You would think meeting racing legends and top corporate executives in the motorcycle industry would warrant a good story, but, unfortunately, this adventure is about surviving a lodging experience at what will herein be referred to as “The Resort.”
The AIMExpo is an international trade show, held once a year in Orlando, Florida, for all that is motorcycle. Manufacturers unveil their new models and concept bikes, while aftermarket companies bring their A game and try to lure new retailers and customers.
For me, AIMExpo was an opportunity to share my story with companies and manufacturers from across the globe, meet potential sponsors and chase leads on speaking opportunities.
Captain Kirk helped me book a few nights at a motel close to the convention center. I wasn’t going for ambiance, as I just needed a cheap place to sleep. I rode the 1400 miles to Orlando and checked in. I was beyond exhausted and barely noticed the squad cars partially blocking the parking lot or the people hanging out in the shadows. While walking around the building looking for my room, a sheet of water cascaded over the balcony above barely missing my head. It wasn’t raining, so I stepped out a bit to witness a guy squeegeeing the carpet from a room on the second floor. “Thank you,” I waved.
I strong-armed my way into my room; evidence of multiple forced entries lined the door jam. The room was very basic but appeared neat. I took a shower and attempted to use the phone to call the front desk. The remote did nothing, and the TV didn’t seem to have any cable wires going to it. Unfortunately, the phone was missing a few parts, such as buttons with numbers. I tried to look up the hotel on the Internet, only to find that the free Wi-Fi advertised online was only free after paying a one-time fee of $14.95 per night. I switched on my phone’s cellular data and began to read the reviews posted about this “Resort.” I quickly decided to return to the parking lot and strip my bike of everything valuable or shiny.
I convinced myself angry prima donnas and rival establishments had written the reviews; no motel could have so many horrible reviews and still be in business, right? The bad reviews shared a common theme of identity theft, missing electronics and diminishing bath towels. The last review I read was, “RUN AWAY, NOW.”
Completely exhausted, I turned off my phone, closed my eyes and fell instantly to sleep.
At half past midnight, a pounding on my door and a peek out the window brought my first encounter with the Orlando Police Department. I unlocked the deadbolt and creaked out, “Yes?”
“Are you Longhaulpaul?”
Now, to be fair, I had just ridden 18 hours straight, and my cognitive deficiencies from multiple sclerosis (MS) have been well documented, so was I wrong to think the paparazzi had found me?
“Isn’t it a little late for an autograph?”
The officer chuckled and held up a set of keys.
“Are these yours?”
While patrolling the surrounding parking lots he had spotted my Yamaha and was a bit worried to see the saddlebags open and the keys dangling from the lock!
“I looked over your bike, I don’t think anything was stolen, so I locked your bags up for you. I took one of your brochures. I can’t wait to read more about your adventures. Be careful my friend, you do know this is one of the worst motels in Orlando, right?”
After staying at over 100 motels this year, I left my keys and luggage wide open in the only one that had police patrolling the parking lots with assault rifles. I woke up early with plenty of time to get ready and have breakfast before riding over to the convention center. I went to the front desk and told them I did not want room service. Many of the reviews I’d read the night before said room service removed the used towels each day, but never replaced them with clean ones.
I asked about the TV and the remote not working, and the woman laughed out loud, “You don’t know how lucky you are to even have a remote.”
My important question was about coffee. The clerk directed me to the Resort’s breakfast suite where I could enjoy coffee and a free breakfast.
In the light, I finally got a good look at the advertised newly landscaped grounds and relaxing outdoor pool. If it weren’t the yellow police tape that kept me from the pool area, it would be the fear of leaving my socks and shoes unattended at the lounge chairs.
As I entered the breakfast suite, my eyes were first drawn to the security guard sitting on a stool in the back of the room, protecting the intercontinental smorgasbord. I nodded hello and pumped out a cup of something labeled “house blend”. There were three tubs of food against a wall, a bucket of unidentified cereal and a jar labeled TIPS, pre-populated with a crumpled dollar bill. The three tubs contained white sliced bread, off-white sliced bread, and one cinnamon roll. I wasn’t sure if I should take the only pastry. I looked to the guard for some sign of approval or guidance. Her right hand was hovering over her weapon. I decided I was entitled to the one pastry; after all, I was the early bird. With sleight of hand, I palmed the rare pastry and disappeared into the dining area.
My surroundings came slowly into focus. The breakfast suite was actually composed of two adjacent motel rooms melded together with a circulating saw and a sledgehammer. One room had the elaborate buffet and the other was the dining area with tables covered in red plastic. A makeshift curtain had partitioned off the room’s toilet and shower area. Blocking the door was a small table with a lonely toaster chained to the wall. A flower vase attempted to conceal the wall-mounted HVAC system. While taking the first and last bite of pastry, I could not help but notice how the faded paint on the scarred wall had a stenciled shape remarkably similar to that of a queen-sized headboard.
I shuttered at the thought of hundreds, if not thousands, of theme park visitors who had celebrated their vacation by pounding a headboard into the stucco wall that was now just inches from my breakfast. I quietly regurgitated the partially petrified confection into my napkin. Being a moto-journalist can be very dangerous, but I knew documenting this adventure was important—without pictures, who would ever believe me? I covertly snapped photos as I made my daring escape from the breakfast suite.
At the convention, Yamaha introduced a concept dirt tracker bike and new models to the press. They were also kind enough to mention me and the number of miles I’d rode on my Super Tenere. I spent the day visiting with potential sponsors before heading back to my room late in the evening.
I thought I had made it clear that I did not want room service, but someone had entered and removed the towel I had hung over the rusty curtain rod to dry. Of course, they did not leave a clean one to replace it, just like the reviews said. I counted three remaining towels. The following morning I again neatly hung the towel to reuse, and again told the front desk that I did not want anyone to clean my room.
On the second day of the AIMExpo, I was able to get my bike into a sponsor’s booth and spend the day handing out brochures and explaining my goal to ride a million miles as an advocate for MS. I went out for dinner and drinks with friends, walked back to my room late and was quite exhausted.
I slept in the third morning, and when I went to use the bathroom, something was leaking onto my head as soon as I sat on the toilet. Liquid was dripping out of a vent and for the first time, I noticed mold on the ceiling. I grabbed one of the two towels (only two towels?) and wrapped it on my head until I was done. I could hear the occupant in the room above me was clearly using the shower. I prayed it was a leaky water pipe and not the tub drain. Grossed out, I tried to take a shower myself but had no hot water. I had to wait for my neighbor to finish before I could shower. I dried myself off with the last remaining clean towel.
The fourth day at the convention was mostly spent telling this “resort-from-hell” story. Worried about my safety, my friends at Twisted Throttle offered to share one of their hotel rooms. I was on the fence; after all, the resort adventure was not over yet, and I was no quitter! We each went back to our own hotels to clean up and agreed to meet later for dinner. After making my way past a group arguing on the walkway and kicking open my room’s door, reality and the heebe geebees hit me hard. An army of bugs scurried under the bed. My underwear looked like it had been rifled through and on the rack in the bathroom I noticed what looked like dried blood. I hadn’t noticed it before because now the towel rack (are you kidding me?) HAD NO TOWELS ON IT! With only one night to go, I quit, cried “Uncle” and couldn’t leave the nasty room fast enough.
I packed all my clothes and phoned my friends to make sure the offer to crash with them was still available; otherwise, I’d be heading for a park bench. After packing up the bike, I went to the front desk and waited patiently in the complaint line. I didn’t expect much, but I felt the need to voice my opinion of their so-called resort. Well, that was until I overheard the following exchange:
“Can I help you?”
“Yeah, I was just bitten by a rat.”
“That’s terrible, would you prefer a room on the
“Nah, but can I get two free Cokes?”