Neon Lights and Cheap Motels

After a day of speaking in Kearney, NE for the Nebraska Press Association, I headed south-ish toward home. I had said all along I should be home tonight, unless I got distracted.

I’m not home.

I was enjoying the solitude and openness of the two-lane state roads…just me and fields full of cranes eating the corn.

I stopped at a few places attendees had suggested: Minden and Fairfield to see the opera houses, and Holstein to buy some jerky for the trip. Had I not stopped in Minden I might have made Jerkeyville before closing.

When I’m out here I don’t feel much pressure to be anywhere too quickly. There are exceptions, of course. Bathroom breaks and looking down to see a gas gauge dipping below “E” come to mind.

Tonight it was the thunderstorm and the slowing traffic that pulled me aside in Seneca, KS. And I’m a sucker for a roadside motel with good neon.

Motels are always iffy. One must keep the expectations low and hope for vacancy.

There are some motels that cater to various workers in the area. These workers tend to wake up early. Note: never get a room next to the ice machine…those guys like to fill their plastic coolers at 5 am, and yell at their buddies across the parking lot that they’ll “be there in a sec.”

Motels are nice, in that you can pull up to your room, crash, get up, leave. No long hallways, big lobbies, or humans.

The downside is that other cars pull up, too. Or, like the other night in Rock Port, MO, these dump trucks BACKED up to their rooms, with a loud, melodious, “beep … beep … BEEP” at midnight.

A couple of nights ago I pulled off the road to check out the hotel situation in Hebron, NE. There are three. One looks deserted, one wasn’t my style, and the third looked clean and tidy. I went with that, the Riverside Motel.

It was a very nice room, with only two issues that would cause me to keep them at four stars on Yelp.

One, the heating unit, when it kicked on, had a slow-rising howl that would wake me up thinking it was Wednesday at 11 am. (In case that reference is regional, where I live, that’s when they test the tornado sirens).

The second issue is so first world I’m a little embarrassed to share. I travel with my small Nespresso machine so I’m sure to have good coffee in the morning. This hotel didn’t have coffee cups in the room.

So I rang the front desk. “Good morning, how may I help you,” he said, in pretty good English.

“Is there coffee in the lobby?”

“You want coffee?” he replied.

“I want a coffee cup,” I explained.

“No, we don’t have coffee.”

“Do you have a cup?” I persisted.

“I have MY cups,” he said.

“Ummm…can I borrow one?”

I walked across the parking lot to the lobby in my plaid pajama bottoms and a t-shirt, because I don’t care. When I got to the lobby, with a large smile of accomplishment, he held up some styrofoam cups he had found.

I took one, thanked him, and didn’t think this was the time to discuss environmental impacts.

Tonight I’m at the Starlight. Five stars. Wicked good neon, clean, nice lady checked me in, and she gave me a water and a bag of cookies. And free WIFI.

I find the more expensive the place you stay, the more they charge for stuff others throw in as part of the deal.

I didn’t ask about breakfast, but there is a coffee cup in my room.

I’m not sure this type of travel is for everyone, but there’s only one way to find out. Hop in your vehicle and GO!

It’s probably not cheaper than therapy, but prossibly more effective.

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