Going Places: Deep travel and the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells.


By MARILYN ROBITAILLE


I ran across a perfect travel term that describes something we should all embrace: “deep travel.”


Author David K. Leff explains, “At its simplest, deep travel is about mindful looking, about journeys that drill deep into a place rather than demanding distance to be interesting.”

I’m coming to understand that life can be richer if we practice deep travel first right where we are. As you drive down familiar roads on the same route day after day, what might you be missing?


Experiment some and see if you find a new way of seeing what’s around you, what you think you know.


Now that things are opening, I have big summer plans that involve long flights to multiple exotic places. Before I board the plane for that 10-hour flight, I plan to practice some deep travel to a place just down the road north.

It’s where I grew up and went to high school. It’s the only place I lived from the time I was five years old until I left after high school graduation.


Perspectives change with time, and many of the things I took for granted when I lived there, now attract my attention in fresh new ways.


From Stephenville, you can reach Mineral Wells, Texas, in a little less than an hour. Mineral Wells is experiencing a renaissance. It’s still very much a work in progress, but seeing the early stages of activity stirs excitement.

Once you’re within 10 miles, you’ll see that one big building dominates the landscape: the Baker Hotel.


In the heart of downtown, the Baker Hotel stood empty for years. The hulking mass of cream-colored brick became an awful eyesore. Windows were broken and emblazoned vandals left graffiti. As it deteriorated, various attempts to start renovation plans built hope, only to have that hope shattered when nothing materialized.

Then fate brought a variety of individuals together with money and skills, and the hotel that captured the imagination of whole generations is once again taking its place as the pride of the community.


The hotel and spa first opened in 1929. The meticulous renovations, which can be followed on the hotel’s website, will bring back the style and grace of an era that made the hotel famous.


The list of celebrities who performed in the “Cloud Room” or stayed at the hotel includes legends from Marlene Dietrich to Lyndon Johnson. The list is too long to duplicate.


You can’t see much now with all the construction underway, but you’ll note that things are looking better all over town. Take the time to appreciate the quaint Mineral Wells charm when you arrive.

The town restored the “Crazy Water” sign that stretches all the way across Hubbard Street with directions that Famous Crazy Water is two blocks away. If you head in the general direction of the sign, you’ll arrive at the source. The cute gift shop offers everything from homemade soap to caps, but the real reason to go is, of course, the mineral water of Mineral Wells.


You can taste the variety – numbers one through four. Do a tasting to determine your tolerance level.


Number four has the most minerals and tastes decidedly different and refreshing. You can purchase several gallons or a single bottle. Be forewarned, Mineral Wells mineral water can be addictive.

Restaurants and bars are plentiful downtown and shoppers’ paradise can be found at The 76067 Market.


This enclave of individual shops offers gourmet groceries, unique clothing, jewelry and gifts. I never seem to leave empty handed.


Returning to the place where I grew up, even in the midst of lots of change, brings me back to my youth. I went to many a high school dance in the Baker, lolled in the sun by its pool, ate with friends in the Brazos Club and babysat for a couple who lived on a floor just below Mr. Baker’s grand suite.

When I was in grade school, I went with my friend to find her mother in the spa. We were met with aromatic smells of eucalyptus in an atmosphere of thick steam. I noted the opulence and the marble tub she was in. She had the requisite cucumber slices on her eyes, her hair in a turban, and she was neck deep in dark, rich mud. I was entranced.


Watching, really watching the resurrection of the Baker Hotel and returning over the next year or so constitutes the stuff of deep travel. I can’t wait to book a room and a spree in the spa when it’s open. Memories run deep, especially if the deep travel involves a fancy hotel and that delicious mud.