Off-exit lodgings opens up the South
Off-exit lodgings opens up the South
19 AUGUST 2019 8:18 AM

Do no disparage the humble roadside, economy-branded hotels throughout the U.S. These are where the stories are waiting to be heard.

By the time this blog is read, Hotel News Now and our parent company, STR, would have debriefed each other over we’re positive was another successful Hotel Data Conference in Nashville.

It was held at the new JW Marriott, but before we all checked in, I decided to take road trip over the weekend in the direction of Athens, Georgia, a small city I have always wanted to go to since 1985 when with my first paycheck in the United Kingdom I went to my local department store in Sidcup, Kent, to buy a record, any record.

I picked up an LP by a band called REM, who I had not heard of. I liked the cover of “Murmur,” and the fact that the band’s name meant nothing to me.

Athens is a fair drive from Nashville, so I also booked some hotels, and inevitably on a road trip through southern Tennessee and Northern Georgia that involved roadside branded hotels, ones we do not have in the U.K.

The first one was a Travelodge in the Hamilton Place/Chattanooga Airport exit.

It was clean, and traveling on my own I like the notion that I can shower, pack and leave in about 10 minutes and be driving away in 11.

I first stopped over before checking in at the Chattanooga Brewing Company, the owner of which also owns Chattanooga Football (soccer) club, who the next evening lost 0-1 in the semi-professional soccer league opening game.

The U.S. Travelodge is different to the same-named one we have in the U.K.

I smiled at seeing my room having two identical pieces of art, which is odd, I believe.

Driving to Athens, I stopped off in White, Georgia, where lies Old Car City, a large wood containing about 3,000 old American cars that have been left to nature. This is a surreal sight, as the man welcoming guests—well, welcoming me—said the stars of the TV show American Pickers had stopped by four times, although they left with nothing as either cars are not for sale or the price was deemed too low.

The local police department invited me to White’s centenary celebration, and I went for 10 minutes, but the celebration seemed in the early morning to just be a celebration of funnel cakes.

Onto Athens and I stayed pretty much downtown in a Best Western, again a brand we have in the U.K. although the brand-ownership company is different, long split away from each other, although perhaps with some marketing reciprocity?

Again, clean and welcoming, and Athens is a wonderful place, although I cannot quite understand what a sorority rush is, and there was one going on with about 2,000 people jumping up and down and clapping, as though it was a stamina test.

I walked in the other direction and saw the famous railroad trestle featured on the back of the Murmur LP and ate collard greens at Weaver D’s restaurant where the band took a title for another of its LPs, Automatic for the People, a slogan emblazoned on the sign of the eatery.

I ambled slowly home via a half-marathon in Snelville, Georgia, another stop in Chattanooga and then a coffee and walk in sleepy, 4 p.m.-Sunday McMinnville,Tennessee, before finding a hotel brand in Nashville I had never heard of—My Place.

It is an extended-stay brand, and it did not look too different from the identikit Travelodge and Best Western hotels, which pretty much look to me as having the same brand standards down to the carpet and side tables.

I wonder if anyone has counted how many of these properties exist, the humble, welcoming, perfectly capable roadside U.S. hotel—America’s Best Value; Knights Inn; SureStay Plus by Best Western; Quality Inn & Suites; Red Roof Inn; Microtel Inn & Suites, the list does go on and on and on.

I met a family from Queens, New York, also ambling back from a family reunion in New Orleans; a young woman due to take her first-ever flight, and to Sheffield in England where she will be an international student for four months, and a young couple, the man of which was going next month to Eugene, Oregon, to visit the athletic program that his evident hero Steve Prefontaine was a member of.

A million potential stories coming out of 100,000, or more, such hotels, and all out there just waiting to be heard.

Email Terence Baker at or find him on Twitter.

The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Bloggers published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.

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