Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Our American Journey - Day 10

When we were planning out this trip through the States and cruising websites looking for motel possibilities when we weren’t able to sponge off… oops, I mean, enjoy the hospitality of friends along the way, we were impressed with how some motels were attempting to capture the new breed of traveler (ourselves included, of course!).

Many offer free Internet service, essential to the connectivity to the rest of the world now demanded by business travelers, and increasingly by those just on vacation. People want to be able to check on their Facebook account and keep in touch with family & friends there, look at and write e-mails, post to a blog, check on dining and entertainment possibilities in their present location, and even check out their next stop down the road.

Continental breakfast included with your room stay is nothing new, but is certainly a factor in our choice of motels to stay in. We’re not big breakfast eaters, and I’m always running behind anyway, so having a small but usually adequate breakfast on location instead of having to go out to a restaurant somewhere is a quick, low-cost solution. But it’s interesting how much motels vary in their offering and set-up in this department. The best we ever experienced wasn’t even on this trip, but on a previous one to Quebec. At a motel near the airport in Montreal, the selection of hot and cold items was incredible. There was even a cook who would dish you up a bowl of oatmeal, toast you a slice of bread or a bagel, and clean tables with a smile in his spare time. We were impressed!

Our experience on this trip so far has varied. Our first stop, at a Ramada Inn, was good. Nice selection and a clean, comfortable sitting area. Our second, at a Super 8 Motel, left something to be desired. Continental breakfast hours were 6-9 a.m. We got up early and were there by 8:30 (haha!). By that time, there was hardly anything left. And some kind of sales group was setting up the breakfast room for a meeting, so we had to find a place to sit down and eat in a corner of the lobby. Don’t think we’ll be doing Super 8’s again. Continental breakfast was only one of the issues we had with them!

Our most recent breakfast was at a Days Inn. It was the most pathetic to date! A nice motel, convenient breakfast hours (6-10 a.m.), a beautiful dining room, and just one little cart for breakfast supplies! Cereal, coffee, juice, and a couple of pieces of fruit was all they provided. However, there was also a toaster and microwave, so when we asked what those were for, the hostess brought out packages of little biscuits with tiny meat patties between them, about two bites in size. She said we should stick them in the microwave for five minutes. Yikes! We didn’t want crispy critters for breakfast! Fifty seconds was more like it! Unfortunately, even nuking these things didn’t make them taste any better. Surely an organization like Days Inn can do better than that!

Another service we’re increasingly finding offered by motels is gyms or exercise facilities. That’s great for those of us already on an exercise schedule through a fitness club membership at home. It helps us keep up our routine even while on the road, at least some of the time. It’s also a good way to balance all that sitting in the car while you’re traveling. Unfortunately, the reality hasn’t yet caught up with the advertising.

The Ramada’s “gym” consisted of a small room with three pieces of exercise equipment and a bathroom for changing and employee smoking. The treadmill worked fine. The upright bicycle could be pedaled, but that was all. And the weight machine was broken completely. But at least they beat the Super 8, which advertised exercise facilities but didn’t actually have any! As for Days Inn, we drove an extra hour to stay at one that had exercise facilities over one that didn’t, only to find out that they were out of order. Terrific! We were not impressed. A call to Days Inn customer service brought sympathy and assurance that someone would be in touch with us soon to see what could be done. We’re still waiting...

By the way, Mississippi has just joined the list of states that does not want anyone sending postcards and letting outsiders know what's attractive and interesting about their state :) Louisiana almost made the list. We'd stopped a total of five times along our route and were about to call it a day when Kathy found some, pretty well at the last travel stop before the Texas state line!
The continental breakfast selection at the Days Inn :(

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