By Daniel Walters
The guestbook's signatures range from the swooping cursive German of an Italian pastry chef to the shaky scrawling of a young child writing, "I relly liked the toy boat." Though the Morgan Street Bed and Breakfast, in Davenport, Wash., has been in operation for only four years, its guest book has comments from Australians, South Africans, Danes, and Milwaukeeans. That's even more impressive considering that Davenport is a town of only 1,700.
Still, since Davenport is on state Highway 2 and bills itself as the "Gateway to Lake Roosevelt," tourism is a major business. Davenport offers three options, the Bed and Breakfast, the Davenport Motel and the Black Bear Motel. Each has unique strengths that cater to different types of travelers.
The Morgan Street Bed and Breakfast tends to attract families and single women, due to its safe, hospitable atmosphere.
"We tend to get nice people," Cher Guhlke says.
She and her husband, Brett Guhlke, have owned the bed and breakfast since it opened. The building used to be an antiques store and before that a family home. The turrets, spires, and sharp angles jutting out of the light yellow house are typical of Greek Revival architecture. Built in 1896, only 12 years after the city was founded, the structure is one of the oldest in Davenport.
Though it can be a bit more expensive than other offerings, the bed and breakfast's price drops $10 per night in the winter, and those strapped for cash can decide not to eat breakfast for $5 less. The bed and breakfast also serves as a café, where regulars can grab a bowl of soup and a cup of coffee and chat with the Guhlkes.
Cher Guhlke describes the inside of her business as "aesthetically pleasing, warm, and inviting." Odds and ends – a model ship, a toy duck, a green chessboard – clutter the shelves and dressers. The paintings on the wall, some by customers, portray comfortable scenes: flowers, trees, a trio of ladies. Guhlke was able to get great deals on quality furniture because she previously worked at Spokane's Bon Marché. The B&B's furniture, therefore, is a hodgepodge of styles, ranging from Victorian to Bistro.
Upstairs, each of the four rooms has a different style. At $85 per night, the Turret Room stands as the largest, most expensive and most popular. Its mahogany furniture matches the rich dark walls. Sometimes, families like to spread out upstairs, renting the Turret Room for the parents and the smaller Velvet Room for the kids.
The purple and white bedspreads from the Northbrook and Ivory Rose rooms have a traditionally feminine feel. Every room features thick mattresses that the guests rave about in the guestbook.
The guestbook showcases the true appeal of the Morgan Street Bed and Breakfast – the customer service. Washington Secretary of State Don Quack writes that the "hospitality was outstanding."
"P.S. Thanks so much for the use of the washer and dryer," Charlie Ann Anderson writes.
Nancy and Jen Kugelmann, of West Hartford, Conn., were involved in a car accident while traveling through Davenport. They stayed at the B&B during their recovery. The Guhlkes ran errands for them and picked up their prescriptions.
"Thank you so much for everything you did to make our situation more bearable," they wrote. "We'd love to see you again under much better circumstances."
Davenport's other two locations are less expensive and offer the classic motel experience. Both are long, single-story stretches of numbered adjacent rooms.
The Black Bear Motel is the cheapest place to stay, with single rooms starting at $40. It is also the largest motel with the largest parking lot in the city, welcoming both semi-trucks and RVs, complete with RV hookups.
Two carved wooden black bears greet tenants pulling into the parking lot. In mid-January, both bears were covered in still-falling snow. One still sported a Santa hat though Christmas had passed a month earlier. Motel owner Mark Elwood admits he does not know the exact reasoning behind the bears out front or why the place was named the Black Bear Motel. The bears and the name were there when he purchased the place, four years ago.
Wooden slats deck the roof walls of the motel, giving it the feel of a rustic lodge. For an extra $10 per night, visitors can get rooms with kitchenettes, including microwaves and refrigerators. All rooms come with cable. Guests can even get two rooms side by side for only $45. The Black Bear Motel also features a Native American gift shop.
The Davenport Motel is on the far west side of town and offers similar services. The rooms are slightly larger than many motel rooms, and come outfitted with couches and coffee tables. They also come with coffee- and tea-makers. Ironing boards, irons, and hairdryers are available upon request. The cable televisions have 46 free channels, more than many fancy hotels. In a typical room, the subdued golden bedspread matched the light pastel watercolor paintings and the small Norman Rockwell prints.
In an inspired touch, Davenport Motel rooms have more than just Gideon Bibles. Each room is outfitted with a variety of reading material, from Newsweek magazines to Readers Digest condensed novels. Not only that, but the motel encourages guests to take the reading material home with them.
What distinguishes the Davenport Motel from the others, however, is not what it has, but what it forbids.
"The Davenport Motel was one of the first to go completely non-smoking," says owner Paul Scott.
That means no stench hanging in the curtains, no tar gumming up the electronics, and no flicked cigarette butts littering the parking lots. But come prepared with cash or checks. Guests cannot pay with credit cards; nor can they cook in their rooms.
Naturally, each location runs with a different group of guests in mind. While families may enjoy the homey atmosphere, plush beds and friendly conversation of the Morgan Street Bed and Breakfast, others may find such amenities distracting. They may prefer, instead, to get a cheap single at the Davenport Hotel, watch some cable TV, scan the latest issue of Newsweek and then get coffee the next morning. Those who drive trucks and RVs, obviously, should stay at the Black Bear. Some locations focus on aesthetics, others focus on pragmatics. As always, it depends on the traveler. Your mileage may vary.