I almost slept on a snooker table

It’s Friday night and I must say that I’m a little homesick, or rather familysick. I’ve been on the road for six weeks and it will be nice to go back home. So forgive me if I write some more travel trivia. It occurred to me that I haven’t written anything about the trip from New York up to Maine, through Vermont and New Hampshire.

I had looked forward to this part of the trip because I’ve never been to New England before and I anticipated seeing some fall colors on the way. It was Columbus weekend and I had planned three days for the trip (for Europeans: Monday was Columbus day). I made a mistake.

Although I had been told that it might be difficult to find places to stay at this time of the year, the leaf-peeping season, I didn’t worry that much. And anyway I did not want to plan ahead. The idea was to stop in any old small town that looked nice and had a cheap motel with a roaring fire going and a free bottle of bourbon on the mantlepiece.

It was almost 12 pm before I left Saratoga Springs. I felt a pang of sadness – I really feel at home there, and I had a last breakfast at the Country Corner Café before buying a gift to my daughter at Impressions of Saratoga. But I had to hit the road.

An hour or two later I was in Vermont. I stopped in a small town to take a stroll up and down Main street. Lots of leaf-peepers crowding the streets. The fall colors were nice but not so fantastic as I had imagined. The countryside was more hilly and with more forests than in New York. I stopped in a few more places. This was definitely not the America of the mid-West. Small tidy towns catering for tourists with gift shops, antique markets and “real maple syrup sold here” signs everywhere.

It was late afternoon when I passed into New Hampshire. I was beginning to look for that motel. But they were nowhere to be found. I was in the White Mountains area, old logging country, now perhaps more skiing country, but kind of deserted anyway. Next not-to-small town was Woodsville. After that came Littleton which I had read about in Bill Bryson’s The Lost Continent. Farther than that I could not go that night.

So I stopped in Woodsville at a motel and asked for a room. They had no vacancies and from the way the women said it (she seemed to enjoy passing on this bit of information) I got the impressions that there were no rooms anywhere. But I asked about motels in a restaurant on the other side of the street and got directions to Nootka Lodge.

Well, you can guess, they had no rooms. Indeed, it said No Vacancy outside, but I asked anyway. But the man in the reception obviously was a humanist. It later turned out that he had lived in Germany for 20 years and spoke several European languages. Perhaps it was this connection that made him care for a stupid Swede messing around North New England late Saturday night on Columbus Weekend.

He told me that he had phoned all the big chain-motels such as Super-8 and none had any rooms. It was Columbus Weekend, Canadian Thanksgiving and some festival in Maine. There wasn’t a single room to bring up in “the whole Kingdom”. And I was in the very center of that Kingdom.

So it was pointless to continue driving. And sleeping in the car is not very attractive. It is even against the law, but of course, you could always find some safe place to park. But the man in the reception (I didn’t get his name) had two options. Sometimes the police has lists of private homes that may put up a traveller, or he could put me in the game-room.

While he was checking this out, I crossed the street and had dinner at a family restaurant. When I came back he had decided to put me in the game-room. But I had to wait till 11 pm when it closed. He called his sister who obviously owned the motel and asked her the price. It turned out to be $100. I did not hesitate. It also turned out that the next night they had a proper room, so I decided to stay one more night in Woodsville. He then said: “Why don’t you drive down the road and get yourself a couple of beers while you wait?”

This I did. I found a well-lit bar. The proprietor was a nice-looking man in his thirties. He had a broad tie and a short-sleeved shirt and he walked around and talked to the customers. He looked kind of English. I did have beer while watching American football.

I fell asleep at once but woke up when people who lived in the rooms above the game-room came home around 2 am. Then an hour later I had the feeling that someone was in the room. I heard a women’s voice “shh … we must be quite …” I first thought it was in the rooms above, but this time there really was a couple breaking into my sleeping quarters. The door should have been locked. I sat up and said “I’m sleeping and you’re not supposed to be here!” After that I was left alone.

And god bless the man in the reception who saved my night. I heard in the morning that an 80-year old lady who came after me had slept in her car in the parking lot. Columbus weekend.

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