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Open for Business!

It's been a while since we've updated our blog (renovations will wear you out!), but just thought we'd post a quick note to let everyone know we have our first 8 rooms and the lobby/sunroom open. We had a soft launch on July 1st with 5 rooms booked and have since opened all 8 king rooms. It's been  great to meet all our new customers and show them what we've been working so hard on for the past 7 months. We are now moving on to the remaining 9 rooms and should have them finished sometime in September (then we might take a short break...)

So, if you have been following us on social media then you've seen pictures of the rooms, but we thought we would post some here too.  

 

Some features in each room: 

- Tuft and Needle King size mattresses (we've actually had three different people order their own after spending the night!)

- Malin and Goetz shower products to get you back to smelling great after your day's adventure

- Low water use shower heads and toilets, because we live in a desert 

- LED lighting throughout for energy efficiency 

- 32" LED TVs with DVD players (we are working on building a DVD collection for guests to 'rent' during those cold winter nights or bad weather spells)

- Window A/C units

- Drinks and good snacks for purchase (and we don't charge $10 for a bottle of water like most hotels seem to)

- Plant friends to green up the space!

- Conway Electric outlets next to each side of the bed

- Oscillating floor fans to keep things cool

 

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Hobby Lobby

The lobby expansion project is officially underway. We have a large hole in our living room wall (connected to the lobby), currently being masked by an earth-toned serape. Along with our temporary new ‘window’, there are a lot of different men walking through the apartment, doing things that require protective gloves and tools I’ve never even seen before.

If that’s not progress, I don’t know what is!

Rather than bore you with all of the details – I’ve included a few shots of the lobby in its current state, as well as some screen grabs from our interior moodboard. We can’t wait to get this baby up and running so we can host you all this summer!

Stay tuned,

Kaitlyn

Dan, hard at work in the lobby. Probably also wondering, "why the heck is Kaitlyn hunched over like Gollum to take a photo of me?"


Dan, hard at work in the lobby. Probably also wondering, "why the heck is Kaitlyn hunched over like Gollum to take a photo of me?"

Oolah is tired of all this dang noise. Her words, not mine! :)

Oolah is tired of all this dang noise. Her words, not mine! :)

Aaron, graciously smoothing the cement one more time after Moffet tracked paw prints all over the place!

Aaron, graciously smoothing the cement one more time after Moffet tracked paw prints all over the place!

I wasn't kidding about the hole in our wall. Or the serape. See!


I wasn't kidding about the hole in our wall. Or the serape. See!

Some things we are hoarding while we wait for the lobby construction to wrap.


Some things we are hoarding while we wait for the lobby construction to wrap.

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Confessions of a Motel Janitor (Vol. 2)

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Hello friends! Also, hello to anyone who might’ve accidentally stumbled upon this blog while searching for local Mexican cuisine. (Yeah, I know you just wanted to find a reasonably priced chimichanga – but like it or not, you’re here now.)

It’s been a good while since I’ve sat down and put pen to paper, so to speak, and I think we’re probably overdue for an update. The only problem? I don’t exactly know where to begin. Sure, I could gush about sweet baby Moffet, and how fulfilled pet-motherhood makes me feel. (Please see image of adorable puppy below.) Or I could delight you with tales of the Hell’s Angel who set up camp at the motel, and has since been run out of town. (Not pictured.) I could even compile a seemingly endless list of everything I miss about the city, but by that same token, I could also list a myriad of things that I love about living in the mountains.

The truth is that everything about life is so completely different, I haven't quite figured out how to feel about it yet...

I know that in theory, there are few things more romantic than running away with the person you love and building a life together. It’s exciting. I’d be lying if I told you otherwise. However, I think it’s easy to buy into the escapist fantasy that Philip and I are off living some glamorous adventure in the mountains. Don’t let the perfectly staged Instagram shots fool you! We deal with some questionable folks on a daily basis, we sleep on a floor-bed, we have approximately 4.5 friends (combined) and we clean other people’s pubes out of motel shower drains.

THAT is our reality… But it’s just one side of it.

On the other side, we have complete creative freedom. We don’t have clients or bosses weighing in and making changes as they see fit. We get to do this thing however we damn well please! And that’s pretty cool in my book. We also have the ability to make our own schedule, which typically involves skiing at least twice a week. AND, even though there are moments when I’d literally maim a stranger for some alone time – I get to share my life with the person I love! And did I mention that our dog is really stinkin’ cute?

So all in all, it's been kind of a mixed bag so far. There are some days when I question it all, and other days when I know I’m right where I need to be. It may be a total cliché, but sometimes you’ve just gotta take the good with the bad. Or I guess in this case, you’ve gotta take puppies and true love with other people’s pubes. (Still needs some finessing, but I'll work on it.)

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Progress Report

Well, things are progressing fairly well here at the Amigo Motor Lodge. So far we have 5 rooms torn apart and two of them roughly put back together with paint, trim and tile. It's been great seeing the rooms come together and finally jump off the page and into reality. And now that we have a handle on the idiosyncrasies of first two rooms (we did one on each side as the separate buildings were built very differently), the next rooms will be relative a piece of cake.  Oh, and so far we are managing to stay on budget...though I do remember hearing something about taking twice as long and costing twice as much, haha. 

The details of the process aren't that visually interesting, so I'll leave you with a few photos of the results.  And a picture of our new puppy, Moffet, because everyone loves puppy pictures. 

Just after the floor and wall tiles got set (and before grout).  Really happy with how this all turned out as the tile work is one of the larger expenditures in our renovation. 

Just after the floor and wall tiles got set (and before grout).  Really happy with how this all turned out as the tile work is one of the larger expenditures in our renovation. 

And here is a test fit of the concrete counter tops we built.  We decided to rebuild the counters, but you can get the idea here complimented by the steel leg and vessel sink.  Also, this photo shows the charcoal grout in place. 

And here is a test fit of the concrete counter tops we built.  We decided to rebuild the counters, but you can get the idea here complimented by the steel leg and vessel sink.  Also, this photo shows the charcoal grout in place. 

Started working on welding a mockup of the coat racks for the rooms.  Simple 3/5" square tubing and some tack welds but the result is very simple and utilitarian.  More pictures on this coming soon. 

Started working on welding a mockup of the coat racks for the rooms.  Simple 3/5" square tubing and some tack welds but the result is very simple and utilitarian.  More pictures on this coming soon. 

Looking out over the valley during a fat bike ride with local shop, Absolute Bikes. You can see the cone and sipral drive of S Mountain as well as the 14ers of Sawatch Range.

Looking out over the valley during a fat bike ride with local shop, Absolute Bikes. You can see the cone and sipral drive of S Mountain as well as the 14ers of Sawatch Range.

I somehow convinced Kaitlyn to take a short hike last week at Monarch Mountain.  She proceeded to tear down the powder, hit a small bump and have an absolute yard sale of a (soft and cold) fall. 

I somehow convinced Kaitlyn to take a short hike last week at Monarch Mountain.  She proceeded to tear down the powder, hit a small bump and have an absolute yard sale of a (soft and cold) fall. 

And here is little Moffet, who has totally taken over our lives in the past few weeks.  She has grown immensely in size and bravado since we picked her up right around the New Year.  

And here is little Moffet, who has totally taken over our lives in the past few weeks.  She has grown immensely in size and bravado since we picked her up right around the New Year.  

Well, that's it for this update. We'll post some more progress pictures shortly as we work through the rooms and get started on our big project: the lobby expansion and remodel. As always, you can follow us on Facebook and Instagram for updates. 

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Why are we doing this? (Part 2)

"..he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.” - James Lachard

 

After closing on the motel property in mid-November, we decided to stay in Texas through the Thanksgiving holiday to see family and wrap up a few loose ends in Texas. As always, it was a mad dash to clear out the closets, my two storage units, which had all thankfully been made a little more vacant through some Craigslist and OfferUp hustling as well as some good old bulk donations to local clothing banks. It felt like a great weight lifted off our backs to get rid of the stuff that just seems to pile up. You can only sit and shake your head at the sheer amount of crap that most people (ourselves included) have, but that's another discussion/post entirely. 

Unit 68.  It felt like a great weight lifted to get this storage unit cleaned out and sorted through.

Unit 68.  It felt like a great weight lifted to get this storage unit cleaned out and sorted through.

After the madness of loading up Kaitlyn's car during a power outage (headlamps to the rescue), the cars were loaded to the brim and we set sail from Fort Worth west towards the Texas state line. My Subaru sat about 3 inches lower under the weigh of most of my worldly possessions (with three bikes mounted on the rear and roof to boot). As we pulled closer to Salida, the car thermometer kept dropping.  First it dipped below freezing, then the 20s and finally into the low teens.  We knew we weren't in Texas anymore...

...and to tell you the thruth, when we finally pulled up and opened the door, the thought running through my mind was 'what have we done?!'

Decisions, Decisions. 

Decisions, Decisions. 

It was certainly an odd first feeling, because the process of deciding to uproot our lives and live in Colorado was something we had put so much time and effort into. It was a decision that had taken months, if not years, and here we were wondering just how far in the deep end we had jumped. So, what would compel us to do such a thing?

I don't speak for Kaitlyn, but I can safely assume there is a lot of overlap in what influenced us to steer down this path. It was partly rational and equally irrational. It was well thought out and spur of the moment at the same time. It was the culmination of a lot of ideas that has been swirling around, only to be ignited with the spark of someone like Kaitlyn, who was just crazy enough to try something like this. 

Just one of the many great nights in the camper.  A fridge, a small stove and a bed.  It's all you really need.  This campsite was outside of Durango along the Colorado Trail. 

Just one of the many great nights in the camper.  A fridge, a small stove and a bed.  It's all you really need.  This campsite was outside of Durango along the Colorado Trail. 

As I mentioned in my first post (Why are we doing this? Part 1), I had grown a little tired then jaded of the life I had built in Dallas. I looked around me and saw a lot of (seemingly really happy people) busting their hump for a piece of the life you are MEANT to want.  Bigger houses, the right schools, the cars, the memberships, the expensive meals with valet parking are not ALL there is, but certainly they seem to define a lot of what surrounded me (us). Not to say that it isn't fun and there aren't genuine people, but it just wasn't something that I could get excited about. It always just seemed like a stretch to get involved with the things I enjoy most - namely being outdoors cycling, fishing, skiing, etc. The vacations to scratch the itch skiing in Colorado or fishing in Montana only made me more frustrated in a way - they were almost cruel teasers of something great from 30K feet.  

So, while the outdoors had a lot to do with my decisions, I think beneath the surface there were a lot more things at play: like the desire to downsize and simplify, the calling of a smaller town life, the ability to be more mobile, and to build and sell something I really believe in (because, after all, we are our own target consumers with The Amigo Motor Lodge). These were all things that came into direct juxtaposition with what I had been doing for most of my 20s.  Now in my early 30s, those forces reached a breaking point and that's why I find myself here in a Colorado mountain town making a go of this motel dream.  

Somewhere near the Texas/New Mexico border some 30 miles from Tucumcari, the end of an a 900 mile race across Texas. 

Somewhere near the Texas/New Mexico border some 30 miles from Tucumcari, the end of an a 900 mile race across Texas. 

I suppose that in the end, this is something of a lifestyle project. It sounds glib, but, then again, aren't most decisions based on maximizing your or your loved ones interests and enjoyment. We only have so many years. I realize we are extremely fortunate to even be in the position to consider a project like this, but that's no reason to shy away from it. Besides, we all need some good stories to tell the grandkids one day!

So with that, we are now two rooms into the 17 room renovation that will surely be marred with budget issues, construction woes and cabin fever. But I am oddly looking forward to pushing through and seeing what we can accomplish.  

Oh, and if you are thinking 'Salida, where the hell is that?' well, here is just one reason we love the town: blue ribbon trout water with class 3-5 rapids in and around town.  Below is a quick video from an overnight float this past Summer:   

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Renovations have begun!

We didn't waste much time getting into the gritty, exciting and often mundane details of the Amigo Motor Lodge renovation. 17 rooms is a pretty small motel by most definitions, but it sure adds up when you consider we are attempting to finish this project with about 5 total laborers: a jack-of-all trades carpenter, a tile guy, a carpet guy, a paint guy and myself, who is attempting to learn and help as much as possible but most likely just getting in the way. 

So after arriving to Salida on a Tuesday night, we started demolition work on one room in each of the buildings (one king room and one double queen) to learn exactly what each room layout might bring.  What we knew and confirmed is that the two rooms were constructed at different times and with fairly different materials.  They were both with their own wonderful surprises (hidden holes in the wall under paintings, crumbling rotten tile, etc).  That said, we have made great progress in the last 10 days of work and are happy to be in the process of putting the rooms back together, which is much harder than tearing them apart!

Here is a look at the rooms as they sat - basically you could be looking at any boring motel in any town near you: 

Yes, this room smells exactly like it looks...

Yes, this room smells exactly like it looks...

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Scenes of tranquil nature adorn the walls...

Scenes of tranquil nature adorn the walls...

So, yeah...you have probably stayed in a place like this.  It's a roof, bed and hot water at a decent price but not a lot more.  And with a magic wave of the wand, we started to erase the sins of the past: 

Furniture, trim, sinks, counters and even the toilets get removed. We have been able to donate almost 100% of the room furnishings to the local Habitat for Humanity and a lot of locals through a Facebook group. 

Furniture, trim, sinks, counters and even the toilets get removed. We have been able to donate almost 100% of the room furnishings to the local Habitat for Humanity and a lot of locals through a Facebook group. 

Under the tile was some fairly decent rot and rust. And is that a 'Yard Sale' sign framing out what used to be the built in soap dish? 

Under the tile was some fairly decent rot and rust. And is that a 'Yard Sale' sign framing out what used to be the built in soap dish? 

The carpets were cut and rolled off, the floors ground down and a few wall and ceiling panels were removed to better understand what lucked behind the surfaces. After about a day in each room, it was time to start putting things back together, which is always the fun but slow part. 

Lucky for us, under the ceiling tile was some sheet rock. After removing about 1,000 staples it was time to apply tape and mud to smooth everything out. 

Lucky for us, under the ceiling tile was some sheet rock. After removing about 1,000 staples it was time to apply tape and mud to smooth everything out. 

On the other side, the king room bathroom got some new Durorock backing to replace some old plaster.  

On the other side, the king room bathroom got some new Durorock backing to replace some old plaster.  

Though we are trying to keep waste to a minimum, a few trips to the local dump are necessary. Fighting a fresh 8" of snow makes it all that more fun. 

Though we are trying to keep waste to a minimum, a few trips to the local dump are necessary. Fighting a fresh 8" of snow makes it all that more fun. 

Well, that's it for now. The next renovation update should show some of the ceiling and wall refinishing work (getting rid of texture is quite the task!) and maybe a sneak peek into a few finishes like tile selection. Stay tuned!

 

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Confessions of a Motel Janitor

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We’ve been in Salida for about a week now, and it has not been without its ups and downs. I’ve been skiing, broken down in tears on the way to lunch, shared a boot full of beer with some locals, cleaned a few motel toilets and learned to cook! (To clarify, the cooking and motel toilets are completely unrelated. That was poor placement on my part.) I’m also thrilled to report that I’ve been recruited by the local roller derby team, but that’s not really what this post is about. 

What it IS about: the valuable lessons I've learned in this past week.

Lesson Number 1: Contrary to what the movies might depict, pouring a beverage into your average run-of-the-mill hot tub DOES NOT magically transform it into a hot tub time machine.

Someone decided to give it the ole’ college try over Thanksgiving holiday, and as it turns out, it just breaks the control panel and causes a heap of other issues. Along that same line of thinking, if you own a hot tub and plan on leaving town for a week: LOCK IT UP. People will use your hot tub, and they will pour cheap whiskey in it.

Lesson Number 2: If you want to start a business with the word “Scout” in the name, prepare to face the wrath of the Boy Scouts of America.

After working closely with a trademark attorney, we quickly discovered that the BSA have a pretty serious hold on the name “Scout” (and any other variation of that word). The Boy Scouts may not seem like an intimidating bunch, but they know how to tie over forty different knots! They would have NO issue keeping our hands tied if they wanted. We went back and forth quite a bit, and eventually landed on a name that we think is equally awesome! Plus, it’s just fun to say.

Lesson Number 3: If you rent out a smoking room to three polish men, give it some time to air out before you try to clean it.

Not much more to say about that one. Just trust me.

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Why are we doing this? (Part 1)

Though it might be of little concern to a reader, for posterity's sake, Kaitlyn and I are starting out determined to record the genesis of this new business. From tons of before and after photos of the renovation progress to highlighting neighboring businesses around the Salida community, this blog will hopefully serve as something of a digital scrap book. But like any story, there needs to be some context from which to build, so I thought we should take some time to put the pen to pad to explain this adventure to those interested (but mostly to understand it ourselves). 

You get an odd look when you tell people you are leaving town to go run an old motel in the mountains. It usually takes the form of a half-cocked head, a raised eyebrow, or a pause (sometimes all at once) while it sinks in. And rightfully so, I guess. When is the last time you envied the night manager at a dusty motel, checking in road zombies alongside an interstate highway? 

The current owners gave us this photograph of the property as it stood perhaps 30-40 years ago.  Originally it was called the Monarch Motor Lodge and then changed to the Aspen Leaf Motel in the 90s. 

The current owners gave us this photograph of the property as it stood perhaps 30-40 years ago.  Originally it was called the Monarch Motor Lodge and then changed to the Aspen Leaf Motel in the 90s. 

So, what prompted the change? What are we trying to accomplish? I mean, really...why are we doing this? 

For me, it's a journey that began about 4 years ago. At the time I was 6 years into running a retail business in Dallas. I had been there from the beginning. It was my baby. It was the culmination of all I had worked for in the years after college. We had our successes and setbacks, but the the pattern of making a few more steps forward than back had kept us above water and growing. It was around the time we moved into a larger space and were really cooking with our online business - really the first time that I had some breathing room. And as I began taking the time to think about what was next (should we open a new store? should we launch a new website?), I began to also really consider the idea of something new.  

The daily grind of retail gets to you – the seasonality, the constant change in trends and the competition really add up. With more revenue comes more complexity, and you are only as good as your last season, quarter, month, day. Add to this fact that when you take a step back, you start to wonder about the idea of selling stuff that people don't really 'need' and I guess I lost my drive. Maybe I justified my waning interest with this thought, but I knew I wasn't the same person that launched the business.

My first inclination was to find a way to slowly cede control and spend less and less time inside the business. I ran with that, but quickly noticed that my enthusiasm just wasn't there and my time outside of the shop actually made me less and less keen on the business. I knew the best thing was to sell the business and start fresh on something I could commit myself to.  Easier said than done; it took about a year to split the business up and sell everything off, but it was a great feeling when done.  

It was right around this time, actually about exactly two years ago, that I met Kaitlyn.  And oddly enough, on that very first date we talked about something similar to this very concept over pizza and beer. Looking back, I guess life has a funny way of working out. 

Stay tuned for more...

The Arkansas River running through Browns Canyon Monument is definitely one of the jewels of the area.  Did a quick overnight float with friends, dogs and beer over the Summer once the Spring melt levels had subsided. 

The Arkansas River running through Browns Canyon Monument is definitely one of the jewels of the area.  Did a quick overnight float with friends, dogs and beer over the Summer once the Spring melt levels had subsided. 

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AND SO IT BEGINS...

Well, it's official. We are nutsWE BOUGHT A MOTEL.

It's crazy to think that just under two years ago, Philip and I casually sat across from each other, shared a pizza, and hatched the beginnings of a plan that would lead to us quitting our jobs, selling our belongings and saying "PEACE" to Dallas. I'm both excited and anxious as I click away on my laptop, trying to show squarespace who's boss. (Yes, I know it's meant to be user-friendly.. but we haven't quite warmed up to each other just yet.)

Anyway, just a few more weeks and then we are off to Salida to begin renovations. Can't wait to get started! Stay tuned for more updates and photos of our progress.

 - Kaitlyn

Photo from our recent trip to Salida – one of the last warm days of the season!

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