Thursday, September 08, 2011

A Nashville Tale [Brian's Story]

Brian had a pretty incredible experience in Nashville, though I'm not speaking of the race. Here's a true tale of a runner's attempt to reach the starting line of a destination race.

"The story of my first experience doing a destination race starts with fading sunlight in the city of lost children. 

No, wait, that's not where it starts.  The events leading up to that are every bit as important for the reader, to provide the proper context.  It is April in Chicago.  I'm planning to leave for Florida for a week to visit my grandpa and play some golf ... and then head to Nashville to meet up with my friends for the Country Music Half Marathon. 

My last training run before the half was 8 miles.  Well, it was supposed to be 10, but since I hadn't run anything longer than 10k in months ... the training run, at 95 degrees on a humid Florida morning, didn't go smoothly.  This was further complicated by something my Chicago Lakeshore trail training didn't prepare me for - how the properly share the trail with Alligators. 

So back to the city of lost children.  I try desperately to never book flights out of Orlando.  Millions of children of all ages, all backgrounds, nationalities, cultures and customs ... all with one thing in common.  They are all crying because they don't want to leave Disney World.  So my exit from the city of lost children is filled with their cries and their howls (which I drown out with my iPhone and headphones).  And my journey has yet to begin.

Because I made the brilliant decision not to stay downtown in the $500/night Holiday Inn Express with my group (Important note:  All of them are women) the night before the race, because I ... um ... the morning of a race.  You know, there are things.  One needs to do.  So after a lovely dinner with the group, I headed off to check in at my hotel - you know, the one that's not conveniently located. 

Backing up a moment, when I picked up my rental car (note:  a VERY nice Ford Escape - I was really, really impressed with the vehicle) they offered me a GPS for $20 a day.  Now, I have an iPhone - what do I need a GPS for?

Does everyone remember that part where I was drowning out the cries of the children by playing music?  Anyone with an iPhone knows what's about to happen.

THe address for the hotel on my reservation actually doesn't exist.  I'm staying at a very nice, classy Days Inn near what appears to be the airport. 

Actually, that's the address that doesn't exist.  After a quick call using SYNC (yes, it works) (iPhone Battery 6%), the guy at the hotel gives me a different address, which doesn't appear to be as close to the airport.  But upon arriving, I realize it is actually closer to things ... hm, how to say this ... nearer to say, night workers.  

As I pull up to the hotel - the impossibly steep driveway that reaches the hotel perched high on a hill overlooking what could only be described as a sketchy diner - complete with thuggy late-teen, early 20s folks in loitering in the parking lot.  But that's not really what I noticed first.  No, its the crime scene tape blocking two of the rooms on the second floor.  That's what really draws my eyes.

Upon entering, there are several people in the lobby ahead of me.  At this point, I'm concerned about the wellbeing of my rental.  The guys behind the counter - two guys of Indian descent - both have their shirts unbuttoned further than is appropriate, and both are wearing gold chains.  I've actually walked into a SNL sketch.  For the first 5 minutes, literally nothing is said.  The two are on the phone, apparently on hold, no one in the lobby is talking ... its just weird.  Oh, and the people in the lobby - the "couple" in front of me - a guy who clearly came to Nashville to be a rock star - Jack White meets Kid Rock - and his ... um, escort - a charming couple.  He - despite not actually actively smoking, he was producing a full cloud of an entire bar of cigarettes ... from his faded and cracked leather jacket and ironic t-shirt.  (Her dress, on the other hand was certainly far too small to retain any such odors).

When its finally my turn ... the guy explains to me that ... my room isn't available - indicating the upstairs where the crime scene tape is.  Now, I should point out, that I pre-paid for this room ($45) though American Express - its not just a reservation, its a pre-pay.  But, he can't offer me my money back ... instead, he'll book me at the sister property ... just down the road. 

Now, I can't argue with going anywhere that's not this place.  I'm in.  Nothing could be worse.  But, I tell him I need extended checkout.  I need to have the room until 3pm.  (I'm thinking I didn't want to leave my luggage in the back of the rental while we run the race).  He agrees for $15 I can have extended checkout. I give him the cash, and he gives me, in return, a business card with the words "checkout at 3pm OK" scribbled on it (Note: Easy way to save $15). 

Now I'm off to the next property.  Americas Best Value Inn.  It is NOT just down the road, its another 10 miles away.  And its 11pm.  iPhone battery = dead.  Race meeting time 5am. 

Ok, I show up, and I'm in another movie, but this one is far creepier.  There's no one in the parking lot, and it ALMOST looks passable as a hotel.  Of course the guy at the desk (also a wild and crazy guy, but this one of eastern european descent) tries to haggle with me about the checkout, and about the room in general ... calls the other hotel ... begrudgingly gives me my key.  And then I walk into the room.

Holy mother of god, I wasn't prepared for this.  The first thing that draws your eye, after the horrifying polyester bedspread and the broken lighting fixture is the bloodstain on the floor.  It also had a few drips ... like whomever was bleeding was trying to either get to the place they bled the most, or trying to get away from it.  Whichever, the efforts to remove the stain were weak. 

Then I noticed the fact that the toilet wouldn't stop running (and the water squeaked) and when I went to go over and have a look, that's when i found the toilet seat was not attached to the toilet.  Hmmph.  Oh, oh oh... and they have haphazardly screwed plywood over the area under the sink. (Later, I learned this is a precaution to prevent their clientele from removing the pipes to sell as scrap - typically in exchange for crystal meth.) 

There are no bedbugs.  its late.  I'm tired, and I need to get to sleep. 

When I wake up (at 430), and realize my luggage is FAR safer in the back of my rental than it is in this room, I carry everything to the car.  I walk by the office, and the guy behind the desk (wild, crazy guy #3) now has his shirt off standing at the desk and is either dancing or copulating with an unseen party ... or just being extra special creepy.  As I'm loading my luggage into the car ... a woman - EYES WIDE OPEN, very few teeth - walks by and says "OH!  I'm surprised to see someone!  I thought i was the only crazy one up this early!" ... and wanders off. 

Lesson learned.  Sharing a room with 3 girls is TOTALLY ok. "

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