By Ken Hegan for MSN

The best summer weekends demand sequels.

So we went floating again down the warm, winding channel in Penticton, BC. Huge fun. Raved about it here last year. But I neglected to mention where to stay. My recommendation: stay in a vintage motel on Skaha Lake Road. For 2 years now, we’ve avoided the beige chain hotels and stayed at the fabulous Bel-Air Motel.

A park-outside-the-door joint, the Bel-Air was built in 1967 and renovated in…actually I’m not sure it’s ever been renovated.

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The sign features this diving bathing beauty but the pool doesn’t have a diving board so I’m not sure what that’s about.

Penticton summers are sizzling so the outdoor pool’s a big draw. There are also fun touches like actual room keys, free barbecues, paper wrapped drinking glasses, curvy white ‘ergonomic’ poolside lounge chairs, and grizzled monthly residents sitting outside their rooms. Gotta love their public, branded ashtrays.

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Sure, the pool’s leaking so a running hose is always filling it. But the motel’s cheap and the manager let us stay 2.5 hours after the usual checkout so I’m a fan.

Motels aren’t for everyone, though, especially if you’re a complainer. So as a public service, here’s my:

MOTEL SURVIVAL GUIDE

 

#15) AVOID MOTEL METH LABS

Tell-tale signs of motel room meth labs are unusual odors, covered and blackened windows, too much security outside a room (guard dogs, ‘Keep out’ signs, video cameras), jerry-rigged ventilation (fans or furnace blowers), burned out grass/shrubs near a room (a sign of dumped toxic chemicals), and dumpsters full of torn-apart lithium batteries, cold medicine packages, duct tape, rubber hoses, and respiratory masks

#14) DON’T STAY ON THE GROUND FLOOR

Burglars are lazy. They like to keep their break-ins low to the ground. Makes for a fast escape with fewer witnesses.

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#13) ASK FOR A QUIET ROOM…

…away from the highway, ice machine, hot tub, and meth lab.

#12) CLEAN PEEPHOLES

Is the peephole dirty or full of debris or blood? Clean it or get another room.

#11) USE THE LOCKS

Lock every door lock they’ve left you. And if you’re really vigilant, wedge your own rubber jam under the door for an extra bit of security.

#10) DON’T REVEAL HOW MUCH YOUR CAR COSTS

 If a monthly resident asks how your car/truck/convertible is worth, lie through your big city teeth. Give ’em a dollar figure that’s half the sticker price. It’s not like they’ll double-check it on the Internet. Otherwise, why’d they even ask you? You should also complain about how your clutch is fried and the engine’s a piece of junk. In other words: “Ain’t worth the hassle of stealing, my friend.”

#9) LEAVE YOUR JEWELS IN THE CAR

Your trunk’s a better vault than your motel room. 

#8) POOL PAPERBACK

Best book to read by a motel pool? Any of the Jack Reacher novels. A former soldier, Reacher roams America’s truck stops and motels where trouble always finds him. Reacher knows where to find the best motels, how to wake from a deep nap without an alarm clock, and how to bribe the clerk to give you a cheap room for a couple of hours…without any identification other than the cash greasing his palm.

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#7) NO DISTURBANCES

The second you enter your motel room, hang the DO NOT DISTURB sign over the doorknob and close the drapes. The drapes keep your room from boiling up in Penticton’s dry desert sun. The sign prevents the staff/neighbours from interrupting your afternoon delight.

#6) FLING OFF THE BEDSPREAD

Kick that disease-ridden thing into the closet.

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#5) PLUG ‘EM

Sleep with ear plugs. Look, there’s not much else to do in a motel room other than drink, carouse, have loud sex, and watch cable TV. Your room is too close to your neighbour’s (and the walls too thin) for you to expect a peaceful sleep like you’d get at some fancy inn by a snowy river.

#4) BRING YOUR OWN GLASSES

Studies show that hotel glasses are pretty biologically disgusting as they’re only vaguely, indifferently cleaned. You can bet motel glasses are even worse.

#3) BE WARY OF TRIPADVISOR

TripAdvisor commenters love to rant about hotels [anonymously, of course…so brave]. They’ll rip on any lodgings that aren’t 100% safe for their children which applies to every hotel, everywhere. TripAdvisor commenters particularly love to anonymously slam motels as ‘seedy’ and ‘rundown’ which, far as I’m concerned, is part of a motel’s charm.

#2) USE THE LUGGAGE STAND

Bugs can’t crawl up chrome pipes.

#1) DON’T WATCH SCARY MOVIES

Do not watch the horror/thriller films Vacancy, Identity, Psycho, or Joy Ride before you stay in a motel. You’ll never want to travel again.

Any motel survival tips I’ve missed? Please share ’em in the comments below.

— Ken Hegan

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Read all Ken’s travel stories here

Twitter: @KenHegan

Photos by author

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