Saturday, April 28, 2012

Michael’s RV Park / Hail in St. Louis

Those were the bookends for my week.  On Monday I had a quick visit with Michael Hargis at their new RV park in Dixon, Missouri.  He’s resurrecting a badly neglected park with a history of hosting bluegrass festivals.  Their intent is to turn it into a destination music festival location.  If it was anybody other than Michael I’d be more than skeptical.  But this is the guy who bought a seated MCI bus and turned it into an RV in 90 days so I’m not inclined to bet against him when he says he will have this park ready for a festival a month from now.

When I stopped in Michael was supervising the restoration of the restaurant, burying new water, sewer and power lines for dozens of new RV hookups, setting up a portable building for his office and store and cleaning out years of accumulated junk in the house they will eventually be living in.  So I didn’t stick around too long.  Partly because I didn’t want to hold him up but mainly because I was afraid he’d put me to work if I stood around too long.
The other big change coming to the park is booze.  It sounds like getting a liquor license for the restaurant is a simple formality.  That’s probably related to the fact that the area looks to have been particularly hard hit by the recession.  Anybody willing to spend money developing property is likely looked on pretty favourably right now.
The park isn’t really on the way to or close to anywhere but it is on a paved highway.  Maybe some year we’ll manage a visit in the bus on the way to Florida.
After my visit with Michael I headed east across the Mississippi River into Illinois and then south to Dixon Springs Ag Center which is sort of an outstation for the University of Illinois.  They had purchased some Growsafe equipment and needed my magic to get it running.  The equipment barely arrived ahead of me – as usual – but other than that it was a pretty straightforward installation.  My accommodations were another matter.
There isn’t a town anywhere near the Ag Center but the researcher in charge had told me to stay in Vienna, Illinois.  I actually missed Vienna on the first pass which should give you an idea of the size of the place.  Since I had already gone past it I check the room situation in Metropolis – they had 8 or 10 hotels whose names I recognized.  The first one I checked was a Super 8 – she wanted over $800 for 5 nights – in a Super 8.  “Huh?  That’s like over $160 per night?”  “Well the quilt show is on.”  She didn’t actually say “how could you be so effing stupid not to know …….” but she might as well have.  I tried one other place that looked to be lower caliber than a Super 8 and they only wanted $100 per night so I passed on that too.  In hindsight I probably should have taken it. 
I ended up staying at something called Liberty Inn of Vienna.  It was the only game in town and they knew it.  It was filthy.  Evidently it had a flood at some point and nobody bothered cleaning the carpets post-flood so you could see the extent of the flood’s advance along the hallways and into my room – I assume the others were the same.  The water may have come from upstairs because the ceiling showed water stains as well.  There were rips in the carpet in my room.  The sheets didn’t fit the bed.  The shower didn’t work.  The soap was only vaguely soap-like.  Did I mention it was filthy?  I only tried eating breakfast once – stale crumbled corn flakes, stale bread, margarine that wouldn’t melt on the toast and without a word of a lie, the jelly had dried out inside the little jelly packages to the point where it was like cutting cheese when I tried to put it on my toast. 
They only cleaned my room twice out of the four nights that I ended up staying there and when I complained they more or less told me to go pound sand.  I’m posting their name – Liberty Inn of Vienna and their phone number – 618 658 6300 in the hope that some other traveller will get sent here by Google and thereby stay anywhere but in this hell hole posing as a hotel.  Sleeping in the ditch would be more comfortable and clean.  Sleeping in your car would be light years ahead of this dump.
On Friday I had my fill so I moved up the road to Marion which was a considerable drive from the Ag Center but worth it for the comfort.  And the staff at Marion seemed to actually understand the concept of customers and customer service.  It was a Super 8.  I’m hoping that by mentioning a lot of hotel names like Super 8 and the Quality Inn that I am staying in tonight that Google will figure out that this post has something to do with hotels.
The hail part came late this afternoon after I had sat in traffic for three hours on the trip up to St. Louis from Marion.  I was just getting out of the last of the traffic jams, still on the Missouri side of the border but down to exit 3 or 4 when I noticed some particularly ugly looking clouds to the northwest.  Tornados aren’t impossible around here and I really don’t ever want to see one  of them.  All of a sudden there was a gawdawful crash against the windshield and then it started to rain a bit and then some more bangs and crashes on the windshield and the roof.  I’ve never seen hail like this.  It was coming in almost horizontal.  You could see the chunks coming at you from a distance which was alarming.  And they weren’t all that big – walnut size or smaller but they were beating the everloving shit out of my little Toyota Camry.
When I finally got to the Budget car rental place I don’t think the moron checking me in would have noticed if I hadn’t pointed out the hail bruises.  They seemed pretty obvious to me and it had hailed at the lot so he should have been looking for them but I’m sure he would never have clued in if I hadn’t said something.  Fortunately I took the overpriced Budget car rental “insurance” so it was pretty straightforward.  Not sure what might have happened otherwise.  I guess I could have tried keeping my mouth shut, hard as it may be for some of you to believe that would have been possible.


Singing Land Cruiser said...

Thank Bob, it was good to visit with you. Come by anytime. Michael

Fisher and Staff said...

We hope to get out on the road in the next year and will make sure to check out Dixon, Missouri. Thanks for the tip.

Busted Knuckle said...

Bob wish I'd known you were looking for a room in/near Vienna. I'd warned you that the whole town has very strange out look on "outsiders" and go out of their way to let one know it!
From their restaurants to their police departments (local, county & state) all they want is yer $ and get the hell outta town ASAP attitude!

I'd suggested trying Marion (as you ended up there anyway) or I'd contacted a fellow bus company owner Carl Raines in Golconda and asked him where he put up out of town drivers that were in town to either drive for him or for repairs.

Yes you also learned about the International Quilters Show held this time of year every year in Paducah @ the Quilters Museum.

Don't feel bad we paid $100 for a $60 room at a Days Inn in Calvert City, KY 25 miles from Paducah, KY on Weds for the same reason.
;D BK ;D

Jorgito's dad said...

Thanks for that BK - I didn't think it was personal but you never know. I've never run into that kind of absolute don't give a shit attitude from any business before. Even the worst customer service organizations usually have the grace to at least pretend they care at some point during the process but not these guys.

And I'll be back there for some additional work this fall but don't worry, I won't spend even 5c in Vienna. Maybe we'll even manage to work that into a bus trip and if we do you can bet we'll take a detour into Kentucky.