Picking a Motel

Canal Point gator 10-10-2013It’s always a challenge figuring out where to stop for the night when you are traveling with new folks. I’m not overly picky: I’m looking for somewhere clean and cheap.

I made the mistake of letting Friend Jan pick a place in Louisville on our trip this winter. Bad Move.

Friend Anne didn’t mind playing the role of spatting newlywed to win a discount in Lake City.

I tried to show Friend Shari alligators around Lake O, but they must have been federal alligators laid off because of the government’s shutdown. We spotted one little one at the Canal Point locks, but he wouldn’t have made a slipper, let along a set of shoes.

We were getting hungry and were going to be too late to get to Roy’s in Steinhatchee, so we opted for the always great buffet at the Golden Corral in Okeechobee.

Hotel Jacaranda

Hotel Jacaranda 10-10-2013The meal was so large, that Shari immediately passed out. She came to when we passed through historic downtown Sebring. She REALLY came alive when we got to historic Avon Park and the Hotel Jacaranda. I’ll have more pix of it when I’m not so sleepy. Unlike Shari, I didn’t get a nap.

I DID shoot some pictures of the diving woman in front of Reed’s Motel. I shot her in 1990 when I did a story on U.S. 27 between Little Havana in Miami and Havana, FL, on the Georgia line.

By the time we got to Ocala, my passenger was whining that it was six hours past her bedtime. Instead of a place to lay my head, though, she wanted to find a Starbucks joint so she could steal my van and get a jolt before I had hit my snooze alarm for the third time in the morning.

Smoking rooms harder to find

Reed's MotelTHEN we went looking for a motel. She’s a smoker, so that eliminated most of the more modern, upscale places. She wanted a Mom and Pop with loose standards.

She picked the first one because it was named after a long-legged bird she is fond of. Let’s just leave it at that. It was a 1950’s place that rented by the week. I got a little worried when I noticed that the windows in almost all of the rooms were open. So were a lot of the doors. In one of the doors was a guy who was busily scratching parts that itched. I suggested we go to the next place listed on the GPS.

It was a fancy bed and breakfast. I don’t like them because I don’t want to be warm and fuzzy with the owners. I want a good, anonymous room where I can throw a wet towel on the bathroom floor and not feel guilty.

We can’t afford a place with “grounds”

Candidate three was eliminated because it was too fancy:  it had “grounds.” “We can’t afford anyplace that has grounds,” she said.

Candidate four was similar to Candidate One except that the windows were closed. All but one of them. When our headlights played across the rooms, a guy carefully pulled  back a corner of the curtain and stared at us. It wasn’t clear if he was expecting someone to be making a pickup or a delivery, and I don’t think he had pizza on his mind.

We finally came up with a place that was minimally acceptable. (If we wanted a microwave or a fridge, it would cost $5 extra.)

When the desk clerk asked if we would like adjoining rooms, I said, “Nah, she’s a smoker. If she sets her bed on fire, I’d be happy to have her in a different building. He took me at my word. She’s not only in a different building, I’m pretty sure she’s in a different area code.

I’LL find the room tomorrow night.

Roadtripper Shari

Ken Steinhoff - Shari Stiver 10-08-2013 IMG_2979

Before I started this blog, I had PalmBeachBikeTours.com. Kid Matt said, “You’re always picking up strays along the road, why don’t you do bike tours?” Well, that lasted until the first time half a dozen riders of various abilities and attitudes showed up (and they weren’t strangers, they were friends and family). I decided I wasn’t cut out to herd cats, so I concentrated on writing about rides and reviewing products.

Jan got to feel cold

Jan Norris Athens OH 01-23-2013_0671

It looks like THIS blog is turning into a touring group. I got to introduce Jan Norris to cold weather and Old Man’s Cave in February.

Anne got to sing with Elvis

Anne Rodgers at Mollyville

I hauled Anne Rodgers from Florida to Cape this summer. (Jan and Anne were both newspaper colleagues and bike partners).

Now it’s Shari’s turn

My first high school girlfriend, Shari Stiver, flew into town Tuesday afternoon to spend a few days in Florida before heading back to Cape with me. Wife Lila shot the photo at the top of the page of the two of us listening to Friend Jacqie Jackson perform at the Tides in South Palm Beach. The ocean and a huge lighting storm way out at sea are in the blackness behind us.

I’m not sure, but that may be closer than Shari ever got to me when we were dating.

Jessica is next victim

Jessica Cyders Athens OH 02-28-2013_3184My next victim after Shari will be Jessica, the curator at the Athens Historical Society and Museum in Athens. She’s riding from Athens to Cape with me. She says she can’t believe half the stories I tell her about SE Missouri, so she wants to see the place for herself.

I told her Bill Hopkins will vouch for me. (I’ve already cautioned her not to stare at Mother’s arm. She’s sensitive about it since that riverboat mishap.)

I don’t have many pictures of Jessica yet. The best I could come up with is this shot of her trying to convince the cat in the window of the Athens County Board of Elections that the museum would be a better home because it provides catnip breaks twice a day.


View from Thebes Courthouse

Thebes 06-29-2013Mother, Friend Anne and I hit the Thebes Courthouse just before sunset, just in time to watch a slow freight rumble across the railroad bridge.

Sky kept changing

Thebes 06-29-2013Every time we would start to get into the car to leave, the sunset would change color or shape.

Courthouse has spectacular view

Thebes 06-29-2013We didn’t see the famous “green flash” when the sun disappeared, but we didn’t feel cheated. Here are photos I’ve taken of and from the courthouse over the years.

Muddy mistake

Thebes 06-29-2013Most of lowland Thebes was covered with Mississippi River floodwaters this spring. I noticed in the fading daylight that the roads had been graded and there was a big pile of mud off to the side of them, so I assumed they were clear when I drove toward the river.

Big mistake. A brief downpour had turned the mud on the road to something slicker than ice. I knew I couldn’t stop or I’d never get going again, so I tried to keep it slow and straight until I got to a point where I had to make a right turn. I was able to kick it around, but about 75 feet down that road, the car went into a slow-speed skid.

I used all the techniques I had learned over years of winter driving. At the last second, I cut the wheels to the left and tried to use the front wheel drive to pull me out of the slide, but we ended up bumping up against the curb, which stopped us.

I give my passengers credit. Unlike Friend Jan, who would have been pounding on the dash and screaming, “We’re all gonna die!!!” Anne sat stoically and braced herself for the impact. Mother said she’d have screamed, but she was busy biting down on a pillow to keep from doing it.

We exited Thebes no worse for wear, but it took me three bucks in the car wash the next day to get all the mud off.

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.