I'm not stupid. I keep having to tell myself that.
I spent Sunday afternoon and night driving from Springfield to Shreveport. My original plan was to stop for the night in Texarkana, but I wasn't able to do so.
It wasn't from lack of trying. After all, I'd seen massive billboards that said things like, "HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS, EXIT 1 ARKANSAS." That was a reassuring sight. I stay at the Holiday Inn whenever I have a choice. For me, hotels are generally an exception to my disdain for big corporate chains. Steve Martin once said that you never see "Fred's Bank," and likewise, "Fred's Hotel" is more likely to be questionable than charming. That isn't to say I haven't stayed at some lovely smaller places, of course, but late at night on some desolate stretch of highway isn't generally ground zero for that.
So, anyway, I bypass Exit 2 to Shreveport to hit Exit 1, where the billboard and an additional highway sign insist that a Holiday Inn is right around the corner, waiting to give me a nice room, quite possibly at the hand of a cute clerk named Rain (that was Kansas City, but I can hope).
But then I take the exit. And not only is it not there for at least a mile in either direction, but NOTHING is there for a mile in either direction. Well, OK, I spot one of the four advertised motels, but it's advertising rooms for $32 a night. Sometimes you get what you pay for.
And no, I'm not stupid. The sign didn't say you had to travel several miles to get to it, and clearly pointed the direction. No dice. Thanks, Texarkana.
OK, I think, I'll have to travel a little further. This thought makes me uneasy, because Texarkana to Shreveport is a wasteland. Put in a portable DVD player and "Mad Max" and you've got yourself a GPS. The last time I had to cross into Louisiana on 71, I almost pissed on myself to save my life. And that was early in the evening in August, when at least a small convenience store hadn't yet closed for the night.
Long story short, I had to go all the way to Shreveport before I had a chance to take a leak, much less find a hotel.
You'd think that one of Louisiana's biggest cities would have plenty of places to stay. And you'd be right — hell, I've stayed there before. So I figure this is going to be a cinch.
So when I see another sign that promises a Holiday Inn, I'm pumped. But upon taking the exit, a second sign advertises all the same hotels — except for the Holiday Inn. Huh? Nice curveball, life. Oh, and I can't find any of those hotels either! At that point, I was ready to stay anywhere. I should probably mention at this point that I had apparently overloaded my car, and as a result had felt every bump in the road since Springfield. So it's an understatement to say I was a bit agitated.
After traveling along the exit intersection for a few miles in both directions, I realized I was in the Blair Witch Twilight Zone (sponsored by Holiday Inn). I pulled over, killed my engine and regained my bearings for a few minutes — by which I mean, I wished violent death on everyone in both Texarkana and Shreveport. Sorry about that, folks.
After getting on 20 West, I hoped for more luck. Upon seeing a sign for hotels, I reverted to full-on street-preacher-skepticism mode. But despite my track record, I eventually found a Fairfield-Marriott that didn't look too transient. The only problem was, I couldn't get to it. Why do some businesses put what appears to be a moat around their parking lot?
It all made me feel so stupid. But I'm not stupid. Right?
So the point of all of this is, ONE TOILET. Put ONE TOILET on U.S. 71!!