Maryland Motels

This page represents our first trip through this state. It is also a work in progress, with all of the accompanying opportunities for misspelling and factual error. If you have any comments, suggestions, or concerns, please feel free to email us.

[camera icon]White House Motel

North of Washington D.C. -- about a mile north of Highway 50 on Route 3 -- you'll find the White House motel ("phone for service"). During the day, it appears that this place has been closed for quite a while, but the neon still flows through the rusted sign on the backside. There's something about flowing neon gas that lulls you into a gentle trance. It's not history, or kitsch, or anything like that; it's more like the same sense that draws you to stare into flickering flames at dusk -- something primordial. We're here to visit our nation's capital, a first for Vienna, and begin a tour of the eastern seaboard. Already, we've toured the Smithsonian which features a clever exhibit on family summer road trips. Summer is bearing down strong and the asphalt is surly. Some of the window screens at the White House are ripped, but have been stitched carefully back together. (I won't strain for a comparison with the real White House). We stand under a tall evergreen to stay cool and kick tampon dispensers on the parking lot. If you look very closely, you'll spy tell-tale mounds of deer pellets. My notes remind me, "do a riff on deer." But it does my heart no good to reminisce about how one trashed our van in an attempt to cross the road on another hot day a couple of years back. Suffice it to say that we're satisfied to see only this much of their presence. By night, guests will find themselves at this White House, and even find a manager to greet them.

[camera icon]Pines Motel

Several days later, we find ourselves on Highway 50 heading west from Ocean City. Leaving the congested heart of the city we spot the Pines Motel, across from a mall that once was a cornfield. Sure enough, the sign features two pines, but they're white. We eventually learn that an extra shade of green would have cost the owner too much. Under the sign that says, "office," you can see where the Pines used to advertise "air conditioning and cable TV." Frank, the owner, is more than willing to explain what happened: "I took them down. Wanna know why? Because people'd come in and say, 'hey, you got air conditioning and cable?' And I got so sick of making 'em look ignorant, saying 'look at the sign,' that I took 'em down." Apparently those questions got Frank a little annoyed, but what really steams him is that other motels -- real sleazy ones, he assures me -- invoke the "pine" name in some permutation that's similar to his own. Sure enough, unwitting travel agents send people planning to stay at his motel to other bastardized pine-variants. We conclude our visit with his story about the lawn jockeys he's got out front. But I promise him not to repeat his narrative on the web -- you'll have to ask him yourself. Frank's place is near the Maryland Motel, a battered and overgrown relic.

If you've still got time to travel Highway 50 in Maryland, turn off at the Alamo Court. This gem was built in 1945 to accommodate the throngs of travellers hitting the two-lane to all points west. The Alamo sits across from one of those pre-fab minigolf-arcade palaces that sprout like weeds around here, but this motel looks like it could outlive them all. An old man running the place rolls from room to room on a golfcart and tells me that the Alamo is the oldest motel in Ocean City. I forget to ask him if this motel was connected to the chain of Alamo Courts and Plazas founded by E. Lee Torrance. He was a guy who soundly rejected the use of nighttime lighting to draw customers: "No sir, no neon," Torrance announced. "We don't want to look like a beer joint." Even though this Alamo turns out to have nothing to do with his Alamos, both share a similar simplicity in their recollection of the pueblo style. We rest on ancient wooden chairs that rock on more of that astro-turf material that turns up at motels from time to time and watch the cars go by. Stepping into the office to cool off, I find a black and white kitten sleeping between the window pane and the wood paneled wall. Her ears turn into tight boomerangs when I pet her.

Return to the lobby.

Last update: April 6, 1999. All photographs copyright © Jenny Wood. Text copyright © Andy Wood.