Part 4 primarily concerned itself with finding a place to eat dinner while in
over Labor Day weekend. I still don’t
know how I got 5 pages out of that one part of the story. Part 5 picks up as we leave the restaurant on
Sunday evening. Flagstaff
Uncle’s Day Weekend – Part 5
We wandered around the visitor’s center, looking at the exhibits, and just giving Maria a chance to exhaust herself. It was now around seven, and as I recall, she had napped for literally no more than ten minutes that afternoon. But she was showing no ill effects, and seemed to be in no imminent danger of pooping out. We waited around for some video presentation to start, but Maria wouldn’t stay, pronouncing the dimly-lit hall and spacey interlude music “too scary,” so
took her back to the exhibit hall where she could continue trying to pull the
display meteors off their stands. I’m a
sucker for anything scientific, or that deals with nature, so I was even able
to stomach the Mannheim Steamroller music that introduced the video. Jessica, however, took all of two minutes to
become hopelessly bored and annoyed. I
looked at her several times, vacillating between telling her to suck it up, and
giving in to her unspoken request to go.
I flashed forward in my imagination to our retirement days. Elizabeth and I would do nothing but travel, happily
watching long, badly scored nature videos in places just like the Lowell
Observatory, and we would have the best time of our lives. I nudged Jessica, jerked my head slightly
towards the exit, and we left quietly. Elizabeth
Reunited in the exhibit hall, we figured it was finally dark enough to go see the main attractions: the telescopes. We left the visitor’s center, and followed the glowing lights on either side of the path, every one of which Maria had to inspect as we slowly advanced. There was a tripod-mounted telescope in front of us, with a line of people waiting to look through it. We immediately got into line, and began waiting our turn. When it appeared that no one was moving, or actually even looking through the telescope, I looked up at the sky. The entire firmament was blanketed by clouds. The light of the moon was barely visible, the moon itself heavily shrouded. “What are we waiting to do again?” I asked
“Look through the telescope, tonto.” We’ve already covered tonto, haven’t we? Yes? Good.
“What are we hoping to see?” I continued, tonto-ing it up.
She gave me an irritated look. “What’s your point?”
She did, and right around the same moment, we overheard someone saying “it usually clears up by ten-thirty.” Three hours of standing in line on the off-chance that the sky might clear? With two children who are already indicating their impatience with an escalating poking match?
“C’mon,” I said, pulling us out of line.
|Image of Lowell Observatory at night...Just kidding!|
|Inside the observatory - see the tires?|
It was about eight-thirty when we returned to our room.
immediately set about getting the girls ready for bed while I retrieved the
last essentials from the car. We cranked the room’s air conditioner way up. It may have been unfair to expect arctic
conditions from Elizabeth
in September, but there was no reason why we couldn’t recreate them in our room
The day’s activities had taken enough of the starch out of Maria that she was content to lay in bed, watching a movie on the portable DVD player. Meanwhile, Jessica watched a show on the motel’s TV, and I pulled the laptop out, checking on the blog, and verifying our route home for tomorrow.
starting to doze off. Maria was the next
to go, then I, and then Jessica.
Elizabeth, who’s a light sleeper, must have gotten up and some point and
turned off all the electronics. Elizabeth
|I forgot to take a picture! I'm borrowing this one.|
We all took showers, and then got dressed. The motel offered a complimentary breakfast, so we packed our stuff back into the Sportage, and walked to the office, which is also where the eating area was located. The breakfast spread was more than adequate, with bagels, fruit, cereal, juice, fresh coffee, and one of those waffle-making machines. Best of all, there were maybe five other people eating when we got there, and the waffle-making station was open. I immediately started pouring the batter into cups and lining them up, which is motel etiquette for “I got next, and next, and next,” a lesson I learned after one particularly bitter breakfast experience at a motel in
. Breakfast was perfectly enjoyable, if you
don’t count the obligatory cup of spilled orange juice, or Maria’s syrupy face,
hair, hands, chair and table, which I don’t, because they were obligatory. Winnemucca,
When we were done, we cleaned up our table and crossed over to the check-out counter. It took ninety seconds to clear our bill and be on our way. Now, as I’ve been writing this, I’ve been deciding whether or not to spill the beans on exactly where it was that we stayed on our Uncle Day weekend excursion, but I think the time has come to name names. Part of my hesitation, I suppose, is because many of us, myself included, don’t like to associate ourselves with what we perceive to be inferior brands. And some brand names develop personas of inferiority that, once established, are difficult to shake, regardless of current reality. But I can’t turn away from the truth any longer. There comes a time when someone has to speak up, and for me that time is now. I am coming out of the closet to tell the world, or at least the fifty people who read this blog, that I, Kevin Thorson, stayed at a Super 8 motel, and enjoyed it. That’s right, I said enjoyed it.
Whew! That was not as easy as I thought it would be. Nevertheless, there it is, in black and white pixels that could be changed the moment I get cold feet. But why should I be embarrassed to say I stayed at a Super 8? Yes, I know that Super 8 has acquired an image of being something of a bottom-feeder over the years, whether warranted or not. I know by that small flinch of shame I experienced when discovering that Hotwire was putting my family in one that it is not a socially acceptable place to be. I also acknowledge that I subscribed to the same popular notion that Super 8 was down there on the absolute lowest rung of the motel industry ladder, along with maybe Knight’s
and Econolodge. Even at $49 ($65 with
taxes and fees) for the night, I’ll admit that I believed we would be
hard-pressed to not feel we had been ripped off afterwards. Of course, it was still
bound to be a step up from my cousins’ place in Heber.
|Super 8 - Flagstaff, Arizona|
Super 8, while we’re on the subject, have you ever considered changing your name? Many times a name change can bring about a fresh start in the consumer’s mind. It’s something worth considering; after all, Super 8 is a lousy name for a motel to begin with. It tells us nothing about you, except you have 8 of something that are super, but we never find out what it is. Is that some kind of industry reference, “super 8?” If so, it’s too inside. Are you trying to let people know you’re two better than Motel 6? Come on, surely you understand the rule in business that says you never want to let your competitor define who you are. Your name comes across as completely irrelevant, and it makes you seem irrelevant for choosing it. You’re better than that. For instance, “La Quinta,” (“The Fifth? As in the Fifth Amendment maybe? And just what is it with this fetish for number names for motel chains?) also has a nonsensical name, but because it’s in Spanish, people just assume they’re referring to the housekeeping staff, and so it creates the illusion of relevancy. I like you now, so I want to see you do well. At least create the illusion of relevancy. Please, think about what I’ve said.
Thanks for bearing with me there. Who knew there was so much to say about a bargain-brand motel chain with 2,000 locations in North America, and 200 in
? Really, that’s what their website says. China
After the ease of checking out, I lingered for a few minutes by the rack of pamphlets and brochures tucked around the corner of the counter. I have to confess; I love looking at those gaudy tourist brochures. I love the bright, colorful images, the glossy paper, the thick card stock, the wild enthusiasm they try to ensnare you with, and the slight sense of desperation beneath the surface that leads a destination, no matter how small, to print up millions of these pamphlets and distribute them to every restaurant and place of lodging in a touristy area. I love the rack they sit in, the way it takes what is always a raucous variety of distractions and orders them into neat rows, evenly spaced, each one confined to its little rectangular slot, each regimented row just able to poke its head above the row beneath it. It is like a visual choir of commercialism, each one blaring a different melody, and yet somehow the whole produces a strange kind of chaotic harmony.
I browse through them, the way a professor might fawn over tomes of great literature; I study the designs, the layouts, the graphic elements, the free-wheeling uses of hyperbole, the lack of actual specific information, other than how to get there and why it’s so important to go. But today I have another reason: although I know the route we’re taking to go home, I have had little luck in determining where we might stop along the way. We were about to head west on I-40 through Williams to Ash Fork, but nothing seemed like a good fit for the time we had available. I thought about stopping at the Williams Grand Canyon Deer Farm and Petting Zoo; I looked in vain for a pamphlet in the rack. It probably wouldn’t have been a good idea anyway, given my daughter Jessica’s pathological aversion to petting zoos (if you missed it, you need to read this). My eye was caught, however, by a brochure for an attraction I hadn’t heard of before: Bearizona. Hmmm. Hokey name, but . . .
To be continued . . .