The Grantmoor Motor Lodge, located on the Berlin Turnpike in Newington, Connecticut, sits 154 miles due south of the Shady Lawn Motel in White River Junction, Vermont. Built in the 1940s to speed up the drive from Hartford to New Haven, the Turnpike was nicknamed “Gasoline Alley” because of the thirty-two gas stations that sprung up along its eleven-mile way. Now, however, the Turnpike serves as the main corridor between Wethersfield and Meriden; no one has called it “Gasoline Alley” in years. Though Big-Box stores have set up shop where gas stations once stood, the strip has managed to hold onto a few residual traces of local flavor. Between and off to the side of the newly minted national and multinational chains—Lowe’s, Krispy Kreme, Raymour and Flanigan, Burger King—lies a sundry string of distinctly regional operations, from independent motels to the odd Fifties diner.
While most of the motels here hunker meekly by the side of the road, each somehow more unexpected than the next, the Grantmoor makes its presence known far in advance with a towering steel sign that rivals even that of Wal-Mart’s. Despite its initial hubris, however, the motel keeps a prudish distance from the road, hiding behind an expansive, heavily divoted and frequently empty parking lot, which the Lodge shares with the Sphinx Temple (a Shriner meeting house) and the Golf Improvement Center Driving Range (self-explanatory). Eventually, though, the Grantmoor’s signature white modernist zigzag pokes through the horizon, a colonial “G” pinned to its top.
With its wood-vinyl walls, Indian tapestries, and a large sheet of glass that keeps the proprietors safe from their clientele, the lobby suggests a New Delhi bank circa 1973. Behind the front desk, a row of photographs displays the Grantmoor’s diverse array of accommodations so that visitors too shy or too tired to talk can pick the kind of room they want merely by pointing. (Rooms are for single guests and couples only. The rule reads: “Only two people allowed in room. No Visitor! No Party!”) The most deluxe room, depicted in a photo on the far right (the photos are arranged in a left=worst, right=best sliding scale), features a heart-shaped waterbed, a heart-shaped Jacuzzi, and a floor divided into carpeted and uncarpeted zones. A car stereo is mounted in the bed’s headboard next to a lighting control panel, which features not only a variety of basic color choices but also a variety of color gradations. (If you don’t like your pink “hot,” you may opt for “somber.”) Here, the mood is at one’s fingertips.
The options to the left of the Most Deluxe Room feature, in descending order of notability (but also silliness): round beds, four-poster beds with sash, four-poster beds without sash, with/without Jacuzzi, plus/ minus television—until one reaches the Most Far Left Room: standard double bed, bureau, no Jacuzzi, no television, scuff marks on the wall. One senses immediately the deep stench of nicotine. Even without all the bells and whistles, the Most Far Left Room retains a certain cachet: a mirrored ceiling. In fact, every room at the Grantmoor, from Most Deluxe to Most Far Left, comes with a mirrored ceiling. One may lie on a bed and examine one’s reflection for as long or briefly as one wishes: hourly, nightly, and weekly rates are available.
For those who enjoy water sports, the Grantmoor offers a half-empty pool and a hot tub filled with rocks and newspaper.
3000 Berlin Turnpike, Newington, CT 06111 (860) 666-5481; Number of Rooms: 92. Rates: $30 to $150 depending on what one wants; Proprietors: Raju and Devyani Patel. Relation to the Shady Lawn Patels unknown. Firmness of mattress: Wishy-washy to doable; All-Terrain Vehicles parked outside the lobby: 2.