Posted 3/1/22

On the road again WOODWORKING BY DAVE WOOD This year my Beautiful Wife and I had planned to fly to our Florida rental and avoid driving through what we call the boring Midwest and the old timey …

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On the road again



This year my Beautiful Wife and I had planned to fly to our Florida rental and avoid driving through what we call the boring Midwest and the old timey South, overrun with restaurants that call mac and cheese a “vegetable,” and gas station restrooms that require asking for a key and a walk outdoors.

But, of course, there was Covid to deal with. And the prospect of boarding an airplane packed to the gunnels with coughing and wheezing potential disease carriers made us reconsider. And then came the January news of airline arrival and departure times thrown out the window by wicked weather, wandering airline data bases and flight crews felled by Covid. Flights delayed for days! Flights canceled!

So, hopeful that driving our newly purchased car would distract us from the dullness of Illinois and Indiana (the Midwest’s version of Mississippi), we decided that driving all the way would at least get us there before the dates of our rental property ran out. Furthermore, we agreed that avoiding chain restaurants and staying in more expensive than usual hostelries might provide us an extra measure of professional cleanliness. And I hoped that such spendy establishments would have a pool and workout center, where we could repair the aches in our bottoms from driving hours on end.

Was it a good decision? Here’s the data: The first stop was Springfield, Ill., the capital of the state where the definition of petty crime is getting caught. We checked into a Hilton Inn for two nights—a hostelry made famous when Liz Taylor married the owner’s son, Nicky. After registering (my eyes spun as I eyed a bill that added Illinois’s 37% hotel tax to the already pricey room fee), I inquired on the location of the advertised indoor pool and fitness center. “Oh,” said the desk clerk, staring beyond my neck, “They’re both closed. You know how it is.” Well, okay, I thought. “And where and when do we acquire the complimentary breakfast?” “Oh,” he said, “that’s discontinued until the Surgeon General loosens Covid recommendations.”

Settled into our very clean room, Ruth called the front desk for a recommendation on a local restaurant. The clerk replied “Oh,” rattled off the names of ten or so chain restaurants nearby and abruptly hung up when Ruth asked for the name of a locally owned restaurant. That night we dined in our room on a stale baguette and a chunk of dried cheese left over from the day’s lunch. Next morning, we asked a cleaning person for the name of a good local restaurant. She answered cheerfully: “The Chesapeake is the place to go.” At least we had a good meal that evening.

On the road again, we headed for Montgomery, Ala., to spend a few days with Ruth’s brother Rich. He had advised the Fairfield Inn (a Marriott spinoff) as a good rendezvous point for us— particularly because he knew it had an indoor pool for soothing our posteriors.

At the front desk we were welcomed by a friendly staff and a desk clerk who informed us up front that the pool (which looked very well cared for) was closed “for repairs.” And that breakfast would be a “grab and go” until further notice. Well, we had opted for safety. And Ruth’s brother did know good locally owned restaurants, like “The Pub” and “The Little Red School” (down-home Southern cooking!) where we dined sumptuously. All was not lost.

But the comparison to the Illinois venue was pretty much a wash, including the fact that Alabama charged the same rate of hotel taxes—and added the presence of fleas to the attributes of our room (sorry, Rich, but you do live in a very warm climate!)

Last stop, Lake City, Fla., and another “cut above Super 8” chain, this time Comfort Inn and Suites. We enjoyed the large, airy room that included not just a couch, but TWO chairs (a commodity hard to find in today’s averageperson’s travel accommodations) and deemed essential by us for the nightly games of gin rummy we played only while traveling.

Dinner was a triumph at a local restaurant, Gator on the Bay, recommended by a young night clerk. Hence, the clientele was mostly younger than we are. But that helped get us a spot on a team for “Trivial Pursuit” whose regulars thought we might be a good pair for that evening’s topic: The sixties. Overeducated in all the wrong things, we weren’t.

Next morning a hot and tasty complimentary breakfast was PREPARED to order by a staff barricaded behind a wide countertop, while patrons touched nothing more than the spigot on the coffee urns. No sneezing on the buffet, no oatmeal-sticky hands turning the waffle iron over. And, yes, now that we were in a warm clime, the outdoor pool was also closed “for repairs.”

Whether the aches and pains of long-term sitting with no exercise is a worthwhile tradeoff for the aches and pains of air travel seems to be a tossup. Hopefully, in the near future, we’ll be able to settle the bet on the basis of what pleases us best. In the meantime, we’ll keep on hanging in there.

Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.