Motels I Have Known

There’s nothing quite as wonderful as your own bed after an eighteen-day road trip.  Especially one that required sleeping in eight different places along the way.

From a plush king-sized bed with a fabulous view of the Rocky Mountains to a rickety double with a not-so-fabulous view of the broom closet, my recent Colorado vacation gave me a new appreciation of the many different ways a person can spend the night while travelling.  Lodging encompassed everything from generic budget motels (think Super 8 and Day’s Inn) to a gorgeous condo in Breckenridge near the site of my daughter Meg’s wedding.

Three places stand out as particularly memorable:

WORST MOTEL: America’s Best Value Inn in Abilene, Kansas, chosen because it was the first place my weary travelling companions and I spotted when we got off I-70 after thirteen hours in the car.  Our exterior-entrance rooms sported hideous polyester bedspreads, massive old-school TVs, and bathroom fans loud enough to drown out the sound from the massive old-school TVs.  Private balconies, furnished with beat-up card tables and cheap plastic chairs, overlooked a parched, treeless courtyard in the middle of which sat a single piece of playground equipment–a faded yellow “spring” horse with its left ear broken off.

And I won’t say anything about the free continental breakfast except this.  Mrs. Patel serves the worst gravy biscuits I’ve ever put in my mouth.

BEST MOTEL: Rabbit Ears Motel, located in the heart of the shopping and dining district in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.  Built in 1954, this not-a-chain motel is still family-owned and operated.  In fact, its 92-year-old matriarch greeted us in the lobby (where you can purchase all manner of cool souvenirs, from mugs to magnets to mouse pads) and took us meet her friends who were playing cards in the sunny breakfast area.

The retro neon sign in the parking lot is a giant pink-and-white bunny face that glows at night but, because of city ordinances, is no longer permitted to flash on-and-off.  The rooms, though not fancy, are moderately priced, clean, and thoroughly up-to-date.

Best of all, the Rabbit Ears Motel adjoins a dandy walking and bike path that runs along the scenic Yampa River.

MOST UNIQUE MOTEL: Loveland Cottages in Estes Park Colorado, which make you feel as though you’ve stepped several decades back in time.  Owner Beverly Hill (who, no kidding, once also operated a diner in Estes Park knows as “Beverly Hill’s”) has kept these cottages decidedly simple.  Built in the 1930s, the wooden exteriors are painted green and brown.  Back decks hang out over the river, a lovely way to escape the noise of the highway that’s far too close to the front door.

Inside our “studio apartment” model were a sagging couch, two straight-backed chairs snuggled up to kitchen table complete with salt and pepper shakers and a bouquet of plastic flowers, and a double bed dressed in a quilted bedspread covered with red roses.

Bathroom amenities included a portable shower stall with exposed pipes, a pedestal sink with no surrounding countertop, and a slightly off-kilter commode situated perilously close to the sink.  We hung our scratchy towels to dry on nails on the back of the door.  Unlike my bathroom at the Abilene motel, this one had no noisy fan.  In fact, it had no fan at all—a shame since the bathroom window was painted shut. The kitchenette’s nod to modernity included a refrigerator, microwave oven and drip coffeemaker.  A clunky TV, smaller than the one at the Best Value Inn, was connected to the cable through a hole drilled into the front wall.

But that quaint little cabin was all we needed as base camp for exploring the Rockies.  Next week, I’ll tell you about some nifty towns we discovered there.

(August 19, 2012)

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