Monday, February 6, 2012
A Quality Inn & Suites That Serves As A Doorway To The Larger Hellhole.
The Good: Inside the room is nice, spacious and generally clean, Internet access in lobby
The Bad: Doors do not close, Breakfast options are inflexible, Location
The Basics: In a generally unpleasant location bordering on Mexico, this Quality Inn and Suites represents an unremarkable installment of the hotel chain.
You know the old phrase "Location, Location, Location?" Sometimes, something is so nice all one wishes is that it were in a different place. Sometimes, one wonders why others bother to try to build in locations that are just plain terrible. Driving in to El Paso, Texas, from Carlsbad Caverns, NM, one passes by sprawling shantytowns on the outskirts where the primary building material appears to be aluminum roofing. Forget refugee camps in foreign nations, in the United States, in the borderlands, there are places so poor and dank that passing through them crushes one's spirit. That's El Paso, Texas for you.
The best one might hope for in a hotel in a place like this is to offer one recluse from the hellish vista of poverty and fear that await outside. At the Quality Inn & Suites in El Paso, one does not get that.
Located at 6099 Montana Ave. in El Paso, Texas, the Quality Inn & Suites (TX606 in the Choice Hotels pantheon), is a horseshoe-shaped hotel almost invisible from the main road. Instead, one must be on the lookout for last-minute signs on Montana Avenue and one must turn into what at first appears to be an abandoned restaurant next to a gas station. The abandoned restaurant is a restaurant and it is not abandoned. The main lobby for the hotel is adjacent to the restaurant and it serves as the first unsettling aspect of the hotel, which is blissfully deep enough into El Paso so as to be beyond the true poverty and past a half-mile of familiar chain restaurants and superstores.
Checking in at the hotel was fairly easy and from the main desk in the restaurant to the actual hotel there were no real complications. The parking lot for the hotel is essentially behind the restaurant/lobby with the hotel rooms ringing the parking lot with a very "Motor Lodge" feel to them. My stomach, already in my ankles from the drive through slumtown El Paso went out through the soles of my feet. I began to think, "I'm paying $77.95 for this?!"
My thought at this point was "Quality Inns is part of the chain of hotels I have chosen to do business with because of their commitment to quality and the uniform standards between the hotels in the chain." I kept thinking, "I'll get to the room and everything will be safe and wonderful." Looking out from the walkway in front of my room, I could see the mountains of Mexico and the blue sky. And if I looked in any other direction, I could see the signs for local fast food restaurants.
Then I approached my room, which was (blissfully) on the second floor of the hotel.
The first thing I noticed about the room when I stepped into it was that the air conditioner was already on. That's unusual I've found as most hotels like to save some power by keeping the rooms as little ovens until one checks in. I suppose electric bills are bigger in Texas, too.
The room was a nice 12 1/2 foot wide by 23 1/2 foot deep box that instantly made me feel at home. The two double beds were where they were supposed to be and the bathroom actually looked decent. When I went out to bring things in from the car, I discovered the first (of several) rubs: the door did not close.
The door closed, but one good shove opened it right back up. Flipping the deadbolt worked, but unless you had someone in the room, the room could not be secured. This made me quite anxious and I went to the front desk to ask about getting a different room. Along the way, I noticed that all of the doors looked flimsy in this way and I became more unsettled. After finding out that there were no other rooms available, I stopped by one of the other rooms on the way back to mine.
One good shove opened that door (thankfully no one was inside to be freaked out by my breaking and entering). Thus, I was faced with a terrible choice that no traveler ought to have to make: stay in a room that was not secure or check out and move on to a different hotel. The choice became easier for me when there were no comparably priced rooms in the Choice Hotel chain nearby and my fatigue from a day of traveling, including wandering through massive caves, overcame me.
I stayed in the room with insecure locks. I did not sleep well.
Perhaps the superlative aspect of the Quality Inn & Suites in El Paso, TX, is that the rooms were actually clean. Both my room and the room I, er, inspected for this review were generally clean. The linens were fresh, though one of my towels was damp when I picked it up, and the beds were made fine. The sheets were clean and dry, but stiff and uninviting.
The hotel room was generally clean, though there was a sticky residue on the desk (it came off with a wet washcloth on one pass, I just resented having to do that). The room was a pretty standard room, with a motor lodge feel to the interior as well as the exterior. The two double beds faced the television - which was a little dusty on its screen - and there was nothing else that seemed out of order.
The public areas - I went back to the "lobby" to use the computer - were less clean. I'm not saying "run into the woods screaming" dirty or anything, but I saw a couple of bugs in the lobby and the front counter (behind which the hotel's attendant was resting his eyes, which made me feel less good about the security cameras monitoring the parking lot) had a few sticky spots as well. The carpets were clean but the restaurant was less well kept, especially as breakfast progressed the next morning.
The bathroom was clean and the toilet did pass the first flush test.
The Quality Inn & Suites in El Paso, despite not being all that inviting, was not entirely disappointing. The room did have a toilet, a shower/tub, two beds (it claimed to be a nonsmoking room, but if it began its life that way is of serious doubt) and a desk. The television had great reception and about sixty different channels.
The bathroom came with the standard generic shampoo, conditioner, lotion and soap. The bathroom - tucked away in the back of the room - was disturbing for the fact that it contained a high window without any sort of curtain. That was just creepy to me, though it did let light in in the morning.
There were two public terminals for internet use in the lobby and that was nice because if one was daring enough to leave the room there was something to do. The pool, a little concrete number in the middle of the parking lot, was less than inviting.
Breakfast was another hassle, though. At check in, I was informed that breakfast was in the restaurant and there were hot options. That was cool, I thought. Unfortunately, the options are set and there is no altering them (certainly not for me with my minimal ability to speak Spanish). Sadly, the options were: Juice, eggs, sausage and bacon OR Coffee and pastry OR juice and pancakes. One could not, I discovered, have juice and a pastry or coffee and pancakes. There were flies in the restaurant as well and they were hovering over the eggs, which did not make me all that appetized. The waitstaff let the flies do their thing while they talked. I ate the breakfast (the eggs were quite cold) solely to have an opinion for this review. Ahh . . . what I suffer through for reviewing! Breakfast was not worth it.
All in all, I have to say that my stay at the Quality Inn & Suites in El Paso was unnerving and unpleasant. I've had better nights at hotels which had rooms that were not as nice but were in more secure buildings or nicer locations. But here there was a quality to the staff that was unhelpful - like when they seemed miffed that I'd want a room with a door that locked regardless of whether or not I was in it - that combined with the atmosphere of heat, exhaustion and undefined menace to make the place seem pretty uninviting.
If there were a hotel one got to stay in as their last stop before hell, the Quality Inn & Suites on Montana Avenue in El Paso might well be it.
For other hotels in the Choice Hotels chain, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
Comfort Suites Downtown - Buffalo, NY
Comfort Suites - Stratford, CT
Quality Inn & Suites Universal Studios - Orlando, FL
For other travel reviews, please be sure to check out my Travel Review Index Page by clicking here!
© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.