While southwest Kansas isn't typically thought of as a resort destination, bed and breakfasts in the area offer travelers a home away from home experience. With their nicely kept yards, old trees, hammocks and courtyards, as well as the aroma of breakfast that fills the air each morning, these sanctuaries offer a homey feeling that can't be found at the average hotel.
"People come in here, while I'm cooking, in their pajamas and just sit and visit while I'm cooking," Doyne Smith, who fills in at the Windy Heights Bed and Breakfast in Lakin when the owners, Chuck and DiAnne Jaeger, are away.
"I'm the substitute when DiAnne's out of town, I take care of it and do the cooking and stuff," she said.
Affixed above the washer and dryer that is available for guests to use at the B and B are instructions on how to do a load of laundry. Smith laughed and said that it is most often young men who stay at the B and B who need the instruction.
She said that most of the guests are repeat customers and that it's word of mouth that drives the business.
"Lakin is not a destination resort, so you are coming to visit, you know, for weddings, funerals, graduations. A lot of people come because they have parents in the nursing home. And business people. We get a lot of business people," Smith said.
The house is relatively young at 30 years old, but it's style makes it feel older. There are four guest rooms, each with attached bathrooms. In the backyard, guests can play on the swing in the large ash tree or lounge in a hammock.
"I'm telling you, outside is just gorgeous in the spring and summer," Smith said.
The rates are $65 per night for a single and $70 for a double, and guests are served breakfast every morning.
"It is a good deal because I cook a really good breakfast," Smith said, laughing.
She said that people from all over the world stay at the B and B.
"That's the nicest thing about this job, is you meet a lot of interesting people from all over, who have interesting professions and careers," Smith said.
The B and B is located at 607 Country Heights Road in Lakin.
About an hour away, in Scott City, the Hedges operate The Guest House, a bed and breakfast located at 311 E. Fifth St., smack dab in the middle of town,
A small cottage that includes a bedroom, bathroom, refrigerator and microwave sits behind the yellow 1900 Victorian home where the Hedges live. Two other guest rooms are located in a separate two-story addition to the property.
Dee Hedges and her husband, Thane Hedges, have owned the bed and breakfast since 2000.
"There was just the cottage when we came, and the lady was actually using it to home school, and then as a bed and breakfast, but we built that addition on to have two rooms upstairs. It has two rooms and a common area, and then the basement is just a garage," Hedges said.
She said that their favorite guests are the long-term ones.
"We tend to get a lot of long-term people, and we love it because they're like our family. We had this lady for a year and a half, and she spent Christmas with us, Thanksgiving — at different times. We ate meals together all the time," Hedges said.
She said that the woman traveled a great deal for work and got tired of staying in hotels.
"People come in, and they just move in. We have two dogs, Bella and Vegas, and I couldn't find Vegas this one time and he was in the cottage in bed with this guy," Hedges said, laughing.
She said that is just one of many examples of how guests come to feel at home at their B and B.
"We just want it to feel like home," she said. "I want everyone to feel like they're in their own place."
According to its website, www.guesthousebandb.com, some of the amenities include a hot tub, wireless Internet and cable TV. There is also a courtyard in the backyard that offers seating areas.
Hedges said that her husband's "man cave" is also a popular feature among male guests.
"Downstairs in our garage, there's a leather couch and a big screen and everything, so the guys who stay here really like to go out and hang out with him," Hedges said, laughing.
Room rates at The Guest House are $65 per night.
"We've never raised our rates. We just enjoy the people and hang out with them," she said.
Breakfast is offered, but Hedges said that most of their clients are in a hurry.
"We have stuff we put out for them — it depends on who they are and what they want. A lot of them just want coffee and want to run. We just do whatever anyone needs," she said.
It's definitely a family atmosphere at The Guest House.
"One time when my daughter was going to college, this one guy who had been staying here for quite a while, walked out with us to the car to put her in the car and tell her goodbye and he's like, 'Come home soon,'" Hedges said, laughing.
Like the Hedges, Fred and Kathryn Askren, who own and operate Sunnyland Bed and Breakfast at 501 N. Fifth St. in Garden City, treat their guests like family.
"It's a lot more personalized than a hotel," Fred said.
The Askrens bought Sunnyland in 2002 and said that their inspiration for making it a bed and breakfast came from their own travels.
"We traveled extensively and stayed in bed and breakfasts all over," Kathryn said, adding that they prefer them over hotels. "And this house had the perfect setup for it."
The house features a balcony on the second floor, a parlor room and sunroom. It was built in 1909 and has three stories, a wrap around porch, original hardwood floors and stairs, high ceilings and much of the original stained glass.
"The stained glass was all intact there on the stairway. The wood, the fireplaces, those are all original," Kathryn said.
Fred said that the top three stories of the house are approximately 5,700 square feet and that there is an additional 2,000 square feet in the basement, where the couple lives.
A room that originally was used as a ballroom is located on the third floor. Kathryn said it's used for large luncheons, dinners and other types of events now. A round bed sits in the first Corinthians room within a turret that can be seen from the street. There is also a jacuzzi in that room. When the home was built, the couple said it was actually the billiards room.
All of the themes of the house's seven guest rooms are Bible scriptures — the downstairs room is the Psalms room, and one of the rooms on the second floor is the Ecclesiastes room.
"We wanted to do something different," Fred said.
Rates range from $79 to $120 per night.
People who stay at the bed and breakfast come from all over, allowing the Askrens, in a sense, to experience other countries and states without ever leaving their home.
"We've had people from several countries, probably from every state in the United States," Kathryn said.
One of their most recent international guests was French journalist Thierry Dugeon, who stayed there for several weeks while he worked on a piece about America.
One loyal guest wrote a poem on sunnyland's website, www.sunnylandbandb.com. It says, in part, "When on the road, we find we must roam, It's great to find, a home away from home. And none I have found are any more grand, Than the bed and breakfast called Sunnyland."
The following is a list of other bed and breakfasts in the area: Cimarron Crossing Bed and Breakfast, 307 West Avenue A, Cimarron; Trail City Bed and Breakfast, 111 Elm, Coolidge; Fort's Cedar View, 1675 W. Patterson Ave., Ulysses; Shady Lane Bed & Breakfast and Guest House, 110 N. Main St., Hugoton; and Wild Horse Canyon Bed and Breakfast and Shady Porch Guest House, 255 N. Longhorn Road, Dighton.