No Room in the {holiday} Inn

Earlier this week, I was in Seattle for a work trip.  My hotel was downtown, and my view spanned over the mountains, ocean and fabulous Seattle skyline.  Fresh salmon was delivered to my room, and an entire wall of mysterious sliding doors opened, revealing a deep jacuzzi tub facing the flatscreen tv on my wall.  Each night, as I turned out the lights, I was buried in a feathery down pillow top and an outrageous number of fluffy pillows.  Blissful sigh.  Then midweek, I hopped a plane to New Mexico.

I visit New Mexico monthly for work.  Some of the hotel staff know me by name.  All of the hotel staff know me by my “It Took Me 30 Years to Look This Good” hoodie.  I’m a Platinum member at their hotel, and am often upgraded to a spacious suite.  But this particular business trip required some additional car travel.  And that is where this adventure begins…{open curtain, dim lights}…

My gas tank was full, my purple luggage properly stowed, my latte in hand, my sunglasses were overly large-and-diva-ish, and my red lipstick was perfectly applied.  I had never traveled to this particular salon before, and my directions showed it was a 4 and a half hour drive.  Meh, I thought, twenty bucks says I make it in 3 and three quarters.  Dodging tumbleweed, I hit the highway, waving goodbye to city life and hello to a barren and deserted land.  Little did I know, it would be the only life I would see for quite awhile…

Several hours into the trip, I realized I had missed a turnoff.  By 72 miles.  Pulling off into the dirt and gravel, I did a u-turn and kicked my directionally-challenged self into high gear.  The only thing on the radio at this point was static and a Hispanic Mariachi Band.  The only thing on the highway was cow skeletons.

My trip into the desert was relaxing.  I had a lot of time to think.  To process.  To ponder.  And to wonder why there were no gas stations...for hours on end.  After SIX {yes, six} hours through the desert, I finally saw a sign that said my destination was only 68 miles away.  At that very moment, as if to spite me, my gas light went “DING!” and the words “estimated miles remaining: 43” popped up on the dash.  My cell phone had no service.

Well, 43 miles came and went, and I was still flying down the open road, watching vultures circle overhead as if to say, “We’re waaaait-iiiing!”  Fifty miles came and went, then 60 miles, then 65…66…6- – and with that, at 67 miles, all dash lights came on, and the car shut down.  I was 1 mile from this small, desert, New Mexican town.  I had been driving for 6.5 hours.  It was 91 degrees outside. NINETY-ONE!!!  I was wearing a sweater, jeans, pearls, diva-shades, and dress flats.  I started walking.

And walking.  And walking.  Then crawling.  And crawling.  And crawling.

The first building I came to was a small car dealership.  At least I could find comfort knowing I was being helped by honest, trustworthy people.  My voluminous hair was now flat, slicked to my face.  I had a sweat mustache, and my dress flats and jeans were covered in thorns, small streaks of blood dripping down my ankles.  “Hell-ola!”  I said, panting.  That was a combo of “hello” and “hola” for those of you who don’t speak Spanglish.  I wanted to make sure all my bases were covered.  At this point I was surrounded by a cluster of small, short, Hispanic men smoking cigars.  I wasn’t sure if they were mirages or not, so I just kept talking…slowly and loudly, as all Americans do when talking to people of other ethnicities.  For whatever reason, we think that sort of thing helps break a language barrier…?

They grabbed their young apprentice, Antonio, to rescue me.  I have never seen a human being sweat so much in my life.  Really, it gushed from his pores like water from a hose, leaving a puddle trail as we walked back to my car with the gas can.  I looked in my wallet, grabbed the last of my cash, and sent young Antonio on his way with a sweaty handshake and a “thank you for saving my life, here’s $8.”  Then I drove the last mile into town, SO EXCITED to unwind, relax and take a bath in my hotel room.  If only I knew what was to come, I might have turned back around while I had the chance…

There wasn’t much to this old, dry, desert town.  Well, besides about 9 hotels and an outrageous number of run-down fast food restaurants.  I also noted that there was a large amount of police officers trolling the streets.  This could work in my favor, or totally against me, depending on what kind of trouble I got into during my stay.

I could see the sign for my hotel coming up:  Executive Suites.  My travel website had shown several hotel options, and I had never heard of an Executive Suites before…but the title alone was enough to get me to book.  After my now 7.5 hours on the road, I was looking forward to indulging in all the amenities it had to offer.  And then I pulled in…

The hotel, MOTEL, was 2 stories high, with outdoor room access only.  The building was salmon colored, with large cracks covering much of the exterior.  The massive awning that at one time a car could park under while checking in, was tattered and ripped to shreds – what was left of it, blew wildly in the wind.  The parking lot was as close to a garbage dump as I’ve ever seen, with shattered bottles, broken boxed TVs, matted stray cats and dogs, and homeless pushing shopping carts through.  Dead hedges surrounded the perimeter, in them were tangled and ripped plastic grocery bags and beer cans.  Creepy men hung over the 2nd floor balcony, smoking cigarettes and staring at me in ways that made my comfort level drop to a -479.  Squad cars were staked out, watching the place from the next lot over.

One drive through the parking lot and I was already squealing my tires back out.  I half laughed, half shuddered at the thought of that being my only option.  Lucky for me, there were 8 other hotels in town.  Arriving at the Hampton Inn, I walked in to request a room for one night.  “Sorry, we are all booked up tonight!”  I drove to Fairfield Inn, and you’d never guess…they were also fully booked.  I drove to Best Western…and Holiday Inn…and Motel 6…and 3 other local hotels.  Nobody…and I mean NOBODY had even so much as a corner cot available. Turns out, there was a lot of construction sites within a 2 hour radius…everyone comes to the “nearest town” to sleep.

By this time it was dark outside.  I sat in my car, hands tightly clutching the wheel.  “You can do it.  You LOVE camping.  Just think of this as, um, roughing it in the wilderness for a night.  But what if there’s cockroaches in my shower?  Or my BED?!?!  I can’t do this.  YES, YOU CAN DO THIS.  You have no other choice, remember!?!?!?!” {pep talk}

Walking into the Executive Suites “lobby,” I surveyed the scene.  The carpet (well, what was left of it) was shredded and torn.  My voice echoed through the ginormous lobby with winding staircases that went up, up, up…but nothing was at the top.  The place appeared to have been robbed, as it was void of all furniture except a dirty, frat-boy-house-couch and some ripped up cardboard boxes sprawled throughout.  Trembling, I walked up to the counter where a short, shady man took my AmEx card and ran his finger down a piece of paper with all the room numbers hand-written on it in pencil.  There were no computers, cash registers, or complimentary chocolates.

Handing my card back to me, he also gave me a key and said in broken English to “go to Room 110.”

Walking up to Room 110, trying to step over piles of garbage with flies swarming it, I inserted my key, turned the handle, and…

A MAN!!!!  THERE WAS A MAN IN MY ROOM!!!

Running back to my car, I threw my luggage in, drove the 2.7 feet back to the lobby and ran in, breathless.  “There’s {panting}…a MAN…{panting}…in my ROOM!!!!” 

“Ohhhh, okay.  So you want different room?” he asked.

YES I WANT A DIFFERENT ROOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

“Okay, I know.  I put you in suite.  You will like.  Suite 116 is for you.” he said, handing me a new key.

White-knuckling the steering wheel, I again drove the 2.7 feet to my room.  And inserted the key…and turned the handle…only to find…EWWW!!!  The room was absolutely trashed.  This “suite” was 1 very small standard motel room, with 2 twin sized beds and a full sized bed all squished next to each other.  The beds were all slept in, garbage was all over the floor and there was no toilet paper.  The shower, which was at one time white, was now a stained tan color, with brown streaks dripping down it’s walls.

I ran to my car, jumped in, drove the 2.7 feet back to the lobby and told the man I would like a refund.  Please.

At this point, I had been in the car for almost 10 hours.  I was tired.  Hungry.  Shaking.  And there was no room in the inn.  ANY INNS.  I was supposed to be teaching a skin care class in 11 hours…and the next closest hotel was HOURS away.  Dragging my tired body into Wal-Mart, I made my necessary purchases:

  • a blanket
  • a towel
  • a washcloth
  • an eyemask
  • Nyquil

…I then changed into my pajamas and washed my face in a gas station bathroom as they were closing, while a teenage boy mopped the floor around my feet.  I drove to the hospital, {figuring it was the best parking lot to sleep in, in case I was assaulted during the night}, and curled up in the fetal position in the back seat.  I’m still limping…it’s been 2 days.

The next morning I tumbled out of the back seat onto the pavement, my legs tangled in the blanket…and set off the car alarm.  Unfortunately for me, it was right as the entire morning shift was arriving to the hospital.  When I finally was able to turn it off, my mind focused on one thing and one thing only…FIND A SHOWER BEFORE MY CLASS.

Driving around town, I stopped and asked some locals if they had a truck stop nearby.  They confirmed that yes, there was ONE truck stop on the other side of town, just outside the city limits.  Great, I said…and peeled off.

At the truck stop, I paid for my shower {$6.34} and waited in line for my turn.  After some time, a burly man walked out of the shower stall, letting me know, “it’s all yours.”  I must say, I was thankful when the front desk clerk approached and said, “Let me clean that for you first, missy.”  My thankfulness was revoked as I watched her swirl a muddy mop around three times and say, “Alright, she’s all ready for ya!” 

I enjoy a rustic experience from time to time.  I definitely enjoy roughing it in the wilderness and have “used a leaf” in the great outdoors when necessary.  I have showered in outdoor facilities before…but none of those experiences compared to the filth that was in front of me in this desert truck stop.  Mold, bugs, flickering lights, stained toilets, and a shower curtain covered in some sort of slime.  Cringing, I undressed…until I was down to just my dress flats.  Looking at the shower floor, I tried to work up my courage to take them off…but as the slime swirled, I had no choice, but to shower in my dress shoes. {shameful head hang}

Of course if I had stayed at a hotel, they would have supplied a blow dryer.  And if I were at a campground bathroom, they would have even supplied a wall hand dryer to stand under.  But I wasn’t in a hotel or a campground bathroom.  I was in a TRUCK STOP in the DESERT.  Slipping into my lace nylons, black dress and sparkling jewels, I realized I only had 20 minutes until I needed to be at the salon.  Hopping in my rental car, I rolled down all 4 windows and opened the sunroof…and put the pedal to the metal on the open highway out of town.

Flying 75mph down the highway, my dripping wet hair swirled like a tornado above my head.  Minutes later, I turned around, and did it all over again.  Glancing in the rearview mirror, I looked like someone had taken an electric hand-mixer to my head.  So I sprayed it with hairspray, called it “the latest rage”, slapped on some makeup and walked in the door of that salon like nothin’ ever happened.

At the end of the day, I was absolutely beat.  I could not WAIT to get back to my Platinum Status hotel in the city where “everybody knows my name, dun, dun, dun, dunnnn”  {insert Cheers theme song}.  I screeched out of that parking lot, and without even so much as a glance back in my rearview mirror, I sped out of town.

Without stopping for gas.

Three hours into my drive, I’m listening to an irritating mix of static and Mariachi, when suddenly I hear a familiar “DING!”  The words “estimated miles remaining: 43” light up on my dash, just as I blow past a sign that says the next town is in 86 miles.

Within the hour, I found myself standing on the side of the road in my nylons, black dress, sparkling jewelry, diva sunglasses, a Visa and an American Express Card in one hand, my other hand holding out a thumb.  I was practically BEGGING to be kidnapped.  The nearest town?  I had no idea…I couldn’t see it for as FAR as the eye could see.

Pressing my phone to my ear, I dialed 911…

911 Operator:  “Please state your emergency.”

Me:  “Wellll, ummm, I guess I don’t know if this is considered an emergency…buuuuut…”

911 Operator:  “MA’AM!!!!!!  CAN YOU HEAR ME?!?!?!  YOU’RE BREAKING UP!!!!  ARE YOU OKAY?!?!?!

Me“Oh gosh, sorry about that!  I’m in the desert and I ran out of gas.  I have no idea where I am, how far I am from the nearest city, or what kind of car I’m driving…but I DO know that I’m somewhere in New Mexico if that helps!”

{silence, static}

Me:  “Uhhh, hello?”

Lost him, dangit.

So I continued with my thumb routine until finally an attractive man wearing medical scrubs in the middle of the desert picked me up.  Turns out he’s in surgical sales and ALSO drives around the state.  {flirtatious eye flutter}  I figured at the opportune moment I would see if he wanted to be my new carpool buddy.  Well, turns out his wife’s name is also Jen {retract the flirtatious eye flutter}, and so I didn’t think she’d be down with the whole carpool offer.

Five and a half hours after squealing my tires out of that town, I arrived as a Platinum Member to the big city.  I ordered salmon for Room Service.  I sunk deep into down pillows.  I put a mud masque on my face.  I clicked my heels, smiled, and repeated…“there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…” 

…and then I spent the next 3 hours trying to shove my new King Sized emergency blanket into my suitcase.  Let me just say, that it is THE biggest souvenir I’ve EVER purchased.  Then again, who needs a souvenir with a story like that?

10 comments On No Room in the {holiday} Inn

  • ….and your mother is hoping it was just a dream.

  • I have to second the comment from your poor mother who must have been nearly unable to breathe while reading this post! Just a thought…do you own a GPS?? That would have helped you avoid missing your exit at least. Until I owned one, I thought there was no need for me to have such a device in my car, but now I wouldn’t travel down the road without it…much less across the state!

  • oh fantastic. now i know what to do if it happens to me:)

  • is this an April Fool’s Joke?

    my jaw dropped after the first paragraph and I ended the tragic tale with my hand clamped over my mouth in complete disbelief…
    this HAS TO BE an April Fools Joke… right?

  • Mom…the good news is that on my flight home I was sitting next to a guy who is a “Trained Women’s Self-Defense Instructor” who gave me some great survival tips. He does not, however, recommend that I carry Mace Spray – as he has a feeling that in a moment of panic my aim might backfire on me. 🙂 Good point.

    Jill…I WISH this was an April Fool’s joke. I.{sigh}.WISH.

  • It’s 7:29 in the morning, which means I just woke up…..but now I’m ready for bed again!!!!!

    Whew

    And WHY didn’t you have a reservation at a hotel in this “town’?!

  • Melissa, I DID!!!! That was the worst part! My reservation was for the sketch hotel…ha ha…just my luck.

  • Jen thats quite a trip! Wow you must write a book, so entertaining but glad you’re safe again!

  • Wow. Just wow.

  • HA! Sadly, when I used to travel for work, this was ALL TOO COMMON for me. I was paranoid about running out of gas, so I never had that issue – but I have stayed at the CREEPIEST INNS EVER – so I’m not surprised you chose the car instead!!

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