Cheap hotels can be a very mixed bag. I usually try to find something on my road trips for under $40 a night and feel positively profligate if I spend more than $60.
That attitude has netted me some interesting extremes; all the way from an old but clean and well-tended facility in Oklahoma that offered a coupon for a complete two-egg breakfast at a nearby restaurant in the morning to a scruffy establishment in Maine where the room temperature never got much above 60 in January and the morning pastries looked stale even through the cellophane.
I’m not sure I’ll ever top the Sands Motel in Grants, New Mexico, though. It was Where Elvis Slept.
I got the Elvis suite, Room 123, complete with sign on the door, photos on the wall and a framed copy of the “Affidavit for Application for Marriage” to Priscilla Beaulieu nailed up next to the mirror.
Yes, $35 a night plus tax got me the room that Elvis supposedly stayed in the night before he went to Vegas to marry Priscilla.
True, or just a good story? I don’t know for sure, but it seems a stretch. The motel doesn’t claim much. No signs around, no yellowed newspaper clippings. “You’ll have to check the records,” was the response when I asked if there was any proof.
Questions of the two local papers yielded me no responses at all, much less any substantiation. The county historical society said it had no confirming documents. And an account of those times from Marty Lacker, a co-best man at the wedding, says that Elvis and his entourage stayed in Palm Springs the night before the wedding.
So another great story wobbling I’m afraid.
Grants, named after three brothers named Grant who garnered a contract to build a railroad through the area in the 1880s and built a work camp there, is not a stranger to celebrities.
Bob Hope, traveling through Cibola County by train, was stranded there by a snowstorm back in 1946. One of the teachers at the high school convinced the comedian to put on a show for the students.
The Von Trapp family stayed in town in the late 1940s and sang at the local Catholic Church.
And Vivian Vance of I Love Lucy fame and her husband had a vacation cabin nearby. She was from Albuquerque, just 80 miles away, and her brother lived in Grants. Rumor had it she was going to retire there, but she never did.
On a more somber note, Liz Taylor’s husband Mike Todd was killed near Grants in a plane crash in 1958. His plane iced up during a thunderstorm in the mountains southwest of town.
Grants is also home to an airway beacon, a rotating white light sometimes with red and green signals atop a tall tower. Next to the tower was a large concrete pad in the shape of an arrow. Back in the early quaint days of airplane navigation there were some 1500 of these in the US, marking airway corridors for pilots to follow.
Meanwhile, if any of you Enquiring minds out there wants to dig into this Elvis story deeper, let me know what you find out.