By Mark Mathis
I enjoy a road trip.
I generally meet family and friends at some far off airport to start the real vacation a bit later, but as we all know 49% of the fun is in the getting there. During my solo time I listen to a whole bunch of podcasts about “stuff you should know”, Miranda Lambert, and Dr. Laura. I also look for places most others wouldn’t seek out. Here is a review of one of those places won’t have on your bucket list, the “Mountain Inn” in Mt. Eagle, TN.
If you leave Newaygo right this minute in a measly 10 hours you can reach the oasis of the Mountain Inn. In real terms that’s half way to Orlando. I found it by grabbing one of those hotel magazines at a rest area at 4am when I was getting tired. I flipped through until I found the cheapest place, $34.95. The price included breakfast and a mountain view! Sounded almost too good to be true.
One thing I’ve found about the cheapest place, they make for some great stories. Another thing I’ve discovered is that my wife doesn’t appreciate them the same way. (That’s where the alone part comes in handy.)
I called ahead to make sure they took 5am guests. I apparently got the owner out of bed. His limited English was worse upon just waking up. I thought we were haggling over price and was able to get him down to $30 cash. Turns out we were talking about an additional deposit that would be needed if I insisted upon paying cash. I think he also told me three times I had to get out by 11am.
You can count me as a tad wary of hotels that are not affiliated with any chain and run by “limited” English speakers. My police days in Grand Rapids allowed me to visit these establishments often. The Rainbow Motel used to rent rooms by the hour to all the working ladies, or by the month to drug addicts. Landmark Lodging on 28th street was full of both crime and pests. The smells from all stuff the monthly renters cooked, and never cleaned up, in their rooms was overpowering. When it shut down for good it was a great place to train police dogs and for bums to sleep.
Given these concerns, I did a quick flip over to Yelp to look at the Mountain Inn, and was assured I would most likely live to tell the story.
I arrived at 5am to a sign warning me to watch my “steap” on my way up the broken steps to the office. The place looked like a hotel that the 1970’s had forgotten as the decades passed. A freshly painted cinder block exterior greeted the motorists that navigated the quarter mile through the lots of two newer chain hotels to reach the area’s price king.
I could easily see that each unit had one of those great big windows overlooking the parking lot. The second floor rooms would get the added luxury of being able to see who had sunroofs. The office was a 10’ x 10’ closet with a check in desk, rows of travel pamphlets, and the owners attached sleeping quarters.
I got the owner out of bed. I discovered he was really firm on his $34.95 price. I got my room key and moved on. Being a late arriver I didn’t have to go very far. I watched my “steap” and walked to the first floor unit right next to the office.
I’m no fan of bedbugs and I travel with a flashlight. No matter the price of accommodations, I do an inspection that would make the Orkin man proud. I tossed my suitcase in the bug free tub and went to work. My inspection includes stripping off the bedding, looking behind picture frames, checking baseboards, inspecting mattress piping, etc. I’ve found all kinds of neat stuff, including money, during these inspections. Mountain Garden Inn passed with flying colors.
If I had to guess the hotel was built in 1973 as a Days Inn and hadn’t been updated in a couple decades. But it had a bed, sink, and shower. The old heater/cooler in the room doubled as a white noise machine. I caught a glorious four hours of sleep, took a shower, and headed off to breakfast.
The breakfast was in the same small office I visited for check in a few hours before. There was a basket with five Dolly Madison mini-muffins still in their wrappers. A gallon jug of Sunny D, coffee pot, and stack of Styrofoam cups rounded out “breakfast”.
Never wanting to waste good calories on bad food I walked to nearby Waffle House instead. There I sat at the counter, talked to some great waitresses as they did dishes, ate the best food in the world, and watched my tea “steap.”
America is a great patchwork of $34.95 hotels and Waffle Houses, to be discovered one at time…
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