Dive Diners and Seedy Motels

My favorite motel on the Mother Road

Growing up, we did Route 66 from beginning to end a couple dozen times.  At least.  My dad, being the man he was, insisted that each run down the Mother Road be done faster than the time before.  We did not sight-see.  We did not stop and shop.  We did not eat in restaurants or stay in hotels.  We made time.

A lot of our meals were taken from vending machines in gas stations.  Truck stops were a favorite.  (To this day, I will choose a truck stop over a chain restaurant if I’m looking for home-style food.)  My dad likes to joke that my brother and I learned early not to ask “are we there yet?” – but to ask “when will we need gas?” 

The need for automobile fuel was the only earthly reason for stopping until Dad was so bleary eyed he couldn’t see the road.  It was then that we pulled into a motel.  There was some discernment in our choosing, but not much.  I don’t remember seeing a lot of loose women or ex-cons in the places we stayed, but we did not stay in anything even approaching the sanitized motels of today. 

[Come to think it of it I do have memories of Magic Fingers massage beds.  Maybe at 6, I couldn’t recognize a woman of loose morals.]

It was a real treat to stay in the Wigwam Motel.  I’m not sure, but I think we stayed in the Arizona Wigwam when the opportunity presented itself.  But trust me, the Wigwam was pure luxury compared to our normal road digs.  I’m pretty sure we only stayed there because otherwise I would whine for 500 or 600 miles – the Wigwam was my idea of the epitome of luxury accommodations.

Driving cross-country as often as we did, I became a connoisseur of diner cuisine.  We usually ate at the closest eating establishment to the motel.

Somewhere along the way I became a fan of patty melts. 

Not perfect, but still good

Not perfect, but still good

There’s an art to making the perfect patty melt.  I’ve never managed to make a perfect one, though God knows, I’ve tried.  The absolute best patty melts are to be found in the places the Health Department shuts down for gross violations a couple times a year.  The next best place to find a good patty melt is at the IHOP, but they’re inconsistent.  Sometimes they’re greasy chin dripping, onion breath fabulous.  Other times they’re better than what I do at home, but not much.

For the uninitiated, a proper patty melt consists of a good quality ground beef patty, grilled onions, American cheese, and rye bread all cooked in the same fashion as the traditional grilled cheese i.e. fried in butter.  When done properly, it’s the perfect gestalt of heart-attack-on-a-plate and good eatin’. 

Usually they’ll offer you fries or onion rings (sometimes both) to go with your patty melt.  I prefer hash browns.  Real ones.  Grated and grilled until crispy with tomato and onion mixed in.  If you haven’t already discovered it, let me tell you that the Waffle House, hands down, has the best hash browns.  IHOP is a distant second.  The Waffle House also has patty melts but they’re inferior to IHOP’s.  If I could get it all home hot, I’d order the IHOP patty melt and the Waffle House hash browns and just eat at home where I could moan, groan, drool, and roll my eyes all I wanted to.

I stopped at the IHOP tonight for a patty melt.  I sat next to some folks who were evidently on a road trip.  Dad poured over the map, Mom looked ready for a Valium, and the kids were fighting about how much room the other was taking up on the booth seat. 

Nostalgia set in.

The patty melt was a disappointment tonight, but it was still damned good eatin’.  You have to work pretty hard to screw up grilled onions, rye bread, cheese and hamburger.  I had an urge to find a seedy motel and check in, but it’s no fun alone.  Sometime I should tell the story of the really seedy motel in Zanesville, Ohio, and what a fine time HMOKeefe and I had.  There was a picture of Jesus on the wall, mold  in the bathroom, iced vodka,  and a plastic chair outside the door.  Wish we had pictures.

Don’t ask about the time Boston Boy ordered shrimp in Richwood.  Flatlanders.  . .gotta love ’em.

[Hot Damn!!!  There’s a Wigwam in Kentucky!  Woo Hoo!  I am so going to go there.  Soon.]


The Barn House View

The Barn House View

In a little less than 96 hours I will be officially on vacation from Job #1. Twenty-four hours after that, I will officially be on vacation from Job #2 AND HMOKeefe should be rolling up my driveway. By Sunday morning, I should be in full hedonism mode. I can’t wait.

Most of the time I rather enjoy HMOKeefe’s and my long distance relationship, but I haven’t seen him (except on Skype) since January 1st. And if seeing him weren’t enough, my vacation intentionally coincides with my birthday (August 3rd for those of you playing at home).

And if all that wasn’t enough, this is my first real vacation in several years and I’m taking two full weeks. I practically swoon at the thought. There’s only been one other time that I’ve taken a two week vacation. It was hectic and jam packed though thoroughly enjoyable. Still. I need serious downtime.

After minimal conversation, HMOKeefe reserved The Barn House in Berkeley Springs, WV for a week. [The photos I’m using here are shamelessly stolen from http://mountainmorning.net/images/barnhouse/index.htm – I consider it free advertising.]

The Barn House

The Barn House

This large vacation rental is a restored antique barn that sits in the middle of nowhere offering privacy and spectacular views. It feels wrong to be hyperactive and wildly excited about sitting and doing nothing – but here I am – wildly excited and hyperactive.

I can’t wait.

One day we’re planning an outing to Capon Springs. And on another, we have spa reservations. We also have tentative plans to trundle into D.C. and partake of tea at Ching Ching Cha and, as much as I like this teahouse, I think it’s likely these tentative plans will fall victim to inertia. Maybe not.

HMOKeefe has been cooped up for two years and he’s wildly excited about getting out and about. With any luck there won’t be any friction between my need to be a deck ornament and his need to explore and excavate.

I should be cleaning my house. I should be packing. I should be grocery shopping (less HMOKeefe perish of hunger while here). I should be doing a lot of things, but I’ve been doing a lot of things and I’m tired. By the end of the week, I’ll be bone weary. Hyperactive or not, I need to slow it down. So tonight? Tonight, I sit and do nothing but yammer at y’all, update my Twitter status, maybe take a bath – by candlelight. I’m considering these activities the dusting off and readying of my innate hedonistic qualities which are a bit rusty.

Actually, I do know how to operate an antique stove.

Actually, I do know how to operate an antique stove.

I may or may not be sorry for blowing off this evening later in the week. I really do have a lot to do. At present, HMOKeefe will fall over dead in shock at the pigsty that is my house. He might even break up with me. Or leave me home to clean up the mess while he enjoys Berkeley Springs. In any event, what I manage to get done will have to be done later this week.

I expect to be in full panic mode by Friday.

But right now I’m practicing my downtime vacation skills. I think there’s beer in the fridge. Some leftover black bean soup. I’m sure I have a half-finished novel somewhere.

[Connie wanders off in search of vittles and entertainment.]