Tired and sore, I turned onto the winding road leading to the hot springs resort, eager for a nice, hot soak. My first view of the place took my breath away. Not because it was awe-inspiringly beautiful, but because I almost passed it, thinking it was a construction site. Actually, it kind of was. A bit hesitant (I am NOT up to date on my tetanus shots), I exited my red Chevy... car thing, pushed the remote control buttons to announce to everyone that my car was LOCKED, so don't even think about stealing my snack foods, and approached the check-in desk.
The woman at the desk was very friendly and animated:
"Oh! Hi there. Checking in? How exciting! Oh! Let's see. Hmm. Oh. So, I see... you are upgrading to our cliff side room on Sunday? Oh. Um. Oh. Okay. That will be nice. The pool side rooms haven't... really ... been upgraded yet. It's too bad you can't stay in our cliff side room all weekend. The pool side rooms really aren't as nice. You will love it, though! Oh, and check out time is eleven o'clock, but you won't be able to check back in until three, but I'm sure you can find something to do for that time. So. Okay!"
I signed some papers, followed her finger across the map (ice machine, pools, rooms, restaurant...), and collected my room key. I returned to my car and drove to my room.
I wouldn't exactly place this getaway spot in the "spa resort" category. I would place it more in the "motel" category. In a further sub-category, I would identify it as "the kind where bad things happen to people." I've been to spas. You get to walk around in a bathrobe and slippers all day and breathe in the scents of eucalyptus and chamomile. I've also been to crappy motels. You sleep fully clothed and hold your breath when walking past certain "stained" parts of the room so as not to breathe in the toxic mold spores. This was clearly the latter.
Although I had requested a non-smoking room, I could tell that "no smoking" was a fairly recent rule, enforced, perhaps, sometime in the eighties. I determined this from the scent and color of the 1950's wallpaper that was peeling off of the wall. "You're here for the hot springs," I reminded myself, "not the room."
I'm a pretty happy-go-lucky gal, so I let it go. I began unpacking my bags and said hello to my neighbors who were on their way out. I actually found the motel to be somewhat charming- one of those old "Americana" type places sprung straight from the pages of "Lolita" or the frames of "Psycho." You know, a family place? My neighbors even had an old hound dog in their room...
...who immediately began baying when its owners drove off.
"Okay, okay," I thought. "This is not a problem. You brought your entire MP3 collection with in-the-ear headphones and foam ear plugs for sleeping." My getaway had suddenly degraded from "relaxing at a hot springs spa resort getaway" to "hiding in a dirty motel room with crap stuffed in my ears." I tried watching the television (the only nice thing in the room) to drown out the noise. Despite the fact that I was watching one of the loudest scenes from "Zathura" (very good movie), I could still hear the dog. I turned the television off.
"I'll schedule a massage," I thought. "And while I'm at it, I will inform the front desk of the dog." I picked up the phone and dialed the front desk. Nothing. I hung up. Picked it up again. No dial tone. I did the "trick" (which never seems to work) of rapidly pushing the little button that hangs the phone up. Nothing. No phone.
Okay. Fine. I will just drive back down to the main desk. I was eager to begin a new book ("Naked" by David Sedaris, which turned out to be perfect for this trip) and have a glass of wine, so I figured I would just grab dinner while I was down there. I opened the door to leave my room, and for the first time, really took in my surroundings:
Kids ran wildly around the campground, music blasted from most of the rooms, construction workers yelled on cell phones (very spotty service up there at 12,000 feet), and the water slide that the happy young lad surfed down on the web site was in pieces, all of which were strewn about in a field in front of my room. The pool (which my room was apparently "aside") was just a concrete hole. I held out hope that the cliff side room would be better.
"You're here for the hot springs... You're here for the hot springs..."