I was talking to Heidi the other day and realized that my “stories from a bike trip series” has fallen off the radar. That’s no bueno, my friends, and I’ve decided to bring it back! If you’re new to my blog, please check out part one, part two, and part three.
After we left Monroe, Louisiana, we decided to pedal straight towards Vicksburg, Mississippi. This would be my first-ever visit to Mississippi, and I had read that Vicksburg had lots of interesting Civil War sights to see. I’m nothing if not a history nerd!
However, we were very aware of the fact that Hurricane Rita was bearing down on the Gulf Coast and as we had experienced in Monroe, hotels and lodging were hard to come by. This thought weighed heavy on our minds as we pedaled throughout the day: if Rita was going to be anything like Katrina, we needed to get a roof over our heads. However, if everything was occupied, where in the world were we going to sleep?? After all, my trusty Mountain Hardwear Light Wedge tent had become our home, but it sure as hell wasn’t going to protect us from the storms of Rita!
This was the last time I smiled that day!
Shortly after crossing into Mississippi, we saw a visitor’s center and rode into the packed parking lot. We decided that a helpful front desk associate would be able to assist us in tracking down a place to sleep for the next few nights. The sky was darkening and the clouds were beginning to loom overhead, so all thoughts centered on finding a roof!
We locked our bikes out front and stepped inside the visitor’s center, our clipless bike shoes clacking against the tile floors. For a change, no one appeared to notice the bizarre-looking cyclists dressed in spandex. Instead, the entire center was abuzz in chaos as dozens of harried travelers badgered the employees, trying to find lodging for the evening. In short, it was a shit show.
With nothing else to do but wait, we stood in line for a good 45 minutes before we reached the front desk. Naturally, the older woman eyeballed our skin-tight attire but refrained from commenting. We explained that we needed a hotel room to weather out Hurricane Rita…and that it had to be somewhere close so that we would be able to ride our bikes there before the rains and winds hit Vicksburg.
Guess you can’t see the monsoon behind me….but at least y’all can see my sweet tan lines. Guess that’s what happens when you wear bike shorts every day for 4 months!
Apparently that was laughable!
According to the woman, Vicksburg’s hotels had filled up the day before and she was now sending travelers onto Jackson and beyond. There was no room for us anywhere. Steve started to sense that Heather tears were forming, so he repeated to the woman that we were on bikes: we could not possibly make it to Jackson before the storm hit. After all, that was another 45 miles which is a quick shot on a car, but definitely a couple hours on a bike!
After some begging and pleading, the woman realized our dire situation and started calling any hotel she could think of. Finally, she came back to us with a smile on her face: she had located one hotel on the far side of Vicksburg that agreed to save a room for us! She told the owner of the hotel that we would be arriving on bicycles, and the owner agreed to save the room for some cyclists. We figured that was a safe bet since we had yet to see a single cyclist in Mississippi!
We hopped on our bikes and pedaled as fast as we could to the eastern side of Vicksburg, dodging cars and traffic lights as we rode. We finally arrived at the hotel, and my jaw literally dropped open as we rolled into the parking lot: the place was a freaking crack house!
The rain was coming down in sheets– hence the deserted roads!
Luckily for y’all, I don’t have any photos of the exterior, but I’m sure we’ve all seen the type of motel I’m referring to: it was a single story building, all painted brown with nary a window that remained intact. Abandoned cars littered the parking lot (along with a few beer bottles and cigarette butts), weeds lined the cracks in the pavement, and shingles were hanging by a literal thread. I got goose bumps looking at the place because I just knew I was going to get chomped on by bed bugs that night….or maybe even find something worse under the bed. *Shudder* However, the clouds continued to darken and lightning had started to creep over the horizon, so Steve and I sucked up our disgust and walked into the front office.
If the exterior had been horrifying, the interior was exponentially worse. In fact, I can’t even think of a word to describe how traumatized I was by this hotel. Regardless, we spoke with the front desk lady, explained that we were the cyclists who had called 30 minutes ago, and asked for the keys to our (god awful) room.
“I rented out my last room 15 minutes ago,” she responded.
Y’all, I thought Steve’s head was going to pop off! To save you the pain of reading it, I’ll summarize: this conniving woman had quickly realized that she was the only ghetto hotel left in Vicksburg with available rooms. She had told dozens of people that she would save them rooms, and literally operated on a first come, first serve policy. Since we had ridden our bikes, we were definitely not the first to arrive and she had given away all of the rooms. As awful as the hotel was, this final blow to my mental state was more than I could handle: I was officially scared and started crying. What the hell were we going to do now?
Steve started yelling at the woman, asking her about the promise to save our room. Fortunately, three people walked into the office at that moment, returning their key. They had taken one look at the hotel room, found the conditions abhorable, and decided to drive to Jackson instead. Without even considering their reason for returning the key, Steve and I snatched it directly out of the man’s hand!
Watching Rita build from the windows of the restaurant
We paid the $149 nightly rate (seriously!) and wheeled our bikes into this den of iniquity. Y’all, the room was DISGUSTING. I sleep in dirt and have been massacred by bugs and can backpack for days without showering, but even I struggled with this room. Cockroaches scurried along the floor and dingy red spots covered the bathroom floor. I didn’t even stop to think about what the red color indicated! The windows were all cracked and water dripped through the ceiling into our bathroom tub. The floor smelled of mildew and death, and we both made the executive decision to not look under the beds. We decided our sleeping bags were definitely the way to go, and made a nest on top of one of the beds. We even slept fully clothed — complete with shoes! — so that we didn’t have to touch a single thing. And as for the shower? There was no chance in hell that I was touching a damn thing in that tub!
In total, we had to spend two of the worst nights of my life in this hotel. As y’all may remember, Rita wasn’t as bad as Katrina, but it was still one of the worst hurricanes in American history. We didn’t dare leave our filthy hotel room behind because we knew we wouldn’t survive the storm on our bikes. We spent lots of time hanging out at the restaurant across the street and we became friends with the guy at the liquor store. Yes, I’ll own it: only cheap beer in 40oz cans made this room remotely tolerable.
40oz cans of Bud Light barely made this tolerable. This photo makes it look like a palace!
The bright side? Steve and I were so eager to leave the hotel room that we jetted out of there after our 48 hours of misery, and knocked off back-to-back 100 mile days on the bike, crossing the entirety of Mississippi in 48 hours. This was a first for us, but I think we wanted nothing more than to leave Vicksburg behind!
Where is the absolute worst place you’ve ever slept?
This hotel wins, hands down.
Do y’all enjoy reading these stories or do they bore you? Any interest in travel-related stories (because I assure you, I’ve gotten into tons of mischief there, too!)
Heather Balogh Rochfort is a freelance writer and author with a focus on outdoor adventure, travel, and fitness. Colorado born and bred, she loves backpacking, trail running, backcountry skiing, and packrafting, especially with her husband, one-year-old daughter, and lovable rescue mutt Tally.