Lake Placid, New York
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.
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
So, 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
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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 would 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.
One More Obstacle
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.
Lucikly 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.
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.
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 (which 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.
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
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.
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!
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!
The White Buffalo Bar
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!
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.
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.
Van Horn, Texas
Where is Van Horn?
The hotel with its fine neon roof sign, sits at 100 West Broadway, two blocks off I-10... somewhere between Big Bend National Park and Carlsbad Caverns. We saw a lot of signs to help guide us to important places, which was good, since there didn't seem to be a person in sight who might have pointed for us.
Our Corner Room
There are less than 50 rooms and the deluxe ones open onto the courtyard. But Don and I (as usual) were passing through and going for the cheap. Our tiny upstairs, corner room was "right sweet" as my grandmother would have said.
Room with a View!
... and would that be a peek of the Guadalupe Mountains behind the low buildings?
What's Happening in Van Horn?
I love a hotel where you can get out and explore on foot. Well... we had hoped to find a good cafe for dinner, or a quaint shop. But mostly there were quiet storefronts and a couple water towers. It's our own fault that we chose to ignore the hand made invites taped to numerous poles and walls. I can't believe we passed up the opportunity to "Get down with the groove" and to "Party and Dance" at the Van Horn Community Center. Shame on us.
A few were sitting at "The Gopher Bar" which used to be in the basement. The bank vault from "bank days" had become the wine cellar. My Pistachio Fried Steak with Jalepeno Gravy (mashed taters & asparagus) was as rich and tangy as I had hoped for! And our waitress had some pretty interesting stories about life in a town of 2,000 when your husband is a border patrol agent.
Fellow Guests at Breakfast
The dining room had a different vibe in the morning, with no white cloths and a serve yourself breakfast. The biggest addition to the room was a table of cowboy hats. I couldn't hear their conversation, but their positive tone and body language made me want to pull up a chair!
What is Notable?
structure, sitting on this wide road in the middle of sort-of-nowhere! The isolation of this gem of a hotel is what makes it special to me. I wish we'd stayed longer to get a feel for the travelers who come through. That could be just as interesting!
Where is it?
Marfa is a town of less than 3,000 located in the Chihuahuan Desert in West Texas.
I first heard of Marfa 10 years ago, when I read that the town was hosting a 50th anniversary screening of the movie "Giant". In 1955, Hollywood took over the tiny town to start filming the iconic movie. El Paisano became home to much of the cast for 6 weeks. Taylor, Hudson and Dean all had rooms at the hotel, although some moved over to private homes after a while. During the filming period, locals were invited to see bits of the progress on film at the Palace Theatre, across from Paisano.
Ground was broken to build this 65 room hotel, just before the stock market crashed. The Henry Trost designed hotel managed to thrive. It was considered the most elegant hotel between San Antonio and El Paso, hosting cattle ranchers and tourists in search of dry desert air.
Classy Cowboy Style
Classy? Well, I don't usually think of longhorns and buffalo heads as being classy, but there's a Rich-Ranchy feel to the place. The painted ceiling beams and shiny tile floors are my favorites!
The hotel can be entered from Main Street, or through the courtyard. This painted window looks out to the courtyard, which seems to attract more lounging guests than these wood and leather, lobby chairs. The lobby is cozy... but dim.
The wild beasts give the place a "lodgey" feel.
I've never seen anyone in the pool. There's sort of an odd feel to the pool room, which was added on in 1960, when I guess travelers expected pools. The big trees are nice through the windows but it seems out of place. I'm not sure why I've never been lured to swim.
The Other Side
On the opposite side of the lobby from the pool, there are a number of spaces. There's another darkish room, filled with "Giant" memorabilia. As you can see James Dean is standing there keeping an eye on all those framed articles and knickknacks, as well as the old TV, running the movie 24 hours a day. Also at the "front end" of the hotel, there is a fabulous gift shop with some very cool and unusual finds. There's a gallery and a shop...and I think a work-out space somewhere?
#1 Mystery Room
This small room was made spacious by the French doors leading to the walled in terraace with fireplace. It wasn't until we checked out the next day that we learned the room had just recently opened. The door to this room had been hidden behind a wall, but it was obvious from the outside that there must be another room. The door and room was revealed and then renovated. We were assured that a staff member spent a night in the room before it was open to guests. There could have been some wild ghost activity depending on the story behind the room closure! And no one seemed to know that story.
The best part of Mystery Room was the balcony and morning view! I had to stand on the ledge to get a good view, but what a sight! Morning light, glowing on the old courthouse and quaint water tower!
#2 James Dean Room
This room with the old radiator is the actual room where J. Dean stayed during part of the filming. He evidently was the most friendly of all the stars and often played pool in the hotel basement and mingled with the locals. This of course was his last movie (of only 3) since his fatal car accident occurred during post production.
The tile work was awful fun and you could practically take a seat on the toilet while you showered... if you actually wanted to! Funny.
#3 Room With Courtyard View
Evening in the Courtyard
This was actually one of the larger, nicer rooms with terrace overlooking the courtyard. This might have been our favorite room of the 3, but our next door neighbors also shared the balcony. And they were having a bit of a party, which was pretty darn annoying. It would have been perfect if we'd had friends or family joining us on the balcony instead!
Two of our three visits were in warm months when the festive lights and gurgling fountain lured us right into the courtyard. On a winter visit, I think they had a fire pit, to make the chilly night festive. But maybe I just wished that up. ??
We did have some fun people watching in the courtyard on our warm weather visits. We chatted with a few locals and a couple tourists. Some were dining outside of Jett's Grill and there were a couple rambunctious kiddos who enjoyed climbing through the lobby window to fetch an apple from the complimentary fruit bowl.
Dressing For Dinner
Our Marfa trips have always included other stops, so sometimes you have to wear some purchases for dinner. Here I am in the Nepalese made jacket, purchased at Big Bend National Park AND some awesome used cowboy boots from an antique shop in Alpine. The bar at Jett's (named for James Dean's character of course) was a great place to converse with a good mix of locals. Where else can you chat with ranch hands at one end of the bar and a film maker at the other? Dinner was good as well.
I love this hotel because it allows me to imagine the past!
West End Roatan, Honduras
The Jungle House
The inn is only 20 years old, but it had a nostalgic look about it. It reminded me of the "family-camps" my mom used to describe, with screened sleeping porches holding rockers and hammocks.
Ever hollered up to Barbara who came down to let us in. She was busily preparing our room. We would be the only guests that night, but she had had a full house the night before. We circled up the spiral staircase to the main floor with the kitchen and gathering areas. There was a beautiful blend of wood from floor to ceiling!
We settled on the porch (yes, with a hammock!) while Barbara finished up. Ever showed us pictures of his kids and we asked more questions about the island. He was hanging out, so he could take Barbara to do some shopping after we got settled. I tried to imagine Barbara living here on this hill, with no car for 20 years!
stairs could also burn off a few calories. They really were beautiful stairs, though!
Our room was so simple and clean, it made me grin. The row of windows made it feel like we were in a treehouse. Through the jungly branches, we could see the blue green Caribbean!
Barbara asked us to please turn off lights and fans when we were gone, since it's very costly on the island. She sort of apologized for the weather, which had turned extra hot that day. We definitely needed the ceiling fan as we unpacked.
Our spacious bathroom was filled with wood and tile. The window view was blocked by tree branches, so no need to curtains... which felt sort of odd at night when you're used to neighbors close by. There was lots of counter space with a large mirror over the sink, as well as a full length mirror. The mirrors reflected even more of the jungly scenery from the windows.
We unpacked and continued up the spiral staircase to its end. There was a small shed-sized structure that opened onto a huge roof deck. There was enough room for a large party, but no shade at noon. I forgot to ask Barbara how this space was used. A few umbrella tables would have been nice.
Our room was still warm, but we showered and turned on the ceiling fan. A breeze began to blow through the curtains and it reminded me so much of summers at my grandmother's, when she turned on the attic fan to cool us. And pretty soon we heard rumbles and we were given the best gift of all, a rainstorm with open windows! (We never get to enjoy storms and open windows in humid Houston)
Our Friend Pepperoni
The night had cooled things quite a bit and we could smell Barbara's coffee and vegetable scramble. We asked her to join us while we ate at the large round table, that surrounded a big wooden pillar. We loved hearing her stories of moving her from Milan, Italy 20 years ago. We also loved being joined by the sweetest cat ever, Pepperoni!
Barbara finished cleaning up and was a good sport about posing for a photo. We asked her what she missed most, since she's so far home. "Food and shopping!" She laughed. "And I'm not able to travel the way I used to." I asked if she missed that and she shook her head. "Actually no. I get to travel with all of the stories I hear from my guests!" She lit up when she talked about all the interesting visitors she's had from all over the world. "I have artists and musicians and writers and people who come for so many different reasons. I feel like I've traveled with them, every time I hear their stories!
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!