The Summer of 1998 Part IV

Nowadays, a sign of the times has persuaded proprietors of non-chain motels to brandish signage saying: “American Owned”, one of which was my first stop. What really  attracted me to the BookCliff Inn was its one level structure with trees and front porches – a very commodious setting. I decided to turn this unique venture into a sporting event. Here’s what transpired over the next hour: “Se habla Anglais?” was my question for the Latino lady behind the desk. “Si, we have room for you. $50.00 plus tax.” “I’d like a room on the first floor, if it’s possible,” I requested. Without a hint of my jesting, she replied, “No problem. All rooms on first floor.” Well, I gave the place a triple A rating. The next stop was the $29.95 Budget Inn, a real Spartan layout just a smidgen below a Motel 6. My rejection of that joint manifested itself right off the bat when I noticed a sign on the ice machine that read: “First Bucket of Ice – Free. Additional Buckets -50¢.” Now, that was a real turn-off. I went back up Main Street to the Best Western Inn, where they had an available room overlooking the river for $80.00. “Great. Can I park next to the front door?”, I inquired.  “No, it’s about a fifty yard walk from the parking lot,” she replied. No thanks. Well, between the $30 and $80 rates, the $50 BookCliff Inn seemed just the ticket.

It turned out to be just the right place to settle down for the night. It was typical of the kind I liked, where I could watch people rolling in, ask them where they’re headed or where they’re comin’ from…a real friendly atmosphere. Heck, I didn’t even feel like closing the blinds and watching TV. I found myself sitting in the porch chair outside the room, looking up at a semi-full moon. Next thing I knew, I was talking with my neighbor, who had rode in on his Harley. Of course, I asked him if he was headed to Sturgis. His reply was, “Hell, no. I’ve been there once. That was enough for me. I’d rather rent a helicopter and be able to look down on all mess from above.” I told him about seeing all those hogs on the way up from Texas. All he could say was, “Yeah, there’s still a bunch of them crazies that still like the stuff. Fact is, there’s too many of them professional types out there ridin’ motors, like it was something real cool to do .. doctors, lawyers, whoever (architects?). It just ain’t the same.” Trying to gain some report with him, I said, “Yeah, I kinda know what you’re talking about. I’ve been driving Chevy vans before, during, and after they were cool.” I got a guffaw from him for that inane remark. Anyway, that’s what “drive up and park in front of your motel room” was all about. You could always meet people. I loved it.

By mid-afternoon the next day, I was gearing myself up for that ennui-inducing, 85 mile stretch of U.S. 50 between Delta, Utah and the Nevada state line. The highway spliced through an area named the Confusion Range, which seemed like an appropriate appellation for such an unforgiving terrain. Probably, the first pioneers got so discombobulated trying to negotiate this wasteland, that they ended up in Mexico or Canada instead of San Francisco. And then there was that insipid sign admonishing: “Next Services – 40 Miles”, out in the middle of nowhere: At the state line, there was another Baghdad Cafe/Gas Station…caveat motorist when there are no gas prices posted in full view from the road. You know they’re as high as the elevation. It was still another 50 desolate miles to Sly. Occasionally, I would see a directional/mileage sign reading: Lone Tree Still Standing – 22; Mesa Rim Dropoff – 17; Olaf’s Landing – 45, and so on, all with gravel roads leading out into nowhere. Were these actually towns? Were people really living out there? Well, if they were, you can bet your  booties they were picking up HBO. These people could have close encounters of the third kind, and CNN would never know about it.

I pulled off at a rest area oasis where a Brobdingnagian RV from Oklahoma was moored. I was really in the mood to talk to someone after that interminable journey across no-man’s land. They were sitting on a picnic table as I approached them, when their junkyard canine started growling and showing off his incisors. All I could hear was his muttering, “B’ware of th’ dawg.” Well, so much for any stimulating conversation. What can you expect? They were Okies…a couple of squid sticks. Not too soon enough, they were out of there, headed back to that god-forsaken state. I gave them a half-hearted wave and wished than a safe trip.