Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Motel

Every word of the following account is absolutely true. Seriously. No exaggeration is needed.

We are back after a weekend in the north woods. We departed much later than planned, so by the time we got close to our destination it was already evening. Not wanting to deal with the involved work of a Rendezvous * set-up in the dark, we opted for a motel. We stopped in a town with a population of less than 1,000, but it is the closest town to the place we were going (still 45 minutes away) .

The photo is taken from the driveway of the Capri Motel. The name was our first clue of what was ahead. What would you expect from a motel named Capri? It was one of those long, one story motels typical of thousands of American small-town establishments built in the road-trip heyday of the '40s and 50s. (Our town has one too, but it is actually remodeled and quite nice on the inside.) This one was L shaped, and it had a large amount of lovely petunias outside the office. The front lawn boasted old maple trees and a nice fire pit with wooden chairs.

I gazed at the sign though. It said a great deal about the motel. More about the sign in a minute.

We checked in and carried a small bag to the (surprisingly) No-Smoking room. Opening the door, we were greeted with a warm wash of stale tobacco air. Well, it might be a no-smoking room now, but 50 or 60 years of cigarette smoke certainly do leave a signature.

Here is the sign that welcomed us into room number nine.

We got the message--in yellow and red. The little pine tree air freshener was not helping the air quality however. The lamp to the left is hanging from the ceiling on a slightly rusty brass chain, and the wooden flower basket (actually part of the lamp) was filled with faded pink plastic flowers. Hmmm. Perhaps you can see the plastic lace mat under the lamp?

We looked at each other a bit apprehensively as we headed for the beds to give them that little trial bounce that one always does at a motel--not too good, but since there were two beds we'd be okay. One sleeper can deal with a saggy bed a lot better than two sleepers, you know? The beds had a quaint country touch--quilts. Nice thought, but they were the ugliest quilts I have ever seen, with a strange mix of dark but faded colors. They did not match each other.

We checked out the bathroom--whew--clean enough to be passable. The mustard-hued shower curtain had a curlicued crest with a gold letter C (for Capri, I surmised) emblazoned on it. There was a metal tissue box holder on the wall such as are often found in motels. It was empty of tissue, but it was festooned with a string of faded silk flowers. I was giggling by this time.

The room decor offered several more chuckles, groans, or snorts of derision, depending. We decided not to use the ancient air conditioner. The paint on the window we wrestled open was badly peeling, but a nice evening breeze did help with the warm air and the tobacco smell. The sound of crickets was pleasant.

Deciding to settle in and watch the Olympics a while, we turned back the quilts of our respective beds. No giggle this time. I gasped and then burst into laughter. The bottom sheet was canary yellow with orange hibiscus flowers. The top sheet was pink with purple roses. The pillow cases matched each other. They were another floral print, blue this time. Ken's sheets were similarly uncoordinated, and again the pillowcases inexplicably matched. His were turquoise and white plaid. We sat on the beds and howled with laughter, and Ken remarked, "Good thing we don't have to spend the night with the lights on. The sheets are so loud we'd never be able to get to sleep!"

After calming down and catching our breath, we got reasonably comfy. I noted that the night stand (decorated with an ancient alarm clock, another plastic doilley and a vintage '50s lamp) contained magazines. The first one I pulled out was a "Better Homes and Gardens" circa 1995. Quickly doing the math I said incredulously, "This magazine has been here for thirteen years! Can you believe that?" Deciding that cutting-edge decorating tips from over a decade earlier were not helpful, I opted for the next magazine, Country Living. The date on the cover? Nineteen hundred and eighty seven. Even the charms of the decor and the linens had not prepared me for a magazine that was twenty one years out of date! I found that astounding and kept wondering, "Who dusts these and puts them back and never notes that magazines from the current century might be a good idea?"

After a while I waxed a bit nostalgic, recalling trips in the days when we travelled with a child or two and a very limited budget. We had stayed in several such places, but not in a long time. And maybe not quite so--retro. Still, I remembered the rare times in my own childhood when my family stayed at a motel during a car trip. A motel was an adventure, a welcome alternative to my Aunt Velma's 30 cats-crowded house. A little room like this would have seemed fine to me in those days. Actually, if I squinted my eyes I could picture some family from the forties or the fifties rejoicing in the nice bathroom with a shower, the beds, and the country view out the window.

Next morning as we pulled away, I stopped to take a picture of the sign. Note the turquoise (screaming '50s) color of the oval that says Capri, the overgrown bushes, the missing V in HAVE. Don't miss the proclamation that this motel features color TV from RCA! The wall behind the arrow (with mostly missing flashing yellow light bulbs, now turned off in the daylight) is badly peeling. The little coachman who stands atop the gate has a badly chipped face, poor thing.

You might think we were crazy for staying in such a place. We kind of thought so too, until we remembered that we were about to dress up in 19th century clothes, sleep in a white canvas tent, and cook in cast iron over a camp fire. Or maybe, if we didn't want to rough it, we'd cook inside the lodge on our little stove.

And, to my relief, there were no visible bugs at the Capri. Yes, I was concerned about that.

And yes, the experience was a bit disconcerting but mostly funny. I meant this post to make you smile. I'm sure that when we next head up north and pass that motel sign in the nice little Wisconsin town, we will laugh, remembering. And I don't plan on staying there again if I can help it.

But I am saddened and chagrined to know that for much of the world the sad, shabby little room in a dilapidated motel would be luxury, safety, a wonderful blessing. We had hot and cold running water, electricity, a microwave and a small refrigerator (surprises) and two beds. One for each of us. With sheets and blankets and quilts. And printed material. And a television.

Most of us are spoiled rich folks, you know? We just don't realize it.

* The link is to a Plover, WI Rendezvous, but is not the one we attended. Some are open to the public, and some are for any reenactor who shows up, and some are by invitation-only.


Jeni said...

How true your words are that for so many in this country today -the "land of plenty" -many do not even have a roof over their heads, much less a bed and luxury of a bathroom with hot and cold running water. Taken in that context, you were truly blessed to have stayed at a place offering so many other amenities as well.

Lori said...

"Most of us are spoiled rich folks, you know? We just don't realize it."

Amen and Amen!!

LoieJ said...

Hubby and I look for "mom and pop" motels when we need to stay somewhere because they are so much cheaper. Otherwise one pays for the name, or the pool, or some other non-necessity. These places are usually so much cheaper that if one is only sleeping, they are just fine. I haven't run into one that was stuck in time, like yours, however. But one time we went to one in Salt Lake City that was horrible because the water bed was cold and the floor was dirty shag carpeting, and so we didn't move to the floor, but we did end up putting on lots of layers of clothing because of the cold bed.

You are right in your compared to much of the world comment. When I think of how really tiny the Habitat for Humanity houses are that my husband has worked on, well, lets just say that some people have bathrooms bigger than that. Some of those home-dec shows are full of "what you have isn't good enough."

Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed this post. Thanks!

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

I don't mind mom and pop motels if the bed is good. I kind of prefer them to a cookie cutter room in a national chain.

It's just that this felt like the Twilight Zone. ;-)

It was--unbelievable! And it was too expensive by a long ways. I guess when you are the only place in town it doesn't matter if the paint is peeling or the lights don't all work. People gotta sleep!

Anonymous said...

Interesting experience...are you sure it wasn't a Twilight Zone episode? :)

And I agree...the motel room would be a palace for 80% of the world's population.

DogBlogger said...

I think it was a nice transitional stop on your way to the 19th century!

Iris said...

What a hoot!

Anonymous said...

I think I have stayed in that motel.

seethroughfaith said...

what a fun retro post. And beds beat camping - in my books -(almost) every time!

seethroughfaith said...

after reading the comments - may I ask, out of interest ... "too expensive by a long ways" ... how expensive is that?

Hubby and I -with two kid- stayed in a motel in San Antonio (several years ago) and it was pretty crummy, but we thought it "a real experience." And the diner they recommended for breakfast the next day - straight out of a sit-com!

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

Fifty dollars. I know, that is not a lot--but it is for that town and that motel. The similar but much nicer one in our town, all remodeled and with internet access etc. costs around $40. I wish people knew how nice it really is inside, because if they did they might not drive six more miles to the nationally-known Best Western Motel.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

PS We stayed in a crummy San Antonio motel some years ago with two kids as well. :-) Had bugs...not uncommon in southern states.

seethroughfaith said...

thanks Owl

oh and I loved your photos on the next post! Esp those dancers - ghostly :)

Anonymous said...

I knew you were thinking for the Motel with the bed bugs. I don't think Joshua & I will EVER forget that stop.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

That is exactly what I was thinking. I can't remember where we were.

nightmare said...

I haven't been to Crivitz in years. At least I assume that's in Crivitz, it looks like the one I remember, and there can't be too many Capri Motels around. Of course it was the mid 80's when I was there.

Crimson Rambler said...

I do agree with you about the desirability of the RENOVATED one-storey Mom'n'Pop motel. I don't need a room big enough for a badminton court if I can just have clean bed, clean bathroom, microwave and fridge (the coffee-makers seem to be ubiquitous). I stayed in a $50 special a couple of years back -- desperation, in spite of lack of visible A/C in the rooms, but when I got to my room I found the A/C was central...a comfy bargain on a very hot night!

Anonymous said...

Wow what a cute little quaint hotel. I'm curious, being a Los Angeles native I have to know what made you leave for the Dairy State and do you love it?

I love hotels by the way( I do work for one) so I enjoyed the pictures you put up. Oh also take a look at the link I posted here, there is a great promotion with The Hampton Inn going on :D

Hampton Inn is offering 10% of their best rate available until 9/1/08 we’re also giving away some great prizes leading up to the TEAM USA competing at the Olympic Games. Good Luck!!


Sarah B


Check out this funny video, called "Ballad of a Traveler", it is hilarious. He totally sums up the travelers experience:


Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

Sarah, I'd delete your comment, since it is just a way to advertise Hampton Inn, but I must say that the ballad was one of the most clever hotel advertisments ever.

It was neither cute nor quaint. It could have been. It was sad and dumpy. Twilight Zone, I tell ya. I'd like to take a little place and make it cute and quaint, actually.

And I left California for a multitude of reasons. I miss it, but I also love Wisconsin. I do NOT miss L.A.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

Holy cow, Nightmare! Did you stay there??

Yep, it was Crivitz.

nightmare said...

Yeah, it was a stopover on our way to an auto parts swap meet. I remember it mostly because of the name. I asked my dad if it was owned by the same Capris who sang 'There's a Moon Out Tonight'