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Day’s End: Hotels & Motels

I love traveling! One of my joys of traveling is arriving at my destination for the day, checking into my hotel or motel for the evening, then relaxing, knowing I have no domestic responsibilities that require my attention. My position with Iowa State University required a considerable amount of travel with overnight stays. At times I could choose where I stayed; more often it was determined by others. Because I was a state employee, the accommodations were never extravagant, but sometimes I lucked out.

In one such case I had a meeting in a small older “upscale” hotel in downtown Chicago that had just been completely renovated and was offering special rates to bring back clientele. When I reached my room I found, to my dismay, water dripping down just inside the door. Being tired and dreading the inconvenience, I reported this to the front desk. I was told the cause was a leaking ice machine on the next floor, and that the hotel was completely booked and no other rooms were available. I was afraid I would either have to put up with the dripping water or be sent to another hotel.

To my amazement I was taken to the penthouse suite. I was stunned when I entered! There were five rooms, each with plush furniture and a TV. Many of the walls and much of the furniture were finished in black lacquer. The bed was larger than a king, next to the bed was a large tub with a Jacuzzi. Most of the exterior walls were floor-to-ceiling glass, with a view of the city skyline and the lake. Being a recipient of good fortune is more enjoyable in company, so I called the other members of the group and invited them up to see the suite and share in the wine and goody bowl. Because I had organized the meeting and made the hotel arrangements, my colleagues were suspicious of my “upgrading” story.

Another meeting took me to McGrath, Alaska, a small interior town of about 500 with no external road connections. I was told we were staying at a bed and breakfast, and I guess it was in the sense that I had a bed and breakfast was included. But the sleeping arrangements consisted of army-size cots dispersed around a communal area on the second floor. The person sleeping closest to me was a sonorous snorer. His snoring was irregular—no pattern or consistency. He would emit several bellows, then breathe quietly. When he became quiet, my immediate reaction was to relax, but then anxious anticipation would set in knowing that, at any second, there would be another chain of loud bellows. And there always was! Those nights were torture!

My most remembered, but least memorable motel stay, was in Tallahassee, Fla. I was working on a research project near Tallahassee, where a large team of interviewers had to be monitored daily. The research community was about three hours from Gainesville, so my graduate research assistant and I took turns monitoring the interviewers, and each time staying for a few days. I had a room at a budget motel in Tallahassee. One evening, after finishing with the interviewers, I drove to Tallahassee, picked up some fast food, then went to the motel. I ate while sitting on the bed and watching one of the national presidential conventions on TV.

While watching TV, I thought I saw something moving out of the corner of my eye, but when I turned to look I saw nothing. A short while later it happened again. This time I continued to scan the area a bit longer. Then I saw it! On the wall from behind the luggage bench crawled the biggest black cockroach I had ever seen! It ran back down behind the bench, and when I pulled out the bench there were a couple more. I looked for something to kill the roaches and grabbed the only thing available, a wooden coat hanger I found in the closet. Within a half-hour I had a half-dozen dead cockroaches and a broken coat hanger. I had an uneasy sleep that night (probably dreamed of roaches) and woke with a headache. I decided to take some aspirin, and reached over to the nightstand to pick up a plastic cup I had used the night before. As I lifted the cup out scurried another one of the giant roaches with a loud rasping of its legs on the plastic! I am not rattled easily by bugs, spiders or even snakes. But that unnerved me! I had needed to stay two more nights, so before leaving that morning I asked to move to another room. The clerk asked “Why?” I simply said, “Too many cockroaches!” My new room was not much better.

As Linda keeps reminding me, the quality of the accommodation largely determines just how much joy the stay provides. Over the years I made her bear some pretty undesirable lodgings in an effort to save a few bucks, but I have reformed. With our shared love of history, old architecture and antiques, Linda and I have become partial to staying in old, historic hotels. We have stayed in some that were meticulously restored, such as Hotel Winneshiek in Decorah and Hotel Pattee in Perry. We even drove to Perry occasionally just for a breakfast of the hotel’s Swedish pancakes with lingonberries. At the other end, not lavishly restored but retaining a bit of the bygone luxury and considerable charm, were Hotel Manning in Keosauqua and Hotel Delaware in Leadville, Colo. Hotel Manning is an ideal secluded, quiet and relaxing getaway. All in all, we have not been disappointed with our old historic hotel day’s end experiences. Fortunately, there are many more to explore, and we relish the prospect!

(Pete Korsching is a Nevada resident and a freelance columnist for the Nevada Journal.)