When we last saw our two riders, they were headed west out of Des Moines in search of food and loding for the night...it was getting dark and they were riding into a thunderstorm.
So I remembered why the ride out of Des Moines was so troublesome. We had already rode a ton of miles, the lodging situation looked bleak, and there was lightning out on the horizon with some black skies that had swallowed the setting sun. GPS was coming up empty...it just kept insisting that we turn back...I was wondering if we would have to ride all the way to Nebraska in the storm. At that point I saw an exit and a few buildings up on the right side of the road. As we neared this little oasis, it looked a bit sketchy...like maybe Pizza Guy knew exactly what he was talking about. I opted to ride right past the exit; I imagine much to M!ke's abject disappointment. Just as we passed the exit, I saw a really big bolt of lightning out on the horizon and I immediately regretted my decision. A dive motel has got to be better than being caught out here on the highway in the dark, in a storm, tired, and hungry. Just as I was contemplating a quick jump across the median and a reverse in direction, an exit sign popped up. There were no services, but the map on the GPS indicated that I could circle around on some local roads and get back to the sketchy motel I saw. We made the turn and rode a mile or two back to the Bates Motel. We had just arrived in beautiful Adair, Iowa. As in "Ay-dare you to spend the night here".
M!ke seemed to have mixed emotions as he pulled off his helmet. Sure, he had ridden 725 miles today and there was a storm about to engulf us, but this place had a vibe like the movie Wrong Turn; like the cars in the parking lots had once belonged to victims instead of current patrons. It was my turn to pay so I hurried inside to secure a room before the storm hit.
The gentleman behind the desk was very polite and the rate was pretty cheap so I figured we'd be OK...I was in the Army after all...I have encountered some less than posh accomodations. The most curious part about my interaction with the proprietor was just how many times he assured me that this was a "safe location". Now, aside from my neon yellow suit, I am a 6' tall / 210 lb guy travelling by motorcycle with another guy who's not exactly a twink. I don't generally give off a nervous vibe, but this guy made it a point to assure me of my safety 3 times in a 5 minute transaction. That seemed odd.
He gave us a room on the backside of the motel where he assured me we'd be able to see the motorcycles from our room. I wasn't really concerned about standing guard over the bikes all night...this was a "safe place" after all, but the way he said it gave me pause. I was reconsidering my decision not to carry a sidearm on the trip...not really, but the whole situation made me laugh a bit.
So back out to the bikes...wind is really picking up...storm is moving in...we sadlle up and ride around back...park the bikes and go inside to survey the accomodations. The vibe in the hallway immediately confirmed Pizza Guy's credibility. The carpets are stained, half the lights are out, the vending machine is completely empty, and some of the doors look like they had been mauled by bears. I'd recommend Pizza Guy as a trip advisor if you're ever in the Des Moines area - he knows some things. So we go into the room and its a dump as you might expect, but I've slept in far worse and its only one night. Besides, there's a restaurant within walking distance...more on that later.
So M!ke decides to take care of some business in the bathroom and I head out to start unloading my bike. I grab a couple bags and as I'm headed for the door, this sketchy looking guy with no shirt and more tattoos than teeth comes rushing towards me. My arms are full so all I can do is stop and see what he wants. What he says now if a first for me...at least the first time I've heard it behind a sketchy motel in Adair, Iowa with a storm just minutes from hitting...
"Hey man, can I take some pictures of your bike?"
This was not what I was expecting, but I said "Sure man, knock yourself out" and cruised inside; confident that my motorcycle would be sold on Iowa Craigslist before morning. I went back to the room and started unpacking. Mike came out of the bathroom and headed outside to start unpacking his bike. A few minutes later he comes in and says there's some sketchy looking dude taking pictures of our motorcycles. WTF?!
I said "No man, he's cool, I told him he could. He's got a Craigslist thing going on.
M!ke was beside himself. I was cracking myself up. By the time I got back to the bikes, Craig from Craigslist was done taking photos and had disappeared into the warren of the basement level of the Bates Motel. I got the sneaking suspiscion that many of the "guests" on this level of the motel were actually "residents"...like "long term, cooking dinner on an iron wedged between two sneakers" kinda residents.
(Don't laugh, I routinely prepared food in the Army on an iron wedged between a pair of boots and facing up. "Would you like your grilled cheese permanent press or linen?")
So M!ke and I had a system when it came time to unpack at night. It seemed to work out that one of us would always be at the bikes unpacking and one at the room dropping stuff off. This allowed us to leave our bikes with the panniers wide open and the room unlocked without too much worry about security. It worked well for the entire trip.
As M!ke was coming out to the bikes and I was going in with a load of stuff, I ran into a peculiar fellow in the hall. He was just standing there...looking at me...kinda stooped over. As I neared him, I gave him my customary "Hey, how's it goin'?" and he just kinda grunted and said something I couldn't understand. He had this smell about him...a really strong, smokey, chemical kinda smell that I've never smelled before...not cigarettes or weed...something completely foreign to me...maybe it was meth...I've never smelled meth. Anyhow, as I passed, he immediately started following me up the hall. I laughed to myself about the proprietor's redundant assertions of safety. As I approached my door, he was right on my heels. I stopped and he stopped. I turned to look at him and he was standing in front of the door right next to me. I pretended to fumble for my key card (even though I knew my door was unlocked) just to see what he was up to. He never made eye contact even though we were standing 3 feet apart and he went into his room. When the door swung open, the smell came rolling out to greet us. God knows what he had going on in there.
After that, M!ke showed up and I let him know that there was a meth lab next door, our bikes were already up on Craigslist, and we would likely be killed while we slept. In typical M!ke fashion, he said "That's cool, let's go get some dinner." The bikes were covered up and we headed across the parking lot to the Happy Chef...the rain was coming down now.
Home Sweet Home - we'll come back to this in a bit