Saturday, July 14, 2012

Vacations, Life, and Writing

When I was twenty-four, I took off on a road trip to the West with my younger sister. I'd never traveled much, and never as chief navigator and trip organizer. We were both excited and feeling very adventurous, and we did have some wonderful side trips. Together we tried to find a drink in Oklahoma City (dry city except if you belonged to a club… hmm, who could have guessed that?), walked through the Carlsbad Caverns dodging bats, made a quick trip into Mexico (another story), shopped in the old market in Santa Fe, visited the Sonora Desert Museum and the Phoenix Zoo, saw the Grand Canyon, and met my husband in Las Vegas where he had come on a business conference. When his meetings were over, we all took turns driving home to Michigan. Due to a gas crisis the speed limit was 55 mph. Hubby had never told me the speedometer was seven miles faster than it showed and when I was stopped -- guess what? I'd lost my drivers license in the Grand Canyon.

These were wonderful or funny experiences, but the one incident branded into my memory was our night in El Paso, Texas. Of course, we were traveling in July in a car with no air conditioning and it was hot, hot, hot. We were just getting whatever cheap motel room was available whenever we ended our day's drive; after all, there were many because who else visits the desert southwest in summer? The myth of it not feeling as hot because there is no humidity is horse hockey. When we reached El Paso, we couldn't find a room. The Seven Day Adventists, probably taking advantage of off season rates, were attending their annual convention and had them all. We drove around for a while until we finally found a motel with their vacancy sign lit up. It was late, and being young and naive, I didn't ask to see the room. For thirteen dollars, we could put up with anything. Yeah. Bad decision!

Clue one: while it appeared picked up and clean, everything in the room had cigarette burns and BIG stains decorated all  fabric surfaces: the bedspread, the chairs, the carpet. Clue two: when I picked up the desk phone to call my husband, cockroaches escaped from underneath. We decided not to bring our suitcases into the room, plus we would use our sleeping bags on top of the bed. Problem solved. Showers were next. We decided to sleep in the clothes we would wear the next day. In the bathroom Juli climbed into the shower and screamed. Clue three: there were so many cockroaches on the inside surface of the shower curtain, I held it away from the shower while Juli washed, and she did the same for me.  Clue four: while she held the curtain for me she said, "Oh, my God!" I popped my head out of the shower to see what she saw. The ceiling of the bathroom had a huge hole in it and we had a clear view of the El Paso evening sky. We still decided to stay… until clue five: a roving chorus of raucous male voices circled through the motel environs. In short order we had our sleeping bags in the car and were on the road. Driving through the night was better, safer, than this.

On the way out of town we noticed a big name hotel and stopped on the chance of a getting room Yes, they had one, a very small room with two single beds (what hotel has single beds?), no air conditioning, and no pillows, but they'd discount it half price. We took it. Sometimes on vacations, just as in writing, you never quite know where you will end up. Enjoy your summer!

Rhobin Lee
Available from Champagne Books


Unknown said...

El Paso in summer? OMG. I was there about 25 years ago. Today it is a different area with all the cross border crime and drugs.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2011)

January Bain said...

That was quite the journey, Rhobin. Lots of fodder for your own writing I would bet. I could see the cockroaches in that motel! Happy writing!

January Bain
Forever Man

Rhobin said...

Did you see that 23 and naive? In Las Vegas I burned my hands on the car's steering wheel it was so hot. Perhaps another mistake, but I learned what the Southwest was like in summer!!

Rhobin said...


Learned to hate cockroaches, but looking back it is a humorous situation.

Richard Hacker said...

Think you mis-titled your blog. Should be "Highway to Hell" One thing's for sure -- you're a survivor!

Rhobin said...

Actually, Mike, Juli and I laugh hysterically when we talk about our adventure. Not so much survivors, but just youthfully dumb with good luck.