Cheap motel rooms can seem like thrilling places at the outset of the trip. You never know who or what you will encounter. Will the person behind the reception desk be on the phone when you walk in? Will you remember to tell them that you want to pay the additional $2.99 for wifi? If you do remember to tell them, will they remember to charge you? And what about your room itself? How far will it be from the vending area? Will the ice machine nearest your room be functional? What will the bedspread in your room look like? Will there be a cigarette burn on the rim of the bathtub? Will the TV remote be placed on the bedside stand or next to the TV? Will the Gideons bible be visible or will it be in a drawer? How many plastic cups will you use? Two or Three? Maybe you'll only use one! And what about the nearby restaurants? Which chain restaurants will be at your disposal? Will they be within walking distance? Will there be a Red Lobster? And what cultural attractions will be nearby, should you decide to stay more than one night? Will it be some interesting caverns, or will it be a small, war memorial? Perhaps it will be a zoo with several, crummy animals in out-of-date cages. You just never know.
I have made this brochure stand more exciting that it is in real life. I tweaked the photograph on my computer to bring out its colors. The brochure stand is a regular feature of the cheap motel, and sometimes I wonder about the people who actually take the brochures, who stop and browse the brochures. At what rate are they traveling and for what purpose? Are they traveling with children? How bored or fascinated are they? How much time do they have on their hands? Do towns like Toledo, Ohio and North Platte, Nebraska really have that much to offer the traveler? Apparently they do. I have not come to one cheap motel yet that does not have a brochure stand with a fine offering of cultural and historical attractions. There seems to be something interesting around every corner, something interesting in every town that is big enough to host a cheap motel. If you look at this picture closely enough, you will see that there is a brochure for a Bass Pro Shops. Perhaps I should go there tomorrow to soak up some local, Toledo color.
The vending area is obviously one of the most important areas at any cheap motel. The vending area is where the traveler is most likely to encounter a fellow traveler. Social exchanges in the vending area tend to be brief and limited to the obvious and banal, but you never know! It's possible that the vending machine of your choice will malfunction and steal your money, or worse, dispense the wrong product, the wrong bag of chips, diet Pepsi instead of normal Pepsi. It can be very disheartening for the weary traveler to get Fritos when he wants Doritos. It can also be very disheartening to pay $1.75 for a bottle of Dasani. This is something that you can talk about with your fellow traveler, should you encounter him or her in the vending area. If you say something weird like, Hmm, looks like housekeeping forget to draw the blinds completely, you will certainly alienate yourself from your fellow traveler. Don't do that. We're all in this together, this corridor of life.
Sometimes, when you are in your motel, you will wander the corridors because you are bored or restless, and you will hear that the television is on in a nearby room; and you may think, God, I really want to talk to that person. I have been traveling alone and I want some human contact. I know there is a person on the other side of that aqua marine door. Are they sleeping? How would they respond if I knocked on their door and said, "Hi, I'm not a creep. I just want to meet another human being"? My best advice to the traveler is Keep to yourself. Don't go knocking on motel room doors. Someone knocked on my door in Cleveland. It was Gary. Earlier, I'd spoken to him for five minutes in the parking lot. He was walking around, drinking a beer, and so was I. I told him I was traveling X-Country, to a garlic farm in New Mexico, and that I'd come from Massachusetts. Massachusetts! You don't say! Gary told me that his nephew had just graduated from M.I.T. in Boston. We bid each other farewell and safe travels. But ten minutes later a knock comes on my door and it's Gary, asking me if I would be needing a hand job tonight. Would you be needing a hand job tonight, he said. No thanks, I said. It wasn't until I told this story to Arda while in Iowa City that I learned that Gary was probably a hooker on his nightly rounds of the cheap Cleveland motels. I wonder what he would have charged.
Tomorrow will be a long day, but it will be my last day on the road, and I will be home early enough to kick back and pop a couple brewskies. I'm really looking forward to that. It ain't easy being a semi-pro blogger on the road. Some days, in fact, it can be downright dreadful. In Baton Rouge, I completely freaked out. I woke up in the morning and felt that I could not do it. I was overwhelmed. I teach English on the internet. I had a bunch of papers to grade. I was road weary and getting sick. I'd promised my friend I'd be in San Antonio (9 hours away) for dinner, and I was coming down with a cold. I just wanted to say fuck it all and sit by the shitty pool all day. That was more than a month ago, and whatever bother I was feeling then is now way behind me. It's almost like it never happened. When you travel alone, it's like a lot never happened; but then you land somewhere and talk to some old friends, and the stories come spilling out. I'm sure I'll be talking about this trip for weeks to come. I'm sure my friends will ask me how my trip was and get an answer that is far more than they bargained for. There is just so much to tell, more than any blog can accommodate. Goodnight. And thanks to everyone who supported this trip, especially my brother.