Decadent, and Loving It
Now back in the Chicago area for medical follow-up appointments and family visits in between, I’m staying in a motel called Comfort Inn for 5 days before I depart for Arizona. On the way here from Indy, I stayed in a roadside motel called Family Inn in Watseka, Illinois for $45. I was surprised to find the Family Inn to be a very good deal for the low price, with a quiet, clean, good-sized room with a decent mattress. TV, microwave and mini-fridge. I had tried to book a motel at my destination, a good family-run one I came across when I used to work in town, but alas, they are constantly booked and don’t take reservations because the work crews that typically use the place don’t leave until they are done. Room availability is only known at the moment, not the future, and those already staying there have precedence. $275 per week. Dang.
I don’t think I’ve stayed in a motel since the 1980’s when I traveled now and then for work. There was no excitement about it, since travel consisted of flying to the customer’s city, renting a car, driving to their plant to watch an injection molding machine spew out bad parts, then heading to the motel, hopefully catching a cheap meal just before the restaurants closed. The next day was an early start, once again surrounded by painted cinder blocks, until the parts could be made to conform to spec. Once done, return the rental car, hop on the plane, and circle O’Hare Airport until you’re ready to go postal. I don’t mind flying, but I have a deep and abiding aversion to airports, O’Hare in particular. Today’s “security” measures decrease the appeal even further, assuming that there’s any room left at the bottom of the scale. There is no joy in the journey, at least from the larger airports.
The Comfort Inn doubles little Watseka’s price (ouch) but the room is almost 3 times the size, and it’s a place that’s easy to spend a short week in. This place tips in a couch, desk, big screen TV, a 6-foot sink counter, coffeemaker, hairdryer, iron and full-size ironing board, and a very, very good shower. In the facility is a pool that I don’t use, a washer and dryer that I do use, and a “free” breakfast with an exceptionally wide selection of choices. There’s also a small “fitness room” with a few machines, among which is a treadmill so I can get in my numerous short walks without freezing outside. I could get used to this, but the financial aspect quickly causes a frowny face and an empty bank account in very little time.
I’d considered staying well outside the area for the cheaper rates, but the daily fuel and combined wear and tear commuting costs on the Mighty Furd tended to cancel out the up-front savings of remote motels. It’s a common tendency to feel that once a vehicle is paid for, that its ownership costs are limited to fuel, oil, tires, and brake pads. It seems almost free, and we use it as if it were free – at least until the trans blows or the worn-out vehicle must be replaced. It costs substantially less not to treat it as if its service life is infinite, which means self-discipline about “vanity mileage” as well as staying on top of recommended maintenance. Yep, this rather Teutonic approach kind of takes the steam out of impulse errands and does not make for good party conversation, but the miles do add up more slowly over the long haul. None of this matters when you’re making plenty of money – any excuse for getting a new vehicle will do – but the closer you are to running on financial fumes, the more impressive (and oppressive) the true costs of wearing out and exchanging vehicles becomes. It literally pays to do everything you reasonably can to preserve your existing ride, if it meets your needs.
Because I don’t yet know the physical effects of 6 hours per day behind the wheel on my superb physique as recently readjusted Mayan-style, the rushed trip out west should be interesting, personally and financially. At this stage, 3-4 hours has proven wearing, so the issue about 6 is merely whether it will be too wearing to sustain. If I can hold to the planned motel stops, several of the overnights should be cheap, and the rest not. In any case, it’ll be a far cry from camping in rest stops or city campgrounds. At gut level, pushing the daily miles and moteling it feels weird and askew, as if my lifestyle has been derailed. But, in the bigger view, it’s all part of the adventure.