A Vacation Horror Story, Set In A Bad Motel

Listener Mark Smedal of Jeffersonville, Ind., adds to our collection of Vacation Horror Stories with his tale about a bargain motel that sounded too good to be true. The first hint came when they arrived as the desk clerk was behind bulletproof glass.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. Surprise can enhance an adventure, or it can turn a trip into what we've been chronicling this summer, in a series we call...

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Vacation Horror Stories.

MARK SMEDAL: My name is Mark Smedal. I live in Jeffersonville, Ind. That's right across the river from Louisville, Ky. In 2003, my wife, Kim, and I; and our friends Larry and Janice, and Charlie and Paula; decided that we would go to Mardi Gras.

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SMEDAL: We piled into Larry's Suburban, put the Harleys in a trailer, and took off for New Orleans.

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SMEDAL: Our original plan was to drive all the way through but being sort of in our middle years, we made it to about Birmingham, and we were worn out. We had eaten earlier, and Charlie had picked up a - sort of a guest visitors' pamphlet and as he flipped through it, he found a coupon for rooms at a motel that looked like a chain-type arrangement, for $35 a night.

The motel was on the other side of Birmingham, but we decided to go ahead and stay there anyway since it was right on the interstate. The first sign that something might go wrong was when we went into the clerk's office and found that the desk was behind a bulletproof glass shield. And even then, there was still an armed guard sitting next to the desk clerk.

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SMEDAL: Charlie presented our coupon with a certain amount of fanfare. And the clerk chuckled and said, hell, we haven't been able to get $35 a night for a room for years. We decided to stay there anyway; and we took our three rooms at $25 each. When we got to the rooms, they were a little disappointing. The door on our room barely shut. You could literally hear the people in the adjoining room, snoring.The wives got together immediately and complained, but we husbands said no; look, we'll just spend the night here. We're going to be gone first thing in the morning, and we're just going to be sleeping anyway.

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SMEDAL: At about 3 a.m., things got a little worse when there were gunshots from the parking lot. What caused me a little more concern was the fact that there was no police response. My wife was so shook up, she claimed she couldn't get back to sleep. I told her if she couldn't get back to sleep, just peak out the window every once in a while to make sure no one was trying to steal the Harleys. The wives got everyone up at about 6 a.m. and then as I was getting dressed, I notice I had red bumps all over my feet. They looked like little insect bites. We got out of that hotel as fast as we could, and the end of the story is that we have not let Charlie pick any more accommodations ever since.

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CORNISH: Listener Mark Smedal of Jeffersonville, Ind., with his version of a vacation horror story.

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