Farmington, New Mexico
It's pretty hard to describe this place, built into the vertical cliffs of Tertiary Ojo Alamo sandstone...
...overlooking the La Plata river valley some 300' below! The cave entrance is blocked in this image, but Don is seated on our "patio" for drinks and sunset.
First we met up with our host, Gayle at her home in Farmington. She gave us a walky-talky and we followed her truck on a paved road for 10 minutes. Then the fun began.
We were lucky our non-Jeep made it to the top of the dusty mesa. We parked next to the pipe/chimney, showing that we were on top of the cave.
The Hike Down
No rolling suitcases for this overnight.
We actually had to sign papers that we were up for all the risks involved in staying in our cave hotel. I was glad for the railing that guided us down the rocky pathway to the opening.
Up and Down Hike
We knew we were almost there, when we spotted the table and chairs sitting on the slanted, rocky "patio".
Gayle pointed up to the top of the cliff, and described how the furniture and appliances had to be lowered down years ago.
Even though the cave is manmade, this rock is obviously real. The little building that blends in like an ancient cliff dwelling, is actually a storage area. The tiny red glow? That's a hummingbird feeder.
There is something sort of comical when I look at the photos. It looks like a stage set for Fred Flintsone, The Musical.
But when you're inside, it does feel very cave-like at a constant 68-73 degrees.
Better Than a Cave
During my rugged college camping years, I slept in caves a few times.
They were damp and clammy, with more than a few bat and mud encounters. It was a treat to have bathrobes as an option, instead of coveralls.
Quite the Bathroom
Better yet, there was a real bathroom! One of my most surreal student teaching memories, was when I helped lead grade-schoolers on a 3-hour hike into a cave. I was in charge of carrying the plastic container, which served as a "potty" for our overnight.
So this bathroom was a bit of a luxury, with its waterfall shower. It was quite a climb into the stoney tub part... and that could be why we signed a release! There was an actual Jacuzzi option, but I wasn't sure how comfy that rocky tub bottom would feel.
When geologist, Bruce Black began building this cave house in the early 1980's, he planned on using it for his office. I'm not sure why he thought he needed 1,700 square feet of space, but it gave him enough room for a replica Kiva.
This must have been an inspiration from the Pueblo Dwellings not too far away in Mesa Verde. If only temps had been cooler, we could have lit a fire in the corner fireplace.
Instead of snuggling up for a fire, we got to go out and enjoy the warm evening while the animals feasted.
Gayle made sure to show us where the nibbles were stored for the critters. Sadly we saw no ring-tailed cats, but lots of squirrels and chippers.
Happy Hour Sunset
We had our own food and drink, but Gayle said the fridge was stocked for our use.
We climbed up the steps from the cave opening and out onto the flat rock.
Once again, I could see why we signed those papers. The little chain railing would not keep us from stumbling over the edge...
...if we happened to have one too many.
The show couldn't have been better.
The sun finally sank and the clouds continued to entertain us.
We woke to a beautiful morning with the moon still visible.
We watched the hummers and a few more critters before heading up to the top of the mesa.
Not only did we have the cave to ourselves, but the whole mesa as well.
What a treat to get up and hike the mesa after a restful overnight, underneath!
I've had this cave hotel on my radar for a few years and I can't believe we finally pulled it off and stayed here! It would have been a lot easier to have found another cave to camp in. Camping would have been cheaper too, since this stay was about $300.00.
Besides being costly, it wasn't exactly convenient... and it's pretty well booked the months when it's open. But the most memorable part for me was sitting out on that rocky ledge at sunset. That was the most notably indulgent part of the stay. No other guests, just us and the animals and the warm breeze. Pretty hard to top that!
Tucumcari, New Mexico
On the first stop of our 28-day road trip, we enjoyed some "100% refrigerated air!!"
Who can resist a sign like this?
Don and I have stayed in a few vintage motor courts on Route 66, in Missouri and Oklahoma. This was our first stay on 66 in New Mexico.
Tucumcari offers a lot of reminders of the glory days of the old Route, with lots of neon signage. The Blue Swallow sign is my favorite!
More Than a Sign
There's a lot more than a cool sign at Blue Swallow.
There's a tidy pink stucco office with a glass block fountain nearby.
We were welcomed by Cameron Mueller who runs the motel with his wife... at least until the end of their 5 week run. Then Cameron's parents come on duty.
He said he didn't know how his mom and dad used to run the place on their own. He stood behind the original desk where an earlier owner, Mrs. Redmond used to check in guests... even when she was in a wheelchair 1998.
Mrs. Redman's Influence
Lillian Redman started making the property homey when she and her husband purchased the property in 1958. Today, there are still welcoming places to sit... and hang your laundry.
The Redmans updated with the current neon sign, which used the modern term "motel" instead of motor court. They stuck it out, even when I-40 opened and fewer travelers drove Rt. 66. Lillian always offered guests a copy of her benediction to Travelers (with lots of words about peace and rest) and if guests didn't have enough money, she allowed them to pay with whatever they could.
Our Room, Number 11
We had a few colorful chairs near our little blue door and our awning covered window and porch step!
We also had a garage tucked in between our room and the next. It was a tight squeeze, though. And cars were so much bigger then!
Conveniences of Home!
We dreamed about this nearby laundry room a couple weeks later.
On day one of our 4-week trip we had not accumulated laundry.
The garage on the right was ours.
The garages with blue doors had been converted to the laundry and storage rooms. You gotta love a motel with garages!
Colors and Shells
This section of the L-shaped motel, shows the original colors and a newer neon sign.
There are shells in the texture of the entire motel stucco, but the multi-colored paint job in this area, spotlights the very fine seashells!
I love it that the interior decor is pretty consistent with the motel design.
The bed was a bit too Western for me, but I loved the Chenille spread!
Love the Lamps!
I really don't know if any of these lamps are original, but they are just so darn fun that I don't care!
The phone was the real deal.
Black and White!
I'm happy to put up with a little inconvenience when enjoying some real vintage. I love the old sink that required a plug, if you want to mix hot and cold to wash your face!
And who needs a bathroom fan when you have nifty shower window for steam control! The best part was that it was all vintage AND clean! There was even a stamp of approval on the folded end of the toilet paper roll!
We were determined to enjoy every corner of the Blue Swallow. We found a nice sitting spot and had a little New Mexican beer.
Ahhhh... a little bouncing on a metal chair, while the sound of wind-chimes blended with the occasional blast of motorcycles on the nearby Mother Road.
I made Don pose with the old Ponitac before we walked down to dinner.
There were numerous neon signs decorating the dark sky by the time we made it to Del's for dinner.
What's Most Notable?
It was all about nostalgia. I was born in the fifties, but I don't remember them.
This motel may be older than that, but it brings back the era that I learned to love, from when I first started watching I Love Lucy episodes.
The Blue Swallow was all about embracing that time. Luxurious? Not at all. Comfy? Very!
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!