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.
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.