Staying in normal chain hotels is pretty boring.
Although it can be a bit of a risk to stay in some random motel, it always makes for a more interesting story and a more fun experience.
It was summer 2018, and I was looking for a place to stay on a last minute weekend trip to Cocoa Beach Florida to visit the space center. As soon as I saw a picture of this pastel castle, the opportunity to stay here could not be passed up. It went along perfectly with what my brain had dreamed up retro Cocoa Beach would be. The reviews were mediocre, but we’re not picky. The price was pretty cheap, but not the cheapest on the list. Right where I like it. From the photos online, it looked like my dream motel.
This Motel is called Fawlty Towers, and I couldn’t find any more information on it before booking. But later on during our stay, I read that it had once temporarily became a nude motel in hopes of increasing business. I couldn’t find any info on if clothing was still optional, but everyone I saw there kept their clothes on. whew!
The motel formed a square, where every room had a back door that faced the courtyard with a pool. Palm trees covered the property and it was like a quiet little oasis.
At night, the courtyard pool felt a little like an alternate reality. I loved it.
The room was nice enough, with all the things you’d expect a motel to have. It was clean and the bed was comfortable.
This crazy motel makes the list of top favorite places I’ve ever stayed. I would definitely stay here again on another trip to Cocoa Beach.
I’d never seen the desert before, but I’ve always wanted to. It seemed like such an intriguing landscape, so different from the dense green rolling hills I was used to. Where palm trees weren’t a strange sight, and cactuses grew naturally.
One day I discovered some cheap flights to Las Vegas, and suddenly a week long desert adventure was being dreamed up. Five hours to the other side of the country was the longest I had ever spent in a plane. I loved every minute of it; seeing the landscape change before my eyes.
In the rental car we explored the desert world for the first time. The land was so flat, with no tall trees, you could almost see straight across to the other side of the city. Mountains stood tall in the distance, surrounding Las Vegas like a wall.
I stared along the palm tree lined streets, having never seen more than a few palm trees before.
I continued to stare out the car window as we passed all the famous casinos. Strange to see them all in person. Only ever seeing them in movies, it almost felt like they didn’t actually exist.
Nestled around the shiny sparkling casinos, run down motels and other attractions lay as ruins, providing quite a big contrast.
Even the houses matched the desert color theme.
The seven days in the desert were off to a good start.
During my trip to Michigan, I wanted to visit the cemeteries of my relatives. Luckily I unknowingly chose a hotel right in between two main cemeteries where my relatives laid. Unlike the the Southfield Cemetery, the Holy Sepulchre Catholic cemetery was massive and easy to get lost in.
It was an icy November day, and we wandered around the vast place, looking for our family members. My mom was relying on her memories of running around here when she was little. Her grandparents were caretakers of this place!
This unique group of trees caught our eye and we wandered over. It was the right area!
Someone had placed wreaths at the graves, we wondered who that could have been.
My great great grandfather, who came to Detroit from Austria and worked as a grave-digger in this cemetery.
I’ve always liked wandering around in cemeteries. There’s something really peaceful about them. It was even more special to visit a cemetery where my family members were buried. Most of them I’d never met, but had heard plenty of stories about. Others I have some vague memories of, so I was glad to get to visit their graves.
I love discovering new places on the blue ridge parkway. Some places are a long and difficult hike to get to, others are just a quick walk down some wooden stairs.
The quick walk down the wooden stairs at Graveyard Fields led to a peaceful rocky stream. I would have liked to stay here and wander around in the shallow water, but as this had been a quick little 24 hour trip to Asheville to see a concert, I hadn’t packed the right clothes for playing in a river!
The goal was to hike to the big upper falls of Graveyard Fields, but we got turned around and ended up back in the parking lot!
The story of that adventure is here.
The interstate in my backyard, if followed long enough, will eventually lead to the small town of Holbrook Arizona.
It’s a little town that the old route 66 used to run right through until it got bypassed in recent years by the construction of big interstate 40. Holbrook also inspired the little desert town in the movie Cars.
The people behind the scenes of the movie Cars apparently spent some time in this cafe, planning out the movie.
(For some reason we didn’t eat there?!!)
We rolled into the town of Holbrook on a chilly late February afternoon, after spending the day wandering through the Petrified Forest. Old neon signs lined the streets, and big dinosaur statues guarded the many little gift shops scattered around. I wanted to walk around and explore the shops, but it seemed everything was closed. There was nobody around, except for a random car passing by here and there. With the cold wind blowing through, Holbrook felt like a bit of a ghost town. Or at least on its way to becoming a ghost town.
I dreamed of what it might be like, in the hot summer weather, and what it had been like many many years ago.
I still find it amusing, when I listen to the cars on the interstate behind my house, that this little town lies way down the road. And then I dream of racing off, back to the desert. It’s just 2000 miles down the road!
Cape Lookout Island. Only accessible by Ferry, and with no paved roads. It was once a home to a small fishing community but is now owned by the National Park system.
A short walk away from the tourist area, down the lonely shoreline, and remnants of the island’s past begin to appear.
Barnacle laden debris from the houses burned down by owners who refused to let them become acquired by the government.
And maybe parts from an old car that became engulfed in a sandstorm, only to appear again some time later.
Conch shells, still inhabited by their original owner can easily be found in the shallow waters.
This beach is different than others. A beach forgotten.
During the dive away from the Grand Canyon, towards northern Arizona, the landscape grew more and more like nothing I had ever seen.
Around every curve was an entire new world. It was a valley, with sharp red cliffs rising up to the sky. Then around just another curve, the road was on the top of a mountain, looking out over a flat golden plateau. Snow capped mountains stood in the distance.
It felt like another planet. Like Mars.
Every so often was a house, or a trailer, or what could be considered a minuscule town. But mostly, there was no sign of civilization.
The farther the drive, the more alien the landscape looked. Eventually the curvy desert roads led to this bridge. Red mountains surrounded the area, while the bright blue Colorado river flowed beneath the bridge, heading towards the Grand Canyon.
The goal was to reach Monument Valley by dusk, so not much time could be spent in this foreign place. But it stands out in my mind as one of my favorite areas of Arizona.
I hope to one day return.
Along the edge of the Grand Canyon, the Desert Watch Tower stands out. A rocky beacon rising tall above the trees.
Designed to look like the remnants of a tower built by an ancient civilization, the structure was completed in the 1930s and contains a gift shop and many observations points overlooking the Grand Canyon.
A circular staircase rises up four stories of the petroglyph covered tower.
Another reminder of how cold it was!
It was fun admiring all the charismatic petroglyphs on the way to the top. The Desert Watch Tower was definitely an interesting stop along the rim of the Grand Canyon.