Motels are a gamble. I was in Eugene, preparing to attend a series of events at the University of Oregon related to my winning a prize in an essay contest. I had made reservations online from the comfy Best Western in Yreka that I wrote about last week. The new place was a little beyond my budget, but hey, it was the last two nights of my vacation. I figured I’d drive all day, check in, go for a swim, eat a quick microwaved dinner, and go to a reading at The Duck Store.
I check in. Ask for a downstairs room. Ask why the second night costs seventy dollars more than the first night (not mentioned online), get told there’s an Eagles rock concert in the auditorium across the street on Thursday night. Are you here for the concert? What concert? I’m here for an essay contest. My fee is nonrefundable at this point, so I get my card key. I notice the big sign saying the pool is closed. Oh, we’re waiting for a part, don’t know when it will arrive. Swell.
I move all my stuff in. Notice the security lock does not work. Notice there are no shampoos, and there’s no Kleenex. Iron all my wrinkled clothes and hang them in the closet. Notice the clock is not illuminated, and the light next to it does not work. Crawl around plugging things in. Set the clock. Unpack my instant Chinese food and stick it in the microwave. Set it for two minutes and push the button. The microwave goes on, but shuts off after two seconds. What? I reset it, push start, it shuts off after two seconds. After about six tries and one fist punch to the front of the microwave, I throw a big Portagee fit. No pool, no lock, no clock, no micro. I tell the Stepford Wife at the front desk that this room is F-d, and I want a refund. She calmly offers me an “upgrade” to a river view room upstairs.
Now, I travel with a lot of stuff, three or four loads worth, guitar, computer, clothes, food. I had spread my stuff all over my room, and I needed to be at the reading in less than an hour. You know those whirling dervish cartoon characters? That’s how I looked grabbing clothes, books, and papers, stuffing them all into bags and hauling them up the fourteen concrete steps to my new room, where the river was dark and sludgy, the refrigerator didn’t work, the air conditioning was iffy, and the toilet didn’t always flush. But I didn’t have time for another fit. I ate a few bites of my dinner, walked myself a new blister getting across the campus and arrived at the reading sweaty and stressed. Wine? Oh yes.
On the second day, my card key would stop working, a guy would be power-washing the sidewalk outside my room in the morning when I was trying to write, and the entrance would be blocked off so I couldn’t drive to anywhere near my room the night of the concert. But I did have a nicer view, including a few ducks and geese, and I got to inhale some complimentary marijuana smoke from the Eagles fans a few balconies away.
It wasn’t all bad. The pool got repaired, the Wi-Fi rocked, and the continental breakfast included a pancake machine, first one I ever saw. It was nice looking at the river, especially after my experience in Red Bluff where another river room offered a view of rocks and dirt, that section of the river dried out in California’s drought. And Sam’s sports bar next door was fabulous.
But you never know. That’s why I dream of buying a camper someday and taking my room with me. It might not offer a free continental breakfast, but at least I’ll know where I’m sleeping every night and if something doesn’t work, I can fix it.
I arrived in Eugene after a week with my dad in San Jose, a good trip, lots of bonding for both of us. We also made another visit to Kaiser Hospital, this time to replace his pacemaker. It went well. Dad is fine, but it killed me to say goodbye. Always does.
I hit Eugene on the way home to collect my prize for winning third place in Oregon Quarterly’s Northwest Perspectives essay contest for a piece called “When the Lights Go Out.” The prize included not only cash, but a master class with contest judge and fabulous author Lidia Yuknavitch and a chance to read our works to an audience at the university. Then we got taken to dinner at the posh Excelsior restaurant. Crab raviolis!
I felt like a princess by the end of the festivities. Twenty-four hours later, I was home mowing my lawn, but I have my memories. And at the moment, everything in my house works. Plus I have Annie. Home is not a gamble.