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Are All Hot Springs Hotels Funky?

What is is about hot springs hotels and springs in general that makes them immune to normal business practices? Okay, maybe this isn't true of all of them, but so far every resort or lodge we have been to which is based on hot water activities is odd in some way. This is true even when the prices are reasonably high.

I am not going to name names here, by the way, because I'm not sure if I want to either encourage or discourage visits to some of the places we have been. I'm not quite sure what to think in fact, because it seems that for all the oddities and substandard practices at the places we have stayed, in the end we enjoy them.

For example, on a recent trip to a hot springs hotel in New Mexico we were ready to turn around and get back in the car when we arrived. Were it not for the non-refundable reservation we would have. The rooms surrounded a dusty dirt courtyard that had some dead palm trees and a few old plastic chairs. The door to our room - which we booked because it was the best and most expensive - was an old screen door that stuck and had to be pulled closed.

The key was in the door, and we had been informed when we booked online that we did not need to check in, but could go straight to the room. Upon entering the room we had to stop to truly look at everything. The red-painted plywood floors were perhaps a way to save the environment by not using carpet or other coverings? The floor lamp on one side leaned out precariously toward the center of the room, next to the couch that was at least twenty years old and practically threw us onto the floor when we tried to use it.

Ours was a suite, and the bedroom was just as... creative. An bookcase held dozens of dusty old books that had not been straightened up in a while. The lamp next to the bed was broken, with the top hanging sideways from the wiring. The thick old blankets were probably more than is necessary in this desert climate, although we realized later that there was no heater in the room (unless it was hidden somehow). At least the television worked.

In the bathroom there was a hole in the counter, through which an electrical cord protruded. This could be plugged in to run the air conditioner that sat behind the toilet. A paper plate was stapled to the ceiling to cover a hole there, although it probably wasn't worth the effort, since the walls had more than enough other holes to allow critters in. The toilet was a bit unstable, but it worked.

In the kitchen the refrigerator leaned back toward the wall - a convenient way to keep beer cans from rolling out the front perhaps. There was coffee in a plastic tub if we wanted it, and a table with a couple mismatched chairs that were shaky and fifty years old. An old rug or two covered parts of the plywood floor and all of the four or five curtains in the suite were unique and different from each other.

Out the back door we had our own hot spring basin - one of the few things that was truly built well and was clean. It was about eight-by-four feet wide, with two sitting ledges. In the patio near it there was an old metal table painted three different colors, with an ashtray on it. There were three cigarette butts in it. There were two chairs - one of them with broken webbing. A broken-down old metal lamp sat next to an outdoor outlet - lighting for the evening. A half-burnt candle sat next to the hot spring basin as well.

We laughed (it beats crying) and we eventually turned the big valve to fill the basin with the natural spring water, which was clean and hot and wonderful. We set up our "office" on the rickety old kitchen table, put a folded napkin under one leg to stabilize it, and did some work. We laid back in the big old bed and read, then later watched an episode of "Monk." By the second day, after our morning hot spring soak, we were actually talking about the possibility of returning.

Yes, it was a funky place, but it was quiet and relaxing. We could walk to the cafe next door for a delicious breakfast (and the owner of the hot springs hotel even gave us gift certificates for it. There were other places within easy walking distance as well. We had privacy in our own patio with our own hot spring. A cat came to the edge of the roof above to keep us company.

Yes, hot springs hotels are usually funky odd places. The last one we went to in this same town has mobile homes for rooms, and at the hot springs near our home we used to have to walk on rugs laid over a muddy trail to get to the shower room. But they have their charm. Of course, if we discover any hot springs hotels run like a Hyatt, we will probably pay the price to try those out too.


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