#43 Vintage Vibes, Modern Perks and Affordable Rates

*This entry is not about life in San Carlos, Mexico, but rather about an artsy, little place in Tucson that offers a unique hotel stay experience.

Driving across the border from Mexico to the United States has taught me lessons in patience. After traveling four hours along Mexico’s highway 15, the wall, yes, that one, comes into view giving travelers the exciting feeling of almost being there. The wall, yes, that wall, comes into view giving travelers the exciting feeling of almost being there. It is at this point visions of Starbucks’ cold brews and sparkling restrooms begin to dance in my head. That daydream is shattered when the endless line of brake lights beam into eyes of weary travelers as traffic grinds to a standstill. Border crossing often requires a lengthy wait rather than a quick flash of credentials. Creeping forward restless drivers jockey for position into the “fastest lane”. Only too soon we realize all lanes are moving at a rate similar to the sliding of tectonic plates. While waiting in line, border patrol agents slowly guide their polarized, goggle-wearing canine companions through the stagnant lanes of cars sniffing out contraband. Upon finally reaching the booth, passports are handed over to the uniformed agent, windows rolled down for a interior inspection, face masks are lowered for verification of passengers, tailgates are lifted for a closer look and fenders are thumped to assess hollowness. This is when fortunate drivers are passed on to the entrance lane into the USA. However, passing through this gauntlet can land unlucky travelers over to the car x-ray area. Others are sent to full vehicle inspection which includes the unloading of their car. Note…Do not inquire about the reason for the slowness of the line. This conversation will likely land travelers in a building off to the side for a one-on-one chat with an agent. Luckily, we’ve never been selected to visit any of these areas during our travels. Knock on wood! Regardless, each time we clear the labyrinth we are inevitably ready for something peaceful. That is exactly what we found in Tucson, AZ at Exit 102. The Hotel McCoy.

This unique hotel claims “vintage vibes, modern perks and affordable rates”. We found the restored 1960’s “travel lodge” is exactly what is needed after crossing into the USA. Earlier this year the lit marquee welcoming guest stated, “OK 2021: YOU HAVE ONE JOB.” No one needs to have that job explained…we all know.

The A-framed entrance is painted with quirky cacti peering out at prospective visitors. After a contactless check-in we pulled in and found ourselves craning our necks to take in the mural covered exterior walls on the hotel. The poem, No Place Like Tucson, is scripted along the backside of a section of the hotel.

Stanzas are split between paintings of chihuahuas enjoying Sonoran hotdogs, balloon floating javelinas and a desert kangaroo rats serenading señoritas and Easter Island monoliths. The poem oozes obvious love for the city and surrounding area stating, “There is something special about Tucson. Something not so tangible, more conceptual. A place to find your truth, find your courage, find your you. This city, its sky bursting with stars, fills your heart, leaving you, somehow, someway, homesick before you’ve even departed.” Through the words of the poet, Tucson sounds like a place to pause, open your eyes and absorb the surroundings.

Parking spaces welcome guests to this drive-in style hotel with stenciled names of celebrities with Tucson connections and names of Tucson’s famous points of interest. Fun phrases painted in artistic fonts offset the wall space between the room doors.

Small, bistro table sets line the covered walkways. The threshold of each room greets travelers with a, “That’s So Tucson” or “Dry Heat, Cool People”, doormat.

It is a lot to take in at once, BUT…the best part is when the door opens to the refurbished rooms. Murals and one of a kind artworks brighten the walls. Retro furnishings give each space an individual style. Desks hold vintage books, rainbow post-it-note pads and small boxes of neon chalks. Visitors are encouraged to express their creativity on small chalkboards mounted inside the doors.

A clipboard of paperwork shares the story of Hotel McCoy, amenities available, suggested “Good Eats”, “Experiences” and “Off the Beaten Paths” and the hotel’s goal to provide “travel for all”.

While the rooms are darling, the centerpiece of the hotel is “Oasis Beach”, a mid sized, heated pool which is refreshing no matter the season. A mural near the pool has recently been updated to cover the updated safety guidelines due to Covid.

Adjacent to the pool an astroturf covered yard provides an open air space perfect for ping pong or a quick game of corn hole. Or visitors can choose to cozy up to the fire pit and take in the more than life-size image of Aretha, “The Queen of Soul” while enjoying a game of cards.

An all-local artist gallery is found throughout the lobby area. All artwork on property, including items in the guest rooms, is for sale, “unless it’s painted on the wall.” An educational boost can be found browsing at Barrio Books. This small establishment is Tucson’s only bilingual bookstore with focused intent to promote, educate and curate cultural representation of Latinx and POC authors. This place has so much to offer for a hotel its size.

During the past year, Hotel McCoy has remained open by, as they say, “…navigating the ever changing waters of the challenges with the virus that shan’t be named.” One “pandemic pivot” is the offering of room service. Just shoot a quick email to the front desk and voila a “masked and gloved superhero” will deliver the order to your door. You can order coffee, French Press or a 120 PSI espresso. If you’re a “Snackasaurus Rex”, you might request Tucson Tamales, Kettle Chips, KIND bars or delicious Milano cookies. Looking to delve into the past? Ask for Starburst, Pop Rocks or my daughters’ former favorite, the sugary (and fashionable) Ring Pop. Need to quench your thirst? A Topo Chico, Arizona Tea, Cactus Water, Strawberry Milk or Crushed Melon Jones Soda might be just the thing. Need something with a little kick? Hotel McCoy’s bar, The Tucson Sunshine Climate Club, offers more than fifteen local beers and ciders and multiple wines by the bottle or glass. Walking the property, sipping a delicious beverage, strolling the grounds, checking out the quirkiness of this precious location brings that peaceful vibe the Hotel McCoy is known for.

Morning at the Hotel McCoy brings the best delivery in the form of a delicious, complimentary, hot, breakfast. This isn’t a pre package meal in a bag but an “oatmeal bar”. In the past, guests made their own oatmeal buffet style. Today meals are put together by the hotel superheroes. Send an email telling them exactly how you’d like your bowl of nutritious oats prepared and hot, steamy, goodness arrives via a knock on the door. Toppings include a variety of favorites. Blueberries, banana chips, shredded coconut and granola might fit the bill. Toss on some almonds, walnuts, or pecans for a nutty experience. Feel the need for seed? Take your pick of hemp, sunflower, chia or flax. Don’t forget chocolate or cinnamon chips for that sweet tooth. Top it all off with your choice of milk, honey, sea salt, peanut butter or cocoa powder. Add a piece of fresh fruit and a Poptart to your meal and the morning just got better. 

We’ve stayed at Hotel McCoy a few times this year during our border crossings for “vaccines”. Each time we have enjoyed a different room and devoured a different oatmeal combination but more importantly, we’ve had the pleasure of finding this great, little place to stay for a terrific price.

The hotel offers their “kindness rate” to all travelers. Simply make your reservation and complete one act of kindness before check-in and save 10%. As they say at Hotel McCoy, “It could be something as simple as putting away a shopping cart for someone who has just unloaded their groceries or buying a coffee for the person behind you in the drive-thru. Whatever it is, tell us about it at check-in. We don’t do “points” or “membership rates” here at Hotel McCoy, but we do believe in the power of kindness.” Honestly, how cool is that?

But even better, Hotel McCoy really wants guests to return so much they tell them, “You are awesome!” Returning guests never pay full price. Just use the promo code IAMAWESOME and following stays are discounted 15%. Not once, not twice, but always. The poem, No Place Like Tucson, asks visitors to, “Come here for a day, a year, a decade, a lifetime. Be born here, raised here or transported here from a land afar. The desert doesn’t discriminate, offering its magic to anyone who plants their feet on its dusty terrain.” This hotel offers a nostalgic spark of that magic to its guests. I for one will happily be placed under the vintage vibe spell of the Hotel McCoy on my next trip north of the border.

“When you march to the rhythm of your own drum, you have to do things a bit off the beaten path.”

– Hotel McCoy’s literature

Join the Conversation


    1. Julie
      I cannot figure out how to add you with a new email. Just go on changing-lanes.blog and follow with your new email address. Let me know if that does not work. 🙂
      So glad you’re retiring. You get to spend more time with that cute grandchild.


  1. I LOVE places like this. I want to hop in the car and head for Tucson NOW. A great story and description of this place. The artwork is amazing and it feels “happy” — who doesn’t need that!??

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great Article!! Will visit Hotel McCoy – discount for an act of kindness – best perk I’ve heard of.


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