above one couch was a portrait of W.D. Murray, the man behind the hotel.
Horse in the Lobby
The lobby walls were decorated with lots of impressive local art, but the framed photos caught my attention the most. I loved this image of Mr. Murray's granddaughter (and horse) in the hotel lobby, before it opened in 1938.
We checked in at the corner "office" with our very welcoming host. What a bonus to be to be greeted by someone who actually cared about the history of the place. Mr. Cave seemed pleased that we had questions. He took us around the hotel, pointing out original details to the old structure... like the rounded steps, leading to the stairwell.
In the lobby, he pointed to a blocked off door, behind the bookcase. "That was once the entrance to the hotel coffee shop."
Out on the sidewalk later, we found the other entrance, with faded lettering, above a colorful door.
Branding Iron Saloon
Mr. C. took us into an area that had once been the Copper Lounge. In 1960, the hotel's bar changed from a mining theme to a western one. A fabulous mural still remained, despite issues with vandalism, after the hotel closed down. The cattle branding designs represented all the ranches in the county. Evidently, the saloon and dining room got lots of use on weekends, when ranch families came to town.
The Ballroom was added in 1948 along with an expansion to the tower. The space looked pretty quiet when we peeked in, but there are stories of dance bands and balls. The area was even used for a scene in a movie. The floor looked nice, but I'm guessing it wasn't the original dance floor "on springs" that I read about.
I believe this area between the ballroom and lobby, was nicknamed The Martha Room, for Mr. Murray's sister. Breakfast was served under the shiny ceiling, in the morning.
In the evening, we grabbed some complimentary coffee and spotted a few locals taking a dance class, in the ballroom.
Then and Now
On every floor, we found historic photos of The Murray and Silver City. I had some fun studying the vintage photo and comparing it with my own image. You can see there are more rooms on the back of the tower, now.
Even though Don and I booked the cheapest room, we got a decent sized corner room with 3 closets, 3 comfy chairs and 3 windows, with marble windowsills.
There was a fridge and desk, with a retro phone. The giant porthole mirror went along with the moderne style. The big, fat Sony TV went along with a different era. It actually worked well, though.
Love the Bath
The bathroom was just plain fun. The floor to ceiling, glass block, let in lots of light. The yellowish tile and earthy, mosaic floor tile was pretty darn sweet. The sink didn't offer up any storage space, but it looked the part!
One of the perks of our hotel, was walking out the door and wandering town. We hit a good antique store, a brewery and a Mexican restaurant in the evening. In the morning we enjoyed walking the path along the Big Ditch, which was once the town's Main Street... before it was washed away in 1895. That's some amazing history there!
I hope to come back someday and have a beer at the Branding Iron. I'd also like to walk through that sea-green door and enjoy a mug of coffee... along with my newspaper!
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!