Have Camera, Will Travel

“We don’t have any rooms for under $50, but our rooms are so much nicer than those cheap motels.” The Cheery Desk Clerk tells me when I tell her my budget is $50 a night. “Would you like to see a room?”

“Is it less than $50?”

“No, I told you we don’t any for under $50.”

“Then why would I want to see a room?”

As an Assembly Line Portrait Photographer I have driven from Maine to California and hit a lot of the spots in between.  I still have all of The Northwest to see, as well as Hawaii and Alaska.  So if you have a Portrait Studio and would like to pay my way to one of those fine states to take Portraits, I’d be more than happy to clear my schedule and head that way.

Most of the motels I have stayed in have been, well, on the cheap side.  Unlike the hero of Up In The Air, my daily budget for lodging has hovered around the $50 dollar a night mark for most of my 13 years of traveling.  This means independent, usually Indian run motels with that fine smell of fresh curry cooking when you walk into the front door.

I have no problem with Indian run motels and have often been treated better at the independent motels than I have been at the Name Brand Economy Chains.  Of the Big Name Motels, Motel 6 is by far the worst, if you’re in any kind of urban area.  They are usually fine in the middle of nowhere or at hot touristy spots which are not in cities.

All of the Discount Chains can fool you though, some are literally falling apart and some are clean and friendly and have great hot breakfasts.  It’s always a crap-shoot and you never know what you’ll get till you open the door to your room and see.  I recently stayed at Motel in Oklahoma that was $25 a night-the TV was small, but otherwise it was just like any other discount motel room.

A Motel 6 was not the worst motel I ever stayed at, that dishonor goes to a motel whose name I have long since forgotten in the tiny little town of Eloy, Arizona.   Ten years ago this was a wide spot in the road about halfway between Tuscon and Phoenix-two cities I was working in alternating weeks.   One night I was so tired I couldn’t go on, so we stopped in Eloy and got a room at one of the rundown motels.

The room had buckets sitting around half filled with brown water that was dripping from the ceiling.  The heaters didn’t work and this was February, even in Arizona it can get cool at night.   There were stains and burn marks everywhere.  This was a room that I’m not sure anyone  had ever spent more than an hour in.  We slept with ourt clothes on and left after grabbing a few hours sleep.

This room in Eloy holds the record for the worst motel room I ever slept in and has been the benchmark for every motel I have stayed in since.  When I walk into a cheap motel room and look around at the peeling wall paper and cigarette burned carpets, I shrug and say to myself-I’ve stayed in worse.

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