My brother, Jim Bolin, and wife have traveled many miles across many states. He has always thought it was foolish to make Motel reservations as most cities have several motels to choose from. He found that wasn’t always true. This week’s column is written by Brother Jim about his Motel accommodations.
My family and I have travelled many miles over the years. (even way before the advent of GPS and other helpful electronic devices). I never liked to arise from a restless night in a motel, only to hit the early morning going-to-work traffic in some strange town, so would usually pass on through in order to find a suitable lodging place on the other side. Friends, I’m here to tell you that there ain’t no motels on the other side of town. It doesn’t matter which direction you’re travelling, but I never learned! I also am not one to turn around and back-track to those friendly looking motels we passed as we entered the town from the opposite side.
I might also mention that the same thing goes for eating places. When you get hungry, stop at the first café, drive-in, or restaurant you come to. You will not likely find another on down the road for miles and miles. I have driven for hours, passing through town after town expecting to find a suitable place “on the other side of town”. They are all on this side, with not one on the other side.
You can’t always depend on GPS or other devices or maps to tell the full story. A few years ago my wife and I were on a trip out west when we decided to go through Aberdeen, South Dakota. Why Aberdeen, South Dakota? Well we found out (via computer) that there was a two-day auction there which interested us very much. I have a hobby of buying junk and selling quality antiques, so we were naturally drawn to the town after viewing the pictures and descriptions.
It seemed senseless to make any advance reservations for lodging, as there were two major highways intersecting there, (US 281 and US 12), and the town had a population of more than 24,000. Why worry? What our maps and computer did not show was that there was a tri-state Shriner’s convention there, plus a Little League baseball play-off. There was no room in the inn. Not on any side of town!
We were determined to attend the auction and we had a choice of 4 directions to seek lodging. There was an Interstate highway about 70 miles East (not in the direction of our planned excursion) but it seemed like our best bet. We had gone about 35 miles when we approached a wide place in the middle of the road called Bristol. There was a large, slightly faded sign pointing down a county road advertising a HUNTING LODGE/MOTEL. What the heck, I was getting desperate.
We soon found a small arrow sign pointing up a gravel lane to the HUNTING LODGE/MOTEL. There was no drive-thru, no cars in the parking lot, no sign of life except for a man on a riding mower. We stopped, he stopped, and he walked over and asked if he could help us. “Yes”, I said, “do you have a room for a couple of weary travelers?” “Yes I do”, he replied. I asked “How much?” He said it would be $30 and wanted to show us the rooms. We looked at all of them on both floors, plus the sitting rooms and found out he had purchased the former Railway Express building and had moved it on to his property and converted it into a HUNTING LODGE/MOTEL. The rooms were spacious if a little Spartan, and each sporting a couple of regular beds. There were un-matched drapes and spreads (just like home), but clean nevertheless. There was a ceiling fan, no air conditioning, but we’re talking about Northern South Dakota. I gave the man $30 which he stuck in his pocket and offered no receipt. He brought us a 12-inch black-and-white TV with probably 3 channels, which reminded me of our first TV years ago. We watched a couple of episodes of “I Love Lucy” before we sacked out. My wife noticed we had no towels or wash clothes. I flagged down the mower rider and told him our problem. He left and came back with an assortment of towels and washcloths. Red, blue, striped, flowery…all kinds (just like home).
It was getting late in the day and we were hungry. I asked our new-found friend about some place to eat. He told us there was a supper club down on the highway, and he thought they had steak on Thursday. We were not dressed for a supper club, but went seeking it anyway. Well, we found it! It was Leroy’s service station, garage, transmission repair shop and supper club. Once inside, we found two women playing Keno machines (they looked like they had been there all day), and an assortment of construction workers, farmers, ranchers, and bikers. The gum-chewing waitress came over and asked what we wanted to drink. We said, “iced tea”. She informed us that they didn’t have iced tea. What they did have was lots of beer…foreign and domestic. The foreign beer came out of Milwaukee and I wouldn’t have touched the domestic with a ten-foot pole.
I ordered a steak, and Pat settled on a BLT. The waitress told me that the salad bar was in an adjoining room and to help myself…which I did. There was a bushel of chopped lettuce and a dishpan full of boiled eggs. Both looked very appetizing to a hungry traveler.
We doubled back to Aberdeen the next morning and told the auctioneer our sad tale. He said that his wife knew everyone in town and he’d give her a call. Well, she fixed us up with two nights in the Comfort Inn, we made a lot of purchases at the auction, and then continued on our way out West, and I came to realize that sometimes “there ain’t no motels on ANY SIDE of town.”
We have been in all 50 states plus some foreign travel and have spent the night in some regal places and in some we’d hesitate to recommend to anyone. We have dined in some really fancy restaurants and in some greasy spoon places. We have eaten in some memorable places, like the Hominy Grill in Charleston, South Carolina, and Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. But I have also partaken of Mullet and Swamp Cabbage in Florida and Mutton Stew and Fry Bread in New Mexico. Neither combo made my top ten list, but who wants to eat steak and baked potato every day? I ate my first bison burger somewhere in Wisconsin, where a cur dog sat by our table, watching every bite I took. I determined that I was eating out of his dish. As I was paying our tab at the register, I looked back and saw the dog bussing our table. We won’t be back!
I really feel sorry for folks who feel they need to have advance reservations for every hotel/motel, and every restaurant they patronize. I wouldn’t trade places with them. When we come to a cross-road, we may decide to go left rather than right as we had planned. There is where the real adventure might be. The road less travelled can be rough sometimes, but it may lead to some real memories. There is one truth which I have never learned, but I really don’t care. THERE AIN’T NO MOTELS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF TOWN!