Motel(s) Hell, Adventures in the Eastern Yoop.

This piece launches a new (e.g. sometime, occasional) blog category, we’re calling Motel(s) Hell, which of course is tongue-in-cheek. Mostly. Sort of. I think.

We recently spent time as semi-nomads (a natural state for us) over in the Eastern UP for five days, including hotel stays in Noobs (Newberry) and Iggy (St. Ignace), the latter to meet our pals Don and Jay Emerson, who were coming off their annual yakking and ship watching sojourn on Drummond Island. (He’s ex-Navy, can’t help hisself). Last year our friends drove 5 hours to Alberta to visit us. This year we decide to sort of split the distance and to meet them at the bridge on Sunday, which we did.

What follows is an accurate, blow-by-blow account of our two-night stay at the Quality Inn Mackinac Bridge on US 2 – directly across the road from Clyde’s Drive-In.

The stay commenced with our arrival, after driving all the way to Pickford to sign book stock, thence to the Rudyard Coop, onto BJ’s in Trout Lake, and finishing business in Brevort. Lonnie went into the Quality Innn to register us and was handed a letter to sign, which she did dutifully. The letter (and here  ISYN) was addressed to our dog. The letter was in sans-serif font, very dimly printed, and nearly invisible to read. It began, “Dear Furry Guest, and went on for several short paragraphs,  with rare punctuation and poor syntax. The final three-sentence paragraph read: “Please don’t get on the furniture or beds, no matter how comfy they may look. These are only for your people to use. If you do, it will take another bite out of your wallet. Sincerely, Lead Dog.”

It should be noted, we paid $10 per night for El Mutto and our beloved dog neither pays, nor carries a wallet.  And while our dog is named Shaksper and can spell a handful of words, he can’t write or read a lick. He can count to one (like Trigger), but his skill has no place in this sad and pathetic moment. God save us from twits.

Lonnie made reservations weeks ago and asked for a room with fridge and microwave. She was told only one such room in the inn with such amenities and we said, “Great, book it.” She also informed the inn at that time that  we would pay for our friends’ room. “Not a problem was the response, which turns out to be a code phrase for  “Whatever.” Lonnie called last week to reconfirm all and it was all confirmed. “All set,” she was told. At least they didn’t say “Good to go.”

All right, foolish us. We should have asked if this one of a kind (OOAK) room was on the first floor,  but we did not, and it’s not. Shame on us, and with apologies to my brothers-in-law, for using their band name:  It was a case of woulda-coulda-shoulda. It also turned out that the OOAK accommodation was only half right. The fridge wasn’t working, a fact the inn acted like it did not know, and perhaps they didn’t.  And there is no ice in the nearest ice machine, which was — drumroll — down one floor.

Lon called  the front desk to tell them our fridge not working.

Response: “Huh.”

“And,” she adds, “there’s no ice in the nearest ice machine.

Another huh and the on-duty dude (on dudey?) from the front pops up to see us. “Is the fridge set right?” He asks with a hint of accusation.

Says Lon: “It’s set where it was set when we got here; we haven’t changed it.”\

 He says, “I think  it’s supposed to be all the way to the right,” and then he looks and says, “Huh, it is. I guess it’s not working.” Understand:  the choices on the temp control are left or right. There are no indications of high or low anywhere, and no markings whatsoever, and so one is are left to guess. Righty tighty lefty loosy or the opposite, or neither? Nobody knows. One assumes one would arrive to finds the thing set to operate. But no, tis dead dead dead. The motor fan is humming, but no cooling coming through.

Our front desk guy now says, “Well, you can use the fridge in our kitchen.

Hmm: This is down one floor and a 100 yards or so south toward the Mackinac Bridge. Lon says, “Uh, no thank you. How about you get some ice for our soft cooler?”

Says the boyish deskman, “There’s an ice machine.”

She says, down a floor, and as I told you on the phone, it’s empty.”

“Huh, how much ice?”

She gives him the soft cooler and off he goes, back a while later with it half full of ice, just as we wanted it. Ahh.

“Well, what about later?” she asks, “or tomorrow, if we need more ice?”

Answer: “I won’t be on duty, you’ll have to ask whoever is. He adds, “Sorry,” And boogies, exiting stage left, followed by bear. Wait,wait, I’m confused. That was a stage direction in THE WINTER’S TALE,  and this is supposed to reality (albeit coming off rather surreally).

This is deep summer in Da Yoop A.T.B. (Above the Bride)You have to understand that, up here it can be minus 50f, and you will not hear a single remark about the temperature, nada, but let it nudge 80f and you will quickly here schemes ranging from suicide to homicide. But likewise you will not hear any local  talk of taking  a swim-dip in Lake Superior because that would surely bring  a serious case of LSD for any fool who tries. (LSD means “ Lake Superior Dick.” Think of major organ withdrawal, a small animal seeking a cave near the spine for as long a hibernation as may be necessary.)

Back to the altitude situation (2d floor vs 1st): In the baggage drill from the Ford (the new vehicle has not yet earned a name of its own) it is 58 stairs per round-trip with baggage. X 10 reps = a baggage drill of 580 stairs. In high-80, humid weather. Sweet. A person my age counts such things, for the law-suits to follow, but we complete the mission without heart stoppages and then recon the swanky digs with a white-glove walk-through. Items noted:

  1. Light bulb burned out over the sink.
  2. The heat lamp is burned out.
  3. A partial, nearly depleted TP roll hangs sadly on the holder, and there is no extra roll in the room or anywhere we can find.
  4. A promo card in the Jaques (Pronounced Jakes, which once upon a time meant Loo) proclaims how the shower curtain is curved for more space…and also has a sheer panel to let in more light. From what, two less light sources? A = B = ZZ?
  5. I also noticed that at the north end of said ballyhooed shower curtain, at the south end of the rod, a screw is loose, hanging and verging on giving  way to to gravity. Note to self, put no weight on shower curtain rod.Yipes.
  6. Towels are advertised for sale. The bath towels are standard non-deluxe hotel size, which means twins of our dish towels at home. And they think people want to buy such junk? Chain think here, HQ Marketing-Think. Stoopid.
  7. The towel rack has two rods on the rack, which is hanging directly over the toilet. The top one is broken and flopping down at 20-30 degrees. Being that gravity allegedly does not apply in the Mystery Spot some miles west of Iggy, it certainly applies here at thae bridge, and the towel rack sagging directly over the toilet makes one a bit apprehensive.
  8. The heat lamp is not working. When one turns it on it emits a sound somewhere between bare feet walking on broken glass and cannibals hacking bone and muscle into some sort of edible gruel with machetes. Tres
  9. There is no password needed for WiFi in this establishment. This fact is, of course, nowhere in evidence in the voluminous pile of paper we get at check in, or anywhere in the room. When our rescuer comes up from the front desk, Lonnie asks, “What’s the password,” and he says, “There isn’t one. I’ll set it up for you.” He goes to the iPad and starts tapping away. I time the op at seven minutes, start to finish. He is muttering to himself the whole time and repeating steps multiple times, which to his credit he finally completes, turns and says, “There you go, all set.” Hell, it’s HIS system and it takes him seven minutes and multiple tries to get on line? Boy. And, it turns out to be slower than dial-up. Could it be our second-floor location.


I went down to the Ford to fetch some forgotten item and outside the back door encountered a pair of bikers, a male and female, both heavily tatted, both in faux leather Hells Angels outfits, and both armed not with pistols, brass knuckles, saps, knives or whips or whatever for gang warfare, but each with a plastic spray bottle and they are busy spraying rocks in the margin along the motel wall and the male says to me, “Goddamn Petroskey stones, Dude.” Okay then. Why is it we never see anything but white people on motorcycles? At least in the Yoop? Most of them 50-60 + in age and gray or white-haired.

Back in the room, Lon calls down to El Fronto again. “Can you replace the fridge with one that works when people check out tomorrow, and light bulb, and heat lamp?”

“Not a problem.” I hate this phrase. Thus far we have nothing but problems from the Motel Staph. We see no initiative, no motivation to solve anything, only to get shed of the customer. Must be that we are live humans and how yucky can that be compared to dealing with electronic FACEBOOK kinds of personalities?

Next morning MS Lonnie takes the dog for a walk. When they are gone, I turn on the TV. You got it: Not working. Call the front desk. I’m told “Sometimes it takes a while. “ I counter with “10 minutes?”

A woman shows up and begins badmouthing Charter as having no commo. She decides it has gone off line for no reason she understands or which Charter cares to explain. She undoes the box from the TV. Then the TV from the wall, then plugs it all back together again and the TV comes back on. How is the customer supposed to know to do this?” I ask. She shrugs and leaves.

Lonnie and Shaksper return just as Donna and Jay arrive. Their room is (SooPRIZE!) not ready, so they come to our digs – at exactly the moment when two females arrive, lugging a replacement fridge and a lightbulb.

Jay watches the fridge lady who is moving the two cubes around. “How do you keep track of which one is the new one?” he asks her.

She says, “I think it’s the new one on the bottom?” and that’s the one she installs. Bulb girl announces we have a new bulb. Lon asks about the heat lamp. Head shake, “Just that one bulb.”
Then Lon askes Fridgelady, “What’s the correct setting for the fridge?” Answer: “I don’t know. I just bring up what they tell me to bring up.” And as Jackie Gleason would say to Norton, Away they go.

Guess what: Our new fridge operates with same lack of cold as our old one and Jay says, “I’m pretty sure she put the old one back and took the new one out. She seemed pretty confused about which one was which.” Fits the theme, I thought.

Lon calls the desk: The new fridge is not working. And we’re going out to lunch.”

“Huh, we’ll look into it while you’re gone.”

We head downtown to the Galley for a fine lunch and afterwards trek over to Book World. Jay and I are in the early stages of writing a non-fiction travel-history-buddy book we are calling SECONDHAND HIGHWAY: The Story of US -41.” We decide we ought to read Jack Kerouac’s ON THE ROAD. I loathed this book when I first read it decades ago, cast it into my caca book pile, but I agree reluctantly to make another run at it because it will give us a point of reference and both of us being ex navigators (him USN, me USAF) we like to have a good base fix. I’m older now. Maybe Kerouac will ready better? We go into Book World and buy ON THE ROAD, and I ask the manager Sherie if she wants me to sign stock on shelves.

“Are you really Joe Heywood?”

“I was when I got up this morning.” She wants the books signed and also wants a  photo of us together for her newsletter, etc. So we find good lighting for Shutterbug Lonnie and about the time we are in the brief shoot, Miss Donna pops around a book shelf and the manager says, “You must be their daughter.” This of course raises some howls of pure delight and of course this joke will stand for eternity. Daughter indeed. Miss Donna is, of course, pleased to no end. Will add a brief biographical  note here. Once upon a time in her teaching career Donna had students who could not pronounce Emerson and as a result she  morphed into “Miss Enema.” So now we  have an enema for a daughter.  Is this a great trip, or what?

Returning from dinner that evening we find that our electronic keys have been disabled, so I make my way to the front desk and am told, “Wait, I have to deliver a cup of coffee.” When he comes back, he says, “Wait I have to do something else first.” Finally he comes over to me and I hand him the card. Needs recoding. He says nothing, takes the card taps in the new code and hands it back without comment.

Next morning, another 580-stair baggage drill. Lonnie then heads to office to check us out. Female desk agent again. Lon asks about the billing on other room, that she talked to the desk chief yesterday? Says today’s in-charge, “Well he didn’t leave me any note on the billing arrangement, and your friends checked out and paid for it.”

Okay in line with all else here, on course, drifting aimlessly.

I won’t pretend to tell others what to do, but as for us staying at that place again? Think of the odds of a snowball surviving more than a pitch in Beelzebub’s eternal underground baseball game.

This turista stuff is hard duty and it ain’t for no sissies. Mostly.

To quote my dear old coon-ass, East Texas colleague, bass tournament partner, and hunting friend, one Charles George “The Snooker” Snoek Esquire, “Are we having fun yet?”

Over, dammit.

Here’s a photo of the Enemas and the Heywoods.

Italian bicycle racing team models.
Italian bicycle racing team models.