Death Takes A Holiday (XII)

to wit, a middle-aged peripatetic shrink undertakes the Great American Cross-Country Road Trip with help from little leaguers, German bikers, the King of Rock ‘n Roll, porn stars and an abandoned brothel, a flock of domesticated ducks, the Department of Homeland Security and the West Memphis police, a decommissioned atomic warhead, some dodgy motels… and a strange rider in the back of a 2013 Ford Fusion.

I confess that I can’t tell the difference between a $10 bottle of Shiraz and one costing $40. Likewise, I ordered a pricey steak dinner of Kobe beef when I was in NYC a while back, and I didn’t think it was any better than a good filet from the local grocery store in North Carolina. Many times it seems that you pay for the ambience, the name, the perceived status, and not the product itself.

This is not the case with motels. Trust me.

Normally I love visiting New Mexico, but Boney and I were getting tired, and after seeing The Thing, it was dark and I just wanted to reach our overnight accommodations. Not knowing how many miles I’d cover in any given day, I hadn’t made reservations in advance. Looking at the map, I decided to traverse the Land of Enchantment and make it at least as far as the eastern ‘burbs of El Paso TX before calling it a day.

Setting the cruise control on legal-max-plus-8, we crossed into New Mexico on I-40 near Lordsburg and continued for 170 miles. We approached El Paso after 10:00 p.m., but I still wanted to reach the far side of that dirty urban sprawl before stopping. Skirting just yards from the border, the glow of Ciudad Juarez visible to my right, we proceeded until my eyes became too heavy to continue.

The lights of El Paso were far behind. It was dark ahead. But the sign at Clint TX read “Adobe Inn this exit.” That would be it.

If you look up “Adobe Inn” on Orbitz, you’ll see that it gets 4.6 stars out of 5. Words such as “romantic,” “quaint,” and “charming” are used liberally throughout the reviews. Too bad that’s the Adobe Inn in Carmel CA.

The Adobe Inn in Clint TX has no Orbitz page. However, it does have a Yahoo! Travel profile; there is no picture posted, which is probably for the better. And there is even one Yahoo! review! A fellow named Ray wrote of it in 2009, “we found [the Adobe Inn] after running away from a very scary La Quinta in El Paso. This place… looks like an old design from the 60’s…. Our only complaint was the fuzzy blanket seemed to have someone’s hair stuck in it…. We removed the blanket and used our own quilt. Also, the mattress cover kept slipping around under us and we had to remove it. Unfortunately we ended up with very noisy neighbors out front.”

make your reservations for the Holidays now!

make your reservations for the Holidays now!

‘Someone’s hair’?! ‘Mattress slippage’?! ‘Noisy neighbors’?! And I’d hate to have seen that La Quinta.

But I didn’t have access to the Internet that night, so I pulled up in the parking lot of the Adobe, right next to Cotton Eyed Joe’s Saloon – which also should have been a warning. “It’s okay,” I thought. “I’m only here to sleep for a few hours, and I hate paying big prices for hit-and-run motel stops.”

The Adobe consists of twenty one rooms in two buildings flanking a large partially paved lot, populated on one side with what appears to be abandoned dumpsters. The few rattletrap cars and pick-up trucks parked in front of the guests’ doors were all ‘facing out,’ and I found myself wondering if that were to obscure the rear license plates, or perhaps for hasty middle-of-the-night departures? I pulled up to the small reception hut and went to enter. With apologies to Motel 6, no light was left on for me, and there were no signs of life inside – only the neon ‘vacancy’ announcement. Though it wasn’t yet 11:00 p.m., guests were instructed by a taped paper to “ring bell for service.” I rang twice. Soon a short Hispanic lady appeared, examined me through the glass for what seemed like a long time, and then buzzed me in.

Inside I found a small vestibule and an internal wall and window, on the far side of which was located the reception desk. As I approached the window, I noted that 1. the window’s glass was thick and staggered (so one can’t reach through) and looked to be bullet-proof, similar in appearance to what one sees in bank lobbies, 2. the door to the back room in which was located the desk was braced by a heavy chair from the inside, and 3. next to the window were cards for a local bail bond service, and a large hand printed sign that read, “no unregistered visitors, por favor.”

I asked her for a room. I didn’t inquire if the rates were per hour.

She spoke little, and I wasn’t sure of her command of English. But she knew the drill, and handed over a room key for a mere $49, including tax. I was beginning to regret my parsimony. As I opened my wallet to fetch cash, she caught sight of my DPS badge, and her facial expression changed, though to one of relief or concern I am still not certain.

Inside my room a few minutes later, I encountered Spartan décor that was mid-century Salvation Army at best. The furnishings were identical to what I had seen hours earlier at The Thing. The carpet was stained, the bedspread looked dingy, and the place smelled of stale cigarettes, all of which made the sign over the commode which read, “sanitized for your protection” seem laughable. A single towel and bar of soap graced the area around the sink. A small refrigerator in the corner was making horrible chugging noises which didn’t stop even after I unplugged the cord from the wall (!) And a fist-sized hole in the drywall completed the ambience.

I carried Boney inside. “No doubt he is not the first dead body to spend the night here,” I thought.

Taking a cue from the innkeeper, I braced the door from the inside with the sole chair. I also removed the nasty bedspread and pillow, employing instead my rolled-up pants for a pillow. But by this time I was too tired to care about much else.

At some point during the night I was semi-conscious of red flashing lights in the parking lot. I just rolled over.

Come morning, a few freshly scattered beer bottles rested near the dumpsters. All of the cars and trucks had left. I was alone in the parking lot. It was quiet. Really quiet.

I loaded my calcified friend in the back seat and dropped my key in the slot up front. There were still no signs of life inside the reception area. The ‘vacancy’ sign was still on. We headed for the interstate, foregoing breakfast at Cotton Eyed Joe’s, were it even open.

[to be continued…]

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