Okay, let me say upfront that I do not consider myself a persnickety woman. When my husband and I travel I ask for two thingsâ€¦a motel/hotel/B&B that is clean, and that is safe. Thatâ€™s not too much is it? Clean and safe! If my sweetie really wants to make me happy the accommodations will have a private bathroom that includes a bathtub, but I know itâ€™s not always possible.
Over the years my â€œclean and safeâ€ request has been tested in interesting ways. One time we stayed at a well-known and respected hotel chain in which our room had a huge tumbleweed of hair scooting around the bathroom floor (no legs attached that I could see) and the door itself had what appeared to be a hole an unhappy tenant had added.
Another time we wearily hoisted luggage up to our room, slid the key card into the door, and walked in on a man showering. (Was the water really THAT cold?) We schlepped our luggage back to the front desk and were told, â€œOops!â€
More recently I was booked at a very nice hotel in Bloomington. Upon walking into the room I noticed water in the bathtub, used cups, and a rumpled bed. There wasnâ€™t even that cute little â€œVâ€ they put on the toilet paper. Hmmmm. A cleaning person was working down the hallway so I asked her take a peek. She shrugged, and then spoke in Spanish to another person. Fingers were pointed at me. More shrugs. Calls were made. It turned out the room had been booked by someone who later asked for a different room. Apparently once vacated nobody checked the room before giving it to me. Sigh.
This past weekend we traveled to the stunning state of North Carolina. Our mission was to help family members with a good old-fashioned barn raising, although by barn I mean workshop/studio. Since there would be lots of family members staying on site my husband and I decided to find a room nearby. Fish and visitors and all that.
When we looked for Bed and Breakfast offerings in the area we quickly discovered there were few, and those few were full. It is, after all, the time of year when North Carolina is alive with gold and orange fall foliage. Tourists abound wearing thick necklaces of photo gear. After considerable effort my husband found a lodge room that was availableâ€¦which should have begged the question, â€œWhy?â€
The website looked good. The one available cabin appeared downright cozy and charming. There was even a swimming pool! My husband telephoned the owners, asked a few questions, and was pleased with their general niceness. He booked it.
Using our phone GPS we tested my motion sickness tolerance as we sought the address of the lodge. Winding mountain roads had me sloshing back and forth between the car door and my husband, AKA a Mario Andretti wannabe. He loved speeding into the turns while I gripped one hand on the dashboard and one hand on the phone. I breathed deeply and willed myself not to barf on the rental carâ€™s floor. Or window. Or driver.
We arrived at the address and looked at each other. We didnâ€™t see a swimming pool. We didnâ€™t even see a front door. What we did see was a large rustic building complete with a rusted out refrigerator, and an even rustier old car sitting in the driveway. The landscaping hadnâ€™t seen attention in a very long time. Weeds grew happily between stacks of old boards and â€œstuff.â€
â€œThis canâ€™t be it, can it?â€ I said.
My husband looked worried. “Well, that tiny sign over there indicates it is.â€
I squinted. The sign did bear the name of the lodge. â€œOh dear.â€
He wandered around the building looking for a door, found one, and knocked. Nobody home. We drove around thinking it was all a misunderstanding somehow, someway.
Since the mountains arenâ€™t kind to phone reception, we tried the main highway where it was flatter. There wasn’t any sort of road shoulder so for safety we parked in a large paved driveway. I tried calling the lodge’s phone in ten minute spurts, but kept getting an answer machine.
As I fiddled with the phone a man walked out of a nearby house and grumpily asked what we were doing. We explained we had reservations at the lodge but nobody was around. We were in the driveway trying to call them because it wasn’t safe to be on the highway.
He puffed up as if barely holding his temper and said, â€œI donâ€™t have anything to do with them.â€ His not so subtle meaning was â€œmove along. Now.â€ Okay then. We moved along and waited elsewhere.
Eventually the owners came home. It turns out they live in the lower level of the “lodge” and the rental unit is upstairs. We were told to let ourselves in. â€œIs there a key?â€ my husband said. He was handed a sturdy padlock. â€œIf you feel a need, use this.â€
We went to our room and discovered the door lock was a simple eyehook and latch. There was no place we could find to even use the padlock. We brought in our suitcases and scoped out the place. Mismatched furnishings, carpeting and linoleum. Kitschy knick knacks. A well-used king sized bed. But, it at least looked clean if you didnâ€™t count the windows.
I went into the bathroom. Instead of little bottles of shampoo and little individual soaps there was a Ziploc sandwich bag with shards of used soaps others had left behind. There was shampoo, but again, discards from other renters. I came out of the bathroom holding the bag with two fingers. â€œLook what weâ€™ve got for soap!â€
My husband burst into laughter. â€œLetâ€™s just say they’re economical.â€ I nodded.
The next morning as I dressed a slight motion caught my eye. Slowly turning my head I zeroed in on the cause. A green lizardâ€¦a gecko I thinkâ€¦was lounging on my pillow. MY pillow. Had we been sharing it through the night? I made eye contact and he zipped up the wall. A short while later he came back on the bed and taunted me a bit. I grabbed my camera and he once again headed for the ceiling. I showed my husband and he laughed. Again. What else was there to do?
Once we arrived at the barn raising I told our family about the accommodations…used soap, used shampoo, and the gecko that turned us into an mÃ©nage a trois for the night. One understanding soul asked if we had saved 15% on our car insurance. Ha ha ha. Funny.
So, each night I peeled back the covers, checked under and around the pillows, and lifted the photo frame over our bed. Little Lizzy was there–I could sense her–but where? It became a game.
My husband had wisely brought soap from home, so we ignored the recycled luxuries in the bag and got along just fine. I never did find the swimming pool.
All I wanted was clean, which I sort have got, and safe, which Iâ€™m not sure counts with a lizard in the bed. Would I go back to this establishment? No. Did it add to the adventure? Yes. Can’t say I’ve been in a threesome before.
How about you? Any travel stories to share? What was the most â€œinterestingâ€ place youâ€™ve ever stayed at?