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Wheels on the bike go round and round 28: Avalon
by Mike Jennett
2009-08-12 09:47:29
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One might be forgiven for thinking that, after two specific hotel tales and several references to the mixed state of accommodations as we pedal our way across the country, all material had been exhausted.

Not so.

Let’s not dwell on the coffee maker with the wrong-sized pot, too small to trip the coffee-release valve so that it overflowed the basket until I poked it with a finger and became drenched in scalding brown lava.

Let’s not whine about the Wooster Best Western breakfast of rubber scrambled eggs, biscuits and bile-like gravy, thin coffee and sausages resembling dog turds or the low quality do-it-yourself freebies provided in a myriad of other hotels that caused many riders to embark on 100 mile days with empty stomachs.

Let’s not mention the numerous hotels where internet connection was inoperable either by wire or wi-fi or those where it connected, only to immediately disconnect at the press of any key.

Let’s not cry about those furniture-challenged rooms where the chair was several inches too small so reaching the laptop keyboard was like trying to eat at the adult’s meal table as a 4 year old.

Let’s ignore all those and concentrate on the Avalon hotel in Erie, Pennsylvania…

After pedaling 52 miles through cold rain, sitting soggily uncomfortable in the SAG van for the remaining 37 and finally reaching the hotel, I’m handed the key to room 724.

I navigate the mop-wielding Mexican in the lobby, slopping sudsy water from a bucket over the already-slick floor in a perpetual state of cleaning. He’s like those painters who work forever on the Golden Gate Bridge because it takes so long to get one coat done that it’s time to start again. You can make a career out of it. They never take the paint off though, so one day it’ll get so heavy it’ll fall down and stump scientists for decades.

Anyway, I digress…

The Avalon was built around the time the Dead Sea scrolls were written and everything above the lobby gives the impression of having not been not upgraded since the Carter administration. As I walk my bike along the seventh floor hallway, my nose is filled with the lingering smell of paint, so it seems that something is happening at last. I don’t particularly mind the pungent odor – it reminds me of my first non-shared apartment; my personal ‘new car smell’.

Being cold and wet, air conditioning is not required, but the room feels like a fridge and the wall unit has no switch to select between heating and cooling. Turning the thermostat from the 50 degrees where it’s currently set, shuts off the A/C fan but does not produce any warmth. Maybe it needs time but, after unpacking and doing laundry, the heat still has not come on, so I call the front desk.

“Turn it to 70,” she says. It’s on the maximum of 85, but I do as I am told in case there’s something magical about the 70-mark. Nothing changes. “Try turning it the other way,” she says, but that switches the air conditioning back on. “Umm, put it back to 70,” she instructs, less confidently. “Wait five minutes and call back if it doesn’t work and I’ll send maintenance.”

This feels like staying home to tough out an illness and then, at death’s door, struggling to the doctor only to be told, “Take two aspirin and come back next week.” I decide to shower first. Options are slim when you’re naked

There’s no shampoo.

The bathroom is equipped with a coffee maker, ice bucket, hair drier, body lotion, soap, two bottles of conditioner and enough towels of varying shapes and sizes to supply a whole village in England, but no shampoo.

I was in my teens before learning that washing my hair with hand soap wasn’t the way to go but my hair is the way you would expect after riding more than fifty miles in the rain, so it seems that I must suffer once more. I’m starting to get what Harry would call ‘arse-ache’ with this hotel and my cold, wet state does nothing to salve it.

The shower has a mind of its own and seems to have lost it. The single water control switches the temperature from scalding to freezing in a one-inch band of movement. It does not vary gradually, but simply changes from one extreme to the other, requiring more luck than skill to find the single sweet spot where the water will neither freeze my private parts nor take my skin off.

The shower height might be suitable for midgets, dwarves and full-sized short people, but I am none of those and have to force the showerhead almost horizontal. Consequently, the water shoots the length of the bath like a jet stream, rebounds from the wall and floods the floor until I aim it at a lower angle – but then I have to stoop to get wet above the waist.

Fifteen minutes later, clean and refreshed but with backache and hair standing up like sexually excited string, I emerge into the hypothermic living room. The heating still doesn’t work. The same girl answers the phone and promises to send maintenance, so I take the opportunity to also ask for shampoo, then get dressed quickly and go out.

Starbucks is a ten minute walk (thank you, God) so I consume as much brown hallucinogenic as possible without passing out and return to the hotel several hours later. The heating still does not work but the presence of a blue bottle of shampoo in the bathroom shows evidence of a visit.

Perhaps repairs are ongoing? The thermostat seems to be in the same position as earlier and there’s no note, so I call the front desk again. A different woman from earlier tells me that repairs are not ongoing and promises to advise maintenance, who will attend to it whilst I am out for dinner. Two hours, one burger and three beers later, I return to find the room still cold.

Perhaps personal attention may make a difference, so I take the elevator back to the lobby and stand at the desk in front of yet another clerk – a man this time – whilst he answers call after call from the switchboard without ever once looking up. It seems that all calls take precedence over physical presence so, with a flash of what can only be described as personal brilliance, I return to the room and use the phone to call him.

I explain the situation, being careful to not let the three beers sway my negotiation. He promises to send maintenance. “Haven’t they already been twice,” I ask, but he does not know. The front desk does not keep records of the comings and goings of the maintenance man, he says.

I cannot stay in the room to wait and I cannot go to bed; so I go out again. Many hours later, after returning from various bars in the area, the heating still does not work.

The cold seems to have dissipated, although that might be imagination brought on by the large amount of beer that I have consumed as a result of being in close proximity to Harry; a quantity that also makes it inadvisable to visit the front desk again. Fortunately, I have enough sense to not do so.

In any case, there is nothing that can be done. I have learned, from talking to other riders in the pub, something that the desk clerks could easily have told me…

The heating is inoperative for the entire hotel.

No rooms have it.

It is off for the summer.

Read more at: www.mikeonwheels.com OR www.wheelsonthebikegoroundandround.blogspot.com    

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