Helpful Hotel Haley

Haley at Cullman AL Sleep Inn 03-21-2015Cullman, Alabama, is a good first night or last night stop for me when I’m heading to or from Cape or Florida.

I also like it because it has a couple of motels that have treated me right.

Where’s Crazy Carol?

Road Warriorette Shari and I had a busy day with several highs and lows which will be recounted later. She said she’d be willing to pay more than $35.97 for a room since it was our last night. We pulled into the Comfort Suites where I have had good service in the past, but I really didn’t want to fork over $107 plus tax when there was the Sleep Inn down the hill where we had stayed on our last trip for a lot less.

We picked it the last time because Shari needed a smoking room (she’s since stopped). When we stepped into the lobby, we asked the night clerk, “Where’s Crazy Carol?”


“OMG,” the young woman said. “Carol and I were just talking about this couple who came in here and named her that. She said you were a real hoot.”

“That would probably be us,” I confessed. Then Shari and I went into our normal night clerk banter that had her in stitches. I’m not going to give away any of our lines because we may want to use them someplace else in the future.

Haley, that was her name, said, “I’m going to have to call Carol. We were just chatting when you walked up. She’s not going to believe you guys are here.”

Ice bucket condoms

After we checked in, I needed to get some kind of information from her, and I took along my ice bucket. “Would you demonstrate for me the proper way to apply the ice bucket condom? I’ve stayed in scores of lodgings, and after looking inside some of the ice buckets, I can appreciate why you would WANT that plastic liner, but I’ve never figured out how to unfold the darned thing, and when you DO get it in the bucket, as soon as the ice hits it, it collapses.”

With another customer watching intently, Haley gave her best Vana White ice bucket condom presentation. She got it unfolded, but it still pulled out when the ice flumpped in.

She’s not quite Crazy Carol, but she’s a close runnerup. If Crazy Carol isn’t there the next time we stop, we’ll ask for Helpful Hotel Haley. She was a nice end to a long day of driving.

Lake City to Cullman

Capps tourist courtsDSC_3849We pulled out of Lake City this morning after a better than average breakfast at the Comfort Suites. I felt like I was cheating on the Waffle House across the street, but the breakfast was free at the motel.

I offered Passenger Anne a choice when we passed through Capps just south of Tallie.

“If you want to save some money, I bet I can find some tourist courts like this on some of the side roads.”

Good window washer

Anne Rodgers 06-25-2013Nobody rides free. Anne makes a great window washer. She’s much better at that than Friend Jan was at scraping ice off the windshield.

Elvis lives

 Anne Rodgers at Mollyville

Elvis wanted to know why I hadn’t brought Mother back to visit. I told him Anne was going to have to do on this trip. I’ve passed Mollyville, just outside Dothan, a bunch of times without stopping.

The place is huge and has a tasteful collection of antique furniture and things that defy description. If my wallet was bigger and my van emptier, I’d sure have been tempted.

Joy and Phillip at the Comfort Suites

Joy Pannell - Phillip Prior Comfort Suites Cullman AL 06-26-2013I told Anne that I was ready to call it a night at Cullman, AL. I told her I was really impressed when Mother and I ducked into the Comfort Suites hotel on our trip because of a scary storm rolling in. Joy Pannell was behind the desk that night and told us where the storm safe area was and that guests would be notified in case of a tornado warning.

When we went to the front desk to check in, I said our lodging choice was based on my experience in 2011. “I remember you.” she said. “I put you and your mother right across the hall from the stairwell where you would have gone in case of a tornado.”

She and Phillip Prior made us feel like old friends, not just weary travelers to be dealt with. I’ll make it point to make Cullman a stop when I head through there. New hotels are springing up all over the exit, but the friendly and personal service I’ve gotten from Joy will send me to the Comfort Suites.

Anne Day 1: Clermont

Anne Rodgers in CLermont FL 06-25-2012Bike partner Anne Rodgers heard how much fun Jan Norris had on her winter road trip with me that she wanted a piece of the action. The first thing that happened was that my cruise control stopped working. That means I’m either 10 mph under the speed limit or 20 mph over it, depending on flow of traffic.

We had hoped to make it to a place on the Gulf coast for seafood, but it became clear that they’d be closed. That gave us an excuse to take the scenic route Mother and I drove in 2011.

Anne, a Texas innocent, had never been to the Florida Citrus Tower in Clermont.

No, you can’t sit on his lap

Anne Rodgers in CLermont FL 06-25-2012

While I was taking the shot of Anne and the tower, a nice man came out of the Presidents Hall of Fame. He told us the place was closed, but gave us a two-for-one ticket for our next trip. (Like Anne would sign up for another one.)

Oh, yes, he also said, “No, you can’t sit on his lap.”

She settled for second best, muttering, “Your loss, Abe.”

You should have been here yesterday

Anne Rodgers in CLermont FL 06-25-2012The nice man said if we had been there yesterday, we’d have been able to see him put Abe back together. A microburst in a storm tore Mt. Rushmore apart.

We’re newlyweds

Anne Rodgers in CLermont FL 06-25-2012We fought rain for about an hour before pulling into the Comfort Suites in Lake City, FL. I like the place. It’s clean, convenient (there’s a Waffle House across the street) and the staff is friendly.

I tried every trick I’ve earned from years on the road to get the best price. Finally I said, “Look, we’re newlyweds and we’ve had a spat. If we want this marriage to survive, we need separate rooms tonight. Will that qualify for a better rate?” We got another $10 knocked off, probably because that was one they’d never heard before.

“Do you want adjoining rooms?” the clerk asked?

“No,” I replied.” I think we’ve had all the adjoining we can handle for the day.

Stay tuned for more adventures on the way to Cape.

Two Egg and Pssssssssss-BANG!

About 25 years ago, I did a story about Grand Ridge, a small school system in Florida’s Panhandle that was trying a new reading program. I met the Hollister family and grew to really like them. Charles and Annie had two children – Hobie, who was Son Matt’s age, and Heather, who was a year or two older. I made it a point to stop in on them when we passed through on vacation or when I had an assignment in the area.

But, that’s not the reason for this post.

Two Egg general store

Eleven miles up Hwy 69 from Grand Ridge is Two Egg. You can’t get that close to a place with a name like Two Egg without stopping in. A quarter of a century ago, there was a small general store that sold me a couple of souvenir T-shirts to take back to the kids.

I thought it would be fun to pick up a couple of shirts for Grandsons Malcolm and Graham this trip. A few houses and the city limit signs are about all that’s left of Two Egg. There was no sign of the general store.

Holiday Ranch Motel

I was going to take a picture of one of the three worst motels I had ever stayed in, but it, too, was gone. I’ve stayed in some real dives over the years, but that didn’t bother me much because I usually didn’t spend much time in the rooms.

When I pulled into Grand Ridge for my assignment, I was pleased to see the Holiday Ranch Motel about five minutes from the school where I’d be working. It was the old-fashioned tourist court kind of place and one that had seen much better days. The manager took me to one of the stand-alone rooms and warned me that the door had a tendency to stick. “You have to play with it, but it’ll open.

The weather had turned cold, so I was happy to see that the room had a gas heater against one wall.


After I had snuggled up under the covers, I heard a Psssssssssssssssss sound. That was the gas heater filling the room with natural gas. Just about the time I was wondering if I was going to be gassed to death, there was a loud BANG!!!! as the gas ignited, sending a huge gout of fire out into the room.

Maybe I should check to see just how hard it WAS to get out of that room. “Stick” was an understatement. Visions of bad thriller movies and Alfred Hitchcock kept filling my mind.

All night long, “Psssssssssssss BANG! Flame!” “Psssssssssssss BANG! Flame!” “Psssssssssssss BANG! Flame!”

Several options were possible

  • The Pssssssssssssss could continue until the room filled with gas and extinguished all life in the room except for the cockroaches.
  • The Pssssssssssssss could fill the room with gas and the whole-shebang could go up in a flash of light and thunder.
  • Some combination of the above.

The next morning I checked out and moved to a motel that wasn’t quite as close, but was out of the blast zone of the Holiday Ranch Motel. (I’m pretty sure that was the name of it. The first name was definitely “Holiday,” but I’m positive the second word wasn’t “Inn.”)

Travel update

I’m staying in the same Comfort Suites in Cullman, Ala.,that Mother and I took refuge in on our last road trip. Joy Pannell, the same woman who told us where to go in case of a tornado that night, was working the desk tonight. Nice room, reasonable price, friendly service. I’ll make it a point to stay here whenever I pass through.