The Budget Hotel

From time to time I write something in Day One that I feel others may enjoy. This past weekend after a five day work run out of town I found myself driving south toward home knowing I wouldn’t make it all the way without falling asleep at the wheel so I started keeping an eye out for a hotel and thankfully just as I was having to shake off the exhaustion settling in, I found one. Below you will find the entry from the following morning, in two parts:

Late last night I stopped in an odd little motel simply called “Budget Inn” on the way back from a simple gig at a Frat party for an 80’s cover band. I came across a strip of hotels on a small highway in the middle of VA at around 3:30am and figured I should stop rather than risk an all night drive home. I checked in and blacked out after posting a photo of the room to YWO. This motel is the kind of motel you would start a meth lab in, or discover a weird murder in, or hide from the police. It’s the sort of place that you would imagine affairs took place and roaches secretly infest somewhere just out of sight. The skunk like stink from too many cigarettes burning through. But, it is what it is, and I for one am thankful for it because it was the only place around without a “NO” in front of the neon vacancy sign so here I am, well(isn) rested and ready to get out of here.


20 minutes later… Well, judge not… said someone, somewhere. I leave the room and realized that I actually slept quite well and remembered waking up noticing how firm the mattress was where as most of these types of motels are notorious for having the worst mattresses you could imagine. Ones which leave you sinking down to the floor and waking up with a curved spine. Anyway, as I walk toward reception to check out I have a flashback of the messy haired man who checked me in through a tiny plexiglass window late last night after ringing his bell a couple of times. Clearly I woke him and I remembered feeling a bit guilty about it. I step into the office and immediately get a kick back to my time spent in India. The room smells of Indian Spices, subtle but there, stuck to the walls like the stale cigarette smoke from the room the night before yet clearly a much more favorable experience. The same man walks out well composed this time and I recognize he is an older Indian man. Easier to recognize without jaded, sleep deprived eyes and a desperation to find a bed to sleep in.

With a little smile and a tilted head he asks if everything was ok and if I was checking out. “Yes, and yes, time to head back home,” I said with a smile. I thanked him and left the room. On the way out of the office to the van a cleaning man speaks up and asks, “did you sleep well?.” “Yep, sure did!,” I replied. He then goes on to tell me that many of the rooms had brand new mattresses in them. Which explains the more comfortable than I expected night of sleep I managed to get as well as the old mattresses leaning up against the outside of the motel which I had hastily assumed were ruined from a night gone wrong.

I have no idea why my mind was wading in such pessimism late last night. This constant stream of work and time away from home must have been getting to me. I am thankful though, to have had a reminder that even in shady places in the middle of nowhere USA, there is kindness and a certain level of acceptance that comes with the territory. Not all of us travel, not all of us have lofty ambitions and websites and iPads. Sometimes a slowly eroding motel in the middle of nowhere is more than enough and I for one am thankful I stopped through last night. Oddly enough, it has left me with a renewed sense of creativity and purpose. It’s so easy to loose sight of the simple pleasures and misstep in your assumption of others around you.

So, sitting here outside at a picnic table on this cool fall morning, watching locals mumble through their late morning at a gas station nearby, I’m sipping on bad coffee and watching a steady stream of large pickup trucks and boots with suits fresh from church filter in and out. There is a real beauty hiding here in the honesty of this moment and I plan on taking full advantage of it.



  1. SoundMan - October 30, 2013 at 1:17 am

    Bravo – Yet another wonderful story.

  2. Nat - November 2, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    John, you are such a great writer. Your voice is earnest, refreshing, and open-minded. Really, you have yet another career option.

    I agree completely, as well. There is so much that small, unassuming places have to offer. Lots of places that can hold their own against the big city. Including my little town. :)

  3. Dave - November 3, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    Very nicely written, John. You raised the corner of my mouth as I read your words, sitting in a dimly lit room myself (though, not from a motel). It’s true it’s all too easy to forget the beauty and even peacefulness that surrounds us so often. I know it took me a month and then some of being “away from it all” to dig myself out of the ignorant emptiness of grayness and re-remember the colors that surround me. It’s a constant challenge, especially living in a crowded city. For me, at least :-).

  4. Ralph - November 5, 2013 at 5:04 am

    Hey John, Thanks for this story! I do have a request though… That picture with the hanger…. Could you share that in your Desktops-series? Beautiful B/W!
    Thanks in advance!
    – A fan from Amsterdam ;)

  5. Brett Nordquist - November 7, 2013 at 12:38 am

    I enjoy a surprise and your story was not predictable at all. I figured you were heading in a direction before you changed pace and brought out a lesson all of us in the world of tech can remember: not everyone cares about the latest specs of the new iPhone/iPad/Nexus/Galaxy. Some people are trying to make a living providing a simple service. Kudos for recognizing the simplicity of the moment instead of searching for shortcomings.

  6. The Way I Journal: John Carey | Day One - February 19, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    […] The Budget Hotel […]

  7. Dave Lawrence Photography | - July 27, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    […] The Budget Hotel […]

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