Just a short two-hour drive from Oklahoma City, just north of Gore, OK, you'll find one of my favorite local getaways. The Blue Doors at Tenkiller are in their 11th Summer season, welcoming guests into 12 individual casitas set up in a very cool, retro motor-lodge fashion, giving visitors a glimpse of the property's original glory days of the 1950s.
Owner Janie Honiker purchased the property, which had been in disrepair for years with a dream to restore the charm of the family road-trip destination while creating a space to follow her passion for sustainability. In particular, Honiker loves "bees, butterflies, and heirloom seeds" and has built her property to reflect that. Wildflowers, beehives, and a vegetable garden can all be found on-site.
The restoration and re-opening would not be a quick, inexpensive, or easy turnaround, but one very much worth the effort.
"The property was so overgrown we couldn't even see one of the buildings in the back," said Honiker.
Burning debris, widening paths, re-structuring the pond on the property, and renovating the casitas was a lot of labor, but it was a labor of love. Some of the Blue Doors "family" who were there at the beginning are still there today.
After two years of hard work and restoration, the former "Shangri-La" Motor Court Motel opened up to guests, their children, and pets as the Blue Doors. I have made multiple trips over the past few years. Sometimes I visit with the intent of hitting the water or hitting up the fishing pond and other times to relax in a change of scenery. Recently, I visited with my business partner Joel Bein, and my dog Pepita. We went with the intent of cooking out, catching a few fish, and simply enjoying a couple of days away from our regular work schedule.
One of my favorite things about the Blue Doors has always been the collective sense of both community and privacy. The individual cabins give you a sense of a retreat away from it all, but the large courtyard area and open outdoor kitchen allow guests to interact with one another at their own comfort levels. That has become even more important this year.
The outdoor kitchen area features two gas grills, a large wood smoker, a giant cowboy grill over one of two firepits, gas burners, giant woodfire grill (you could put a whole pig on it) as well as a wood-fired pizza oven.
On this particular visit, Joel and I took the opportunity to fire up both the cowboy grill over the fire pit and the wood-fired pizza oven. One of the best things about the outdoor area for extroverts like us is spending time with others at a safe social distance, and you never know who you might meet. S'Mores over one of the fire pits are a perfect way to end the evening.
Though many weekend nights feature a scheduled musician performing, even on a weekday evening, you can often find one singing in the courtyard. On this Tuesday, we met Rachel Lynch, a musician from Oklahoma City, relaxing with a friend and her pup Ru. We enjoyed listening to her sing some of her new songs while we grilled dinner. Pepita enjoyed playing with Ru, and resident dogs Bear and Max.
Mornings are the perfect time to take a stroll down to the fishing pond. Bluegills, crappie, and even catfish live in the water, so bring your fishing pole. You can take a kayak out onto the water, or fish from the edge. If something a little more active is more your speed, kayaks are available for floating the nearby Illinois River.
Things you should know:
The kitchen has basic tools: a couple of cutting boards, knives, tongs, a pan or two, and various random picnic supplies like paper towels, paper plates, and foil. If you require specific items, bring them from home along with all of your ingredients. Fresh herbs are growing in pots and garden beds on the property. Though you'll have to bring your grocery supplies, Janie has you covered on the skewers for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over a fire-pit.
There is a small community fridge in the outdoor kitchen and a larger one in a separate small building. There are no refrigerators in the casitas, so bring a cooler if you have beverages you'd like to keep cold in your room.
If you want to go fishing, the stocked pond is full of hungry fish, but you'll need to bring your own tackle.
There is a local grocery store nearby should you forget something.
Bring sunscreen and bug spray, because this is nature, and it is absolutely glorious!
To book a room, call 918-489-2174.
98413 HWY. 100, GORE, OK