On Highway 50
Many times, we'd noticed the intriguing old lodge with its rusty truck, sitting beside Highway 50... tucked into the mountainside. One sunny, cold day we decided to stop for breakfast. We were glad to see welcoming smoke was pouring out of the chimney.
We headed towards the older section on the left, where a bird totem pole greeted us. We noticed saw the stacks of wood on the porch and smelled the cabin-y smoke before we even entered.
Greeted by Bear
Once inside we were greeted by a large stuffed bear and lots of knotty pine and dated furniture.
We had a good breakfast by the fireplace and chatted with our server, Mary. She told us the lodge fireplaces were the primary source of heat in the lodge and the owner chopped most of the wood himself... 40 cords of wood a year. I'm not really sure what that means, but I think I should be impressed.
Don and I remembered our cozy breakfast, when we were planning a California trip for 2016. We knew we hadn't seen the rooms and we knew the place was a bit worn...
...but we liked the cozy feel and we reserved a room for our September road trip. It was cold, rainy and dark when we arrived that Friday night. Once inside the place seemed chillier and more cluttered than I remembered.
But knowing a place has history, always makes a stay worthwhile! The original inn dates back to the 1800's, but the building we see today opened in 1939. In 1942 the lodge was sold to an enthused entrepreneur who was inspired by the newly opened Sun Valley Lodge. That comparison made me chuckle. We've never had enough $ to stay at Sun Valley.
Finding Our Room
Suddenly the place didn't seem so sweet and homey, without sun shining through the windows. The lodge was cold and dim and as we headed up the the creaky stairway I started having second thoughts. We opened our funny wooden door and felt a blast of cold air as we entered.
The window was wide open. There was an obvious musty smell they were failing to air out. We closed the window and I got out my trusty, travel lavender spray. We found a plug in heater in the closet, but no extra blankets, in the almost charming dresser.
At least we had our own bathroom, since many rooms required hiking down the hall to the shared bath. The towels were clean and decent and the shower tile was new. But the dim lamp and old mirror were most likely from 1939. There was no soap or shampoo, but we had our own. The biggest surprise in the bathroom was the earth-shattering sound that blasted, when the hot water was turned on. Oh my.
Downstairs to Warm Up
We crossed our fingers that the plug in heater would do the trick, then we headed to the family room, where the fire roared and spat out cinders now and then.
Alone For a Bit
We had the fire to ourselves for about 2 minutes and then a few other guests flocked to fire for warmth. The nearby door opened frequently, letting in blasts of cold, damp air, as locals arrived to gather for the evening in the adjoining bar.
A few families came and the kids seemed to feel right at home with the giant chess/checkers board. Another man felt right at home with the fireplace. Every few minutes he tossed in a cardboard box or a log. Sometimes he stomped out a cinder that popped out on the rug. He said she was a friend of the owner and was staying for a few days to help out. We began to chat with folks and that made things seem better. Or was that just the wine working, that we brought in from the bar?
Dinner in the Bar
Here's how the bar looked on the morning we visited the year before. But on Friday night, the bar was filled up, with guests wearing soggy jackets. The small wood burning stove helped a little at one end. But no one seemed to notice the cold. Everyone seemed to know one another and the place was loud with laughter, chatter and a loud juke box. Too bad I was in the more in mood for. My biggest disappointment was learning that the big old dining room wasn't serving food that night. The only food was served in the bar. We did end up having an okay salad and French Dip.
The next morning we got up early and had breakfast in the big dining room, that we'd enjoyed the year before. This is a photo from our table by the fireplace that year.
We did sleep well, even though there was lots of noise on the stairs since the downstairs bathrooms were out of order. Thank goodness we hadn't gone for the charming European shared bath down the hall, since every bar guest was making use of the upstairs bathrooms, across the hall from our room!
I was glad to see the vintage menu again. And I loved seeing the old tile floor and the original tables and chairs, that I recalled.
View in Back
Luckily the sun was out and the windows gave a good view of the green mountainside and nearby river. I loved the old yoke light fixtures and lace curtains. Yes, it was as worn as it was the night before, but the sunshine lifted my spirits.
Sadly the fireplace was not functioning. It was about 30 degrees outside, so I'd been craving that fire. Mary served us again this year. She said it would be a while before the owner got the fire going. I didn't bother taking photos of our breakfast this time.
A little sunshine always helps the spirits, so I left feeling a little less frustrated about our stay. But all in all, the sweet lodge is a little too old and weary for me. It seems obvious that the place is just too large and costly for one owner to maintain. I'm usually the first to ignore creaks and dust when a place has charm. But there were just too many irritating factors to ignore... mostly the fact that I was cold!
Old Gold Rush Town from 1848
Last September, Don and I stopped for a night in good old Jamestown. It looked like a movie set. In fact, scenes from some of my favorite childhood shows were shot here. Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, Wild Wild West and Little House on the Prairie...
The National Hotel
We stayed at the National Hotel, which was built in 1859 by Heinrich & Hannah Neilson. The two wooden buildings that made up the hotel, restaurant and bar were some of the first original buildings.
Check in at the Bar
We entered the front door and turned right into the bar. That's where we checked in for our room and later came to get a drink. The place was empty at 4, as if it had just been raided... which it was many times, during prohibition.
We peeked into the dining room. It looked cozy and we had heard the food was quite good. It was also pretty quiet at 4:00.
Up We Go
Our very gracious hostess (can't remember her name) took us up the creaky staircase to our room. She said we had booked a room without a bath, but she'd kindly upgraded us. The hall was curious. Many of the doors were open, to show off the decor. But a handy little chain kept us from wandering in.
Our Cozy-Odd Room
We had to chuckle a bit at our fine upgrade. A teddy bear welcomed us from the brass bed... a double frame with a queen mattress, I believe? There was no TV, which was perfectly fine, but there were 2 lounging robes. The room didn't have much space for lounging, so we left them on the hangers. A small a.c. unit filled half the window, but we only missed out on a view of a nearby brick wall.
There was actually a very welcoming crowd in the saloon/bar by 5:30. But we decided to grab a wine and beer and take it to the veranda. Don and I have an unspoken rule that If an old hotel has a porch or balcony we must make use. We sipped and lounged and kept an eye on the street below. The Emporium across the street was quite fun to study. It actually had some pretty curious antiques inside.
There seemed to be a dog on duty at the front desk, so we didn't get much info. But that just about sold me! I love a hotel run by a dog!
Drinks and Dinner
He grabbed a broom and dustpan and mumbled something about how we'd broken a lot more glasses in his time. We ate dinner in the next room and had a delightful waiter and a pretty incredible meal.
Breakfast wasn't spectacular, but the quiche and muffins were decent. The other guests were more interesting than the food. Many were staying in Jamestown, because they couldn't get back to their rooms at Yosemite Lodge, due to road closures. Snow and ice had surprised many hikers and explorers, who were out the day before. They were all in surprisingly good spirits, despite the fact they didn't have their suitcases with them.
Good Bye Jamestown
We headed off after breakfast, but drove around town for a quick peek. The old Methodist church and the Railway State Park seemed to be the only thing of interest, once you got off the main street. It was an odd little town that I can't quite figure out.
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!