Saturday, July 16, 2005

More Highway 11 -- I didn't ask if this one is "fireproof"

Dogwood Lodge -- Lee Highway Posted by Hello

For years I've driven past the Dogwood Motel on U.S. 11, Lee Highway, just outside of Radford, and thought of taking a room. And all because of this sign. Isn't this a great sign? It must have been quite an investment in the days when U.S. 11 was an important highway. I love these old pre-chain motels and their individuality.

A few weeks ago, I finally stopped in on the Dogwood, hoping to score a postcard from days gone by. Entering the office, I instantly realized from the smell of incense and pictures of a safron-garbed swami on the wall that I was in a "Potel," a motel owned and run by Asian Indians.

Did you know that Asian Indians own approximately 50% of the motels in the United States? The early entrepeneurs mostly bore the name "Patel," an Indian surname as common as "Jones." Thus, the name "potel" for "motel." Their rise is a great success story based on family ties and hard work. America, land of opportunity.

My wife and I, stuck in our nostalgic Peace Corps traveling days, began taking rooms in potels long ago when they were at the low-end of luxury. It reminded us of traveling in Africa and Asia where Indian entrepeneurs run so many motels. At one potel in Mississippi, we smelled curry in the air (curry in Mississippi -- is this a great country or what?) and told the owner-operators we'd like to buy a meal off of them. They were so delighted they prepared a feast for us.

A bit too much curry, though. Afterwards, I was wishing I was "fireproof."

More info on the Indian community in America.

UPDATE: Mrs. Salt says "saffron" is spelled with two "f's" and that it's important to note the Patels are Gujaratis, well-known for their entrepeneurial talents in East Africa and elsewhere. Many were run out of Tanzania when "forward thinking" socialist President Julius Nyerere appropriated their businesses.