I loved staying in motels when I was a kid! The rooms were nice and clean and the beds were big and there was a television. They usually had those machines you could drop quarters into to make the bed shake. There were free soap samples and fresh towels. What more could you want? And staying in a motel was something we very seldom did so that made it all the more special.
My father believed in “hitting the road” early (3am) and driving long hours. We usually ate breakfast at a diner of some sort, made sandwiches at a rest stop for lunch, and ate cheap hamburgers for dinner. Dad drove until he was too tired to continue, then pulled over to the side of the road and slept. Yes, we slept in the car on the side of the road- many times. If my memory serves me at all, I would say we averaged one night in a motel for every three or four days of a trip. Ironic then, that I clearly remember us staying at a motel once so my parents could watch the Miss America Pageant! Apparently that was a major event!
Gary and I took a more traditional approach to travel and stayed in a motel every night! However, we did take one risk- we didn’t make any reservations. Since it had been so long since our last trip, and I was doing all the driving this time, we just weren’t sure where we would be each night. And heading west presents two standard travel problems- lots of summer road construction, and long stretches between towns. So, adhering to any kind of schedule wasn’t practical.
We got off to a late start (sorry Dad) and by the time we reached Amarillo I was tired, so we looked around for a room. Lucky us! We arrived with literally hundreds of boys and girls and their parents for a tumbling/gymnastics competition! We were fortunate to get a room on the second floor of a huge 1950’s vintage motel in various stages of remodeling. Thank goodness they had an elevator (remember Gary’s leg). The lobby was filled with dozens and dozens of giggling girls in matching purple t-shirts. The whole place smelled of chlorine, thanks to the giant indoor pool, but our rooms were down a quiet hall and we did get a good night’s sleep. I think the majority of the tumbling group chose the rooms overlooking the pool. The next morning we were pleasantly surprised to learn that our stay included a full breakfast- scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, coffee, juice.
We weren’t so lucky in Flagstaff, AR. We hit town on “game night” (college), so not only were rooms scarce, but the room we got was double the normal price. The poor guy next to us had been in the motel for three days, working on a local construction job, and was very upset that his fourth night had been doubled. When you are in the middle of nowhere you don’t have many options.
Most of our motel rooms were clean and comfortable. Some had very strange showers. Most had good television reception. The one in Monterey had a huge flat screen TV! All included a hair dryer, ironing board, coffee maker, refrigerator, and microwave. Our room in Texas also included two fly swatters, which we needed. All but one had a decent breakfast bar (I hate soggy doughnuts). But the bed is the most important item. When you have been driving for 400-600 miles all you want is a good shower, a few minutes of television, and a good night’s sleep. Most motel beds are far too firm and the pillows are terrible. We always travel with our own pillows.
All in all, we were fortunate to get a good night’s sleep most nights. Of course the nights we stayed with friends and family were the best- free lodging and good food! You can’t beat that.
Next year when we travel to Vermont we should be able to make reservations. We know how far we can drive in a day and there are far more places to choose from along the way. When you are traveling east you don’t see signs that say “next services 125 miles”! J