Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Checking in....



One of my quirks (and yes, I know I have more than one) is that I really like staying in hotels and motels. I love to explore a new room. It's kind of a ritual with me. I'll open all the drawers and closets and inventory everything....Gideon Bible, phone book, stationery, drycleaner bags, notepads, pens, pencils, in-room magazines, soaps, shoeshine mitt, shower cap, little bottles of toiletries, etc. I find comfort in the universal nature of hotel amenities.

The Gideon Bible seems to be the common thread in all hotels I've visited. Occasionally, depending on where you travel, you'll find variations. For example, in Utah and many parts of southern Idaho, you'll find a Book of Mormon along with the Gideon Bible. In British Columbia I've found the Teachings of Buddah.

The irony of the universal Bible or religious tome in a hotel room is that most of these same places also offer a wide selection of adult films for purchase on cable to enjoy in the privacy of your room. Perhaps the Bible is there for you to reflect on after you've tired of Naughty Nurses 15 or Mutiny on the Booty starring Captain Thigh.

One thing I miss about modern hotels is the paper ring they used to put around the toilet seat. I used to love dashing into the bathroom to be the first person to rip off the ring, safe in my knowledge that it had recently been "Sanitized for my protection." And whatever happened to the magic fingers that would "rock your world" and vibrate your bed for a quarter?

Maybe staying in a hotel is such a treat to me because I never got to stay in one until I was about 14 years old. Up until then, every vacation my family ever took involved a tent, fishing poles and a flashlight to find the outhouse (or bush, depending upon where we were camping). By the time I was in junior high, my brothers pretty much opted out of family vacations and my mother demanded that we see something new.

In the summer of 1972, I joined my parents for our first and last family road trip. Our destination was Alamosa, Colorado. Our purpose was to look at some property my parents had purchased sight unseen from an ad my dad had found in one of his True West magazines. I think they put a $100 down and were paying $5 a month for five acres of prime real estate in the desert of southern Colorado. The company selling the property encouraged buyers to stop by anytime to tour the property. So that's what we were going to do.

It was just my parents and I. I think my brothers waited maybe 15 minutes after we had left before they began their weeklong party. It must have been a good one because when we returned from our road trip, the sliding glass door to our patio was shattered, my pet rabbit had escaped and there were Playboy magazines under the living room couch. In some twisted way, I think all of those things were related, but my brothers never enlightened me.

While my brothers were reveling in their freedom, I was counting Little America Resort road signs as we passed through Utah and made our way to Wyoming. The first day we made it as far as Rock Springs, Wyoming. And that is where I stayed in a motel for the first time in my life. We bypassed the Holiday Inn and opted for a more rustic choice. I think the name of the place was MOTEL -- CHEAP. The hotel clerk seemed a bit confused that we wanted a room for the entire night, so in retrospect the motel name should have been WESTWARD HO (think about this one for awhile). To my father's credit, he did spring for a room with a television. It helped drown out the sound of trucks going up and down the highway.

Years later I was watching a Sixty Minutes report about the drug trade in America. It highlighted Rock Springs, Wyoming as the portal for drug traffic to the West. Oh, it also has a coal fired electrical plant as a I recall. We were oblivious the city's claim to fame that one night we stayed there. Despite the traffic noise and sounds of amorous truckers partying with local working girls, the night was uneventful. But it was where I began my ritual of rummaging through hotel rooms drawers and closets to discover what kind of amenities were being offered.

The rest of the trip is kind of a blur. I know we passed through Wide Open Wyoming and drove through some amazing parts of Colorful Colorado before touring my parent's little patch of desert in Alamosa (this was the first time I saw cactus growing in the wild, too). We got a little more discriminating when it came to choosing hotels. We began choosing places that at least had names like the Wagon Wheel, the Red Rock or the Lazy ZZZZZ's. And they all had toilets that were sanitzed for our protection and a Gideon Bible in the nightstand. This was before cable delivered porn to your room. I don't imagine my parents would have appreciated it anyway (though at 14 I would thanked the Lord in his wisdom for showing me such a thing existed).

I've stayed in hundreds of hotel rooms since, from no stars to four stars. But I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for little roadside mom and pop places with catchy names like Let 'Er Buck, the Whoa Motel and the Moonstone. I just prefer to drive by them now and wax nostalgic on my way to a nice comfortable Fairmont, Westin or Hilton.

9 comments:

The Michael said...

Wow, first comment......I'm gonna milk this puppy for all it's worth! hehe

My experience with motels have been mostly with the cheapest thing I could find variety, which is why I dread having to stay in one. They are usually owned and operated by immigrant untouchables from India who buy the hardest beds the industry has to offer. As I sleep on a waterbed, one night in a cheap hotel means I don't get any sleep. We did get put up in a resort hotel down in St Pete last summer for my daughters wedding, but we still ended up having to bring along a foam topper to make the bed bearable.
One day before I die I would like to experience one of those $700 a night hotel rooms just to see if the beds are any softer.

shandi said...

I usually have more fun in a hotel room rather than outside of one. But... one night...
I was living in San Diego and started dating this perfect gentleman who would never think of taking me to a hotel room. Instead we toured as many as we could find one night. The point was to go as high up into the building as you could. The goal was to get out onto the roof and look out at the city. We rode up glass elevators, held onto gold hand rails, hobnobbed with the filthy rich staying in Penthouse Suites. We slipped out emergency exits, pried windows open, and used the service elevators but managed to conquer 6 rooftops. It was one of the best dates I ever had.

poody said...

When I was growing up my Mom had a brother who ran a motel like the old Mom &Pop ones. They lived on the border of New Mexico and Texas in a little town called Dumas. I loved visiting them because I always got my own room and they had a swimming pool. :)

Tim ID said...

Where you been Michael? Missed you man. I hope you do get a chance to experience a $700 a night hotel, but personally I would have a hard time justifying forking over as much as many people pay for a month's rent for a one night in a hotel.

Shandi, great story. I thought I recognized you scamming free drinks at my Penthouse Suite.

And Poody, that would have been fun to have a relative who managed a cool old motel. But I can only imagine how they pronounce the name of the town of "Dumas" in Texas :)

cherish said...

I use to LOVE hotels, until I saw a 20/20 episode or 60 minutes on the stuff they find at hotels. Now I just panick when I have to stay at hotel.

This was a great post!

darlingina said...

omg, this has made me remember our Honeymoon. After getting married over 18 yrs. ago in Vegas we were supposed to have followed my in-laws to Anahiem, CA where they had reserved us a room at the Best Western. Well, we lost them just outside of Vegas and decided we would just meet up with them when we got there... surely we could find the Best Western. And we were so pleased when we got into town and saw a Best Western right away, woo hoo how luck was that!!! NOT Until we looked down the street and saw about 5 or 6 more with their signs lit up. We never did find the inlaws and ended up staying the night in a piece of crap Motel by the name of the Rip Van Winkle! I was so upset and cried all night. Also we had our honeymoon dinner at Carls Jr.

Not to mention, we got married a day later than we had planned because hubby decided not to go out to dinner and gambling with the rest of the family the night before. Went up to his room, decided he was hungry... and after a very long time finally found a pizza place that would deliver to his room. Well long story short... he ended up getting food poisoning and the day we were to be married we had him up at the ER in Vegas then held him up (very green) at the alter the following day. Funny thing was (even though i didn't think so at the time) he had to pay a $100 deposit before they would even see him. And i got married WHY???

Ok, got a lil off track there sorry. But loved this post Tim. Aahhh, the memories... be them good or not so good.
Hugs,
~gina~

Tim ID said...

Cherish, my solution to your dilemma would be to stop watching 20/20 :) I've always subscribed to the ignorance is bliss school.

Gina, Wonderful story! Thanks for sharing. If it is any consolation, I got food poisoning on the cruise ship and threw up the night before my wedding.

I'm glad my motel entry could trigger so many people's own experiences and memories.

R. said...

The worst and most useless amenity in a hotel room is the phone in the bathroom. Licking the toilet is probably more sanitary.

I loved the Golden Nugget in Vegas - marble floors and fixtures and excellent room service.

Tim ID said...

R. You never know when you are going to want to reach out an touch someone.

The Golden Nugget sounds like it was a notch above New York, New York