Life is good on the Street of the Little Motels.
Wednesday took us from Kanab, Utah, past Lake Powell and into Page, Arizona, a destination chosen only because it was where we were by evening, once again facing the prospect – having not planned ahead (ahead, of course, being the best way to plan) — of finding another dog friendly motel.
Crossing over the Glen Canyon Dam and pulling into town, I checked my AAA handbook, “Traveling With Your Pet,” which listed all the usual suspects – Motel 6, Best Western, America’s Best Value and the other lookalike big chains that rarely exude the slightest local color.
But as I was tooling down the main drag, I saw a little sign pointing toward what was called the “Street of the Little Motels,” and I followed it.
Actually, it’s two or three streets, occupied by row after row of squat cinderblock structures, many of them brightly painted, with names like “Debbie’s Hide A Way,” “Bashful Bob’s” and “Lu Lu’s Sleep Ezze Motel.”
I figured the little motels on the Street of the Little Motels — though none of them show up in most travel guides — were probably more reasonably priced, being little, than those on the street of big motels, so I stopped in one, the Red Rock Motel, and asked the proprietor, Dail Hoskins, if dogs were allowed.
Still, there were conditions. “I have three rules,” he said. The first was dogs can’t be left unattended in rooms. Though I disagree in principle, I conceded. I asked him what the second one was. “Dog’s aren’t allowed on the bed.” I conceded to that one, too. “What’s the third?” I asked. He rubbed the Fu-Manchu mustache that forms a grey horseshoe on his tanned face and looked up at the ceiling.
“Can’t remember,” he said.
With that we closed the deal — $44 including tax. On the street of big motels, with boaters arriving for the long Fourth of July weekend, I probably would have paid in the $70s.
By the time the paperwork was filled out, Ace had grown on Dail even more, and he invited him over to meet his dogs, Marley and Mo. He went so far as to offer his fenced backyard to Ace, in the event I wanted to go out.
I parked in front of my room, 108 B, and was pleased to see it had its own sand yard, a grill, and a picnic table out front. Inside was a full and fully equipped, if somewhat retro, kitchen, with a linoleum floor that, being cool, Ace found quite to his liking.
In addition to my spacious kitchen, there was a roomy bedroom, with TV, bath, and the all-important, in Ace’s view, air conditioner. It basically had all the comforts of home, which, not having a home, I haven’t had – at least to myself – in a while.
I unpacked, did a little nesting in my room for the night, and took Ace to meet Dail’s dogs before hitting the Safeway, where I bought a small bag of charcoal, a six pack of Shiner Bock (which I developed a fondness for while in Texas), some hamburger meat, a single bun and some beans. (They’re cooking as I write.)
The Street of the Little Motels in Page’s Old Quarter is just a couple blocks off the main road through town. The motels aren’t packed with amenities, but for my money (What! That’s all I have?), they’re a far better choice than the big name competitors. The big motels say sameness, the little motels ooze character.
I’m enjoying the hominess of it, Ace likes it better than any motel we’ve stayed in so far, and I’m pretty sure I won’t have a nasty note taped on my door. So we’ve booked a second night.
The structures on the Street of the Little Motels went up in the late 1950s, when work was beginning on Glen Canyon Dam. They were built to handle the influx of thousands of government-hired dam workers who moved to the then-isolated Manson Mesa, a portion of which was procured from the Navajo in a trade.
After the dam was completed in the 1960s, the cinder block buildings were sold, mostly to serve as motels, and for a while – what with Lake Powell having been formed, turning the area into a prime recreation destination – they prospered. Along with the boaters, though, the big motel chains moved in, making life a little harder for the little motel guys. Dam shame.
Some of the individually owned little motels are apartments now, or hostels, some are a little down at the heels, but a handful, like the Red Rock, are alive and well, well-kept and worth visiting – not just a room but a home away from home.
That’s all for now. My beans are burning.