Stories From a Bike Trip: Part 4

I was talking to Heidi the other day and realized that my “stories from a bike trip series” has fallen off the radar. That’s no bueno, my friends, and I’ve decided to bring it back! If you’re new to my blog, please check out part one, part two, and part three.

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After we left Monroe, Louisiana, we decided to pedal straight towards Vicksburg, Mississippi. This would be my first-ever visit to Mississippi, and I had read that Vicksburg had lots of interesting Civil War sights to see. I’m nothing if not a history nerd! 
However, we were very aware of the fact that Hurricane Rita was bearing down on the Gulf Coast and as we had experienced in Monroe, hotels and lodging were hard to come by. This thought weighed heavy on our minds as we pedaled throughout the day: if Rita was going to be anything like Katrina, we needed to get a roof over our heads. However, if everything was occupied, where in the world were we going to sleep?? After all, my trusty Mountain Hardwear Light Wedge tent had become our home, but it sure as hell wasn’t going to protect us from the storms of Rita!
This was the last time I smiled that day!
Shortly after crossing into Mississippi, we saw a visitor’s center and rode into the packed parking lot. We decided that a helpful front desk associate would be able to assist us in tracking down a place to sleep for the next few nights. The sky was darkening and the clouds were beginning to loom overhead, so all thoughts centered on finding a roof!
We locked our bikes out front and stepped inside the visitor’s center, our clipless bike shoes clacking against the tile floors. For a change, no one appeared to notice the bizarre-looking cyclists dressed in spandex. Instead, the entire center was abuzz in chaos as dozens of harried travelers badgered the employees, trying to find lodging for the evening. In short, it was a shit show. 

With nothing else to do but wait, we stood in line for a good 45 minutes before we reached the front desk. Naturally, the older woman eyeballed our skin-tight attire but refrained from commenting. We explained that we needed a hotel room to weather out Hurricane Rita…and that it had to be somewhere close so that we would be able to ride our bikes there before the rains and winds hit Vicksburg.
Guess you can’t see the monsoon behind me….but at least y’all can see my sweet tan lines. Guess that’s what happens when you wear bike shorts every day for 4 months!

 Apparently that was laughable!

According to the woman, Vicksburg’s hotels had filled up the day before and she was now sending travelers onto Jackson and beyond. There was no room for us anywhere. Steve started to sense that Heather tears were forming, so he repeated to the woman that we were on bikes: we could not possibly make it to Jackson before the storm hit. After all, that was another 45 miles which is a quick shot on a car, but definitely a couple hours on a bike!
After some begging and pleading, the woman realized our dire situation and started calling any hotel she could think of. Finally, she came back to us with a smile on her face: she had located one hotel on the far side of Vicksburg that agreed to save a room for us! She told the owner of the hotel that we would be arriving on bicycles, and the owner agreed to save the room for some cyclists. We figured that was a safe bet since we had yet to see a single cyclist in Mississippi!
We hopped on our bikes and pedaled as fast as we could to the eastern side of Vicksburg, dodging cars and traffic lights as we rode. We finally arrived at the hotel, and my jaw literally dropped open as we rolled into the parking lot: the place was a freaking crack house!

The rain was coming down in sheets– hence the deserted roads!
Luckily for y’all, I don’t have any photos of the exterior, but I’m sure we’ve all seen the type of motel I’m referring to: it was a single story building, all painted brown with nary a window that remained intact. Abandoned cars littered the parking lot (along with a few beer bottles and cigarette butts), weeds lined the cracks in the pavement, and shingles were hanging by a literal thread. I got goose bumps looking at the place because I just knew I was going to get chomped on by bed bugs that night….or maybe even find something worse under the bed. *Shudder* However, the clouds continued to darken and lightning had started to creep over the horizon, so Steve and I sucked up our disgust and walked into the front office.
If the exterior had been horrifying, the interior was exponentially worse. In fact, I can’t even think of a word to describe how traumatized I was by this hotel. Regardless, we spoke with the front desk lady, explained that we were the cyclists who had called 30 minutes ago, and asked for the keys to our (god awful) room. 
“I rented out my last room 15 minutes ago,” she responded. 
Y’all, I thought Steve’s head was going to pop off! To save you the pain of reading it, I’ll summarize: this conniving woman had quickly realized that she was the only ghetto hotel left in Vicksburg with available rooms. She had told dozens of people that she would save them rooms, and literally operated on a first come, first serve policy. Since we had ridden our bikes, we were definitely not the first to arrive and she had given away all of the rooms. As awful as the hotel was, this final blow to my mental state was more than I could handle: I was officially scared and started crying. What the hell were we going to do now?
Steve started yelling at the woman, asking her about the promise to save our room. Fortunately, three people walked into the office at that moment, returning their key. They had taken one look at the hotel room, found the conditions abhorable, and decided to drive to Jackson instead. Without even considering their reason for returning the key, Steve and I snatched it directly out of the man’s hand!
Watching Rita build from the windows of the restaurant
We paid the $149 nightly rate (seriously!) and wheeled our bikes into this den of iniquity. Y’all, the room was DISGUSTING. I sleep in dirt and have been massacred by bugs and can backpack for days without showering, but even I struggled with this room. Cockroaches scurried along the floor and dingy red spots covered the bathroom floor. I didn’t even stop to think about what the red color indicated! The windows were all cracked and water dripped through the ceiling into our bathroom tub. The floor smelled of mildew and death, and we both made the executive decision to not look under the beds. We decided our sleeping bags were definitely the way to go, and made a nest on top of one of the beds. We even slept fully clothed — complete with shoes! — so that we didn’t have to touch a single thing. And as for the shower? There was no chance in hell that I was touching a damn thing in that tub!
In total, we had to spend two of the worst nights of my life in this hotel. As y’all may remember, Rita wasn’t as bad as Katrina, but it was still one of the worst hurricanes in American history. We didn’t dare leave our filthy hotel room behind because we knew we wouldn’t survive the storm on our bikes. We spent lots of time hanging out at the restaurant across the street and we became friends with the guy at the liquor store. Yes, I’ll own it: only cheap beer in 40oz cans made this room remotely tolerable.
40oz cans of Bud Light barely made this tolerable. This photo makes it look like a palace!
The bright side? Steve and I were so eager to leave the hotel room that we jetted out of there after our 48 hours of misery, and knocked off back-to-back 100 mile days on the bike, crossing the entirety of Mississippi in 48 hours. This was a first for us, but I think we wanted nothing more than to leave Vicksburg behind!
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Where is the absolute worst place you’ve ever slept?
This hotel wins, hands down.
Do y’all enjoy reading these stories or do they bore you? Any interest in travel-related stories (because I assure you, I’ve gotten into tons of mischief there, too!)

23 Comments

  • Reply Gina Bégin at

    Oh man. That’s pretty disgusting. That reminds me of when Steve and I were flying back from the Havasu trip; the airlines had messed up my ticket and, on my hurt foot with two huge backpacks, I had to walk back and forth between terminals & taking busses. As I left Steve behind to catch his plane (his ticket was fine) and boarded a bus in tears, he came running out to catch me. Turns out he had walked right right through the express line right up to the front counter to demand they fix my ticket and had gotten someone who would listen. He caught me right as my bus driver had put the bus in gear to leave. We went back up the counter and Steve made them fix my ticket right then and there. When they noticed his flight had left, they began to say they couldn’t do anything for him since he should have been on the plane; why didn’t he get on? To which he said there was no way he was leaving me behind and by myself. That was a hero moment.

    I know how frustrating that can be; I felt all those feelings of frustration building as I read your story and loved your Steve’s reaction to chastising the owner of the hotel as well as just grabbing the hotel key right from the other man’s hand and getting things taken care of. It’s moments like that that make you appreciate the people you are with.

    • Reply Colorado Gal at

      It was definitely one of a few breaking points for me on the trip; I don’t scare easily (other than at nonsense scary movies and snakes!) but I was pretty scared. I had all sorts of thoughts going through my head about what would happen to us if we couldn’t find a place to sleep….Steve’s company definitely pulled me through on that one!

  • Reply Krysten at

    OMG this post was hilarious!!! And slightly painful! What an adventure!!! I am sorry girlie! Your biking adventure is so BADASS and crazy! Keep the tales coming! xox

  • Reply Anna S at

    What a crazy story!! I am definitely pro more travel stories. You have some amazing experiences.

  • Reply Kayla Carruth @ kpLoving It at

    Double gross. Of your stories are not boring!! I think a long time ago, I read all your old blog posts about y’alls trip!

    On my first travel assignment, we got to the San Fernando Valley a day early and didn’t know the area. Of course the apartment wasn’t going to be ready for us until the next day so we had to find a place to crash for the night. We decided not to stray far and found a hotel down the street that looked similar to the one you mentioned. When we looked around, we realized everything around us (advertisements, restaurants, street signs) was in spanish and beyond dingy. We walked to a place across the street to eat and could barely place our order because the waitress couldn’t understand us, then went back to the room, looked at each other and said, “Holy Mother Of Pearl, where did we move to? What have we done?” I slept with one eye open on top of the bed spread and don’t think Patrick slept a wink, all night, to make sure our trailer with our only belongings didn’t get broken into.

    As it turned out, our apartment was really nice, and the area wasn’t that bad either, we just lived half a mile away from a pretty sketchy area. (Actually right down the road from where they filmed the majority of the scenes from Super Bad!)

  • Reply Erin at

    I love these posts! I would have flipped out at that hotel woman! That rate for the room was insane too.

    • Reply Colorado Gal at

      That woman was a business woman, through and through! She saw a once-in-a-lifetime experience and definitely capitalized…to our detriment.

  • Reply Kayla Carruth @ kpLoving It at

    P.S. And I’m sure they thought WE were the trashy ones when we got caught sneaking out the next morning with our cat and litter box! haha.

  • Reply Abby at

    OMG I love this post. I can not believe you were there for Rita… and actually Rita WAS worse than Katrina. It was a category 5 when it hit land, Katrina was only cat 3 when it hit land. Katrina caused a lot of bad stuff afterwards, but Rita was under reported in Katrina’s wake… it was much stronger! I only know this because my husbands family lived through both! I’m so glad y’all found shelter that night (even if it was a crack den!)

  • Reply Christine at

    OMG YUCK!!!! I can’t even imagine both the stress of trying to find a hotel last minute with the Hurricane approaching, the nasty hotel operator and the gross room. Blah! Love these stories though.

    Grossest place we’ve stayed was a hotel in Montreal during Jazz fest. Simliar thing – last minute booking, everything sold out. This place was far from the city and gross. No AC and damp and humid and gross.

    PS your tan lines are awesome.

    • Reply Colorado Gal at

      Those suckers didn’t go away for months! I even had a diamond on my forehead from the sun going through my helmet’s visor 🙂

  • Reply PavementRunner at

    wow…. the adventures you go on. Impressive.

  • Reply realinto at

    Oh, Inthink I would have skipped the hotel and found a 24 hour truck stop or something. If possible, given the situation. The worst place I stayed at was at a hotel in Evansville, IN. It was liked you described and to make matters worse it was for my grandmas funeral. Gross!

    • Reply Colorado Gal at

      A 24 hour truck stop wouldn’t have helped us much for two days! 🙂

  • Reply Terzah at

    These are my favorites of your posts!

    I think I stayed in that hotel’s twin brother in Arkansas one time (what is it with the South and crappy hotels?). I also stayed in a real dump in Paris with my boyfriend once. But my worst hotel story is the one of the place I was forced to sleep in on my way to the Top of Utah marathon last year. I was driving alone and stopped in the one town along I-80 in Wyoming where there were any hotels–only to find out they were all filled with refinery workers come to town for the season. I ended up in a scary little hovel and got very little sleep worrying about bedbugs and intruders–not the way you want to sleep two nights before a marathon.

    Can’t wait for the next bike adventure chapter!

  • Reply Heidi @BananaBuzzbomb at

    I remember that the first post I ever read of yours was part of this “series”. They make me smile and cringe all at the same time. Keep ’em coming! Oh yeah, and we definitely need to go on an adventure together. =)

  • Reply Misti at

    I’ve stayed in some shady places, the two worst being one place in Cameron, Louisiana a similar motel but actually clean…a little skeptical at first but turned out alright…and the second a really ratty ‘motel’/duplex place in Sabine Pass, Tx. This was for a sea turtle tagging internship I did in college….and I’m like you, I can handle some rustic settings but sometimes the indoors is even filthier than the outside.

    (Follow you on Twitter, but I think this is the first time I’ve clicked through on a link)

  • Reply Heidi Nicole at

    Well, now you know where addicts crash…and why they stick to being addicts!

    I’ve spent too many years working in hotels – I’m a huge hotel snob and would have probably completely lost it if I had to open the door to that!

  • Reply Big Daddy Diesel at

    Your bike trip posts are my all time favorite to read

  • Reply Jimmy at

    Great Read!!! I will take the bait…my all-time worst place to sleep was during the Race Across America, 1992. I was a crew member and I had to sleep one night in a parking lot on the pavement in Palm Springs, CA. There was a 3 foot high cinder-block wall between me and the hills. You could hear the coyotes howling all night long-because i did not get much shut-eye!

  • Reply Suz and Allan at

    Oh gosh, that sounds awful! I can only hope you guys had a much better experience in Alabama. If not then I promise to make it up to you if you ever return to the South!

  • Reply Christine @ Oatmeal Bowl at

    Okay, scary ewwww! but glad you guys were safe. i’d wear all my clothes and shoes, too. don’t blame ya one bit!

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