Saturday, July 18, 2009

Don't Need No Stinkin Reservation

A few years ago, the call of the open road became too loud to ignore and we packed up the family and drove off to tour the Mid-west in July. Those who previously thought us sensible and practical (i.e. sane) are now rethinking. In order to experience real “freedom” we left with as few hotel reservations as possible, planning to stop wherever the wind took us—I don’t recommend this.

While traveling through Missouri (those in the know pronounce it “misery”) we spotted a road deceptively marked “scenic route”. Since we’re from the land of “purple mountains majesty” we’d found very little “scenic” about the Mid-west and so we decided to give this road a try. Eight hours later we were wondering why the map maker thought these cornfields were more scenic than those next to the freeway? Suddenly the cornfields parted and what to my wondering eye should appear? Soybean fields! Now that’s what I’m talking about!

Maps also don’t show you things like “road closed” signs; we ignored those and drove around the barricades to discover that sometimes roads are closed for no good reason. Actually, the Missouri river had flooded the road at some point in the last year but the government never got around to picking up the barricades. I think that in Missouri “scenic highway” means “neglected back-road”.

During our eight hours in the cornfields we did pass the purported gravesite of Daniel Boone, but since he’s only a “B list” dead celebrity we only waved as we went by. It’s a purported gravesite as Frankfort Kentucky officials claim to have dug him up and buried him there. Missourians claim the Kentuckians dug up the wrong guy. Anyway, B-lister Daniel Boone was at one time buried alongside Highway 94. This gives me an idea; I’m going to talk to our city to see if we can increase tourism by digging up dead guys and moving them to our town.

As daylight began to fade it became time to look for an affordable place to spend the night. In a story that ends “happily ever after” this is where the family pulls into a clean, safe, affordable hotel (where they have a reservation). There is even time for some frolicking in the pool before bedtime. Sadly, our story ends differently.

The first city we came to after departing the cornfields was Chesterfield. Many Mormons believe that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri, for shoppers, Chesterfield is that place—but it costs a lot of apples to sleep in a room there. Apparently people have different definitions for the word “affordable”. My definition is something less than a semester of college tuition.

Moving on, we decided that somewhere near the St. Louis airport would be a good place to look. We now entered a crazy game of musical chairs where we were trying to beat other road-weary travelers to an available hotel room. To make things worse, the car captives were getting restless and hungry. In order to preserve marital harmony my definition of “affordable” was going up faster than the car’s odometer.

One hotel had lots of empty rooms, but none of them were clean. In a gesture of good-will designed specifically to alienate the unprepared traveling public, the manager had given staff the day off--after they cleaned all the RESERVED rooms. My “affordable” was still going up. Next door was another hotel, a chain that I’m not fond of. I asked the clerk at the DAYS INN if there were any rooms available and if they were clean. She stopped talking on her cell-phone long enough to tell me that it wasn’t the Waldorf-Astoria but that there were available rooms. In order to save my own life I took the room and released the captives from the car.

While we were unloading our luggage a couple of cute little boys staying in the room above ours were playing a game of “gangsters and drug lords”—chasing each other around the parking lot shouting; “I’m gonna put a cap in your ass”—adorable.

The room at the DAYS INN didn’t smell like any violent crimes had recently occurred there and was reasonably free of trash. At least the sheets appeared clean. After a quick meal we snuggled in for the night, me with my 9mm handgun in the bed closest to the door.

The next morning I didn’t have to coax anyone out of bed. Everyone was so anxious to tour St. Louis that they practically raced from the room—at least that’s what I choose to believe. Next time my whims take me to St. Louis, I’ll make reservations—in Chesterfield.