Seventeen hundred miles, five states, six days, cell phone coverage that was intermittent on a good day, and a car that started making funny noises a thousand miles from home on Friday evening of a holiday weekend. It sounds like a bad road-trip movie.
In fact, it was a mostly good road trip. A little too much driving, maybe, but enjoyable company and some interesting sights and sites along the way. Not to mention an opportunity to compare the amenities at several different motels.
There was the older chain motel with furniture that you might have called "vintage" if you were being polite or trying to sell it. The sagging easy chair must have been salvaged from the curb outside a college dorm. An historic lodge in a tourist area had an old, solid wood desk that I would have been tempted to steal if I thought it would fit in the car.
One downtown motel called itself the town's "quietest." True, it was several blocks away from the railroad tracks at the edge of town. But the air conditioner made so much noise that one of us seriously considered sleeping on the bathroom floor until we decided it was preferable to shut the thing off and pretend it wasn't 80 degrees at midnight.
Most of these places offered continental breakfasts. It wasn't always clear, however, which continent the food may have come from. One place had two choices, white bread or frozen waffles, topped with anything you wanted as long as it was either strawberry jelly or syrup. There was coffee, of course, and a few tea bags, but if you wanted hot water to go with the tea you had to ask the desk clerk to go into the back (probably to her own kitchen sink) and fill your cup with water so you could heat it in the microwave. The quality of the breakfast really didn't matter much anyway, because the lobby reeked so strongly of incense that you couldn't actually taste the food.
At least, despite the current attention they're getting, we didn't encounter any bedbugs. At least I don't think we did. Without my glasses, I wouldn't have been able to see one, anyhow.
Finally, on the sixth night, we found a place that had a very comfortable bed. The bathroom was supplied with extra toothbrushes, homemade soap, and big soft towels. The wireless Internet was located at a real workstation that had good light and a comfortable chair, even if the desk was terribly cluttered. There were laundry facilities, though the last people to use the room had left their dirty sheets in the hamper.
The kitchen was clean and fully equipped, but breakfast was meager. We found peanut butter, homemade chokecherry jelly, and even eggs, but the closest thing to bread was a couple of frozen hamburger buns. There was tea and coffee, but no milk. The fruit was one nectarine and a plum, both of which looked a bit battered, as if they had traveled several hundred miles in someone's cooler.
The housekeeper assured me this was not the usual state of affairs and it would be better after she made a trip to the grocery store. She also claimed there was usually homemade bread and said someone would mow the ragged grass in the next day or so.
We'll see. If she's right, we might stay here a while. Actually, come to think of it, we'll have to stay here a while. The car did make it this far, funny noises and all, but it's now in the shop. After we pay the bill, we may not be able to afford another trip.