Listen to this post
DINOSAUR I Much has changed since Charles and Vivian Gabrielson began operating the Terrace Motel.
For one, the name of the town has changed.
“When we came here July 27, 1959, it was Artesia then,” Vivian said of Colorado’s westernmost town, located three miles from the Utah border. “The name changed in 1965. I really wish they would go back to Artesia.”
Originally named for the artesian wells in the area, the name was changed because of the town’s proximity to Dinosaur National Monument. Highway 40 was the nation’s major east-west highway at the time, later replaced by Interstate 70. The construction of the new highway — and the diversion of traffic away from Dinosaur — changed the dynamics for this town and its 300 and some people.
“Highway 40 was the main highway across the country back then, you know,” Vivian said. “I think the town has gone downhill myself, I’m sorry. We had a lot more businesses, more activity then. We had two grocery stores. That changed when they put in I-70.”
Through all of the changes over the past 50 years, one thing that hasn’t changed is the Terrace Motel. It has been, well, the Terrace Motel.
And for 45 of those years, Vivian has been running the motel. She and Charles took over the business on July 1, 1964.
“We got to Colorado and we decided we really liked it,” said Vivian, who, like Charles, was originally from Saskatchewan, Canada.
The Gabrielsons bought the motel from a friend.
“She always told us we needed this place,” Vivian said.
The Gabrielsons operated the motel as a team.
“My dad made beds, he did the vacuuming, if there was any kind of fixing or anything to be done, he was the handyman,” said daughter Arlene Powell. “He did everything. Up until the Thursday before he passed away, he had spent the whole day power washing the parking lot.”
Charles worked in the oilfield for the first 22 years the couple was in Colorado, up until 1981, but he always helped out around the motel.
“He could do up a room as well as I could,” Vivian said. “And he always kept up the yard, and we have a lot of yard.
“I think for a couple, if you don’t get too big, it’s not too bad a life, really,” Vivian said. “But it’s like being on a farm milking cows; you’re pretty much tied down all the time.”
Charles died in February 2007, but Vivian continues to operate the motel. On Wednesday, she celebrated her 45th anniversary in business.
While Vivian still operates the motel, it’s not the same without Charles around. Even before Charles died, the Gabrielsons had tried to sell the motel.
“Three years ago, we were sure we had it sold, but it just fell through,” Vivian said. “I still have it for sale.”
Daughter Arlene would like to see her mom, who turns 82 on July 29, not be tied down by running the motel.
“She still does laundry and she does stuff all day long. She does a lot of things herself,” Arlene said. “She needs to be out of there and spend time with family. She needs to be able to enjoy life.”
Arlene, whose husband, “Cork,” is from Rangely, lives on a nearby ranch.
“We’ve helped mom occasionally,” Arlene said. “I’ve helped her more this last year.”
Arlene and “Cork” owned the Conoco gas station and convenience store in Dinosaur for 15 years before selling the business last year.
Vivian lives in one of the motel’s 10 guest rooms. She and Charles used to own the liquor store, originally located next to the motel, but later moved to a bigger location in what is now a video store.
“It was called the Terrace Liquor Store,” Vivian said. “We sold it in the spring of 1988.”
Most of the motel’s business comes from what Vivian calls “steadies,” who are workers in the energy industry who rent a room for extended stays, as well as tourists.
“We have quite a few tourists, but most of (the motel’s guests) are workers,” Vivian said.
The motel benefits from its accessibility to Dinosaur National Monument and the area’s other tourist sites.
“They like to hike all over this area,” Vivian said. “We get a lot of Europeans.”
Though they aren’t from Europe, that’s what attracted Kelly and Karen Gregg who traveled from Alabama and stayed at the Terrace Motel while exploring the Dinosaur National Monument.
“This is a great location,” Kelly Gregg said. “(The Terrace Motel) is a charming reminder of a classic period. It’s nice to stay in a place like this rather than in some chain motel.”
Because of the motel’s homey atmosphere, Vivian sees some of the same guests over and over.
“We’ve had hunters coming back for years and years,” she said. “I’m already getting reservations for this fall.”
Vivian recently had a couple from Kansas stay at the motel, who had been guests many years ago.
“They hadn’t been back in 22 years,” Vivian said. “I didn’t remember them, but they came back and spent another night with us.”
If Vivian sells the motel, she plans to stay in the area. After all, it is home.
“I probably would,” she said. “My daughter is here. I’d like to be close where we can do things together.”