Southern Agenda

Motor On

In the 1950s and ’60s, when road trips were the trips, motor lodges dotted Southern highways. With the opening of Tennessee’s Rocky Waters Motor Inn (Gatlinburg) and the Wayback (Pigeon Forge), brothers Mahavir and Dev Patel have added upscale renditions to the resurgence of these retro roadside accommodations. The recently opened Wayback features a flashback-Florida feel that fits quirky Pigeon Forge—a palette of white, accented with soft pink and seafoam green, and a cabana-ringed pool offering swim club memberships. Dating to the 1930s and left to the Patels by their parents, Rocky Waters reopens in March after a top-to-bottom revitalization. With a preserved shape and the exterior’s new natural hues, it blends into its streamside surroundings. “You might not even notice that there’s a hotel there,” Mahavir says. Inside, guest rooms sport minimalist yet luxe cabin style plus extras like a kit for fashioning a fly-fishing hook. Both properties invite guests to check into a bygone era; for the Patels, the throwback appeal is personal. “Growing up at Rocky Waters, we’d get excited about every guest,” Mahavir recalls. “Dev would engage with them and, at bedtime, share stories as if he knew them. There’s something extraordinary about people we meet on the road.”