During the summer of 2020, Kayleigh and Tyler (09) Hofer booked a flight to Pinedale, Wyoming, to visit friends and fellow PLNU alums. As they drove into the small town at the base of the Wind River Mountain Range, they had no idea this trip would change the trajectory of the rest of their lives.
While exploring the small ranching community of Pinedale, they stumbled across a closed-down lodge, Jackalope Motor Lodge, which had shut down five years prior.
As they reveled in awe at the mountain range and experienced the quietness and stillness of Pinedale life, their vacation came to a pinnacle moment of realization: perhaps this potential business venture found in the run-down lodge was a sign that their life at Point Loma was ready to be uprooted.
“There were different moments when we were like, ‘Wow, we love it here,’” said Tyler. “There was one moment when we went on this drive on this dirt road out to this lake and there were open-range horses, antelope, snowcapped mountains and I was just like ‘I want to live here. I want my boys to grow up in this environment.’ There was confirmation after confirmation.”
“It sparked change that was needed for a lot of different reasons,” said Kayleigh. “There are seasons of major decision-making and we were in that season. The pandemic happened and that put us in a space where a lot of what San Diego had been sort of faded away which prepared us to say goodbye.”
Another event that brought closure in their decision was that Tyler experienced some unexpected changes in his career.
“Right before COVID-19 hit, our church did some staff cuts in November and my position got cut,” said Tyler. “And so I was feeling like ‘What’s next?’ It was during that time when we really started to dream. ‘What does the future hold? What do we really prioritize? What’s best for our family.’”
They decided to put down a bid for the Pinedale lodge and waited. In June of 2021, doors opened both figuratively and literally, but this came at the expense of the lives they were leading.
“I think what I’ve repetitively seen and am definitely seeing in this season is that our story came with things that had to be shed away so that the things that are new here can come to life,” said Kayleigh.
I think what I’ve repetitively seen and am definitely seeing in this season is that our story came with things that had to be shed away so that the things that are new here can come to life.
Neither of them had formal entrepreneurship experience; however, Kayleigh’s family owned a business, Tyler’s father is a farmer, and both learned applicable skills from their previous jobs.
“We both come from small business worlds,” she said. “My dad is a small business owner. I was very cognitive of the grit it takes to figure out small business life. It’s sort of in our DNA.”
Tapping into their heritage, Kayleigh and Tyler dug their heels into their dream and transplanted their family to Pinedale. They began renovations on the lodge during June of 2021 with the looming opening date of July 9, 2021. Stepping into this career venture, they no longer were just husband and wife, but now business partners.
“It’s been really fun working with my wife,” said Tyler. “We always had different styles we operated in. We never really worked on anything together other than parenting. Now that we’re in this together, we’re learning a lot about each other — our strengths and weaknesses.”
From no running water, no Wi-Fi, and the unexpected broken water heater, the Hofers faced significant battles which they overcame through their network of family and friends (which even distance couldn’t break).
“We aren’t doing this alone,” said Tyler. “We networked over the 10 years at Point Loma with amazing people who are doing this with us at a distance. They’re all a part of the story as well.”
“Something both of our families have done well prior to the business and to the business is [advocating] they’re for us and championing us. They want to see us dream and go after it. That’s some sacrifice on their end. Dreaming has moved us far away from them,” said Kayleigh.
These moments of connection and relationship through their network permeated into their adventure in renovating this motel and impacted their business goal. It says so in their mission statement: “People are what matter most and connecting through our stories is where the best of life happens.”
This statement was crafted as they reflected on how they could use their history and experiences as resident director (RD) and youth pastor within their new business.
“With both of our vocational backgrounds, the idea of stewarding environments is a big part of the ministry and higher education,” said Kayleigh. “If you can cultivate an environment of connection and safety, people thrive. That’s our heart for people.”
The idea of stewarding environments is a big part of the ministry and higher education. If you can cultivate an environment of connection and safety, people thrive. That’s our heart for people.
They’ve already connected with some regular guests.
“There’s one guy who is building a tiny house up the hill and he stays here sometimes,” said Tyler. “It’s to the point where we were like ‘I think we’re going to invite him to Thanksgiving.’”
The lodge opened on time and the first couple of months were sustained by walk-in guests. Their proximity to the Continental Divide Trail and other outdoor excursions set them up for success, according to Kayleigh. And, she said, the views and adventures are really what drew them to this place, much like the tourists.
“It’s like living at Loma. For 10 years I woke up to the ocean at my feet; it would blow my mind away. That’s something that’s really sweet about living here.”
Legendary is a term that could be used to describe the 13,000-foot mountain peaks just a five-minute drive from Jackalope Motor Lodge, but, according to Kayleigh, legendary equally describes the experience they hope to manifest for their guests.
“‘A legendary stay’ is our main tagline. This is such a place to just be, and hopefully in that space connection is cultivated. That’s totally what we’ve seen come to life.”
To learn more about the Jackalope Motor Lodge check out their website here.
Jackalope Motor Lodge photos courtesy of Jonathan Coti.