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The Herald, Friday, January 10, 1990
Wanted:  A room
Hunt can yield a treasure
It is illegal to pedal a bike on the interstate highways.  That leaves the secondary roads, which make traveling by bike such a wonderfully clandestine operation.
The two-lane roads meander across the countryside and pass through towns too small to have a name.  Herein lies a special joy. You see the sights, smell the air and meet people who have time to talk at whatever length you like.
The only drawback is that after all the riding, looking, talking and enjoying, you eventually have to find someplace to spend the night.  Through trial and error, I have ruled out camping.  The equipment is too heavy to haul and sleeping on the ground is for snakes and people who haven't just pedaled a bicycle 100 miles.  I'll have a hot shower, a warm bed and some TV, thank you.
The location of the next motel governed much of my ride from Rock Hill to Utah.  After I crossed the Mississippi River, the towns were much farther apart and I took advantage of whatever accommodations I could find.  I had some short days when lunchtime found me in a "stayable" town 80 miles from the next facilities.  I sometimes had to ride more than I wanted when a target on the map proved to be little more than a stop sign.
In Fredericktown, Mo., I finally found the local inn after a hot 87-mile day.  A police car parked in the motel's parking lot belonged to the motel's owner.  When I checked in the man behind the counter said, "I own this here motel, and I'm also the sheriff, so we don't have any trouble here.  In fact, you can just leave your bike outside if you want to."
I told the sheriff I would much rather have the bike in the room with me.  He was puzzled by this but he obliged.  True to the sheriff's word, we didn't have one bit of trouble at the motel all night long.
The big-name chain motels are the most comfortable places to stay, but the sometimes lack the character found in the smaller family-operated lodges.  Perhaps the most pleasant surprise during my ride to Utah was found in one of these "mom and pop" motels in Plainville, Kan.
I rolled into Plainville and found the motel just off to one side of the major intersection (the one with the stoplight).  Even as I signed up at the lobby, the friendly lady behind the counter gave me no reason to suspect that the Evergreen Motel was any different from all the others I had seen.  She handed me the key and told me where the ice machine was.
When I opened the door to the room I was greeted by a scene from "Gone With the Wind."  The room bore every resemblance to a "look but don't touch" bedroom in some Southern antebellum mansion.
To begin with, the room was polished to an immaculate state.  Every piece of furniture was a solid oak antique.  The bed was so high off the floor that there was an oak stepping stool beside it.  There was a round-back rocking chair, an oak chest of drawers and a sitting chair done in olive upholstery to match the room's carpet.  Atop the oak desk beside the telephone was an ink pen in a stand.  The pen had a big feather plume in the end of the handle.  Beside the pen were several thick history books with titles such as "Lincoln," and "The Gettysburg Address."
On the shelf under the television was an old china foot-washing tub and the decorative pitcher that went with it.  On the walls were portraits of presidents Washington, Lincoln, Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt.  Each portrait had a condensed biography attached.
It was all quite hard to believe at the cost of $19.  I went back to the office to get some explanation for this most uncommon motel room.  The lady behind the counter had herself a belly laugh when she saw how astonished I was.
"Aw, it's just a collection of stuff I had no other use for.  After some deals with several of my relatives I ended up with all the antiques.  They were just gathering dust, so I decided to use them to spruce up the motel.  I named the room you're in the President's Room."
It turned out that mine was only one of several specially prepared rooms.  There was the Carrousel Room, full of antique hobby horses.  There was the Hunter's Room with stuffed animals and other tricks from the taxidermist.  The lady said nearly all of the motel's rooms had at least one or two items that lent a personal touch.  "I just enjoy piddling around with things," she explained.
My main concern was for all the collectable items she had in the rooms.  Had she ever been stolen from? She said the antiques have stayed put for years, but on one occasion somebody took a television set and her dog.  The dog was returned, but the TV stayed gone.
That's not a bad record considering the value of the merchandise in some of those rooms.  Maybe the TLC that went into the decorating rubs off on everybody, even the bad guys.  From my experience there aren't very many bad guys in Kansas anyway.

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