The Shady Dell is located at 1 Old Douglas Road in Bisbe. Information: 520-432-3567 or www.theshadydell.com.
© Terrence Moore
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Shady DellRV parks aren't for everyone, but this park is perfect for anybody wanting a trip back to the days of beatniks and blue highways.
By Robert Stieve
Jack Kerouac never slept here. Well, maybe he did, but there's no record of it. Still, it's the kind of place he would have been drawn to when he was out on the road. Nearby Bisbee and its mixed bag of colorful characters would have caught his eye as well.
Located along State Route 80 — at one time a main artery between Savannah, Georgia, and San Diego — the Shady Dell RV Park is about as far away from high-end luxury as you can get. It's low-key, as most things are in rural Arizona, and it's a step back in time, to the days of beatniks and blue highways.
Of course, there are a few modern-day amenities at the park. In particular, full hookups for RVs and campers. If you've blown the kids' inheritance on a fifth-wheeler, you might as well use it, but that's not the best way to spend a night at the Shady Dell. The better option is to shack up in one of the park's vintage aluminum travel trailers. There are several to choose from, including a 1949 Airstream, a 1950 Spartan Manor, a 1954 Crown and a 1951 Royal Mansion.
Take your pick. They're all cool. The Airstream is the most photographed, for whatever that's worth. The Manor, however, might be the closest you'll ever come to time travel. The polished blond wood on the walls and ceiling is original, as are the appliances and furniture. There's even a vintage television — no remote, no TiVo, no nothing, which is how it should be when you're flashing back to the 1950s.
The best of the bunch, arguably, is the Royal Mansion. Built in 1951, this 33-footer has a full-sized bed and a small bathroom. In addition, there's a breakfast booth in the kitchen and leopard carpeting in the living room, which adds volumes to the exotic feel of this trailer. Imagine the Jungle Room at Graceland, but without Elvis. By the way, he never slept here either.
In all, there are nine trailers at the Shady Dell, eight of which are immaculately restored and used for sleeping. The ninth, a 1957 Valentine, houses Dot's Diner, a 10-stool eatery that's been featured in Gourmet magazine and National Geographic Traveler. CNN and CBS This Morning have dropped by as well.
When John Hart bought the Valentine in the mid-1950s, he parked it on the corner of Ventura and Topanga Canyon boulevards in L.A. — it was "Burger Bar No. 3" in his chain of Los Angeles hamburger joints. Development eventually forced Hart to move it to the middle of nowhere, and after decades of neglect, it was shipped to the Shady Dell on a flatbed truck. That was 1996. Six months later, it was opened as Dot's Diner, in honor of Dot Bozeman, the restaurant's first cook and bottle washer.
Dot retired a few years ago, but her namesake diner is still going strong. Check it out, and when you do, think about the '50s. You won't see Kerouac at the end of the counter, but if you squint your eyes a little, you might be able to picture him there, hip and cool in a tattered sweatshirt, milking a cup of coffee.