"LaGrunge" Motel

Trip Start Aug 21, 2010
Trip End Dec 31, 2010

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Flag of United States  , New York
Friday, September 24, 2010

A day of extremes...

So... you read yesterday's blog? You read about what we yet knew about this quirky hotel, with the "cash only" and the "tell us when you think you'll arrive"...

We tried to keep telling ourselves that it wasn't necessarily going to be awful. We've had bad hotels before.

Well folks, we reached a new low.

We stumbled upon our motel in the middle of the woods (really it was right off a major highway, but the way we came in, we were passing herds of cattle and delapitated barns and cabins through winding backroads). We pulled up to the office, but the doors were locked. We called the number, and the lady whom we could barely understand said that she'd call "him" and "he" will help us check in. Okay. A few minutes later, a man walked by. We thought he might be "him," but he said "Are you folks all set?" "No we just need to check-in." "He hasn't helped you yet? Alright I'll get him." Then this man entered one of the doors next to the office.
Another man came out and motioned us toward him. He unlocked the door to the room next to where he emerged, and let us in the room. He was friendly enough, but the room didn't look too inviting. A blanket was thrown sloppily over the back of a recliner. "Do you guys want this extra blanket?" "Uh... no thanks, we'll be okay." So he crumpled it up under his arm and peeked in the bathroom. Kelsey had already peeked in the bathroom. She spied an open, used bar of soap on the sink--a sink which may have never been cleaned. It still had evidence of toothpaste in the bowl, and spit residue on the faucet. Hm.
The man helping us said "I'll get you guys some fresh towels. Be right back."
"Do you want me to pay you now?"
"Naw, you can move your stuff in, and pay me later."

So I moved our luggage in. Kelsey was just standing in the middle of the room, looking slightly uncomfortable. We could already tell that it wasn't going to be a relaxing evening.

The man returned with towels and an unopened bar of soap. He told us where the remote was kept along with a few other instructions, then I followed him out to pay our fee.
The room cost us $72. Clearly not worth it. I gave him eighty, but he didn't have the correct change, so he gave me a ten back and declared the price to be 70 even. Nice.
I returned to Kelsey who was still not exactly making herself at home. I don't think we even spoke a word there for a few moments. We both understood the situation. We were glad we hadn't exactly rushed to get here, but the day was still too long. The room felt dirty. We wore our sandals to avoid physical contact with the carpet (which didn't take much effort to observe that it hadn't been vaccuumed in a long time).

We watched a little bit of the TV while we lay on top of the bed. We weren't sure which was better--lay on top of the comforter, which we knew had never been cleaned, but couldn't really visually tell... or open the sheets to potentially reveal something we didn't want to know about.... We opted for reclining on top for now.

We soon grew restless, though. Even though we weren't super hungry, we decided it was dinnertime. We had passed a very nice looking pizzeria on the way in, and we deemed it valuable to take the time to go back.
It was then that we discovered Amedeo's Pizzeria. It was a brand new location for them, so even the painted walls looked fresh and new. A stark contrast to the room we had just left.
We ordered a wonderful pizza--I can't remember the name, but it was a white pizza with whole basil, bacon, and ricotta cheese. We brought a deck of cards into the restaurant with us. When we were done eating pizza, we asked our waiter if it was okay if we burned a bit more time there this evening due to our less-than-favorable living circumstances. He chuckled and obliged. We ordered dessert and played gin for quite some time more.
As the day started to close, we headed back to our motel in the dark, thankful that we had already found the way in the light earlier.

The family across the wall from us was audibly noticeable. The TV was on, kids were playing, and the man and/or woman were yelling at the children for various reasons. To establish some white noise, Kelsey had the great idea of turning the TV on to a channel that didn't get reception. We turned up the volume just enough to drown out the environment, and then closed the doors in front of the television to blockthe light. Perfect.

We got ready for bed, trying to touch as little as possible. I was the first to approach the bed. I bit my lower lip and braced myself as I peeled open the sheets.

Okay. Nothing immediately visually disturbing. Nothing living or dead.

But I got down very close to the shee and inspected it like no one should ever have to inspect their bed. I looked underneath the pillow and found several reasons why neither of our heads should land near that spot. Several head hairs were strewn about the sheets. I'm not super grossed out by hair, but it was enough to convince me that the sheets had not been washed before our arrival. I peer closer over the bed, and found more little evidences that they simply were not clean. A speck of something here, a shred of something there. Was I being nit-picky? Thankfully, I was not literally picking nits. But no... the one thing we were telling ourselves throughout the experience up to this point is that "in housekeeping 101, you, at the very minimum, change the sheets. You might not vaccuum the floor, you might not wash the sink, you might even forget to change the soaps. But you at least change the sheets." And at this point, it was clear that that was not the case.

I showed Kelsey my little discoveries. We avoided the temptation to feel itchy as we brainstormed what to do next. We had to get up around 5:15 in the morning. Time was ticking. We may not get a good night's sleep anyway, but we certainly wanted as much time as we could get. Should we sleep in the van? It wasn't too cold.. But we wouldn't sleep well enough in our seats. And we couldn't rationalize spending 70 dollars to sleep in our van. Do we ask for our money back? How much?
We decided we needed to start by asking for fresh sheets. We walked over to the next door and knocked. The owner opened the door, and we explained our situation. He was genuinely apologetic and brought us back a fresh set of sheets (that's what we chose to believe, anyway). We then asked if we could have some money back. We explained our budget, and we really couldn't accept having to go ten dollars over budget for a room that didn't even offer a clean bed. I asked if we could have one of our twenty dollar bills back. That would get us under budget, but it also didn't completely insult the guy. He amiably obliged.

We said goodnight and brought our sheets back to our room. We stripped the bed of everything, and made our bed anew. It was getting later into the night.

The pillows we just cast aside. Didn't want to deal with those. So, we took our sweatshirts, bundled them up, and slept on those.
Those measures allowed our minds to relax enough to fall asleep. And I don't think the two of us had ever slept the whole night so close to each other!

Next thing we knew, the alarm went off.
We survived! We would normally grumble at such an early alarm, but this particular morning, it was a welcome invitation to leave this place behind. It didn't take long before we packed back up into the van and headed off to school.

LaGrangeville Middle School offered a very refreshing experience to off-set the previous night. The showtime was to be 7:30 in the morning (crazy). So we had to be there at 6:00. When we arrived, we expected to wait locked outside the school for a half hour like we usually do in the mornings. But here, a custodian waved us in.
We pulled right up and unloaded our equipment into the cafeteria which was already set up for us. "I know you guys use up space in the middle of the row, so we already removed those seats for ya."
This school has been having Camfel for over fifteen years! And they knew the drill.
Long story short, they were the best school we have visited. The people were incredibly friendly and helpful. Before we left, we had to fill out a response form. Now listen, because this was neat. The school made this form to give out to groups that come into their school. In it are questions to the effect of "What are some suggestions you have that could help make our school a better venue for other performers/artists?"
Isn't that great? Ironically (but understandably), the one school that asks for criticism, we had none. Kelsey muttered "There are a lot of schools that I could fill this out back and front..." But of course, they don't ask for feedback. It's a cycle.

So that was our day of extremes. The worst motel, followed by the best school. Never a dull day on the job.

But before I close, I must be fair. You see, we talked to our contact person that morning and told them some of our woes of the night before. She explained to us that Pleasant Valley (the region that contained our motel) is one of the pockets of poverty in an otherwise "filthy-rich" region of the state. She said that most of the families of the kids here at the school are very well off, but they've had some students who do go back home to live in a motel. Our hotel in particular is a common refuge for families who have been evicted, or homeless people looking for a place to call home for some time.
It was then that we were particular glad that we didn't ask for all of our money back. The motel is run by a guy who doesn't have a whole lot, but he runs the whole facility on his own. He just has a housekeeper on staff who comes in sometimes to help. He's doing his community a service by providing affordable extended stays to struggling individuals and families. I respect that. Does it mean I'm going to comfortably sleep in an unwashed bed? No. But it's amazing what a little bit of perspective and back-story does to a situation.

We had the foresight to never be very vocally upset at the motel owner or the situation. We kept our comments to ourselves. And now to millions of people over the internet... but... not without the whole story.

We survived. That weekend, we had two homestays, slept in, and took showers, and we're no worse off for the wear.

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