Here’s the bad: Much as we’d have liked to stay in one of them, much as we are — in our own view — “hipsters,” Ace and I can’t even afford “Bohemian.”
“Minimalist,” it seems, is beyond our means.
We dropped in at the Ace Hotel in Seattle, where the chain got started, and checked out the one in Portland, where it’s now headquartered, but — even with the sliding scale it offers, with lower prices if you share a bathroom – it was out of our league.
So here, I’ve decided, is what America needs — a level of lodging slightly below Bohemian, but slightly above the YMCA, a motel chain that’s dog friendly and mostly free of germs, crawling bugs and psychos. Motel 6 probably comes closest – hopelessly unhip as it is.
The Ace Hotels, from what I saw of them, do minimalist much better, except for the price part. All four are in old buildings with rich histories, and the furnishings– from hotel to hotel and from room to room – are varied and eclectic, as opposed to going the cheap motel route of putting the same cookie-cutter formica furniture in every room across the nation.
Therein lies the difference between Bohemian and Institutional, and who wouldn’t rather spend the night in a place that makes you feel like a beatnik, as opposed to an inmate.
Depending on your own personal economic condition, Ace Hotels are worth checking into if you’re traveling to New York, Palm Springs, Portland or Seattle, because, on top of their dog friendliness, they have some character, which the big chains always lack.
There is another solution to this issue — this issue being getting accurate information on lodging that has character, and is both dog and wallet friendly — and it doesn’t involve chains at all. Instead it involves looking at the world through something other than a corporate lens.
There are some otherwise fine guide books and websites out there that can help one find dog-friendly hotels and motels. The problem is, most of them don’t make much effort to include the non-chains, the mom-and-pop, small independent motels — many of them dog friendly — that don’t charge exorbitant prices for a room. And still have character.
Perhaps it would be too much work for the guidemakers. Perhaps mom and pop aren’t Internet-savvy enough to get their establishments listed. In any case, the result is, from AAA to bringfido.com, the options presented are almost always the big boys — Motel 6, Super 8, Best Western, La Quinta, Holiday Inn, Sheraton, Hilton, Hyatt and on up the ladder of chains.
As a result, pup-friendly mom and pop — who are probably much more in need of the boost in business that comes with being known as dog-friendly – are ignored, because they own one motel instead of 500 of them.
Ranting aside, we stopped by the Ace Hotel in Seattle to take a look, and considered staying at the one in Portland. Both, in the parlance of the trade, are considered ”boutique” hotels — which is basically a term meaning it hasn’t grown into full chainhood yet and is still small enough to be charming
While both qualified for our hipster seal of approval, both were beyond our budget, even if we shared a bathroom.
The desk clerk at the Ace in Seattle explained that the name was chosen because aces can be both high and low, and the hotel strives to provide lodgings at both ends of the spectrum, as well as provide high quality at low price.
The hotel in Seattle is in a former Salvation Army halfway house located in the Belltown neighborhood. In Portland, the Ace moved into what was the Clyde Hotel, the lobby of which served as a setting for scene in the movie, “Drugstore Cowboy.” The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In Palm Springs, the Ace Hotel is in a converted Howard Johnson’s; and in New York it occupies the Breslin, a former single-room-occupancy hotel at the corner of 29th Street and Broadway. Transforming it meant displacing some longtime residents.
A New York Times review of the hotel called it “shabby chic” before snottily adding, ”a bit too redolent of the past.”
Ace Hotels got their start when Seattle native Alex Calderwood and some friends decided to create a hip yet minimalist hotel. The Ace Hotel in Seattle opened in 1999; and in 2007 they opened one in Portland.
Calderwood’s hipsterness went back even further than that. He used to throw warehouse parties for the grunge set, later moving up to hosting events for Microsoft. Today, he holds four Aces, and, at last report, had his sights set on a fifth.
Given that growth, I think it’s time the chain start considering some advertising, and perhaps a spokesdog. I have one in particular in mind, whose services can be obtained for a reasonable fee — a sliding scale even. I’ve got some other promotional ideas, too, such as complimentary slightly used flannel pajamas for all guests, and even a slogan to help get across the message that the hotels are dog friendly:
“We’ll leave the bowl out for you.”
Posted by jwoestendiek November 15th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, ace hotel, affordability, alex calderwood, america, animals, bohemiam, chains, character, corporate, corporations, dog friendly, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, hipster, hotel, hotels, lodging, minimalist, motels, new york, palm springs, pet friendly, pets, portland, road trip, seattle, shabby chic, traveling with dogs, travels with ace
The color for today, courtesy of the state of Maine, is red.
There has been no avoiding it since Saturday, when we made our way from Portland to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park amid a dazzling array of fall colors.
Nearly every town we went through was sporting red. Yellow and orange, too, but red seemed to be the dominant hue.
Leaves, vines, shrubs, stop signs and cars, barns and sunsets all seemed to be vying for the honor of reddest red.
Even when I stopped for lunch — and ordered my first lobster roll — the fluffy white meat had red running through it. I sat outside under crisp skies, at a red picnic table, as Ace sat at my side and drooled.
Just across the street sat a red pickup truck, under a tree that was putting its best red forward as well.
The reds especially popped when set against the backdrop of the deep blue sea, as was the case as we made our way through coastal towns like Rockland and Camden.
We saw red antique stores, and red vines climbing up brick buildings, turning redder and redder as if challenging the brick: “You think you’re red? We’ll show you red.”
We saw barns fighting, amid the beating Maine takes from the weather, to hang on to their red, picnic tables with a new coat of red, lobsters soon to depart their deep red shells.
I’m not sure whether Maine is a red state or blue state when it comes to politics. I’m sure I could look it up.
But I’m too busy … enjoying the red.
(To see a synopsis of Ace’s travels so far, click here.)
(To see all of “Travels with Ace,” click here.)
Posted by jwoestendiek October 4th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: acadia national park, animals, autumn, bar harbor, camden, coast, coastal, color, colors, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, fall, fall colors, lobster, lobster roll, maine, pets, portland, red, rockland, seasons, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace
After three drippy days in Portland, Maine, we took off yesterday to see some more of the state, and eventually work our way, like John Steinbeck and Charley did, to its northernmost reaches.
Finally, everything was dried out, so it was just a matter of loading up my new rooftop carrier and heading for Bar Harbor, where we’ve received an offer to bunk for two nights, and where we’ll see how Ace fares amid horses and cats.
He’s already fallen into a routine in Portland — our morning walk to the Clipper Mart next door for coffee, where I’d tie him to a post while I filled my cup; his morning constitutional on the grassy slope to the side of the motel; and frequent stops in the lobby, where he’s developed a bit of a fan club among staff and guests, several of whom ply him with treats.
After three days of rain, Saturday brought clear, crisp skies. Fall colors popped under the bright sun and it was a perfect day, weather-wise, to get back on Steinbeck’s 50-year-old trail. He stopped in Bangor, then backtracked south to Deer Isle to visit a friend with a “hateful” female cat named George: “George is an old gray cat who has accumulated a hatred of people and things so intense that even hidden upstairs he communicates his prayer that you will go away,” he wrote.
From there, he followed the coast of Maine along Route 1, which we’ll be doing for a while as well, arriving Monday in Aroostook County, the massive, remote and northernmost county in Maine.
We’re hoping to avoid the “wet gray aluminum” skies he encountered up that way, for having finally reached a state of dryness (and we don’t mean Maine), we would like to hold on to it for a bit.
Ace, comfortable as he was at the Motel 6, knew, as he always does, that it was time to roll even before I began packing up. Somehow, he reads me. Like a map.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 3rd, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, animals, bar harbor, dog, dog friendly, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, maine, maps, pets, portland, road trip, route, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, travels with charley
With the weatherman saying it would be noon before the torrential storms that have soaked the east coast arrived in Portland, Ace and I squeezed in a quick visit to the city’s waterfront early Friday.
My hope was to get there early enough to see some fishing boats coming in, maybe some loaded with lobster, 40 million pounds a year of which are harvested off the coast of Maine before making their way to bib-clad diners in fancy restaurants. But, seafood-wise, there wasn’t much going on.
So, taking in the sounds and smells of a city waking up and getting down to business, we walked down some wharves and alleyways as the sun came up — though it did so all but hidden by layers of grey clouds, some passing so low it seemed you could reach up and grab a handful.
Only a few souls were on the streets, one of whom, an employee at the Porthole Restaurant, saw Ace, then went back inside, returning with a handful of sausage balls.
In addition to those giving handouts, there were those seeking them, including the woman above who — treatless though she was — Ace quickly befriended, partly curious, I’d guess, about what might be under her blanket, partly, I’d like to think, because it looked like she needed a friend.
We contributed $4 to the cause before wandering on. Following a sweet smell in the air, we walked down to the Standard Bakery, next to a Hilton. I had a cup of coffee while Ace stationed himself in a position not too far from the door, in case somebody came out with spare croissant, or spare scone.
Plenty of upscaling has gone on in Portland’s Old Port District, as it has in harbors and riverfronts across America. As in Baltimore’s glitzy Inner Harbor, panhandlers — showing some street smarts, as well — occasionally sneak in, as if to remind us of the incongruity of it all.
Unlike in Baltimore, Portland’s waterfront remains a working one — at least on one side of Commercial Street. On one side, former warehouses are now home to boutiques, restaurants and bars; on the wharf side, condos and cruise ships have joined the soggy blue- collar fishing operations.
Maine’s not an easy state to survive — much less prosper — in. The state government itself, like most, is having hard times. Just yesterday, the governor announced $10 million in spending cuts, mostly in the Department of Health and Human Services.
The cuts would not result in layoffs, the state said, or in a significant cutback to people currently receiving services — which sounds like a pretty good trick.
“What we have done is tried to absorb in programs funding that we otherwise would have used to expand or increase the program, because as you all know, we have significant demand on services,” DHHS Commissioner Brenda Harvey said.
I’ve read that sentence four times, and still don’t understand it.
Meanwhile, due to the poor economy, the number of people waiting for services– in nearly all the department’s programs — just keeps growing.
With many of its biggest industries being seasonal — potatoes, lobster, blueberries (the state produces more than 95 percent of them) – hard times are nothing new in Maine, leading it to turn to tourism to fill in the gaps.
An expansion of its casino industry is also being looked at. Maine voters will decide in November on a proposed $165 million casino and resort in the western part of the state.
In 2003, voters approved slot machines at a racetrack, now known as Hollywood Slots, in Bangor. Since then they’ve rejected three casino referendums. This time around, who knows? They might decide it’s the best way to weather the economic storm.
(To see all of “Travels with Ace,” click here.)
Posted by jwoestendiek October 2nd, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, blueberries, casinos, cutbacks, district, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, economy, government, industry, lobster, maine, old port, pets, portland, potatoes, road trip, tourism, travel, travels with ace, waterfront, wharf, wharfs, wharves
Rolling into Maine, about the same time fall decided to, we’ve decided to lay low in Portland a few days, dry out from our camping experience and perform a little maintenance — on the new website, the car, the dog and myself — before we head into the remote, northernmost reaches of Maine.
Among those things needing to be dealt with: broken eyeglasses, dirty laundry, a shaggy and unkempt appearance (me, not Ace), and a seriously moldy smell in the car. In addition to all the wet stuff that had been riding in the back of the car for two days — I halfway expected to look back there and see Ace amid a field of mushrooms – there was still more wet stuff atop my car in my leaky rooftop carrier.
So we pulled into (you guessed it) a Motel 6 and got to work on our top priorities — for Ace, scoping out possible sources of treats; for me, doing something about the small lake that had formed inside the black plastic rooftop bag.
I decided a new rooftop carrier would be a good investment, because without it, Ace would be riding amid a mountain of camping gear, luggage and other miscellany. I hoped to get a carrier with a hard shell — one that would be easy to get stuff in and out of, and one I wouldn’t have to tie down with ropes and bungee cords.
I left Ace in the room and headed to the Sears auto center at the Maine Mall. While they had the hard-shelled carriers, they didn’t have the hardware necessary to attach it to my luggage rack, so I ended up with another soft one.
Since I was already there, I decided to get the oil change I’ve been postponing, and asked them to check my tires.
After a quick bite in the mall’s food court, I went into the Pro Vision Center, asking them to accomplish what I could not – at least not without wearing my glasses, which one can’t do when they’re trying to reinsert that little screw that secures the temple to the front of the frames. They did it in two minutes, and charged me nothing, an act for which, by the end of the day, I would be even more thankful.
Sears called to tell me my car needed some realignment, and that my brake pads were wearing thin (which explains that squeak I’d been hearing.) I opted to have the back ones replaced and let the front ones live out what little life they have left.
That meant I had more time to kill, so I stopped for a quick and drastic (at my request) haircut, and — because the temperatures are dipping up this way and I brought no winter clothes along — bought a jacket at J.C. Penney. I opted for a black microfiber bomber jacket, though I plan no actual bombing in the near future and I have no idea what microfiber actually is.
From there, I picked up Ace so he could tag along for my next chores: doing the laundry, emptying and removing my old carrier and throwing everything that was wet into dryers – shoes, pillows, sleeping bag and tarps included. Despite my efforts, my workboots and a pair of sandals still had strange fungi growing on them, so I disposed of them, along with the old and holey black plastic carrier and the massive amounts of dog hair left after I gave Ace a good Furminating.
When I tallied what I spent — $10 lunch, $15 at the laundromat, $20 (counting tip) for haircut, $40 for a jacket, $10 for batteries at Radio Shack and a whopping, but not unfair $473 at the Sears auto center — it added up to almost $600. Ouch.
And this just when we were completing the most frugal month yet of our travels.
In month four, we, for the first time, were headed for spending less than $1,000 for our food, gas and lodging combined — thanks mainly to staying still in Baltimore for a bit, and freeloading off friends both there and in Philadelphia.
September saw us spend only seven nights in motels, two at a campground, one in a car, 10 in the homes of friends and 10 on the boat of a friend. All tolled, we spent only $400 on shelter, only $240 on gas and about $300 on food. (Knowing we were saving money elsewhere, we treated ourselves to some nicer dinners than usual.)
Perhaps I need some lessons in frugality from the people of Maine, who, according to the stereotype anyway, have adjusted to living in a state where incomes fall far behind the rest of New England. The state’s farmers and fishermen are accustomed to an up and down economy, and know how to make ends meet during the downs.
This afternoon, while walking Ace behind the Motel 6, I noticed a group of four young people. One jumped into the Dumpster and tossed cans and glass and plastic bottles up to his cohorts.
They left with a full sack.
Frugality, they say, is a tradition here — though one can be both frugal and generous.
Take Gordon, who is temporarily living down on the first floor. He’s been a Motel 6-ite for more than two weeks.
He seems to limit his luxury purchases to treats for the dogs he meets at the motel and his daily cigar, which he steps outside to smoke, disposing of his stogies in an ashtray on the side of the building.
He spends much of the day sitting in the small lobby, handing out treats and making friends with the dogs who pass by. He plans to stay a couple of more weeks before going to visit some family in northern Maine.
If he ever needs to figure out exactly how many days he has been in this Motel 6, I know how he can do it. Just step outside and count the stogies.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 1st, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, auto, brakes, budget, camping, car, cigars, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, expenses, freeloading, frugal, frugality, generosity, maine, maine mall, maintenance, mall, money, motel 6, motels, pets, portland, repairs, road trip, spending, stogies, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace