Thursday, November 12, 2009

Notel Motel

My onboard library.

I've mentioned before that we don't have sleepers, so it's motels for us all the way, baybee. I prefer that policy, frankly - I get a clean (normally) bed, hot shower, cable tv and these days some sort of internet. Beats what I'd have in a sleeper. Yeah, I could carry a television/dvd player and a ton of DVDs like many do, plus I could get an air card. Why would I want to - when a motel room is the other choice? So, motels it is - but with one caveat - it has to have truck parking. Sometimes we'll drop our trailers at a truck stop or on the delivery site and bobtail to the motel, but it's a lot more convenient if they have the room for the truck and trailer. Bonus for more than one truck, and extra bonus if it's easy access and wide loads can be wedged in there somehow.

So, I've formed some biases about what chains are better. If you look at the average Holiday Inn Express parking lot, you'll notice that a large pickup would have some difficulty navigating the various barriers. Clearly, they want an upscale image that doesn't include trucks and trailers. So, unless they are the only game in town that has a room - I avoid them. Screw 'em if they don't want my business. Too bad, because they have one of the best "free" breakfasts going. But they should, considering what they charge for rooms. Some of the older regular Holiday Inns actually have truck parking, but as with most older motels, they are overrated. Maybe twenty years ago they were something, but now it's just a room with standard amenities the average Super 8 has. That goes for Best Westerns and Ramada Inns, too. New ones - pretty slick. Older - not so much. So, Holiday Inn Express - if you are in a car, fine. Truck - not so much. Holiday Inn, Ramada, and Best Western - generally overrated and overpriced if they aren't nearly new.

Which brings me to the reigning champ of lower end motels - Super 8. They're everywhere, and lots have some sort of truck parking. Quality varies - but most reach a comfortable level of competence. They get most of my business just because of sheer numbers. Some of the older ones are a little rough around the edges, even if they've been freshened up lately. For years, their "book" was quite informative, but the new "International" version is pretty sparse. The older book had small maps orienting the location with the local roads, exits off the interstate, and various eateries. The new book - no maps or local info. Plus, I've discovered the hard way that some motel owners have no clue what truck parking really means - it doesn't mean a string of car parking in a corner that takes ten minutes or more of maneuvering to park just one rig. Just because a rig can get on a lot and eventually park doesn't mean the motel should pat themselves on the butt for such a great job. Actually, the some of the worst ones I've run into that do this are in Michigan, but Oklahoma has it's fair share, too. On the other hand, there are some Super 8s in Michigan that have exemplary parking - paved lots with generously marked slots, perfectly placed plug ins for winter, and easy pull through. Ionia and Charlotte - I'm looking at you here.

Days Inn is supposed to be upscale from Super 8 - but not so much in the past few years. Most are pretty sad, showing their age and looking a bit rough around the edges. I know from talking to several Super 8 managers that they've gone on a major realignment of their image, and that means a lot of remodeling. Anecdotal - I have not seen a new Days Inn in a long time. Lots of brand spankin' new 8s out there, though. There are nice Days Inns out there (like the one at Pontoon Beach IL), but there are a lot that aren't so much.

Then, we've got to consider Motel 6 - yeah, they'll leave the light on for ya, but most don't even give you a tiny squirt of shampoo. Gawd forbid if you should need to blow your nose - that's what toilet paper is for, I guess. Most are clean and they are kinda late to the "free" internet game, but they are coming along. I've discovered that in some cases, their pricing may even be higher than the Super 8 or similar next door. So much for cutting out all the unnecessary frills to save money. Often, it's within five bucks or so. As far as I'm concerned a bowl of cereal, internet access, tissue paper, and a larger television to watch in perhaps a king bed instead of always queens is worth that five bucks. I'm 6'3" so queen beds can be a bit short. Plus, their motel book will show truck parking if said parking is within a half mile of the property. Now, I can always use some more exercise, but at the end of the day, I'm not particularly interested in hiking a half mile to a motel carrying my bag and laptop. Plus having my truck that far away makes me uncomfortable. If I've stayed there before and found it acceptable -then they'll get my business. The ones in Vernal UT and Grand Island NE get my repeat business.

Then, dropping down the scale a little more - Budget Host and Americas Best Value. This is where former Super 8s that couldn't keep up their franchise go to live on in their tattered splendor. This may or may not be a totally fair statement - there are some of these that are pretty decent, but many are certainly not. I stay at some when I have to, not because they would be my first, second or even third choice. Most aren't very expensive, but even then, some are over priced.

Speaking of choices - this gets us to Choice Hotels - which includes Comfort Inns, Sleep Inns, Quality Inns and Econo Lodges and Rodeways. The first three are usually always pretty nice. I've stayed in some older Comfort Inns that weren't real shiny slick, but they didn't charge Best Western prices, either. Usually, they're fairly new and the amenities (definitely breakfast) are superior to most of the other similarly priced chains. Their "book" is informative as well - and quite a few of them have pretty decent truck parking. I don't remember staying in a Rodeway - I have stayed in a mom'n'pop that used to be one - and it was fairly nice. Econo Lodges are catch as catch can. Most are older and a bit shopworn. On the whole, most of the Choice Hotel offerings are high quality and a fair price.

I've got three other books that I use rarely - Drury Hotels, AmercInn, and America's Best Inns and Suites. I keep them because of three locations I use once in a while. Drury is right up there with Holiday Inn Express. It should be considering what they charge - but the amenities are first class. I stay at one in St. Joseph MO - good place. I find myself staying at Salina KS once in a while, and the America's Best there is a very nice place, and within about seven or eight bucks of the neighboring Motel 6. Plus, that Motel 6 charges two bucks for their internet service. I've only stayed in one AmericInn that I can remember, and it's a good one. Belle Fourche SD - and it's the equal of any Holiday Inn Express, particularly when it comes to breakfast - at a Choice Hotel level of pricing. Tubby trucker recommends this place.

I was talking about this with my boss the other day - he prefers Hampton Inns. However, he's in a far different situation that us truckers. He's generally just flown into a major city for a conference and has a rental car when he gets there. He says they are consistent in their quality, with no problems to disturb him while he's working. I have not seen very many Hampton Inns located anywhere near where trucks even want to tread, much less out in Whistle Stop Montana or Sun Spot Texas where we usually are. But, as long as I'm critiquing here, I thought I'd toss in his thoughts from a businessman's viewpoint.

So, all in all, I'm pretty partial to Comfort Inns and Super 8s - they get most of my business.


CGHill said...

I do about 60-65 percent Choice Hotels on my furious cross-country runs, and HI/X makes up most of the rest. Then again, I'm not pulling a trailer.

The Local Malcontent said...

I will say the obvious:
Like truckstops, I will stay at motels where I see many semis and 18-wheelers parked, knowing that it is usually a better motel.

Got any favorites in this part of Oklahoma, Jeffro? Or is a trip to these parts get you back home by nightfall?

Jeffro said...

When I'm in your area, an overnight stay is required. I deliver to BP in Hartshorne frequently. The yard closes at 4pm, so if I don't make it in time, it's the Best Western in McAlester. If I do get unloadeded and headed back, I generally stop at the Super 8 in Henryetta. It's not the best example of the chain, but they give me a rate - $40. I used to go on to Shawnee - that's where I'd get close on hours. There is some truck parking behind the Denny's with the Motel 6 and a Days Inn very close. That particular 6 didn't have internet access, so I started staying at the Day's Inn - and it's a good one. But, the local truckers seemed to think that was a repository for their trailers - there were plenty of nights I'd have to really worm my way into a parking spot because that lot was full of dropped trailers. Plus, Henryetta was cheaper.

If I have to go on to DFW (to pick up some production parts), I have been stopping at the Best Western in Atoka - and fuel at the casino truckstop at Stringtown. There is a brand new Super 8 there that I'll probably start using - the Best Western is ok, but I'm not sure it's $85 to $95 ok. There's another brand new 8 at Kiowa - but there aren't any restaurants close by.

Before the oil boom went bust, it was difficult to get a room at the Best Westerns - so in McAlester I'd stay at the Days Inn next door. It was kinda sleazy, frankly. I see it's one of several HiWay (name???) Inns now - the one to the north has truck parking, but I've never tried it. I noticed they did do a bunch of remodeling in the past couple years. I tried the Super 8 - but the advertised truck parking is pretty scant. I stayed at a mom'n'pop in Durant once, but getting to their truck parking was a squeeze, and the parking area was pretty miniscule.

Another Days Inn with good truck parking is in Paris, TX - it's been three or four years since I stayed there. It was pretty decent then.

One place in McAlester I've always wanted to try, but never really went by at the right time is Speed Trap BBQ. Is it worth the stop?

The Local Malcontent said...

I've heard great things about Speedtrap BBQ, but I've never eaten there either.
When I am in big Mac, tradition takes me over and I always end up wolfing down at the Casino or at Braum's on Carl Albert... I'm such a 1/3# cheezburger jerk.