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" . . . Really, What's in an Old Worn-Out Motel Sign . . .?"

Updated on October 22, 2014

This sign in its sublime setting with its rusty exterior, and unbowed posture, reminds me of three distinguishable things in my younger years: One, how cheap a motel room looked where my wife and eleven-year-old daughter stayed one night on our yearly one-week vacation. Two, how miserable my eleven-year-old daughter and I were that long, hot night and three, how overjoyed my daughter and I were to get out of a place somewhere in North Carolina named The Arrowhead Lodge.

I can name the run-down motel here for this was 29, no, make it 30 years ago and if I am any judge of run-down motels, The Arrowhead Lodge now, is either a landfill or just a stretch of old concrete on the side of a mountain road. No, I am not going to lie. I am not sad for whatever happened to this place that should have paid us to stay there. It was really that bad.

We had no maids at all
We had no maids at all

Checking in was our first mistake. The clerk was not American Indian as I was led to believe by the hand-made colorful sign that hung in plain sight and read . . .”Clean Rooms! Cheap! Air Conditioned!” One out of three is not good. The clerk was a nice middle-age lady. I never got her name for I never asked for it. I had a tough time explaining that I wanted only “one” room with two beds. I took the blame for her not being able to understand what I needed. She called her angry husband who made things worse with his sharp tongue that he knew I couldn’t interpret. I saw this as unfair—using their language and not telling me what they were saying.

His wife finally understood my request when I casually-threatened to leave with the cash she seen in my hand and we were on our way to what we thought was going to be a good night. Any seasoned-vacationer can tell you that a good night’s sleep is the cure-all for life’s problems. Oh, the room set me back $48.00. Even with my pointing to their sign that read . . .”Rooms $35.00.” I guess the extra thirteen-bucks was the lodge tax. Or I looked like a fresh, rural jackass who had just ran off from his life on the rutabaga farm.

We used a high-tech security system to keep thieves from walking into our room
We used a high-tech security system to keep thieves from walking into our room

My daughter and I took turns poking easy fun at the room before my wife opened the door. I had not drank any beer that day, so I can pretty much recall that there was this bet that was made between my daughter and I for the amount of $20-dollars to the one who was more-correct about how crummy the room would really be. Now it comes clear. My daughter won pillows down. I thought to myself that God had given her a special clairvoyance at her birth for how right she was in describing the room from its fake pine paneling to the Zenith black and white television (with only five channels) on a handy cart which was an engineering mystery for the cord from the wall was only a full two-feet in length. So why the cart? The television couldn’t be moved that far. I guess the fluent-tongued owners did their best to make their lovable “rathole” motel look as modern as possible.

Before I go any further, I was telling you about the comical signs that were hanging in plain-sight at this dump-of-a-motel. I did see the funniest sign of all about ten feet from our pit, err, I mean room. The sign read . . .”Sorry. No alcohol allowed.” It hit me as I read this warning: The motel owners could have “made a killing,” (bad analogy. Sorry) selling cold beer to drinking patrons for the more-discerning patrons like us, could have drank until they would have thought that their shabby room was a room in Trump Plaza. Note: drinking beer or any alcohol would not have helped me hallucinate that our room was even decent.

If the motel you are thinking about visiting is on a list like this . . .BEWARE

This place is considered a room in a palace compared to where my family and I stayed
This place is considered a room in a palace compared to where my family and I stayed

When it came time for us to get our showers, not at one time, for we were not brazen barbarians, my wife and I allowed our daughter to go first. We were nice parents. Suddenly we heard a deathly-scream. We thought that our daughter had found a rattlesnake or maybe a gila monster hiding in the shower, but when we inspected the shower, we found a good amount of human blood. That did it for our daughter, the clean freak for this was sight was far worse than the little amount of dust on her to chance turning on the water in this place. In retrospect, a rattlesnake or gila monster would have been welcomed sights, believe me.

I tried to call the clerk, but she either didn’t know how to answer an American telephone or just didn’t want to since my family and one more family were the only ones in the place, so it didn’t make any sense for her to do anything to make our stay more comfortable. I mean, that in itself would take a crew of professional motel “doctors” a week or more to make our stay more comfortable. I took it on myself to walk back to the office and patiently-attempt to explain to the clerk that we did not like human blood anywhere in our room.

If you ever face a situation like we did, be good to these guys

Sometimes there are friendly "hostesses" to help make sure you are in a friendly atomosphere
Sometimes there are friendly "hostesses" to help make sure you are in a friendly atomosphere

I should have stayed in the room and toughed it out. The lady clerk, the same one I had met earlier that afternoon was more-passive in listening to my problem, so she asked, “you want more room?” “More room?” I snapped. “No, ma’am. I cannot wait to get out of the one we are in.”

Then I understood her. She wanted to know if we wanted another room. I couldn’t help but reply, “Only if there is no human blood inside the shower.” She “could” understand English for she laughed at my comeback.

My wife, the patient one in our family suggested that we just stay in our room because it was so late and we were so tired and somehow, that made sense. With several cups of hot water the human blood came right off the shower walls. So what was I so upset about? Human blood was used to cover the rust and filthy shower walls.

We tried to get our minds off of our dilemma by watching the Zenith black and white television, but that was a dead-end idea. You will not believe this. Three of the five stations signed-off at 11 p.m., eastern time. So that left us to stare at the ceiling which was the only part of the room where dirt was not embedded. We chatted mildly as we grew drowsy. Sleeping that night for me was an act of faith because I had feared that a gang of rats who had been watching us would sneak out of from underneath our bed and steal our clothes. I did hear some unnatural scratching during the night, but I never opened my mouth.

A reminder of how our bathroom looked
A reminder of how our bathroom looked

Watching the sun rise the next morning had to be “the” most-beautiful sight my eyes had ever beheld. In a few short hours I kept thinking, we would be set free from this prison and be free to ride the roads ahead in North Carolina just like any vacationing family would do. I did not even desire to take a last nap in this place with outdated carpet or maybe that was human blood too and we were too tired to notice.

After packing the car, I walked back to the office to give whomever was there the vintage plastic room key. What a rewarding walk that was. Behind the desk was the lady from the day before. She must have had insomnia for she looked drained, but that was not my concern. I wanted out of there before we contracted some deadly disease.

When I gave her the key, she said, “Ten dollar please.” “Whatttt?” I said. “Ten dollar,” she repeated. “What for?” I replied loudly. “Use phone last night,” she said. “No, ma’am. I did not use the phone,” I said. Then it occurred to me. Call my wife, the patient one. She will solve this stupidity. And sure enough she did by simply pulling-out the receipt that the lady had given me and I had (that time) the good sense to give the receipt to my wife.

Our garbage can looked like this
Our garbage can looked like this

“Now what do you say?” I asked.

The motel lady did not return a word. Not even an insincere apology. I helped myself to a cup of cold coffee although the sign read . . .”Fresh, hot coffee!” What was this place, a cash trap for rubes like me?”

Was I ever glad to leave this place. I started breathing easier the further away we got.

Oh by the way, there was a gang of rats in our room after all. Their names were “Harold,” “Betsy,” and “Fred.”

As I said farewell to this rodent family, “Harold” told me, “We were going to sneak out from underneath your bed (laughing hard) and steal your clothes, but we figured that you had suffered enough, so we took pity on you.”

A refelctive thought on our one-night stay . . .

I have often wondered if maybe things would have turned out better if “Harold” and his family had run this place.


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    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Dear sheilamyers,

      I wish you could have seen this room--fake Pine paneling, nahhh, I am not going to describe "Hotel Horror" again. I cannot put you through that and NO, it was NOT clean.

      Thank you so much for being my Special Friend and Follower.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Dear Shyron,

      Now that I think of it, and with your reminder . . .it was a close to Bates Motel that I will ever get.

      Thanks, dear friend for the comment and lovely visit.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      I respect you for what you said in your comment. And I too, nowadays, share you opinon on legal immigrants, or some, on their hard work and genuine work ethic. But the couple who owned The Arrowhead Lodge, were obviously in a non-caring class of folks.

      I won't lie. I was afraid for our lives during the night with the human blood in the shower--not just a drop or two, but a good cupful.

      Thanks for your itme and comment.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      No, my friend. NOT all motels were as nasty and NOT All motel owners were as rude as these and besides this was in the 80's. There are new rules handed down by the American Motel Association, so you will not have to worry. Stay in most any motel, but I advise you to check out the room before YOU hand them your cash.

      Thank you for your comment.

    • vkwok profile image

      Victor W. Kwok 

      4 years ago from Hawaii

      I am definitely not going to a motel, ever.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      We don't stay at motels too often but I recall about 20 years ago we had to stay at some old hotels. It seemed that most of them were run by immigrants. In some cases they were very hard working and I admired their their hard work and accomodating attitude. Others could barely speak English and were unfriendly with accomodations not too unlike what you describe.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      4 years ago from Texas

      I thought you said it was The Arrowhead Lodge, sounds more like the Bates motel, in the movie Psycho.

      You reminded me of some of the places we have stayed, when we traveled.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      You're brave. There's no way I would've stayed in a place like that. I've stayed in a few in which the furniture looked like it had been through a war, but at least everything was clean.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      Thank you kindly for your comment too.

      People who do this to unknowing people are dealing with that area of life that says "what goes around, comes around."

      And I DO NOT miss that part of my memories at all.

      I did not publish how smug the lady looked while she thought she was robbing me.

      Wonder what she would do, if she is still alive, if I zoomed back up there, stormed into the offce and yelled, "$13.00? Are you kidding me?"

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      I am so proud that a dear friend of mine, YOU, have been blessed like you said--have stayed in many fine rooms. It is those rip-off's that give us hub ideas.

      Thanks for visiting with me. You made my night.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      Yep. Thanks (now) for the valuable advice.

      Where were you 30 years ago? If you cannot answer this, I understand. Thanks for the comment.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Always watch out for the ones that give a discount for 1 hour or for one month.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 

      4 years ago from USA

      It is sad that sometimes cheap also means dirty, but not always. Best to do your homework before traveling when possible. We have been blessed to have stayed in many fine places, but have had our share of not so nice as well.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Yes plenty of times they make your stay seen so nice until you discover the rooms have bedbugs and roaches.ive paid for rooms with these problems kind of sucks.


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