When a colleague, himself recently returned from Las Vegas, asked about my holiday plans for touring Colorado and Utah he said, “I suppose you’ve booked all your hotels“.
Well, no. My partner Helen always takes on the bulk of planning and she books in advance only the first night’s hotel, because we’re always late in from the airport and on previous visits to the US we have been required to write down at least our first night’s address on the green entry cards (although I noticed on this most recent holiday we were allowed to write that we were touring). Helen usually also books the last, or last two nights, at the end of the holiday. The rest we leave to chance, wherever we go. Such a careless strategy always works and in the States anything else seems completely unnecessary and hardly ever regrettable.
So most of the nights are spent in inexpensive Holiday Inns and Days Inns and Comfort Inns and Super 8s, booked in the evening when we turn up in a town. Most US towns have a strip with the budget motels and fast-food chains and there’s nearly always room at the inn.
Except twice. In 2004, we were pushed to find a room in Visalia, CA after we’d spent an afternoon walking in the Sierra Nevada and arrived rather late in the evening. This year, after a fruitless trip to Dinosaur, Co (the previously-open dinosaur beds were closed to tourists) we drove on towards the Rocky Mountain National Parkbut decided to break the journey in the small, undistinguished town of Craig. In wasn’t too late and we didn’t expect any problem – except it was hunting season and Craig’s a base used by enthusiastic game hunters. Nearly everywhere was full except for the eponymous Craig Motel, to which we were referred by a helpful desk clerk at the Craig Holiday Inn
The Craig Motel, Craig, Colorado
We were welcomed into a ramshackle office by the owner, a Chinese woman who’d spent a few years in Birkenhead (UK) and escaped to the States as soon as she could. She was very pleasant but our rooms were dark and smelled of disinfectant and air freshener. The bathroom was fairly clean but the toilet slowly leaked water from the cistern to the bowl so every time we flushed, the first flush would be entirely dry and we had to wait for the cistern to fill again. Neighbours in the courtyard of ground-floor rooms were hunters or longer-term residents who seemed to have settled in with their families. On the other hand it was very, very cheap.
The Curtis Hotel, Denver, on 14th and Curtis
The prize for the most amusing hotel has to go to The Curtis, Denver, which we booked for our last two nights. Each floor of the Curtis is themed and ours, the 13th, was the horror floor. The lift spoke as it slowed to a stop: “Here’s Johnny“, Jack Nicholson in The Shining, and opposite the lift door was a large photo of Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The rooms themselves, thankfully, eased up on the theming and there were nice touches like an iPod holder and player, even if it was built into the radio alarm clock shaped like a VW Beetle Convertible…