Lava Beds National Monument
and the “Hotel California”

Out of Ohio … Into Lava Tubes

When I tried to book a hotel, motel, anything with a pillow near Lava Beds National Monument, there was nothing to find. But eventually, I came up with a place off the radar just outside the park. Soon, I would realize why.

It was a long day’s drive from the coast inland. It was scenic, too, so the trip with roadside stops for photo ops became longer. If you ever wondered what it looks like when lava hardens after flowing through valleys and even over hills, this landscape told that story.

We were in no man’s land!

Near our destination was a road listed as unpaved. But it did have blacktop at one time, albeit it was now ancient, crumbly, and looked more like an airstrip that had been bombed. And I mean carpet-bombed! We were going under 15 miles per hour, snaking around depressions and mounds of loose, pulverized blacktop chunks. It was surreal.

Our desolate road saw the sunset and moonrise. Getting near to our stay for the night, we noticed a bland strip of six doors on the face of a cinder block. Some of the doors looked like they were patched up after someone took target practice on them.

“Imagine staying there,” we laughed.

Just past it was an old lodge that looked like it was hanging on from the 1930s, or so it seemed. I walked a dim-lit hallway calling out to see if anyone was there. Tucked in a backroom was the office. Behind stacks of this and that, a face appeared.

“I didn’t think you were going to make it,” deadpanned the live-in manager.

I wondered if the same statement would be made if I somehow made it to morning.

“Let me escort you to your room,” she said.

On the way out, she grabbed an old, metal, square floor fan.

“This is your air conditioning.”

And by “out,” I mean out of the lodge and down a walkway to… the cinder block with six patched Swiss cheese doors.

Inside were two beds (a single and double), old carpet, cinder block interior walls to match the exterior, and a bathroom occupied by a huge wolf spider. There was no television, radio, Internet connection, or cell service. The back window was unlocked. I promptly locked it and set a booby trap consisting of things that would fall over and make lots of noise if anyone came through it that night.

“Can you help me with your son’s cot?” the manager asked.

I followed her to a nearby shed to retrieve the cot. This was after she offered the alternative, a mattress on the floor.

We were so doggone tired; I asked my wife if we should sleep in the car.

“For all that this place has going against it, I will say, it’s clean,” my wife whispered as we set up the cot.

The manager was exiting the front slab of cement when I called from behind, “We still need a room key.”

She laughed over her shoulder as her gait quickened.

“A room key? I mean, where ya gonna go?”

I stood dumbfounded.

A vision of Norman Bates to the sound of Hotel California danced in my head.

“Maybe we should sleep in the car,” I said.

“Oh my, this bed is so comfortable,” were the last words my wife muttered just before snoring in chorus with the kids.

I decided to take the first watch in my mind. I sat on the concrete slab out in front of our door. Leaning back, I took note of the seven holes that had been filled. What were they if they weren’t bullet holes?

Dead silence.

That night just happened to be the soundest sleep I had had in years.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun!