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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Driving to Florida

Since our recent foray into the world of retired Canadians we've spent a bit of time travelling back and forth to the US (oh yeah, I know ... we need to spend more time travelling in Canada). And have discovered some good and, some not so good things.

The highways we have been familiar with (mostly the I90 and the I75) and have travelled along for some years in shorter holidays are usually a pretty easy drive, with fairly simple navigation along the routes. The interstates have lots of areas to stop for a break (rest areas in the northern part of the States seem to provide less options that in the lower and southern States), and it's easy to find hotels/motels if you haven't bothered to make reservations. Gas and truck stops, hotels and restaurants are all easily spotted from the highways.


BUT, some of the interstates are not so well laid out in terms of rest stops or visibility when looking for places to stop ... or at least, the places to stop are not as frequent as along the I90 or I75. The last couple of trips (and probably those in upcoming years) to and from Florida have taken us along the I77 and the I79, and from the top of Florida we headed south along Highway 301.

Not being an interstate it goes through or past many small towns, hamlets and cities, with off ramps being a lot less frequent. It's not so well lit during the dark hours and if you don't know where you are heading, finding a place to stop is more difficult. Our first trip down the 301 was mostly in darkness and we drove for (what felt like) forever before seeing a sign for a hotel. My husband had already driven 13 hours and was at the end of his stamina ... we needed to stop. Not matter what the hotel was like. According to our the maps, the next place we'd likely find a hotel wasn't for a few hours, and he just couldn't do it.

That wasn't our best move, but at least it kept us from having an accident. The town was called Baldwin, and the hotel was a Red Roof Inn. When my in-laws travelled back and forth from Ontario to Florida they used to stay in this chain of hotels/motels and always seemed to have decent luck. Unfortunately for us ... well, not so much.

When we parked at the hotel and got out of the car ... the smell was atrocious. I don't know what it was (no, it wasn't from the hotel or the Waffle House next door), but as soon as it hit my nostrils my brain painted a picture in my mind of the Canada Packers meat plant I used to go by in Toronto when I was heading to work. Ugh.  It seemed to be coming from across the road ... which looked (in the dark) like a railway yard with train cars and trucks and other mysterious things only partly visible in the night.

At the desk we asked about a room. I mean really, how many vacationers do you suppose would be in a little area like that near the end of January, right? The girl at the desk told us they had one room only because there was a dog show in town (a little hard to wrap my brain around that one, but okay, whatever), so she'd have to charge us a little more for the room. She apologizes upfront that the room is handicap accessible but since my husband has a handicap and a sticker in the car for it, that wasn't a problem. In fact, having a railing to help him in and out of the shower would be useful. We get registered and get our key and head the room. At that point, really all we wanted was to get dinner, shower, and sleep.



The room was okay, but just okay. An average hotel room but ... the tub and tiles and some other areas of the bath were pretty bad ... dirty, with what appeared to be mould. Even the mirrors weren't properly cleaned. We couldn't get the internet hooked up, and our room phone didn't work.

The fact that we couldn't (absolutely wouldn't use that bath, neither one of us) shower or bathe after a long day on the road was more than enough to put us off, but with nowhere else to go we decided to complain and suck it up. Not being able to connect the internet made my husband pretty annoyed (he needed to keep in touch via email with his sister because his mom was in the hospital) so when he picked up the phone to call the desk for help and it didn't work either ... his annoyance turned to flat out anger.

He walked down to the desk and complained. Eventually the girl comes down, gets the internet fixed, installs another telephone that works, and apologizes about the bath, telling us the hotel was just taken over by new management, and they had fired and hired cleaning staff. (Apparently they need to train them).

When we checked out in the morning, she reduced our rates and wondered if we'd give the hotel a second chance if we came back to Baldwin. We might (if we were there again), but we aren't going to stay in Baldwin again.

I've documented several hotels along our routes and as I get through the images I'll be reviewing the good, the bad and the very bad but til then ... check your rooms before you accept them.

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