Author Theresa L. Goodrich presents Two Lane Gems, Vol. 1: Turkeys are Jerks and Other Observations from an American Road Trip in serial form. Enjoy!
What’s the #1 reason you don’t want to stay in a bed and breakfast? Come on. You can say it. You’re in a safe place.
It’s the breakfast part, isn’t it.
It’s not the breakfast itself. You know that’s going to be tasty. It’s the people at breakfast. You just never know who’s going to sit down at the table with you. They could be Luddites. They could be erudites. They could be silent curmudgeons or garrulous Pollyannas. It’s a toss-up. A crapshoot. A roll of the dice and a spin of the wheel.
They could be darn near anybody, and you have no control over who’s going to sit next to you and enjoy those scones (because there are always scones) and fresh-squeezed juice (ditto) and some sort of egg/quiche/omelet thing made with eggs from a nearby farm and local ingredients that you can only get within a 25-mile radius.
That is both the beauty and the danger of staying at a B&B. There is no way to know if you’ll be dining solo or with strangers, and if it’s the latter, if they’ll be someone you like, or can at least tolerate for 45 minutes or so.
If you lean towards introversion, as I do, that prospect can be intimidating, but I’ve stayed at quite a few bed and breakfasts, and while I might not have always felt that I was ready to meet another human being first thing in the morning, I have at the very least never regretted these chance encounters. More often than not they’ve made my world better.
This was particularly true at Bottger Mansion, an elegant bed and breakfast on Route 66 in Old Town Albuquerque.
The pastel pink building dates back to 1906, 1907, 1910, or 1912, depending on the source, but each one agrees that Charles Bottger was an early twentieth-century wool merchant and that he built a magnificent mansion with modern conveniences for the time, including speaking tubes and central heating from the basement coal-fired furnace.
After his death in 1914, it changed hands many times, but it always retained some sort of lodging. Over the last century there have been some notable visitors, including the notorious Machine Gun Kelly and his gang when they were on the lam from the FBI, Elvis Presley, and Frank Sinatra, who performed at a wedding in the courtyard.
Steve and Kathy Hiatt are the owners now and they’ve run it successfully for over a decade. In typical B&B fashion, each room is decorated with a different theme.
They’re named for prominent Albuquerqueans and we stayed in the purple-walled Clyde and Carrie Tingley room. Mr. Tingley was Governor of New Mexico from 1935 to 1939, friend to President Roosevelt and a devotee of the New Deal. He set up over a dozen hospitals during his tenure, including one named for his wife, whose tuberculosis was the reason they moved to New Mexico from Ohio in the first place.
The room was fairly small, as was to be expected in a house that old, but it was large enough to fit a queen-sized bed and a private bathroom. After three days of sleeping on an air mattress, that bed was like a cloud-covered piece of somnolent heaven. And that shower…I’ve never felt so clean!
Tip: after a few nights of camping book a night in a luxurious bed and breakfast or hotel and you’ll feel reborn. It will be the best shower and the best sleep of your entire life.
I awakened at dawn and snuck down to get my coffee from the machine set up downstairs in the enclosed porch. Sun filtered through the lace curtains from the courtyard and Graycat stretched lazily, sauntering off as I headed back up to the room to get ready for the day.
When we came down to breakfast a couple of hours later every table was occupied, so we picked the closest one and hit the B&B breakfast-companion lottery.
We sat down with Scott and Monty from North Central Washington. Jim talked with Scott and I talked with Monty; Scott was a farmer of apples, pears, and cherries; Jim came from a farming family. Monty was a retired English teacher who became a librarian; I’m a writer. We had found our people.
She told me of the time she had her students role-play “Lord of the Flies.” Once. How her students had a hard time understanding Grapes of Wrath and The Good Earth until she gave it some context.
She told me how she and Scott met rafting in the Grand Canyon, how they’ll stay at a pub in Ireland until two in the morning, how they went backpacking in Europe. We commiserated over the state of our country, somehow knowing we were kindred spirits without asking one political question. She told me I should be a public speaker. I told her I aim to try.
We had museums to visit and places to see and all sorts of things we could experience during our short time in Albuquerque, but we ignored them because what we were experiencing was worth more than any of that.
We were participating in perhaps the most important reason of all to travel: we were connecting with strangers.
We finally decided breakfast was over about an hour past our allotted time. We didn’t exchange emails or phone numbers. There was no false pretense that we would keep in touch. We simply said a heartfelt farewell and good luck, gave a fond hug, and went our separate ways.
Sometimes you stay at a B&B and your breakfast is a table for two. And sometimes you meet a Scott and Monty and it’s so much more.
We checked out of Bottger Mansion and continued our journey back in time. Our next stop would be to learn about the original inhabitants of this area, of the people who lived along the Rio Grande before the Spaniards arrived.
Pin this and I’ll love you more than I love scones.