COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. >> In the first episode of the series “Schitt’s Creek,” a suddenly broke family has to leave their lavish mansion to begrudgingly live in a rundown motel.
By the finale in April 2020, the made-over motel turned into something the fictional family — and viewers of the hit show — adored.
The motel’s redemption story mirrored a trend happening beyond the television screen: Forgotten roadside stays are getting a second chance at the spotlight.
There was this real-life scene from 2017: Jody Corey and her friends planned a wine-tasting trip to Palisade in western Colorado. They booked a little motel with no Google reviews or website. They hoped for the best.
When they arrived, “We were horrified,” Corey said.
When the wine trip was over, though, Corey kept thinking: “We should buy that place.”
The place fit the picture many have in mind of old motor lodges: “Dingy rooms with 1970s decor, popcorn ceilings, showers you couldn’t turn around in, shady managers and dirt-cheap prices.”
That description comes from the website of Spoke and Vine Motel, the new name of the 1955 motel that Corey stayed in. She and her husband, Jeff, bought it in 2018 and opened the remodeled version in May 2019.
“I saw the potential in how cute we could make it,” said Corey, who owned a property management company in Steamboat Springs. “We like a challenge.”
And it was a challenge to update the 17-room property that showed signs of little care over the past decades, Corey said.
“If we would’ve torn it down, it would’ve been a lot easier,” Corey said. “But we liked the idea of saving the past and keeping the history of it.”
That’s what draws visitors to these places, among options like chain hotels or brand-new boutiques. Colorado is home to trendy remodels, such as Mellow Moon Lodge in Del Norte and the Amigo Motor Lodge in Salida.
They have a vintage feel, because they are vintage.
The rise of roadside motels can be traced back to the 1950s, in the early days of the quintessential American road trip.
These long trips were fueled by affordable places you could easily find in the days without GPS tracking. In many cases, the motel was just a place to rest while on the way to the next place.
Carrying on this spirit of adventure is one mission of LOGE Camps, a company that finds motels near outdoorsy towns and brings them back to life.
One of LOGE’s five renovated motels is a Breckenridge location that opened in 2019. The roadside stay is just a 10-minute trip to Keystone Ski Resort and 15 minutes to Copper Mountain.
Edward Solan was a self-proclaimed “fan boy” of the company behind “hotels that get you to the outdoors,” which is LOGE’s motto. He first heard about LOGE a couple of years ago while studying hospitality in graduate school in Georgia.
“It just sparked something in me, like this is what hospitality should be trying to be,” he said. “They’re breathing life into these older hotels, renovating them in sustainable ways and putting their own touches on them.”
When he was offered a job managing the Breckenridge location, he asked, “Where do I sign up?”
LOGE took over the former Wayside Inn, a motel built in the 1960s. The updated spot offers gear rentals and demos and an on-site bar and restaurant, called the Wayside Cafe.
Just as in its older days, Solan says the lodge-looking option offers something cheaper for visitors to Breckenridge, where hotel rooms can spike up to $500 or more per night. A recent search shows a room at LOGE for $179.
“In a place that can be a bit luxurious and out of reach for many, there’s this option that’s a little more affordable,” Solan said.
He describes the type of service as “not intimidating.”
“We’re not going to be super formal. When we greet you, we’re gonna be like, ‘What’s up?’” he said. “We want to treat you like a friend who we want to have a really good stay.”
This type of friendly and casual service can also be found at Spoke and Vine, where room check-in details are sent via text, so visitors can skip the lobby when checking in. Bikes are available for rent, dogs are welcome and complimentary breakfast is delivered to rooms.
On the website, the owners write about a belief in “little things,” like delicious coffee, attentive service and good vibes.
So far, those little things have led to plenty of stories of pleasant surprise from visitors.
Solan shared a story about a woman who stayed at LOGE after staying at the former motel in the 1980s.
“She said, ‘You should’ve seen it here back in the day,’” Solan said.
She surely noticed the upgrades.
Solan said the essence of the stay he aims for: “You want to feel safe and comfortable and you want good coffee. You don’t need a bunch of fancy things to have an incredible experience. “
Corey has stories of people saying, “They’ve never really seen anything like it before.”
Visitors have been known to point something else out — how the motel’s story reminds them of a popular TV show.
“If it’s the first time they’ve ever stayed at a motel,” Corey said, “they’re like, it’s just like ‘Schitt’s Creek.’”
Corey and her husband see the resemblance. They dressed up like characters from the show for a Halloween party in 2020 that they hosted at the motel.
It’s hard to say how much the show inspired this motel movement. The pandemic likely played a role, as some travelers preferred to hit the road rather than book a flight.
Along the way, maybe they saw a sign for Spoke and Vine Motel. And maybe they changed their minds about what it means to stay at a motel. That’s one reason Corey thought it was important to keep “motel” in the name.
“We thought some people would have some poor connotations associated with that word,” she said. “We wanted to show people it’s a cool thing.”