Upon our winged arrival into Albuquerque, our wild west adventure was off to a winning start as we excitedly chattered in our modest but comfortable rental car bound for Santa Fe. One problem. Just over an hour into our drive we took notice of a mileage sign indicating our rapidly approaching proximity to the Arizona border. For those unfamiliar with the geography of the southwest U.S. let it be known that Santa Fe is in the *opposite* direction from Albuquerque. As I said, we were off to a winning start.
After a couple of nights in Santa Fe we headed towards the Arizona border, this time intentionally. The agenda for the day was to drive through the Petrified Forest & Painted Desert and then stay the night at one of only two , old school, Route 66 heydey era, concrete teepee hotels. Our stay at the Wigwam Hotel was at the top of my bucket list on this road trip. Little did I know that the list that night would include no teepee but definitely included a bucket (if you count scraping the bottom of an accommodations one). After a long and full day of driving and adventure we pulled up to the entrance of my coveted, eagerly anticipated, cheesy accommodation to discover it was CLOSED FOR THE NIGHT!
This was a “one night only” engagement with no wiggle room for itinerary adjustment. Simply put, we were S.O.L. – the Wigwam was WigWRONG. No teepee fo’ you.
Now, as they say, we find ourselves in a quandary. Holbrook, Arizona, where this gem was located, is not exactly a hotbed of activity nor accommodation options and the desert sun was rapidly bidding us adieu. Cell phones were still a thing of the future so we were left to seek out alternate, after dark accommodations on a wing & a prayer. Let it be known that budget was a MAJOR factor on this youngblood adventure though with the appropriately corresponding, lowbrow needs & expectations that youth provides. We began navigating the area to pinpoint a hotel that looked friendly to our limited funds and, boy, did we find it! Have you ever paid $15 for a HOTEL ROOM? Well, WE HAVE but I can’t say I recommend it. Let me also remind you the title of this blog is “Lived to Tell”.
We came across a “no tell motel” in this deserted desert dwelling and went in to inquire about price and availability. As we stood at the front desk a highly “unusual” looking gentleman shuffled out from the office to greet us. Now, I am not trying to be cruel or unkind, only factual. He literally had the appearance of a lab creation, akin to Frankenstein’s monster (though not as handsome). Despite our initial intimidation due to his shock of spastic, black hair, half-lidded bug eyes, and enormous height & girth, he exuded helpfulness as he listened to our plight, quickly morphing into a presence more akin to Andre the Giant, a la Princess Bride. Escalating even higher on the endearment scale, not only did he confirm he had a room available but that we could have it for the low, low price of FIFTEEN BUCKS if we would just give him a half hour to fix the shower. With hungry bellies and a restaurant across the street to fill the time we were SOLD!
After we’d had our fill of mediocre food we returned and got our room key. While thrilled to have secured a place for the night that was to be the only “security” had as we discovered that the parking lot directly outside of our room had morphed into a party for vagrants. Justifiably feeling like lambs to the slaughter, we quickly grabbed our belongings out of the car and scurried inside our room and…….
In case you are wondering, here is what a $15 a night hotel room provides:
1. Said, drunken vagrants partying in the immediate parking lot.
2. A t.v. stand on the wall with no t.v.
3. A plant hanger hook on the ceiling with no plant but there was an actual, lone, clothes hanger dangling from it. Viva la ambiance!
4. A shower (and shower curtain) that were coated with enough black mold to consider ourselves fortunate to get out sans a previously undiscovered virus.
5. Visible stains on the comforters (we never bothered to look at the sheets – TMI).
6. BONUS! A bug crawling across the bed. Happy trails, roomie!
Suffice it say that both safety and sanitation were of obvious concern. We quickly addressed the first issue by collectively pushing the large, long, wooden dresser to the front of the door to serve as a barricade. We weren’t going down without a fight! The sanitation issue was addressed to the best of our ability by cocooning ourselves in sleeping bags that we’d brought along for planned camping portions of our trip though we obviously had not envisioned using them in a hotel room. That said, we were grateful to have them as there was likely a larger threat of intrusive critters in that hotel room than at a campground. Champagne wishes & caviar dreams!
As we committed to our cause our nervous laughter eventually evolved into slumber until we awoke at the rooster hour with gratitude for living to see another sunrise firmly in check. As we made our rapid exodus, the hotel disappearing in our rearview mirror, I came up with this spontaneous poem (best said rapidly for emphasis):
“Hanger on the ceiling,
bug on the bed.
If we don’t block the door
we’ll all be dead!”
We LIVED TO TELL.
Get your kicks on Route 66!