One Night on an Old Paddle Boat
I loved rolling our suitcases over the ramp to the lobby entrance. If felt like we were going on a river cruise, even if we knew the boat was permanently docked.
The lobby was dim with low ceilings and dated '80's decor, but the staff was welcoming and the prices were reasonable. I was glad there had been no recent, ritzy renovations, or we wouldn't have been able to afford the place.
Our Cozy Cabin
We headed down the slanted, musty hallway to room #332. There was hardly enough room to pull our bags inside the door. But I grinned at the original windows that looked out over the Sacramento River. I laughed when people walked by on the walkway.
The door to the bathroom was at a nifty angle. The egg shaped door knob was almost as retro as the chain pull toilet. It was a little crowded, but the paint and linens seemed fresh and we didn't plan on spending much time in the room.
We explored the inside of the boat first. The rounded woodwork was lovely.
The Dining Deck
On a beautiful September day, this was the more appealing choice.
At the base of the stairs, we peeked in at the Pilothouse Dining Room. Very decent food reviews tempted us, but it was still early.
Framed photographs and historic displays on the lowest level, filled us in on the boat's past.
We were surprised to learn that the Delta King was related to the Delta Queen, a riverboat Don and I remembered, from our years living in St. Louis. We were also a little surprised to know that our hotel boat had the ability to sink like it did in this photo. It fact the riverboat was a submerged mess when the current owners bought, rescued and renovated the Delta King in the 1980's.
Wandering the Decks
Don and I didn't encounter many other guests as we explored the deck. I did however greet a housekeeper who let me peek inside one of the rooms on the upper deck. I was glad to be staying in one of historic rooms, but the more recently renovated rooms had twice the space.
Tiny Door or Tall Don
I was pretty amused by the size of the doors. Don is 6'2'' so this door is clearly designed for short and narrow people.
A Sign to Ponder
While exploring, we found this very important sign bolted to the wall. I took a moment to lean again a pillar and reflect. I probably shouldn't have leaned against anything on the old boat, after reading the sign.
Dinner on Deck
We had a drink on the deck before heading off the boat in search of dinner options. However we ended up coming right back to our spot and eating a casual dinner on board.
We watched the skies turn pink and blue over the river. Then we watched the skies darken as the golden bridge grew brighter, with lights and reflections.
Don and I both woke at 5:30. The lighting on the deck had shown through the blinds all night. But we made use of the early morning and wandered before traffic. The Delta King's location was just steps away from Sacramento's "Old Sac" historic area.
Along the Water
We walked across the golden Tower Bridge to get a different view of our hotel. Startled birds departed quickly from their perches as we passed, reminding me of the "Bat Bridge" in Austin.
View From the Bridge
We got a good view of the paddle wheel and smoke stack from the bridge. We headed back for breakfast, feeling pretty clever that we'd found this place.
Our window table with fresh flowers was a nice reward after our walk. We feasted on eggs and Rosemary potatoes, muffin and bacon while chatting with our pleasant server. She answered our tourist questions about the nearby bridge. Yes, the bridge does still raise, but only a few times a week.
This was one of those hotel stays that made us feel lucky. Lucky we ran across it. (It's not on obvious lists) Lucky that it's still here, when so many historic hotels struggle to stay "afloat".
Polish Dining & Lodging in Cross Village, MI
Don and I heard about the iconic Legs Inn Restaurant, before heading to Michigan in July. We had planned to celebrate Don's Polish heritage with a feast. But when I heard they had cottages, I called to inquire... so we could feast and sleep.
I reached the owner and asked if any cottages were available. "Have you been here before?" She asked in a somewhat worried tone. I answered no and she continued, "We don't have TVs, you know." I assured her that was fine. She said she wouldn't charge us until we arrived. I had the feeling she hoped we wouldn't show up.
Since the 1920's
We arrived in the afternoon and parked in front of the curious stone and timber restaurant. We looked above the windows and saw the white, inverted cast iron stove legs, that gave the place its name. The wooden door with all its odd growths, was just a hint of what was inside.
Gnarly Roots, Stumps & Limbs
When we walked through the door, I felt like I had walked right into one of my childhood fairytale books. The gift shop, tavern and restaurant were all created by Stanely Smolak, a Polish immigrant who came to the US in 1921.
I found a young woman in the restaurant and told her we had cottage reservations. She seemed surprised, then said she would get the owner. "This is family run and they need to be consulted." She said with a smile. The woman I'd spoken with on the phone, rose from a table covered in paperwork. It took her a while to find our reservation in a notebook. Once again, she wanted to know if we understood there was no TV. It sounded like this was code, for something much worse.
After all the warnings, we opened the door cautiously and found two cot-like beds to the left and a dirty kitchen to the right. The bathroom had a pile of dirty towels on the floor and the bedroom had an unmade bed. "This just makes me mad!" I grumbled. We marched back up the hill to tell the woman what we'd found.
"Our Waiting Room"
The woman acted surprised when we told her the room hadn't been cleaned. I was surprised that she was surprised. Or was she surprised?
We already knew there were no other hotels available, so we took deep breaths and headed out to the garden area to wait an hour for the cleaning.
Michigan Adirondack Chairs
It actually wasn't too torturous. We sat in two chairs shaped like Michigan, with a view of Lake Michigan. It was pretty outstanding. As we sat, we brainstormed strategies for enjoying our stay, since we knew we wanted to spend as little time as possible in the cottage, even if they got it clean.
A Different Cabin
The woman gave us the key to a different cottage this time. There was a picnic table and a huge willow tree, which was nice. But I didn't get my hopes up about the interior.
$149. is cheap for a cottage near Lake Michigan. But for that amount we could have had a spotless room at Holiday Inn Express, with two bedside tables. But probably no awesome teepee curtains.
At least the place was clean. We had no need for the kitchen, but we made use of the kitchen chairs...
We still had a long time to kill before dinner, so we took the chairs outside. Don played his ukulele.
We sat under the huge tree, enjoying the bug-less, Michigan summer air. It was peaceful, except for our cottage neighbors a couple doors down. We had a good laugh when an apple core dropped from the branches above. I thought our neighbors might be playing a joke or making a statement about ukuleles. But after I studied the core and saw the tiny nibble marks, I realized a critter had taken it to the tree. Do squirrels eat apples? Do chipmunks climb trees?
I had been sort of determined to have a bad time at our cabin, but before long we were having fun. We can't help it. I brought out the wonderful rocks we'd collected at my brother and sis-in-law's beach, just days before. Don played his uke and I played with rocks.
Summer evenings are long in this part of Michigan, so we had lots more time to enjoy the lawn area behind the restaurant. We grabbed a wine and beer and one of the few picnic tables.
The view, high on the bluff was lovely. We looked out as the sun lowered over the lake and we watched the tourists eating Sunday dinner on the patio. Some of the guests, waiting on tables looked impatient, but we were in no hurry.
The Prized Michigan Chairs
We grabbed the mitten-shaped chairs when they became empty. I told the young girl taking names in the restaurant, that we would wait as long as it took for a window table.
Our Funny Table
There was still some sunlight and a view by the time we were seated at the funny wooden table. Night finally fell as we ate our amazing Polish feast, served by our young Polish server, Ulga. Polish sour soup, potato pancakes, pierogis, goulash, rye bread... we were happy. On the way out we chatted with the owner's son Mark. His parents took over ownership in 1987, the very business Mark's Great Uncle Stanley started nearly 100 years ago.
I would never recommend the cottages and I have little desire to stay again... unless the price was much lower. But I'm glad we stayed. The meal, lovely weather, garden with view and the crazy and curious old building, made our stay mighty memorable. Yes, we could have enjoyed it all without an overnight. But it was awfully nice lingering and absorbing all afternoon, then heading down on foot to our cottage at bedtime.
Christian Resort or Chautauqua?
We exited M-119 and found ourselves in a perfect Norman Rockwell town. I was eager to learn more about the summer resort community, with over 400 Victorian homes.
I knew the town had religious roots, beginning as part of the Methodist Camp Meeting movement in 1875. I also knew Bay View adopted the Chautauqua movement in 1885, bringing educational lectures and music to the community. But when I booked our stay, I didn't know about Bay View Association's controversial rules that discriminate against non-Christians. I would learn more.
The Terrace - Opened 1911
We turned off on Encampment Road and found this odd building in the middle of a lovely Victorian neighborhood. The dorm like appearance put me off a bit, until I realized this was the back of the building.
We passed through the porch to an equally homey living area. I spotted a couple of guests quietly reading. They were actually turning pages. There was no electronic glow!
Big Old House
The front and back doors were open, letting in lovely Michigan air. I spotted some bibles and started thinking we might have to hide our wine sipping.
"The Tea Room"
The room that was originally called the Tea Room, looked surprisingly grand with chandeliers and shiny floors.
We spotted a window in the Tea Room that let us know we could indulge in more than tea. The owner, Mo Rave chatted while he got us a beer and wine. He said they'd served 80 guests the day before. He was enjoying the quiet Monday evening.
The Best Side!
The other side of the inn was much more appealing, with dramatic stairs leading up to the dining porch. We could have parked on the street at the bottom of the hill, but that would have been a long hike up with our bags!
"Homelike and Attractive"
I found an old advertisement, that bragged about Bay View's newest and most modern hotel. Even today at 106, this modern, Arts and Crafts style building is still one of the newer buildings in town.
Enjoying the Porch
The porch with its chandeliers and white table cloths, was a piece of heaven. We chatted with another couple who asked if it was our first stay. "It's our 9th visit!" They bragged. They assured us that we would be returning.
Our room was on the third floor. There was no elevator, so I took a break and wandered on the second floor. I spotted more bibles on a table and started to feel like I was at church camp. I know most hotels have bibles, courtesy of the Gideon missionaries. But they're usually in drawers.
I'm always a little curious about doors and sometimes I have to take a peek. The short door turned out to be a laundry chute. At the end of the hall, I was drawn to the screen door. I wanted to step out and enjoy that glowing light, but the porch didn't look like it would hold me.
Our corner room was tiny, but pretty darn sweet. One window looked down at a home that reminded me of my family's yellow house in Grinnell, Iowa... 50 years ago.
There was a lot of furniture in our tiny room, which should have inspired me to play one of my favorite childhood games, Don't Step on the Floor. That game was a lot more challenging in the Yellow House, with larger rooms and less furniture.
I had to chuckle as I examined the decor. The chenille spread, lacy curtains and Venetian blinds, all took me back. I counted 3 framed poems in our room and they were all about mothers. I named the room Mother's Room.
Pizza on the Porch
I wonder if I've ever eaten pizza on a porch? If I lived in Bay View, I would make it a weekly thing. The Greek pizza was excellent, but the setting made it even more delicious.
Sitting high on the porch, we dined and took in the view. I felt like I was watching my childhood neighborhood. Young boys walked by carrying fishing poles. A young girl scolded her misbehaving puppy. We saw a couple of families headed towards the bay. We hurried to finish up, so we could catch the sunset over Little Traverse Bay.
Sunset at 9:15
We played it close, but made it to the small park in time. I counted 21 bikes and 1 scooter, in the grass. The bike owners had already crossed over the pedestrian bridge.
The view from the bridge was idyllic. Sunset & bay in one direction, trees & Victorian homes in the other.
Back to The Terrace
We headed back and lingered on the porch a while longer, then headed up before "quiet hours" which started at 11. I laughed when we pulled down the chenille spread and I spotted the bubble gum colored sheets. That would have delighted me as a child.
In the morning Don and I heard doors and creaking floors, as guests headed for breakfast. We followed along and found a mouthwatering buffet with everything from frittatas to biscuits and gravy. We ate well and headed off for a long walk. Our mission... to try once again to understand this beautiful, but almost too perfect town.
We met a workman who offered maybe too much information. Bottom line... you have to be Christian to own a house in Bay View.
One More Note
I have always loved experiencing places that remind me of the good old days. Our stay in Bay View, unfortunately also reminded me of the discrimination and division of the past... and today. Maybe if the Bay View Association adopted new bylaws that fit this century, it could become inclusive, again. In 1876, any man or woman of good moral character could become a "member" and own a home. Maybe we need to go further back in time!
Out West in Slaton, Texas
Built by Fred Harvey Company in 1912
This beautiful piece of history sits on the outskirts of town, beside the railroad tracks. It's lucky to be here at all, since it was marked for demolition in the late 1980's. It took some determined citizens nearly 2 decades to preserve and restore the building.
The heat and gusting winds kept us from enjoying a little train-watching from the outdoor benches. But we could still hear and view the trains from inside.
Today the first floor houses museum exhibits, spotlighting the intriguing history of historic Harvey hotels and dining rooms that served travelers 100 years ago.
The spacious first floor originally housed the dining room, where train travelers were efficiently served quality meals. The Harvey Girls, in their traditional black and white uniforms were paid a dollar a day, plus tips. They lived upstairs.
Touring With Jessica
When we arrived, we were greeted by our young host, Jessica. She gave us a tour and answered questions with the detail of an enthused history geek, twice her age. I mean that as a huge compliment. It's hard to find young people who care much about train history... and that shows my age.
Jesscia pointed out the stained glass and light fixtures that had been meticulously copied to match the originals.
Jessica pointed out the old chairs with lion heads and she apologized about the heat. Standing fans whirred away, but gave little relief. She said the a.c. downstairs had temporary issues, but the rooms upstairs were nice and cool.
It reminded me of my own childhood memories, skating on cold winter days, in the basement of my Iowa home. I was pretty giddy when Jessica took us down the stairs to have a peek.
At the top of the stairs there was a comfortable common area, with games. TV, fridge and coffee maker. After being on the road, we were excited to spread out and have the place to ourselves... until Jessica mentioned that a family had booked the other 3 rooms. She said there were 4 siblings in town with a couple spouses. They were coming back for the high school reunion of one of the sibs. "Oh great." I moped internally. I wasn't up for sharing the place with some "family reunion gang".
There were 4 bedrooms upstairs, with their own character and style. I was glad our "Zuni Room" was one that had its own bath. Sharing the common room and a bathroom with the mystery family, would have been extra weird.
We had plenty of space in our 2-room suite. There was an extra room with bed and 2 separate sink areas. I wonder how much space each Harvey Girl had to herself?
Wandering in Slaton
Don and I love our small town stays, when we can explore on foot.
By the time we headed down the road in search of the "downtown" and dinner, the hot wind was blinding. My photo doesn't seem to capture the heat or the dust that blasted our faces. I was amused, but Don was too busy guarding his contacts to enjoy the drama.
Where is Everyone?
Maybe the dust storm was keeping everyone inside. But most of the doors and windows were boarded up.
Dogs and Chickens
We walked along a divided street, that might have been bustling back in the day, when train travel was at its peak. A few dogs and chickens greeted us. A couple dogs barked and yapped, but most seemed too hot and tired to be bothered.
We hit the town square just as the shops were closing up. We gave up on finding an open restaurant and headed back to the Harvey House.
But after a bit, we heard the laughter downstairs. The family had returned. The gang greeted us before we had a chance to hide away in our room. Next thing we knew, a couple hours had flown by and we were laughing and sharing food and swapping stories with these people we'd hoped to avoid. We seemed to connect with all 6 of these new friends, talking about every subject possible from bicycling to poetry, to immigration and Frank Lloyd Wright. By the time we all said good-night and shut our doors, I was wanting to be adopted by their family. What a hoot.
Carol, our overnight host prepared a buffet breakfast and we joined our new friends at the round table. First we talked about the huge thunderstorm that had kept many of us awake. Then we talked about Blues music and turquoise jewelry. The sibs talked about living in Slaton... their dad working for the railroad and how their parents encouraged their noise and music in the house.
I never guessed how much we would end up having in common with these wonderful folks. We lingered long over coffee, until it was nearly check out time. I kind of wished we could stay another night and "crash" the high school reunion, along with the other 3 siblings. It hadn't taken long for this family and the funny little town to grow on us.
After we grabbed our bags, there were lots of good-byes and exchanges of numbers. I slowed down our exit even more by getting Carol's granddaughter to pose for me, with my traveling, Little Bear. Then we were off, on a cool and sunny morning.
It would have been a fun stay, without any people encounters. But our gracious hosts and the delightful family became the icing on the cake!
Our Plaza Hotel, wasn't the famous one in New York City... and our Las Vegas wasn't the famous gambling city in Nevada.
The Plaza, Since 1882
This lovely hotel opened up in New Mexico, a half century before the famous gambling hotels hit Nevada's Vegas. There were only 6,000 residents, but the town was growing rapidly.
There are nearly 15,000 residents today, but it felt like a step back in time when we visited the historic Old Town Plaza area, where the hotel was located.
Historic Old Town
The hotel sits on the north side of the historic Plaza Square. The park, with its bandstand and statues was quiet when we arrived, but that changed a little later.
We were greeted by Sean at the front desk. I wish I'd gotten a photo of this friendly guy, with his black tie and vest. He was pretty delightful.
Sean said we were booked to stay in room 204, but he was going to move us to a third floor room, since it was Karaoke Night. That was thoughtful. Sean gave us our key and said he hoped to see us at the bar for a little singing later. That was an amusing thought.
Up the Stairs
We had a choice of 2 stairways. One set was by the front desk and the other was across the lobby. The lovely walnut stairway across from the desk was clearly the more dramatic of the two.
In The Movies
The Plaza Hotel in NYC has been used for many movies, but the Las Vegas hotel has been in film since the silent movie days. Ten years ago, the dramatic staircase was used during the filming of "No Country For Old Men."
Finding Our Room
We enjoyed wandering the halls while searching for our room. There were some curious antiques and about 30 bookshelves filled with old books. It was fun passing each guest room, since each was named after a celebrity.
Bailey Chase Room
I was disappointed when I realized the room we had originally booked (above the bar) was named after the Coen Brothers. I love their movies! Our quieter room was named after Bailey Chase and I really don't know who he is.
The hotel was purchased and renovated just a few years ago. I liked the colorful updates and southwestern touches. But it was nice to see how much of the old charm was preserved. It was kind of fun having regular old keys, for a change.
Simple and Sweet
Our room with the Plaza view, felt calm and comfortable. There was nothing fancy about the bathroom, but it was nice having a little dressing area and a fridge.
Books or TV
We hardly needed the TV with all the book options on the shelf. It really made me wonder how many books they have in this hotel?
Windows on the Plaza
I do love windows and our view of the Plaza was entertaining. We had been told not to park on the square since the streets would be blocked off at midnight in prep for huge July 4th festivities. Too bad we weren't staying a few days longer.
I made a little of my own festive entertainment inside the hotel. For some odd reason, I happened to be traveling with my favorite childhood book about Eloise and her adventures living in New York's Plaza Hotel. I decided I needed to pull off at least one of Eloise's stunts. I chose one that I could do in the room, without embarrassing myself. This was my first head-standing hotel adventure... as far as I can remember.
Enjoying the Afternoon
Don and I explored the park and browsed through a couple antique stores on the square.
The dining room looked festive with the painted pillars and colorful rugs.
The Plaza Saloon
The hotel's saloon was quiet at 4, but when we stopped by for a drink at 6, we were joined by a few bikers. I was too intimidated to take a photo, but they were a scary bunch, slugging down their drinks like cowboys before roaring off on their bikes. The crowd at Karaoke night was pretty delightful. Cheery locals encouraged us to sing. Even Sean from the desk took the mic. I was too shy to sing, but I did take lessons from an encouraging local who couldn't believe I didn't know how to do the 2-step.
All Lit Up
We dined across the Plaza at family owned Mexican restaurant. We headed through the park back to our lit up hotel.
In the morning, I got up at 6 to snap some photos of the hotel. I knew the streets would be free of cars, since the roads were blocked. But there were already trucks and vehicles arriving to set up for the huge festival. I wandered around enjoying the activity.
The Plaza Hotel was a great example of a grand, historic hotel with a young spirit.
There was something warm and welcoming from the moment we stepped inside. I wasn't sure what it was that made the hotel feel so comfortable. But just before we left I read a note, tacked in the hallway. I had wondered about the signs I saw outside and when I read the note I had to smile.
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!