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Romance from the old hotel

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

April’s Garden florists, from left, Mary Stoner, Barb Gilliam, Linda Eich, Natalie Boyer, Danielle Campbell, Linnea Barnett and Suzanne Wilcox create some of the 600 Valentine’s Day floral arrangements Tuesday.

By Jim Haug Herald staff writer

“To the man I met, if not for Durango,” wrote a female guest in a room journal at the Strater Hotel.

While in town on business, the California woman described falling for this “amazing man. To whoever reads this, believe it or not, you can meet someone you can connect with in five days.

“This man ends up being 20 years younger. Yes, I know. We ordered room service every night and drank some good wine. ... Not sure if I will ever see him again, but he put a dent in my heart.”

The walls of the historic hotel can’t talk, but its room diaries are filled with romantic tales to warm the heart on Valentine’s Day. These are lovers deep in the throes of passion.

“Wow !! What a fabulous time we had !! We were here four days and barely left the room (wink)! The town was so cute driving in but we didn’t see much of it this trip,” wrote a couple from Phoenix.

Another couple wrote of meeting at the Strater as friends and checking out as lovers.

“Drove five hours through some of America’s most beautiful landscape for a friendly rendezvous that became a romantic tryst in room 310 with an amazing, playful, radiant, beautiful woman. Advice – sleep with the windows open.”

His girlfriend added, “This adventurous evening ended up being one of the most incredible nights of my life – totally unexpected – which makes it even more magical. The beautiful bright moon light and the fresh mountain air added a layer of beauty to an amazing experience. The stars aligned. I know it’s only the beginning of a long journey.”

Stories written in hotel room diaries are difficult, if not impossible, to verify. Writers do seem to find their muse at the Strater, where most famously, author Louis L’Amour, wrote many of his novels.

“That’s one of the really fun things about the journals. Not only did Louis L’Amour become a prolific writer while he was staying at the Strater, but our guests wax poetic from their experiences here,” said Suzan Lane, human resource director.

“A lot of people write about hearing people in the room next to them having romance, too,” Lane said.

One guest in particular shared a Valentine’s Day story.

On Feb. 2, 2012, a man named Franklin wrote, “I am from Cleveland, Ohio. This is my 63rd visit to the Strater Hotel. I come here every year on Valentine’s Day to remember my lovely Elaine who was here with me in 1950. We enjoyed a lovely night here. She sadly passed four days later of food poisoning. Things were much different in those days. But this place has remained the same. I return every year to see my love.”

Staff could not corroborate his story. No one by the writer’s name had a reservation for the Strater this Valentine’s.

Hoteliers are not the only businesspeople who hear their share of romantic stories.

Florists during Valentine’s get an earful when taking orders over the phone for the romantic notes that will be attached to their lovers’ flower arrangements.

Valentine’s Day, along with Mother’s Day, is the busiest time of the year for April’s Garden, which will have 10 drivers delivering flowers today.

Their customers’ messages run the gamut from naughty to nice.

“We see all kinds of things. We get some profanity, suggestive messages. People using puns. Oh, we’ve had a few,” said Amy Long, owner of April’s Garden. “We get a chuckle out of them every once and a while. It’s our comic relief.

“We do get a lot that are touching and romantic,” Long said. “We think, ‘Oh, I wish my husband or boyfriend would write that for me.’”


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