Thursday, June 22, 2017

How Bad Can It Be?

Just got back from a very fun couple of days playing golf with my brother up in Gettysburg, Pa. Beautiful course, good people, fun time. But, this blog isn't about any of that. No, this blog is my first attempt at being a travel writer. I've always wanted to give travel writing a try, but the only time I've ever been tempted is after a bad experience, and who wants a travel writer with a bad attitude? goes.

When Donnie first asked me to play in this fundraising golf tournament for the really cool touring choir that he's in, he assured me that he was going to take care of all of the details, like booking us a room in Gettysburg, for the night before the tournament. I was nervous at this bit of news. I have had the great fortune in my life to travel all over the place and have become quite the snob about accommodations. I'm kind of a Hilton Rewards Club sort of guy. When Donnie and I were kids, our father had very different priorities when traveling. Dad's tastes were decidedly low brow...think, Econo-Lodge meets the Bates Motel. Whenever the Dunnevant kids were anywhere near an interstate highway, we thought fine dining consisted of a pecan roll from Stuckey's. So, naturally, I was dubious of the sort of place my older, less traveled brother might pick. He assured me that all was well..."Don't worry, little brother. I've booked us a room in the Eisenhower Hotel and Conference Center." Sounded pretty impressive. I mean, it was named after a former President and perhaps this country's best strategic planning General, and, it had a conference center. How bad could it be?

What neither of us knew was that the Eisenhower Hotel and Conference Center was badly misnamed. A more apt description would have been the Eisenhower Inn, Motor Lodge, Kitsch Emporium, and Laudromat. Driving up to the place unleashed a raging bout of cognitive dissonance. Instead of a Conference Center, I saw a parking lot full of restored American Motors hotrods painted up from a palette of incandescent colors found nowhere in the natural world.  It was like we had traveled through time back to 1962. There were Ramblers, Hornets, Gremlins, Pacers and even a couple AMX's. I half expected George Romney to jump out of the uranium green Gremlin parked by the front door and offer to take our bags. No such luck, not a bellhop to be found. But just inside the front door hung a lovely portrait of the 34th President. About the time I was close enough to the portrait to get a good look, I noticed.....the smell.

I don't want to give anyone the impression that the place was a dump. No, it was actually quite clean...always a plus. But there was a distinct aroma to the Eisenhower Hotel and Conference Center, and it wasn't anything you'd find at Bath and Body Works. Bath Iron Works? Maybe. It was a combination of several bad smells, really, producing an aroma that was clearly worse than the sum of its parts. Think...two day old cabbage, moth balls, with just a hint of rotten egg. It's like you arrived at a church basement fellowship hall, two days late for a covered dish supper where no one had done the dishes.

But, the Dunnevant brothers are nothing if not resilient, so we soldiered on. I mean, if old Dwight was good enough to plan and execute freaking D-Day, the least we could do was suck it up and stay in his stinking hotel for one lousy night, right? How bad could it be?

Our room was number 138....which almost matched the room's temperature. Only one of the key cards worked. Once inside only two of the lamps worked. The two queen sized beds were neatly made and reasonably comfortable. To add some light into the cave-like darkness, I decided to throw open the heavy, thick curtain of the sliding glass doors. Our view was quite the shock. There, no more than four or five steps from the glass doors was the very large indoor pool, filled with equally large and loud teenagers blowing off some steam after a long year of school. What architect came up with this design, I thought? Look, Marge...we can keep an eye on the kids while they're swimming right from the comfort of our bed!! All I can say about how I slept is, it's a lot harder to fall asleep while people are taking turns doing cannon balls twenty five feet from your pillow than it sounds.

To be fair, the Eisenhower Hotel and Conference Center had the look of a place that was probably, in its day, something very special. Unfortunately for us, it's day was probably about the time when it's namesake only had one star.