Sunday, July 26, 2015

Cavalier Attitude About Motels

From Dave Brigham:

I have a weird relationship with motels. I love them but wouldn't want to stay in one. Like many Americans, I've gotten spoiled by hotels and resorts and so I'm partly to blame for the demise of "motor hotels." For that I apologize.

I stayed in motels on occasion as a kid, from the Moon Motel in Howell, NJ, while visiting my grandparents, to an establishment in Salt Lake City during a family vacation when I was 12 years old. There was nothing particularly awesome about these motels (well, other than the Moon's sign), but I liked that they had pools and were situated in the middle of the action. You're not sealed off in a high-rise surrounded by other tall buildings; you're at ground level among the El Caminos, street walkers and Chevy Chase swimming in the pool in the cool night air (WARNING: NOT ENTIRELY SAFE FOR WORK).

Also, Magic Fingers beds.

As a teen, I spent a vacation in a motel on Cape Cod, possibly Yarmouth. I don't remember much about the place except witnessing a car crash and collecting a bucket of smelly shells. Several years later, during college, I spent time with some high school buddies in a motel that I believe was also in Yarmouth. We downed shots of tequila in the room before heading out to carouse.

So it's fitting that on my recent annual vacation to the Cape, I found myself in Yarmouth. We were staying in Pocasset, a village of Bourne where we stay for a week every summer. I took an aimless road trip by myself one day while Beth and the kids were at the beach. I didn't know what I was looking for, and got frustrated as I drove along Route 6A and found nothing but beautiful homes and quaint villages. I was hoping to find something like I did five years ago on a trip to Pocasset (see August 5, 2010, "Dark Side of the Motel").

Turning south from 6A, I made my way to Route 28 in Yarmouth. I'd misunderstood something I'd read about Route 6A. I thought that "seeing what Cape Cod looked like before tourists discovered it, and visit[ing] some of the best quaint, little shops in New England," was what I wanted. But as I drove through Yarmouth, I realized I'd found what I was looking for. The place is much more honky-tonk, with garish mini golf courses, tons of restaurants and hotels and arcades and other amusements.

And of course there were motels.

Many of them are still open, from the Beach 'N Towne to Hunters Green, the Dunes Motor Inn to Castle Dawn. The Bass River Motel was right next to the first shuttered place I saw.

There was no sign, but an online search later on told me this used to be the Cavalier Motor Lodge. This site comprises more than 4 acres and numerous buildings and indoor and outdoor pools.

Abandoned for quite some time, the Cavalier suffered a fire earlier this summer. Read about the blaze here and here.

Eighteen months ago a developer proposed to build affordable housing and commercial establishments on the site, but there are no signs of anything happening any time soon.

Next door to the Cavalier is another abandoned motel that originally I thought was part of the same complex. I haven't been able to find out anything about this place.

Not too far north on Route 28 I drove past another shuttered motor hotel.

This place seems to be in pretty good shape, but it's harder and harder for smaller, locally owned places to compete with the hotel chains on the Cape.

I guess what it comes down to for me is an appreciation for the little guy, the kitschiness of neon and the smaller scale of motels. But as I said, I also really like air conditioning, indoor pools and sleeping on beds with clean sheets. There are plenty of motels that have been redecorated and freshened up, without losing their old-school charm.

For another recent motel-related post, see April 15, 2015, "From Motel to Mall".

To see my previous post about this year's trip to the Cape, see July 21, 2015, "Bikes, Buzzards & Blessings."

Stay tuned for the third and final installment of this year's trip to the Cape....

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Bikes, Buzzards & Blessings

From Dave Brigham:

Longtime blog readers will recall that I date my discovery of the concept of "the backside" to a canoe trip down the Farmington River I took with my dad when I was 12 years old or so (see this blog's inaugural post, March 2, 2010, "Take Me to the River"). Like rivers, railroad tracks provide a great view of the oft-hidden side of cities and towns. We've posted countless times about abandoned tracks, trestles and trains. Here are a few links:

In this age of railroad downsizing, many former track beds have been turned into bike paths. While I love stumbling across abandoned train tracks, I also love riding my bike, and if I can do it on the backside of America, all the better.

Vacationing on Cape Cod recently, my wife, kids and I took to the Shining Sea Bikeway. Constructed along the former Penn Central Railroad right-of-way (and, before that, ancient Native American trails), the bike path stretches nearly 11 miles from North Falmouth to Woods Hole.

We rode about three miles south from the northern terminus, and then u-turned and headed back. Along the way we passed houses, restaurants (including the Silver Lounge, which features an old caboose), cranberry bogs, small farms and conservation land.

We also came across the Buzzard's Nest, sort of a poor man's Paradise Garden, the folk-art world of wonders in Georgia erected by Rev. Howard Finster.

There was nobody around, and an Internet search turned up nothing. I have no idea who set this place up or for what reason. A deep dive into Google Maps reveals a few tantalizing clues: the words "TAX IT ALL DEVAL PATRICK" written in chalk at the end of the driveway leading to the property, a reference to the former Massachusetts governor; a hand-painted sign at the end of the driveway that says, "NO BAG AT DUMP TAX"; another sign for ABC Services offering "DUMP RUNS." A flagpole with the Stars & Stripes and an anchor sit on opposite sides of the dirt driveway, which disappears into the woods.

Just north of the Buzzard's Nest is an overpass with some cool graffiti.

Finally, as we were just about back to where we'd started, I noticed this lovely little memorial.