The coronavirus has changed how we travel and book hotels. Here’s our review of a pandemic-ready tiny home ‘hotel’ in eastern North Carolina.
The year 2020 was supposed to be stellar.
I was going to be the writer-in-residence in the Great Smokies, lead several Road Scholar and local arts organization programs, and travel to New Jersey for my 40th high school reunion, where I intended to score a few speaking engagements for my book.
COVID-19 was like the door that kept slamming me in the face!
As much as I love my apartment in the mountains, I get cabin fever. Where could I go safely?
A tiny solution to a big challenge
The coronavirus has been brutal for so many industries. The hospitality industry caught it in spades.
The News & Observer reported in grisly detail on the pandemic’s impacts in September, noting that from March to August, travelers in NC spent about 60% less than they did the year prior. And hotel occupancy, which typically peaks in the summer months, was about 49% in July compared to about 80% in the year before.
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Like it or not, folks are clearly worried about their safety. Myself included.When I heard about River and Twine, a tiny home hotel in Rocky Mount, I felt confident I’d discovered the safe haven I was looking for. Even without a pandemic, my curiosity would have inspired me to book one of the hotel’s 20 tiny homes.
I’m perpetually intrigued by creative use of space. There was no “lobby” because each unit is stand-alone. In a COVID world, that’s perfect. I didn’t even have to meet anyone; the door code was emailed the morning of my arrival.
The layout made me think of a colorfully hip RV campground. The units, each named after a different river in Eastern NC (it took me a while to figure that out), are grouped in small pods. The casual Adirondack chairs, separated by chimineas, create an outdoor living room of sorts. I let it sit dormant, too lazy to build a fire for myself.
The living space was so narrow, I could touch the other side of the unit in a few steps. My “living room” was a horseshoe-shaped bay window seating area, which could have folded out into extra sleeping space had I brought additional people.
The kitchen counter doubled as bar seating, with two chairs stowed beneath. Although it’s not designed for real cooking, there was a small fridge, microwave, and Keurig, with a tiny bathroom tucked next to a closet space.
I admit I was worried I might feel claustrophobic in the sleeping loft, given the somewhat snug bed-to-ceiling ratio. While most adults probably can’t stand straight up, navigating was easy, and I wound up feeling like I was wrapped in a warm hug. It was so surprisingly cozy, I lounged around for about an hour before getting up.
The hotel was built by Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc., a media company that renovated neighboring Rocky Mount Mills into a mixed-use live, work, play community. They created the space so guests doing business or partaking in food or beverages from several on-site breweries and restaurants could spend the night.
I wanted to keep my travel footprint small, so I took advantage of the mill’s abundance, ordering a roast chicken dish from a masked server at Tap@1918, a gastropub in a historic 1918 house, and returning to my tiny abode. I topped it off with a bottle of wine from nearby Goat Island Bottle Shop. Fortunately, I noticed the room didn’t have a bottle opener, so I asked the proprietor if she could do the honors. Apparently, she does that frequently for guests.
In non-COVID times, each tiny home comes with a hammock, which I wished I could have slung up for a nap the next day in between meandering through Battle Park and along the river trail that leads to Sunset Park. Both parks can be easily accessed on foot or by car.
I called in my pizza order on my way back to my unit. I don’t eat pizza much these days given the excess sodium, but I cheat occasionally and this one was worthy. Not quite the Jersey pies I grew up with, but fresh, gooey, and crusty.
A sense of regret tugged at me for not having booked a third night. I’ve already had conversations, though, with a few friends who want to go with me next time, rent separate units for safety’s sake, and catch up over a warm chiminea fire. I’m ready.