The roads were covered with nubbly ice, the kind that shakes the fillings out of your teeth when you drive over it. Our headlights seemed to get dimmer and dimmer. We attributed it to them being jostled out of alignment, but in reality a coating of scummy road spray was probably the culprit.
We tried to stop for the night in Bowling Green, but the EconoLodge there wanted to charge us a monstrous pet fee. Onward we forged.
We pulled off for a second time in Cave City. We were getting pretty punchy by then, and we made a game of inventing new slogans for the town. Our favorite was "Cave City: It's shitty!" Little did we know how right we would be.
The Knights Inn offered a very reasonable rate, and the lady at the front desk cut me a deal on the pet fee. She handed me a key card, and we drove around to the back side of the motel to find the room.
The s.o. unlocked the door, walked in, and immediately walked out again. "The room hasn't been cleaned," he said. "It's filthy."
Clapping our hands for warmth in the single-digit weather, we got back in the car and drove around front to the lobby. I explained the problem. "Oh dear," the lady said. "A lot of the maids didn't come in today. The weather was too bad." She assigned us a new room and re-swiped the key card.
We found the room and the s.o. inserted the key in the door. Nothing happened. He tried again. Nothing. And again. Nothing.
Back at the front desk, the lady assigned us yet another room, postulating that perhaps the key card reader was frozen.
The s.o. tried the key card in the third room, successfully. He walked in and looked around. It was clean. Then he noticed the rapidly spreading puddle of water coming from the bathroom. The tub faucet was on full blast and couldn't be turned off.
We drove around front again. I explained the latest issue to the lady behind the counter, and she dispatched the handyman to see what was up. Meanwhile, she re-swiped our key card and sent us to room number four.
The s.o. stuck the card in the reader. The green light flashed, but the door wouldn't open. He tried several more times before returning, defeated but laughing a little, to the idling car.
When I returned to the front desk, the lady looked a little haunted. She assigned us a fifth room--poolside!--and apologized profusely.
The s.o. opened the door. He scouted out the room and gave me a thumbs-up sign. I walked the dogs (with little result, because the grass was frozen solid and was painfully pointy under their paws) , then took their leashes in hand and led them into the room.
"It's not very warm in here," I observed.
"I just now turned on the heat," the s.o. said. "Don't worry. It'll be warmed up by the time we get back from dinner."
Dinner. What an ambitious word. Thanks to our room assignment capers, it was now after 10 pm. Any restaurant that had braved the blizzard to open its doors today was most definitely closed now. We ended up in a convenience store, eyeing our options. We were chilled to the bone and desperate for hot food. The only possibilities were (a) the kind of nachos where you push a button on a machine to get your "cheese," or (b) one of the Polish sausages that turned endlessly on rollers under a heat lamp. Neither of us could face the "cheese," so we chose the latter.
Back in our room, which did not seem to be getting much warmer, the s.o. took one bite of his Polish sausage and lost his nerve. "It's not even hot through," he said. He set it down on top of the TV and started munching his way through a tin of Christmas cookies.
I ate my Polish sausage hungrily, then devoured his too. I was shaking and couldn't take off my coat. I walked over to the heating unit and stuck my hand in front of it. It was turned all the way up, but the air coming out of it was barely warm. Apparently the heater was unable to compensate for the frigidity of the air it was sucking in from outside.
I called the front desk and asked if they had any space heaters. The answer was no. After a short negotiation period, they sent the handyman to the room with a stack of four extra blankets.
I couldn't get any hot water to come out of the faucet when I washed my face. I was too tired to care. I put on thermal underwear and fuzzy socks, then climbed under the heap of blankets.
In the morning, there was still no hot water. The boiler had burst.
Two good things came of our night in Cave City:
(1) We got the room for free.
(2) I didn't get food poisoning.