Lake Placid, New York
Flowers, blue skies and cool temps. That's what greeted us when we got out of the car, a couple summers ago.
Don and I met his sister and her husband for a few days at their favorite hotel in upstate New York. We hadn't been to Lake Placid, since Jane and Bernie had married there over 10 years earlier.
Nearly 90 years ago, Mr. and Mrs. W.R. Wikoff, retired on the wealth of Mr. Wikoff's "Fuller Brush" fame.
They bought an old estate which they turned into the Mir-Lac Inn. Over the years the inn expanded and by 1932, the Norwegian Olympic team made it their temporary home for the Winter Olympics.
When we entered the main lodge (which has been rebuilt after a fire some years back) it made me wish it weren't summer.
Everything about the place felt cozy, even the mighty moose and buffalo looking down on me. I would love to see that big fireplace glowing on a cold evening... while someone played the harp nearby. Yes, there was a harp.
It would have been fun to have curled up with a book on one of the leather couches, in the winter. But then, I remembered what Lake Placid was like in February of 1980.
Don and I were spectators at the Olympics, bundled in bulky layers of scratchy flannel and lumpy down. I'm chilled just remembering the hours we endured in blizzards... only to to glance at the blur of a bobsled or luge flashing by.
Jane had made all the reservations, so we had a lovely room with a balcony and even a bottle of wine!
The high ceilings gave plenty of room for the massive bed.
Even the bathroom was cozy with dark woodwork. But it's the bath products that I remember most fondly about the bathroom. From a young age, I was a big appreciator of the mini soaps in Howard Johnson's and Holiday Inns.
I had a collection. I still collect hotel toiletries, but I bundle them up for a local shelter. However, I couldn't part with these cute little bottles of lotions and shampoos. Each bottle showed the hotel name and a drawing of an Adirondack chair! In fact, I'm proud to say I still have and use the little round, refillable bottles.
The view from the balcony was the best part of the room.
The first night we slept with the door open and I actually woke to the sound of a distant cry of a loon!
A View to the Side
There was more than lake and mountains to observe.
We got to watch sailboats gliding by (no motorboats) and a wedding party preparing for photos!
In the evening Jane and Bernie swam laps. Don and I joined them and we ended up sitting around a table bundled in towels.
Bernie told so many stories, that made us all laugh. The best ones included animals!
In the Morning
The next morning was cool and Jane did her swimming in the inside pool.
I loved the painted clouds on the ceiling and the wooden deck chairs and even a wooden bridge in the very back.
And in the afternoon, when the weather warmed, we headed to the little hotel beach across the street and lounged on the lawn between dips.
We've stayed at a lot of beachside hotels, but there was such a calm feel to this lawn & water setting. Sounds of the surf can be soothing, but maybe it was the lack of water noise that was so calming.
They had a wonderful old bar with a lively crowd in the evening.
And there were a few dinner options in lovely dining rooms with great views. But breakfast was the big treat for me.
There was a rather splendid buffet of breakfast foods. They are known for their Adirondack Flapjacks. But even better than the food to me, was sitting on a screened in porch, looking down on the trees and lake. All was picture perfect. Even the gentleman dining in his spiffy beret, seemed photo worthy.
There were grassy chair spots and decks for chairs and of course a porch or two with rockers.
I have a thing for chairs and I even posed my tiny Little Bear (used for photo ops) on a lovely Adirondack chair.
That was right before he fell from my pocket and became lost... then later rescued and mailed to me by the tourists who found him!
I can't think about the Mirror Lake Inn stay without remembering how I lost that crazy bear and was forced to put out "Missing!" posters!
For the story : http://thebethlists.weebly.com/ongoing-list-of-bear-travels/little-bears-last-adventurewith-me
There is something old-fashioned and family-like about this rather cozy inn. Don and I were so lucky to share the experience with Bernie and Jane.
They helped us experience every nook and cranny. Sadly, Bernie passed away since our stay at the inn.
What has become "most notable" will always be personal. When I think of Mirror Lake Inn, I will always remember Bernie's laugh and his stories!
Near Gore, Oklahoma in July 2012
Most hotels that call themselves a "resort" don't end up on my notable list. But Fin & Feather is so oddly memorable, I'm forced to add it.
F & F sits high up, at the south end of Lake Tenkiller, just west of the Arkansas border. When we lived in Tulsa, our friends would talk about annual family reunions at the resort. Don and I decided to stop by while on a road trip, to check out the place that we'd heard about for years.
The Notable Entrance
In the 1990's, the Harts used to chuckle about the dated resort. But they loved the place. When
we approached the office, I had to smile at the cement urns and birdbaths. I wanted to experience the place just as the Harts had described. I was glad the resort hadn't just completed a major renovation.
Just inside the glass doors, I spotted the bustling office and gift shop to the left. While Don checked in, I headed to the right and took a seat in a snazzy little area. "Just perfect for a little meeting with my Garden Club friends!" I thought. If I belonged to a garden club...
I will admit, I did detect a musty odor, with a hint of skunk. But sometimes you have to put up with smells of the past in order to enjoy a vintage atmosphere. As for the skunk... well, the picture windows revealed a lot of nature out there. I'm sure that smell was temporary.
Feeling Like a Lady
The mint green door, flowered wallpaper and "marble" statue made me feel like I was in a place where ladies are treated with respect... when their hubbies return from fishing!
Having lived in Texas for 15 years I was ready for a restroom door that didn't have a cowgirl or Senorita image on the door. I decided, this little corner of the office building was picture worthy!
As I relaxed a bit, I had time to look about. The "patio furniture", with glass tables and flower arrangements reminded me of my Aunt Marguerite's sunroom on my last visit in 1990.
Aunt Marguerite liked the feminine touch. She drove a purple Cadillac. She also had the money to up the classiness a bit. She would have replaced the droopy peacock feathers in the giant vase.
1960 is barely old enough to get me excited.
But it was fun to imagine this property 55 years ago, opening with 20 cabins and a small cafe. We headed down the drive to find our accommodations in an slightly newer addition.
Up the Stairs
This building may have been a little younger than 60 years old, but our room at the top of the stairs had the same musty smell of old carpet and tired air-conditioners.
No big deal, it's a lake resort after all. I have no photos of the room, but it was spacious, with dated decor and a nice view of the lake in the distance.
Don and I were pretty drained by the sweltering heat that day. We had spent much of our day outside, visiting the nearby Cherokee Heritage Center, absorbing history about the devastating Trail of Tears that ended in Oklahoma.
We needed something to help us transition into this very different world and something to cool us down. We fixed some ice-cold gin & tonics and strolled the grounds with our thermal mugs. The metal umbrella over the picnic table made me grin!
Where was everyone? The pool was empty, so all the families must have been at the lake.
I could picture the Hart Family reunion taking over this glass covered pool area. I'll bet there were a lot of swim caps in this pool when it first opened.
Fin Bin Rules
We strolled along until we came to the the building that housed the "FIN BIN" recreation room!
Oops! "G-rated" and "No Alcohol".
We felt like the bad kids at summer camp as we entered the Rec Center, nonchalantly carrying our mugs of... aaaa...Mountain Dew?
At the Lake?
Once again, things seemed a little empty. But it was quite a sight to see this gigantic recreation area with such a mixture of styles.
There was a stone covered water fountain, beside a retro coin operated scale. The '70's fast food style seating was beside a flashy, carpeted wall! And beyond that wall was a sea of pool tables and arcade games! A kid's dream!
I wasn't sure about the Skate at Your Own Risk sign. There was a rental station, but I'm not sure where the skating happened. Maybe you could skate from the ping pong table to the pool tables? Pretty curious.
Evening at The Fin
Actually this photo was taken in the morning from our window, not evening. I didn't have my camera when we strolled to dinner at the newly remodeled restaurant, called Soda Steve's. I wish I had photos of the curious "island themed" dining room and some of the foods (like ice cream nachos) that we saw being devoured.
There was an awkward vibe to the place, since many of the tables were occupied by a quiet family reunion. The women all wore long denim skirts and and long ponytails with puffy bangs. I'm not positive, but I think this hints at some fundamentalist religion. I am sure that they were a very proper and mannerly group, in contrast to the sunburned, voraciously hungry family crowds that entered a little later.
Food at Soda Steve's
We had been lured years ago by this blue & white cookbook gift, given by the Harts. We had always been tempted to try out the resort and it's fun and fattening foods. As we dined on our burgers that evening, we became aware that the menu had changed a bit since Chef Steve came on board.
We didn't get a chance to meet him, but we got to know him, since we were surrounded by plentiful photos and write ups and videos that shared about his travels to third world countries on mission trips. Hmmm?
"The Fin" as regulars call it, doesn't fit any category on my list. It's not a retro motel or an historic inn. It's more of a family retreat and maybe that's why we felt a tad out of place. We were just two.
If Don and I had come years ago with our kids and the Hart family, we would have had a blast. In fact we still would, with our grown kids... mostly because we all like each other! But since we had no family to "play" with on this visit, I'm glad we got to wander and enjoy (with our R-rated cocktails) and imagine the past!
Route 66 in 2014
Love, love, love a neon sign that belongs to a Route 66 Motel, that's been in operation since 1953!
And that's pretty much all there is to love about the Desert hills Motel.
Location, Location, Location
I already mentioned the Route 66 part, and that was the lure since we were on an Oklahoma road trip. But the motel location was a bit grim. This stretch of the old Route, 5 miles from downtown, was loaded with used car and auto salvage lots.
There were other motels in the area. Oasis had an appealing sign, too.
The Brookshire was quaint and cottage-like... from a distance.
And the no-name place... was creepy!
We could have stayed downtown at the cute little boutique, Ambassador Hotel where our friends were staying. It was lovely and we had a great dinner there, but we were ridiculously drawn to the motel with the cactus.
We'll Take It!
So we pulled up to the door so I could run in and inquire about rooms. A little boy peered over the counter and answered my questions with a slight accent. He disappeared to find his mom so I could pay my $45.00.
It felt a little odd to slide my credit card through the little dip, beneath the bullet proof glass. Oh, but it is fun living on the edge sometimes!
Easy parking, since we were the only car in the lot! And what a sleek design!
Each room jutted out, so you entered more of a sidedoor. I'm picturing the architect in 1953 as he grinned at his cleverness. "This will make the room more spacious. And the door will open so very discretely."
Each door proudly displayed the Route 66 shield with room number. And this photo angle shows the nice line up of doors.
I wonder if they had air-conditioning in 1953? If not, the high windows would have offered little ventilation on a hot day in Tulsa. Of course for those who valued their privacy, those high windows would have been much preferred.
Personalizing Our Room
If only I'd known our room was going to be decorated with white painted paneling and accents of mauve and Kelly green. I could have brought a different quilt!
Honestly, this is not a habit. I just didn't care for the worn and creepy looking bed spread. I removed it at once and checked the sheets, which still had creases from pressing. Then I remembered I had this quilt in the car and went for it.
I have no bathroom photo, but I do think we had to step up or down to reach it. And there was some retro pink tile work that I really liked. Why no photo?
We didn't spend too many sleeping hours in our little motel. We got in late the night before, after meeting friends for dinner and a James Taylor concert. I woke early the next morning and announced to Don "We made it through the night." (Our friends had shared some stories about the evidently sketchy area where we were staying!)
I stepped out to try to catch the sunrise over the "desert hills" and did manage to see a glow. I also noticed that a few more guests had arrived in the night. How cozy. Our hosts had placed us in rooms next to one another. Kind of like B&B hosts, encouraging their guests to socialize over breakfast!
Out of all our oddball, retro, vintage, historic stays, this seems to be the one that confuses people the most. "Why did you stay there?"
There was something sort of silly about choosing a place like this, when you can afford better. I guess it was the sign that we couldn't resist. I'm glad we stayed. I'm glad Don got a tee-shirt that he has worn many times. And I'm glad I can cross it off my list!
Fort Davis State Park in West Texas
The lodge sits northwest of Fort Davis, TX inside Davis Mountains State Park.
The pueblo style structure was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's.
In May of 2012, we finally had our chance to stay at the lodge.
We'd attempted a stay months earlier, but while making the 8-hour drive to the lodge we were notified that wildfires had closed the place down. Luckily the lodge suffered no damage.
One More Obstacle
Luckily this fella didn't hit our car and thwart our second attempt at enjoying the lodge.
The poor guy just came out of nowhere and raced across the road in front of us. It took him a while to make it over the fence, but eventually he was safe and out of sight.
Our Little Village
The multi-leveled adobe structure looked very much like Native American pueblo villages of the southwest.
I loved all the little nooks and crannies on each level... a porch swing here, a wood burning fireplace there, tables and chairs and covered porches.
The Original Part
Originally there were only 16 rooms. Each had 18-inch adobe walls, made onsite with a mixutre of water, straw and soil. Later on these walls were plastered and sealed.
An Old Room
We were able to peek at an old room with cooling adobe and pine floors.
The ceilings were impressive with pine viga (beams) and latilla, which is river cane, but looks like bamboo sticks, to me. Spanish style, cedar furniture was made by CCC workers at another Texas location
Don and I always try to stay in the older sections of historic hotels, but we ended up in a room which was part of an expansion in 1967.
Now, Indian Lodge has 39 rooms and they've done a pretty good job of blending the old and new. They have some nice desert landscaping as well. Nothing fancy, but it was fun seeing blooming flowers in a desert world.
Our lower level room, #315 was at the back of the property. This meant we had a decent covered area and a great spot for viewing the mountains and the every changing clouds.
I would have preferred some 1930's style patio or lodge chairs, but the 1980's gliders were good enough.
Spacious and Clean
This was our room, with the more modern beams and floors. You have to give the place credit, though.
I've seen some really obnoxious updates on beautiful CCC buildings. They kept the western style with thunderbird headboards and decorated trunks at the foot of each bed.
There were chairs and a desk and I can't really recall, but there might have been a fridge. I wasn't blogging hotels then, so I have no notes!
But! We had a great view from our window!
We also had wonderful wooden shutters! And the sky was getting interesting that afternoon!
We decided to read by the pool for a while...
...instead of jumping into the water, where we might have become lightening rods.
And when skies got too dark, we moved inside to wander. What an incredible meeting/game room! We saw the same viga and latilla ceiling, but there were also humongous, polished tree trunk pillars and more cedar furniture, made by the CCC.
The white adobe was a good balance for all the dark wood. And there were a few wrought iron light fixtures and a fireplace to brighten things... if it had gotten colder.
We took the advice of a fellow guest and took the drive up Skyline Drive, into the park before dusk.
This might have been the best and eeriest part of our stay, seeing the amazing view through the charred branches of fire damaged trees. It's lucky there had been no damage to the lodge... in fact our reservations had been cancelled the first time because the firefighters were housed at the lodge.
Good and Bad Signs
Seeing the remains of a stone structure up on the hill, was a reminder of the powers of fire.
But seeing a tiny flower, growing up between charred rocks was a reminder of the power of nature! Hope the trees had the same stubborn attitude!
Sunset and Night
We enjoyed a beautiful sunset before heading down to catch dinner at the lodge's Black Bear Restaurant. The food was so, so and the atmosphere was boring, compared to the lodge. Don and I were not thrilled with our waiter and we pondered about whether he might be suffering from a hangover.
He seemed to wince when we spoke our order and he carried our food so gingerly, as if the vibrations of his own footsteps were shocking his system. It was tempting to shout "Have a great evening!" on our way out. But being mostly kind travelers, we chose to sympathize, in case he was having a migraine.
The white adobe will be the image that comes to mind when I recall our stay. (Even if it has been plastered over and sealed for preservation purposes!
I've always had a thing for adobe, since Mrs. Mullen in third grade had her students pour a mud and grass mix into our square milk cartons. Our classroom stunk for many days, while our little bricks dried and hardened on the windowsill! I have always been fascinated by pueblos and the adobe bricks that make them. So for adobe lovers, this is your place!
Visit in May 2019
Don and I finally made it back to Indian Lodge and managed to book one of the original 1938 CCC rooms.
The white stucco buildings were looking lovely after a recent renovation.
Our Cozy Room
Our upstairs room was nice and quiet. Our fireplace wasn't useable, but it looked fun.
We certainly didn't need that TV, but we enjoy an old Turner Classic movie for a bit.
Our room had 5 windows, facing 3 directions!
I love a bathroom window, for a little light!
The wind was crazy. We watched a few people stumbling to their rooms, while carrying bags. One poor man actually fell. But we found a wind-free space on the porch and enjoyed the evening.
We drove up Skyline Drive in the morning to catch sunrise.
We had a very speedy and windy, picnic breakfast. What a good ending for our second visit to Indian Springs Lodge!
Marathon, Texas... January of 2013
The Gage is the fifth Texas hotel on my Notable Nights list, designed by Henry Trost.
I decided today would be a good day to spotlight it, since its 100 degrees outside and these snowy photos look refreshing!
Where is Marathon?
Marathon is a tiny West Texas town of about 450, in Brewster, the largest county in Texas. The town was named Marathon in 1882, after Marathon Greece, which evidently has similar open plains.
I've never been to Greece, but I'm guessing there is nothing quite like Big Bend National Park, looming beyond those Greek plains. This Texas town today, is more known for being the last stop to the rugged mountainous terrain of Big Bend!
A Cold Arrival
We were happy they had a room at the inn, when we arrived 2.5 years ago. We had seen closed roads and iced roads and evidently The Gage had been filled up with snowed in guests the night before.
We chatted with our desk host, who was a little weary from all the weather chaos. But she seemed happy to tell me about some ghost sightings. Always good to know!
What a treat on a cold, gray day to step into this cozy, fireplace heated lobby.
Henry Trost would be proud of how the old hotel still reflects the Mission and Spanish style design he built in 1927.
Up We Go
We headed upstairs to our room, which was one of the cheapest. Since our stay they have renovated even more, so there may not be any cheap options.
But we were happy to go for the "down the hall" bath because all the storm stranded guests had moved on. Don and I would basically have our own bathrooms, which were spacious and very nice.
Our Cozy Room
Yes, our room was small with its full size bed and dark furnishings.
But we had our sweet little corner sink, cozy bedding and when we opened the blinds, we had a lovely view of snowy branches!
We could have stayed in a much larger room, in the southwestern style addition. This setup would be pretty nice in warm weather with gardens and pool.
But we loved being a part of the original hotel that Alfred Gage built 88 years ago, as a base to oversee his 500,000 acre ranching operation!
Even with the snow and ice, it was fun wandering the grounds. I'm sure Gage and Trost didn't bother with long horn skull decor.
I'm sure there have always been chairs on this porch... maybe holding ranchers, puffing on cigars! I love a porch with a rocker. If only I'd been wearing a snowsuit, I would have rocked a bit! And the fountain! I do love the sound of a fountain, but I was even more impressed by seeing the fountain with its icy decoration!
The White Buffalo Bar
Don and I have come to Marathon a couple other times and we always stop at the White Buffalo Bar, attached to the old hotel. Don has learned to dodge the buffalo's chin when he walks by. The brown buffalo is a little cuter, in my opinion.
We've enjoyed some good people watching. Our most fun chat was with some ranchers. They described an enjoyable night they spent at the hotel bar once, getting drunk with Tommy Lee Jones (who has a nearby ranch) and Tom Selleck.
My last 2 write ups have focused on the same thing... "cool hotel in the middle of nowhere".
This was the most nowhere of them all, and maybe the most lively. I'm kind of sad that the hotel has become more upscale than when we stayed. It has become more of a hotel for spa enthusiasts than Big Bend hikers. Oh well.
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!