Not all road-trip adventures take place behind the wheel...
I don’t make a habit of staying in bed-and-breakfast accommodations.
Back in 2002, after a day of driving and meetings, sitting around the parlor watching TV with fellow residents isn’t high on my priority list. Breakfast with someone who wants to know what kind of dogs I’ve owned is not necessarily the kick-start I need in the morning either.
No guilt about messing up my room and sometimes I just want to lie on the bed and flick through the TV channels checking out America’s Most Wanted without wondering who is shuffling down the hallway outside my bedroom door. I want to come and go anonymously.
On a trip to Texas, I needed a place to hole up for a week while I checked out roads and amenities for a media driving event I was developing. In Glen Rose, a quiet town 100 miles southwest of Dallas, there was a quaint-but-weathered inn not far from the looming courthouse on the central square.
“We’re full, but try the Wild Rose Inn down the street,” a polite, elderly gent with a lanky Texan drawl advised.
The name conjured up images of untamed gardens and breezy verandahs, so I dropped by the Wild Rose. Realizing it was actually a bed-and-breakfast, my inclination was to bolt. But a cleaning lady spotted me, led me into the house and introduced me to the owner, Sheilah Carter Keeling.
It didn’t take long for Sheilah’s charm and southern hospitality to unhinge my resistance to spending a week in a B&B.
“I set it up so y’all can go ’bout your business without botherin’ me or me botherin’ you” she explained with an impish grin.
Sheilah proudly escorted me through five delightfully different guestrooms. Each had a private entrance so guests could come and go as they pleased from the rambling stucco house.
I settled on the Red Rose, a suite that had once been the garage, and pulled up out front. I felt like I was home, even my own driveway.
The suite consisted of a small, pleasantly furnished living room with a TV and VCR. The rosecolored bedroom was appointed with delightful antiques, a mahogany four-poster bed and frilly lampshades. The cavernous, marble-accented bathroom featured a party-sized whirlpool bath. Dainty doilies, tasteful draperies, feather pillows and a goose-down duvet all helped crumble my redneck attitude about B&Bs
Over the next week, I checked out every back road and culvert in six counties around Glen Rose. At night I’d pull into the driveway, retreat into the comfy Red Rose suite and “veg” in front of the TV.
I looked forward to breakfast in Sheilah’s eclectic dining room where her staff, Marilyn and Jennifer, fussed over me like I was a new puppy. Sheilah showered me with stories about her past, her family and day-to-day life in slow-movin’ Glen Rose.
Stories of possums breaking into her kitchen and the insurance settlement over her daughter’s recent car accident came with breakfast. Her openness and enthusiasm were the perfect wake-up call.
Sheilah made me laugh a lot. She made my eyes water, too. And she made me want to make my bed in the morning and not to throw towels on the floor after my shower.
One night, I decided to watch TV from the bedroom section of my suite, à la Holiday Inn. With shaky legs, I lugged an early model “portable” TV from the living room and placed it in a precarious position atop the dainty antique dresser near the foot of the bed. I hooked up the VCR and put on Monster’s Ball, a movie I had wanted to watch since
Halle Berry won an Academy Award for her role opposite Billy Bob Thorton.
At one point, while adjusting the volume, my foot tangled in the power cord. A crisp crack of breaking wood was the first indication something was awry. Then the left front leg of the dresser let go. The electrical cord of the TV set tightened around my big toe as the dresser listed toward the corner of the errant leg.
The TV toppled off the dresser, the picture tube narrowly escaping impalement on the four-poster bed and vaporizing right in front of me. I had never seen a TV blow up and, at that instant, between “please Gods,” my mind flashed through a few outcomes which all would be difficult to explain to Sheilah Carter Keeling.
Halle Berry was staring into the eyes of Billy Bob as the TV ricocheted off the bedpost, jamming itself between the bed and the wall. The taut cable between the TV and the VCR catapulted the VCR unit across the room, turning Halle Berry into a hissing snowstorm of video nothingness. The dresser flopped onto its front just missing my naked foot.
It sounded like freight trains had collided in the dainty Red Rose suite at Glen Rose’s Wild Rose Inn.
Vowing never again to transform a cozy B&B into a Holiday Inn, I nervously straightened up the mess and managed to glue the leg back on the dresser. To my amazement, the TV and VCR came through their ordeal unscathed.
At breakfast, I asked Sheilah if she had heard the commotion the night before.
“No, dear. Why? What happened?” She asked innocently.
“Y’all have a party in there?”
Hoping to buy a little time, I nervously replied, “You can read alllll about it in my book.”
It’s the first in four.
Join Garry Sowerby, a four- time Guinness World Record holder for long-distance driving, on his tales of motoring mania.Follow his accounts of 30 years of global road adventures: out-driving the clock on a race around the world; narrowly escaping bandits’bullets in Kenya;and smuggling books behind the Iron Curtain. The master road tripper hasn’t slowed down yet.