So, let’s try this again:
In our time together, Alan and I have stayed in a few dumps. At least until Kate was born, we preferred a less restrictive type of vacation, unbound by too many plans. We had a destination, but getting there was part of the fun, and we never knew where, exactly, we’d be stopping.
In those pre-cell phone, pre-internet days, our method was to find a quickie-mart on the outskirts of town, check the Yellow Pages for hotels/motels, and call from a pay phone until we found a vacancy. Ninety percent of the time, everything was fine; I still remember the night we spent in Rochester, Minn. — with many, many lodging options, thanks to the Mayo Clinic — as the one and only time I’ve been convinced a ghost was in the room with us. I woke up, heard footsteps on the scrunchy carpet, was able to see the whole room clearly with my night-dilated pupils, had no fear whatsoever, thought hmmm, I guess someone died in the clinic with unfinished business in this hotel, went back to sleep.
Maybe it was a dream. DON’T THINK SO.
The worst was in some Wyoming town — Cody, maybe — where we were delayed getting into Yellowstone. It was raining in Cody, snowing at the east entrance to the park, and all we had to do was kick around this ersatz wild-west town and wait for it to stop. The first night, I found the Yellow Pages ad: For all your tropical fish and lodging needs, it read. Ha! Hipster adventure dead ahead! We arrived at a weird, rambling house, full of fish as advertised, but more of a bed-and-no-breakfast than a hotel. Our room was in what had been the dining room. The ceiling over the bed bulged with water stains. Every time the toilet in the room above flushed, I heard dripping noises. I slept fitfully as the guest above drained his or her bladder repeatedly, and I waited for the ceiling to collapse and dump a load of human shit on our heads.
We found a far better place the next night. Went to the rodeo.
Another memorable place was in Iron Mountain, Mich., where we stopped on our way home from Isle Royale. “In-room movies,” the sign outside advertised. I figured this meant HBO. It did not. It meant that if you wanted to watch a movie, you went to the desk and were given a VCR and allowed to choose from a cardboard box of tapes. Actually, you could choose from two boxes — the second one held the porn. No judging! We didn’t watch any movies, but admired the carved bear out by the road.
This trip, Alan made a reservation at what looked like a charming place on the Muskegon River, near Newaygo. The plan was to drop Kate off at camp, towing the drift boat, then cut east to the big river and float it for a couple of days. Things were going just fine when we arrived; there was a big gazebo in the back, overlooking the river, with a burbling water feature full of frogs. I settled in with “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet” and the time passed. Some more time passed. Where was the clerk? She was supposed to be a few minutes late, but… Alan checked the note on which he’d scribbled the details. He’d made the reservation for next week, not this. Oops. Well, we know how to handle this, although now we do it without the Yellow Pages.
We ended up at another riverfront place, a kozy-kabins deal right out of “Lolita.” The choices were: Big smelly room, smaller smelly room, “new” smelly room. I chose small-smelly when it became clear there were no queen-size mattresses in the place, no matter how big the room was. We checked in — cash only — and the owner told Alan it would be $5 extra for the TV. No, I don’t know why; probably something to do with the dish.
“Are you sure? Don’t come asking me after 8 o’clock,” she said.
Finally, we got into the room, where I washed my hands and discovered? No towels. Back to the office.
“I don’t normally provide those,” she said. But she found some. They were clean, something I was absurdly grateful for.
We headed out, launched the boat, and found it was a lovely day for a float, if only there had been more water in the river. We had to drag over about a dozen gravel bars, but otherwise, it was Wild Kingdom — a dozen great blue herons, even more kingfishers, a mink or two cavorting streamside and the coup de grace of two bald eagles, although the second one might have been the first one, circling around for another fly-by. That picture yesterday was a deep, slow stretch. Lotsa cliff swallows in that sand bank.
Back to the dump, and guess what we discovered? No soap, either. Well, it’s always fun to visit a Walgreen’s in a strange place. You really get a feel for a town that the tourist places don’t give you.
Day two we walked around Pentwater and Ludington, just to see what the sunset side was like. (Answer: Hot. Sunny.) And then home. Just a couple of days, but it felt like longer. In a good way, honest, although we’re not making that mistake with the hotels again.
So, some bloggage?
If you read only one more Paterno story, read this one from the New York Times.
In Coozledad’s world, “In the Heat of the Night” is a documentary.
And if you read nothing more about Mitt Romney’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Weekend, make it this. Funny.
I’m off to bed.