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Scenes from a Motel 6 bedspread

Here’s who I’m sleeping with:

A fisherman.

A snow skier.

A bear and a dog (not counting Ace).

Some eagles, a pink flamingo and a cactus.

They are all there on the Motel 6 bedspread — every Motel 6 bedspread (except at those Motel 6’s that have been remodeled, in a motif somewhere between Santa Fe chic and Homeless Shelter stark.)

Because I have stayed at so many — it being the only chain consistently cheap and dog friendly — the Motel 6 bedspread is now emblazoned, if not on my body, at least on my brain.

I am very, very weary of the Motel 6 bedspread, and I think, it being stuck in my mind like a bad song, it is influencing my dreams: The fisherman meets the snow skier and tells him this bedspread isn’t big enough for the both of them. The fisherman’s dog sits patiently as they argue. Eagles soar overhead. A pink flamingo wanders out from behind a cactus and, in John Waters’ voice, asks for directions. A bear comes out of his den and, in Tom Bodell’s voice, invites them all inside. They decline and pile into the pick up truck (also on the bedspread). The bear says, “We’ll leave the lights on for you.” But they are gone by then.

It is a dizzying sight. There is much going on atop the Motel 6 bedspread — perhaps a little too much. It’s about four shades of blue, with purple, pink, green, tan, red, yellow and orange. It is polyester; I’d guess 130 percent polyester. Luggage, your dog, and yourself all might slide off it if not careful. If there were a stain on it, you would never know; it would disappear amid all the colors and activity.

Weary, as I said, of that bedspread, and fearing I was falling into a routine — when this trip is all about avoiding that — I pulled into Hampton Roads, Virginia, which, like the Motel 6 bedspread, is a far too busy conglomeration, a confusing patchwork of individual towns.

I was determined to find something other than a Motel 6, maybe a cheap and independent motel. I must have stopped at five of them — being told at each that my dog wasn’t welcome. They had low weekly rates, likely hourly rates as well, but, empty and down at the heels as they appeared, each had a strict ban on dogs.

Frustrated, and getting a bit prickly, I got on the Internet and searched for dog friendly lodgings, but nearly all of them — except Motel 6 and La Quinta — charged pet fees, often in amounts that were more than the human fee, some as much as $125 for a single night.

I believe I went down every one of the roads in Hampton Roads — getting caught in traffic in many of them.

At one motel in Portsmouth, a desk clerk behind bulletproof plastic told us to go to Chesapeake. The prices were so high there we went to Norfolk. Guess where we ended up?

At a Motel 6 — where, because it was the weekend and because it’s beach season, the prices were jacked up to $59 a night.

We had planned to spend the weekend in the area, and perhaps hit the beach, but between a scheduling conflict, the prices and the dog-unfriendly vibe, we decided to move on.

We did see a nice big empty mansion on our way north — one that once belonged to a guy named Michael Vick — but that’s a story for tomorrow.

(“Dog’s Country” is the continuing account of one man and one dog spending six months criss-crossing America)

Dog’s Country: The journey so far


 
Today –19 days and 1,750 miles since our journey began — Ace and I pull out of Houston, destined for Bandera, Texas (population 975) and points west.

We’re over budget, sick of fast food and a bit weary and leery of cheap motels — though thankful for the air conditioning they have bestowed upon us. I don’t want to say our most recent motel was a fleabag, but both Ace and I are scratching more than usual, and I know for a fact that at least one spider and one roach were still there when we left.

On the other hand, it did have a crack security squad — one 61-year-old man who left Baltimore after a nasty divorce 16 years ago and circles the parking lot at night in a beat up old van, at least until next April when he plans to retire. As you might guess, he’s now an official Friend of Ace, and by the time I left, I almost had him talked into going to the shelter and adopting a big but friendly dog to assist him in his job duties.

Searching for inexpensive dog-friendly lodgings is a pain — even with the convenience of websites like Bringfido.com and dogfriendly.com. Before heading to Houston we perused both, only to find most motels listed in our price range had weight limits and required non-refundable deposits.

Question: Is it really a deposit when you don’t get it back? I think not. It’s a fee, giant motel chains, and you should call it such. Non-refundable deposit is a contradictory term.

Normally, we stay at a La Quinta, knowing that almost all of them allow dogs, with no fee and no weight limits. This trip though — frugal trek that it is — we’ve opted for Motel 6’s (generally dog friendly and slightly cheaper), and have stayed at a few motel 5’s, 4’s and 3’s, at least on a scale of 1 to 10.

We found our last stop on Bringfido.com — where it turned out to be one of the few whose rate was actually what the website listed. It turns out their “as low as” price and the motels actual prices were most often two different things, leading me to waste hours on the computer.

It’s a good thing John Steinbeck didn’t have Internet, or he and Charley wouldn’t have covered nearly as much ground.

Our goal when we left Baltimore — well mine at least, Ace doesn’t really care — was to spend no more money on the road than I was at home. Less than 20 days in, though — and despite 12 days of free lodging mooched from family — we’ve spent close to $300 total on motels and about $350 on gas, our biggest expense.

We probably should start using that tent rolled up atop my car, which has yet to get unrolled. Before leaving New Orleans, we looked into the possibility of volunteering to help rescue and clean up oily wildlife, especially after we heard trailers were being provided for volunteers. But my phone calls didn’t get returned and the websites I checked all were accepting only trained wildlife rescue professionals.

There’s still some hope of meeting my goal of spending less than $1,000 a month on the road. We’ve finagled some free overnight stays this week, which you’ll be hearing more about in the week ahead.

By the time you read this, we’ve departed Houston — after a planned stop at the Millie Bush Dog Park, west of the city. Assuming my Internet connection works in Bandera, and all else goes well, you’ll be seeing our report on Houston’s dog parks tomorrow.