#34 - Hotel Blessing
Day 2, in Blessing, Texas
After a night in a stucco teepee, Don and I headed for our second stop of our 3-Day Mini Texas Road Trip!
Our night at The Blessing, was every bit as interesting as the night at the Teepee Motel.
Don and I knew just a bit about our hotel before arriving. We had learned that rancher, J.E. Pierce built the hotel in 1906, since the area was prospering from 2 new railroads.
Suddenly there was a new town that needed a name. Pierce pushed for the town to be named "Thank God", but not all agreed. The name Blessing finally stuck.
Don and I arrived at noon, parked in front and came through the open front doors.
The July morning heat had warmed up the un-air-conditioned entry. We turned to the left, but found no one at the front desk.
It looked like little had changed since 1906.
The Pink Hall
We looked down the hallway and noticed a few hotel rooms with screen doors.
The idea of screen doors inside the hotel made me feel like I had stepped back 5 decades or more. I peered through one screen and saw someone's suitcase resting on the bed and a breeze rustling the curtain.
We headed down the hall towards the 2 wooden doors and a welcoming handcrafted sign.
We heard a murmur of voices and smelled something delicious behind the doors!
Cool Room and Hot Food!
It was a treat to feel the air-conditioning as we stepped inside. Next to the wall we found the source of the smells.
A couple of old stoves were keeping a buffet of comfort foods warm. Beside the stoves there was a long table that held cold salads and desserts. We were told to help ourselves and sit anywhere.
Don and I took our overloaded plates to one of the 10 or so community tables. There were about 6 single men dining when we first sat down and no one spoke. After a bit, one man and then another began to share memories of eating at the hotel when they were children. Until the 1980's you actually went into the kitchen and served yourself.
Finding our Room
Don and I took off for a while and returned to check in at 3. There was still no one in the office. We finally found Wilhelmina, who said we could call her Mina.
She apologized for not being at the desk, but she and a handful of high school students were making 200 hamburger patties for a fundraiser the next day. Mina got us the key and told us we could just pay our $35.00 dollars the next day before we left. Don and I headed up a creaky set of stairs to another pink hall.
Another Screen Door
The wide upstairs hall was even stuffier than below. But the screen door to the roof top porch let in a little air and light.
The Yellow Room
Our funny little room # 27 did have an a.c. window unit, so we were happy.
There was a microwave and small fridge and a TV that seemed to have no knobs or remote. But who needs TV when you've got Blessing to experience?
Enjoying the Evening
We brought our camp chairs to the roof porch for an evening happy hour. We watched a couple men in the yard below, enjoying some beer after finishing yard work.
Across the street we noticed a number of semis parked in front of a tiny bar. We figured that was an option for evening entertainment, but headed for the local American Legion Hall instead. Luckily someone tipped us off that they serve great food, because The Blessing Dining Room is only open for breakfast and lunch.
Bathing Options in the Morning
Don opted for the shower down the hall. (It was the door right past the fire hose. ) He returned, saying the shower worked well, but the hook-lock allowed the door to open pretty far, which could have been embarrassing since the shower curtain was clear.
I opted to use the old bathtub in the bathroom attached to our room. There was another door in our bathroom which connected to another guestroom. I bathed pretty quickly since I wasn't totally sure the other room was empty. I do need to mention, the bathroom was spotless. There was even a can of Comet nearby, in case I didn't approve.
Don and I ordered breakfast before checking out. We sat at our own table, this time. There was only one other large table in use. It became obvious that the "breakfast regulars" joined up at that special table, near the kitchen.
Luckily it was pretty peaceful, so I had a chance to chat a good while with Miss Helen who runs the Blessing Restaurant. She's been coming to the restaurant since she was a child and working at the restaurant since she was a young mother. I asked if any Pierces still lived in town. "Sure." She answered. Mr. Pierce had already been in that morning.
This stay was more like staying at a boarding house than hotel. I liked that. We were left alone to explore and figure things out. We had to search for Mina to pay in the morning, since she was prepping for the big fundraiser.
But once we found her, she took time to chat and show us a picture of the hotel ghost she'd captured on her cell phone. I felt like we'd stepped back in time more than any other hotel I've stayed at. But what will I remember most? The food! All that comfort food!
#33 - TEEPEE Motel
3-Day Texas Road Trip
A year ago, Don and I set off on an adventure not too far from our home in Sugar Land, Texas.
The Teepee Motel was our first stop!
History of the Teepees
The roadside wood & stucco teepees built in the 1940's are only about 30 minutes from our home. We've always been curious. About 12 years ago we stopped along what used to be State Highway 60 to take photos of the vine covered sign and teepees, surrounded in weeds.
Not long after, the old "motel" was bought by the Barbara and Byron Woods who had recently won 49 million in a Texas lottery. They renovated and added an RV park. It took Don and me about 10 years to follow through with our joking promise to stay a night in one of the fine pointed structures!
It was an overcast July day when we arrived. That was helpful since most of the teepees had no shade. It looked like the teepees had been recently painted and we noticed a few giant arrows decorating the grass here and there.
The 10 orderly teepees came with picnic tables and barbecue grills. The teepee nearest the road had a blooming Crepe Myrtle, but our #104 was in the center of the lineup. I was intrigued with the 2-toned, adobe look of the teepees. Don was more curious about the 12-sided (rather than round) structure.
A Peek Inside
Our little roundish room was actually not as claustrophobic as you might think. I was a little disappointed that we had a lowered ceiling and couldn't see up into the point of the teepee.
Bed & Bath
There was a nice blue theme going on with the quilt, painted furniture and curtain flaps. I kind of loved our Princess Phone since I haven't seen one in a while.
The bathroom actually had a hairdryer and coffee maker, which you can be sure wasn't available in the '40's. The accordion style door to the bathroom had some issues, but I was just pleased there was a bathroom at all.
Room for a Friend
There was actually some lounging space on the other side, with a desk, fridge, microwave and a futon. We could have brought along a friend... had we known anyone else in the world who wanted to share our adventure... and sleep on a futon.
We didn't know what to expect on our 3-day adventure, so we made sure to pack some camp chairs and a cooler. With the clouds it was cool enough to sit out with some drinks in the evening.
We seemed to be the only teepee guests besides a mama cat and her kittens. But after a while, a man who I will describe as a traveling salesman, parked and entered the teepee next door. We smiled and greeted but he did not look like he was in the mood for socializing. The man later had a female guest who did seem in the mood for socializing. I will say no more.
Another People Encounter
We sat a while longer enjoying the view of a tree and a field, along with the sound of a rooster crowing. Then we noticed a 1970's sedan pull into the drive.
We watched it slowly move our way until it stopped in front of us. A man, as worn and weathered as his car, spoke through the window. "You be interested in buyin' some boudin?" That was pretty ironic since 2 months earlier I had tasted the first boudin sausage of my life, while visiting Louisiana.
The man's car appeared to be a vehicle, food shop and home, all rolled into one. The seats and dash were packed to the gills with papers and clothes and coolers. It could have really added a fun twist to our overnight adventure had we bought a little boudin to enjoy that evening. But we told him we already had dinner plans. He wished us a good evening and drove on down the highway.
We turned in pretty early since there wasn't much else to do.
That meant I woke pretty early. I had a nice walk and the sun looked very dramatic, rising overt the teepees.
We picked up coffee and donuts in Wharton and ate on our little table.
Our mama cat came to visit and we tried to protect her from the mockingbird who rudely teased, when he wasn't perched on top of our teepee.
We spent the night in an iconic roadside novelty, what more can I really say. It was not luxurious, but it was fun for one night. I'm just so relieved that we were able to enjoy a visit, because you never know when places like this will close down and disappear!
#32 - The Hangar Hotel
On a Thursday in May, Don and I spent the last night of a TX-CA-TX road trip at the Hangar Hotel.
Our road trip of nearly 4 weeks had involved stays in a boarding house, a ship, a trailer, a yacht and a number of historic hotels and motels, but this was our first overnight in an airport hangar!
On the Runway
To be honest, this was not originally a hangar. The Quonset hut structure was actually built by Dick Estenson in 1995.
The NASA engineer with a passion for flying and WWII history built the 50-room hotel right on the airport runway. Pilots and fans of planes can stay in the aeronautical themed rooms and watch the planes come and go from teak deck chairs.
Or... look at planes that aren't going anywhere at all.
It was quite a jolt to step inside the metal structure where we were greeted by new hotel smells and the sounds of Glenn Miller wafting through the grand lobby.
My eyes first took in the 8 clocks, displaying times from Honolulu to New York. Next, I noticed the spacious rounded desk and old-time switchboard. Last I noticed the man in a flight crew uniform behind the desk. He was very quiet and somewhat rigid as he checked us in. I'm guessing he was retired military or an actor, doing a fine job.
I do appreciate a theme, so I loved seeing the vintage suitcases beside the leather chairs and old 1940's radio.
There was a distinct flavor or WWII Pacific from the air-themed artwork to the tropical plants.
All guest rooms were upstairs. We chose the swooping stairway, but an elevator was available.
It was odd (and sort of a relief) to see the retro colors, vintage looking woodwork and light fixtures, without layers of smell and dust... which is what we were getting used to after weeks of historic accommodations.
It was a guilty pleasure to walk into our spacious room and find no cobwebs and stains.
Again, I found the theme a bit fun, even thought I'm neither a big WWII or plane fan. The cartoonish artwork above the bed didn't fit the somewhat serious décor, but the leather chairs and vintage phone and clock were a nice touch.
A Well Made Bed
I pictured a guy in uniform, kind of like the guy working the desk, making this bed. Good job! The rattan sleigh bed made me think of the Pacific. The green army blanket folded at the bottom made me think of barracks.
I love the 2-toned bathroom! The tile and bead board below the sink were picture perfect. The sparkling tub and shower was a dream come true. You have to realize that the night before we'd had a canvas tent surrounding our outdoor shower.
The night before that, Don couldn't stand up in our bathroom! So we did indeed use the fine shower and dressed for the evening. It's not like we had big plans for the evening. We'd had a late lunch and didn't really want to drive into Fredericksburg... which is only a couple minutes.
An Evening of What?
We wanted to take in whatever the Hangar had to offer. Don happened to have the most appropriate clothing for enjoying our evening.
His lovely silk shirt with "China Clipper" embroidery actually matched a framed poster in the lobby. So after donning the airplane shirt. (I'm afraid I didn't have one) we headed to the upper observation deck and watched a few planes.
We also had a view of the parking lot.
We noticed a few motorcycles arriving. One couple had a dog in tow. He was wearing sunglasses. We decided to see where everyone was going.
The Officer's Club
They seemed to be headed to the doors of the Officer's Club, right between the big grandfather clock and a table holding a large plate of warm chocolate chip cookies.
We headed inside and found the hotel bar just coming to life. There was a large spread of complimentary appetizers and a lovely statue of a glamour gal holding a martini.
We sat in some comfy leather chairs beside the fireplace and I took this photo fast before the place filled with bikers, all wearing black leather jackets with "Deadwood Deacons" on the back.
The doors kept opening and everyone who entered seemed to be munching on cookies and greeting others by name.
A Change in Crowds
But the bikers only gathered for a short while. By the time Don and I had finished a couple plates of fruit cheese and nuts, the bikers had gone.
Then, a whole new group arrived and filled the bar. We felt even more like we had crashed a private party, because these were local folks who seemed to all know each other. It was like being at a wedding reception in a small town country club. Everyone who entered greeted with hugs and waves. Daniel, the piano player (and plumber by day) arrived to perform. He did a nice job was also able to answer a few of my questions.
The Crowd at Sunset
I wanted to be sure we hadn't invaded a private party, since the crowds were literally spilling from the lounge to the patio outside. I asked Daniel and he assured me the club was open to all. "It's like this every Thursday night." It became clear that this was indeed a weekly meet-n-greet happening for this comfortable crowd.
At one point I stepped out to see the sunset. I moved past a few cowboy hats, and a young woman holding a glass of wine in one hand and a small dog in the other. I excused my way through the group and took a look at the sky, that everyone else seemed to be ignoring.
In the past weeks I'd seen the sun set over a train, a boat, and a vintage trailer. This was not my best sunset, but my first over a plane!
Don and I saved our vintage martinis for sunset and took them up to the observation deck.
It was quiet and the deck chairs hadn't been snatched away by the patio crowd. We had a good chuckle about our evening.
Good Night's Rest
I slept just like the sign beside the 10-foot spotlight reads. There were no big jets landing in the night.
Don and I enjoyed some complimentary scones and juice near the lobby while we debated over the man in uniform behind the desk. I thought it was the same man, but Don said he was a new guy. Same uniform. Same quiet, formality.
It was a treat having a newish hotel with a retro gimmick. Of course I'll remember the planes, but I'll also remember feeling a little invisible during our stay. It was nice to have Don share the "wall flower at the dance" feel with me! It was sort of fun to go unnoticed as we watched the mingling locals. But it was a little odd being somewhat ignored by the uniformed desk clerk (or maybe it was 2 clerks)
#31 El Cosmico
May in Marfa, Texas
El Cosmico is considered a nomadic hotel and campground.
Don and I were ready to take it on. We'd been traveling for over 3 weeks and we were up for a little Marfa vibe... which is sort of hard to explain.
Teepees, Tents and Trailers!
There were numerous rental options, spread out over the 18-acre desert camp community. There were 3 Sioux-style teepees, a hamburger shaped yurt, safari tents, scout tents and 9 vintage trailers.
Checking In at the Office
We headed up to the quite exotic, 10-ton door. When I turned the odd knob, I felt like I was cracking a code on a safe.
Inside the office building we noticed a lounge area, with a few guests, absorbed with their books and computers. No one looked up. I noticed a few tables and shelves, holding expensive merchandise. That seemed curious. I felt like our cheery voices were intrusive when we checked in. I like a peaceful atmosphere, but it felt like a library. (Back when libraries were quiet)
Finding Our Way
We were given a red wagon to tote our bags, since cars weren't allowed in the camp area. I like that.
The wheels made a horrible clackety sound, rolling over the gravel. We passed 2 women lounging in hammocks and I apologized with a laugh. "Sorry." I offered, when eye contact was made. "It's really noisy." Then I cringed at the sound of my voice, which again seemed intrusive. The women said nothing and went on my way.
Our "Kozy Coach"
Our 1951 "Kozy Coach" was awaiting our arrival! We stepped up the two large slabs of stone, onto our little deck. I smiled at the sight of our wonderful old door, with its crackly blue paint.
We unloaded our wagon and took a good look at the shiny wooden interior.
Much of the interior was original with aged knobs and hinges. There were a few essential dishes and a drip coffee maker, so no complaints there.
I can be ridiculously caught up in the retro, so I was disappointed with an updated sink. We had a perfect view from the kitchen window, of a cute green and white trailer... and a very romantic couple on the porch! We had no curtains, so that could have gotten weird.
The small but comfy bed was tucked into the back of the trailer.
Robes for the Shower
We found a handy set of striped robes, near the back door. They came in very useful when we ventured to the shower, moments later.
I have been known to opt out of a shower experience, in some of our odder hotels. But we'd traveled from Arizona and needed to clean up. It was time to chuckle and just go for it!
In and Out
We did actually have a toilet in the trailer. It had a lever on the floor, for flushing. The tiny space felt like the inside of a soup can.
Our own private shower was outside the back door. The metal frame held up the shower head and brown canvas flaps.
More campers and guests were beginning to arrive, so I felt a little silly as I marched out to my canvas shower, in my robe. I felt even sillier, when big gusts of wind messed with the loose flap! But at least my head was hiding below the frame.
I was able to scrub away, while humoring myself with a couple verses of, "I'm gonna wash that man right outa my hair..." It seemed so South Pacific!
Don on the other hand, couldn't really hide at all. He didn't seem too worried, though. And besides, this shower was much larger than the community showers, available to tent campers. Don and I were amused to realize, our showering inspired the romantic neighbors behind us. Suddenly they had their outside shower in use, but they were enjoying it together. Oh my... things are sometimes too cozy, at Cosmico.
Seeing the Sights
We felt much better after showering and took a stroll, hoping to get a sense of who the other guests might be. We've been curious about El Cosmico on other visits to Marfa.
We're intrigued by this small town, where rural ranchers and big city artists converge. We've chatted with people in town, but wondered about the people who might be drawn to a place like this.
Couples and small groups were beginning to arrive and busy themselves unpacking and pitching tents. A few gathered at the outdoor community kitchen. Everyone seemed focused on getting settled, and no one appeared open, to my greetings. "Should be a beautiful full moon tonight!" I tried.
Time to Mope?
Oh well. I understood that these youngin's might cringe, to see an old couple in the vicinity. It was like Mom and Dad had surprised them and shown up at the next campsite!
But I had better things to do, like put on my pearls and apron and go for a photo op! Coffee anyone? Don wasn't up for coffee. He pulled out a bottle of wine. He bought it in the office/shop, when we learned that no outside liquor was allowed. We are such rule followers.
Happy Hour on Deck
I moved the plastic, hand-shaped chair, to the far side of the deck.
I prefer a vintage "50's look, but there was a bit of mod seventies and hipster chic, mixed in. Picky, picky, I know. Just stating my preference.
Sunset and Full Moon
We headed off to dinner early and got back in time to catch the sunset, behind our trailer. A full moon rose over some trees in the east.
It would have been spectacular stargazing, but chilly winds were moving in. The cool temps probably kept things pretty quiet, for a full moon night at El Cosmico. It seemed like people were hunkering down.
Comfy Lounge Area
We turned on the heat in the trailer and there was a cozy hum, along with some great radio tunes.
Marfa may have only about 2,000 residents, but they have an amazing radio station. We spent much of our evening sitting in the very comfy couch area getting an education, on Island Exotica Jazz! We are now fans of Arthur Lyman and his great '60's music, which includes some crazy jungle sounds!
Arhtur Lyman: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbCp087ktaI
In the morning we rose early and tiptoed past campers, without using a noisy wagon. We headed east from Marfa, nearing the end of our 4-week journey.
The outdoor shower, will absolutely go down as an amusing memory. Our cozy time with the radio, will be a landmark memory, since it exposed us to some new music.
I'm afraid I'll always feel a bit disappointed, that I failed in the people department. Part of the thrill of trying new places, is meeting new people.
It just wasn't happening at Cosmico. It could have been the chilly weather, or it could have been an unlucky mix of guests. Or... it could have been me, or us! Oh dear! I hope not.
#30 - Shady Dell!
Bisbee, Arizona in May 2014
We stayed here on the third to last night of our TX-CA-TX road trip.
Out of our 15 different accommodations, I think I may have the fondest memories from our night at the Shady Dell!
A Desert Trailer Park
When we arrived at this retro retreat just outside the old mining town of Bisbee, all was very quiet.
Luckily there was a note with instructions for us, taped to the screened door of the office.
We stepped inside the gates and began exploring.
It was fun imagining this place in 1927. That's when it first opened as a trailer park and campground, for weary auto travelers on the famous Highway 80.
Ghost Trailer Park
There was no one at Dot's Diner and no one in the phone booth.
There was no one watching movies on the Astroturf which wasn't a surprise.
We crunched along the gravel pathways, peeking at all 9 vintage trailers.
There was a festive 1947 Tiki Bus with Polynesian flare. I liked the 1957 "Airfloat" with the picket fence.
Our 38-Foot Chris Craft Yacht
Our wonderful little get-away awaited us under a shady roof, tucked beside a dense wall of rustling bamboo.
"Harbie" the chipmunk captain held a bouquet of flowers and two frowning tiki carvings greeted at the pathway.
We also spotted a little green friend.
He blinked at us, as we toted our bags towards the wooden dock, that surrounded our pleasure boat!
We heard some sweet tunes as we stepped on the rear lounge area of the boat.
When Don opened the doors with green stained glass, the swing music grew louder, coming from a vintage radio. Nice touch from our mystery hosts.
Packed with Style
What a treat! Now only would we be sleeping on a yacht, but the whole interior was saturated with fun props, art and ship memorabilia!
The swooping leopard skin chairs and 1940's "buffet" felt very Hollywood. Everything else was delightfully nautical from lamps to framed art.
I get so childishly giddy over themed accommodations that I often pack my own costumes.
I didn't need to here. They had a couple of captains hats as well as sailor caps at the ready!
Down a few steps at the center of the boat was the fully equipped galley.
The china had little anchors, the vintage coffee pot was ready to go. There was even a small refrigerator with a complimentary bottle of champagne.
The dining area was cozy with a wonderful map covered table. There was a nice wooden ship with a clock and yet another little mascot to welcome us aboard. This topless little sea nymph was also keeping guard over her shell collection.
A few steps up, into the bow of the boat, we had a triangular bed and lots more vintage décor.
There was a skylight and two portholes, a china flamingo and a light-up seashell. The door had a peephole in the shape of an anchor!
Don is a foot taller than me and could not stand up in our bathroom. But he was at least feeling at home seeing a bottle of Old Spice and even a golden razor!
The porthole looked out at the waving bamboo. We had no shower, but there was an option for that down at the washhouse.
Starting the Evening
The weather was perfect and we were eager to settle into the evening on our ship. First we hiked to the gazebo in search of ice and met a small gathering at the picnic table. (So we were not alone) They were an odd, but friendly bunch, wearing mostly vintage clothes.
A man wearing a 1940's suit insisted we use some of their ice. We chatted as he reached for the half melted bag of ice. His eyebrows raised to learn we were in the yacht. "Did you know it's haunted?" As he poured ice into my container I had to point out to him that the leaky bag was drenching his wingtip shoe. He was unfazed... and Don and I determined they were all ghosts as we headed back to our boat.
Drinks on the Dock
We decided to save champagne for another day and enjoyed some tiki cocktails instead. We made use of the dock seating first and had a good time chuckling over collections of old cruise brochures.
We read through the captain's log, which was really a guest book and laughed at the write ups from past visitors. These people all seemed like us... having a silly old time.
New Area to Enjoy
Next we moved to the open area at the rear of the boat. There was a nice rolling cocktail cart and a padded bench.
We flipped through quite the collection of albums, all island themed... from Don Ho to Harry Belafonte's Calypso.
Don put "Hawaii Calls" on the turntable and we tried out a few dance moves.
Our dance skills are pretty lame, so we're lucky we didn't break a lamp or any limbs. After a few amusing minutes we turned to more low key activities.
Books and Games
We were determined to make use of every space and every goody that these fine owners had enthusiastically collected.
I can't believe we didn't get to meet them. I love the passion they have for this place. And I love that they trusted us to enjoy without destroying them!
There was so much to enjoy from the old radio to the Sunken Treasure game. The reading material was pretty tempting. If we'd had a couple days I could have read "A Girl in Every Port" or "Sails and Whales".
Dinner in the Galley
Our light dinner of bread, fruit and cheese, on our anchor plates... on the map table, was perfect!
We played a game or 2 and headed off to bed with a balmy breeze blowing through the portholes.
Luckily we had no ghost happenings in the night. It was a little eerie, I'll admit. It was the night before the full moon and the winds picked up, rustling the bamboo dramatically.
And the creepy thing I didn't mention earlier, is that on the other side of the bamboo, just steps away from our boat, was an old cemetery. Now if that wasn't the perfect set-up for a ghost encounter, I don't know what would be.
I think the absence of hosts or staff added to fantasy of this silly overnight boat adventure! It really did feel a little like we were in an episode of Gilligan's Island! Oddly though, I felt like I knew our hosts the whole time.
They obviously have a great sense of humor and even better sense of playful fun... with their careful attention to detail when it comes to decorating. I would love to return and stay in every trailer and hang out with some of the others around the picnic table! Another time!
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!