Welcome to the truck stop
I arrived at the Hampton Inn at sunset. The sky was ablaze with ribbons of orange, gold, and red. I watched the colors fade behind the hotel; when the last drop of red drained from the black stage of the night, I walked into the hotel and checked it.
It must be said: no one tries harder to please their customers than the Kuttawa/Eddyville Hampton Inn. It was Memorial Day Weekend. You would be hard-pressed to find a hotel more patriotic than the Kuttawa/Eddyville Hampton Inn. Their staff was uninformed in red, white & blue; a variety of patriotic flair pinned & clipped to their torsos and heads. The hotel lobby was festooned with red, white & blue decorations… It was amazing. U.S. Flag key chains were free at the counter. The staff was pleasant and helpful. Free breakfast in the lobby every day, including a waffle maker. Free lemonade and treats throughout the day; come back from a long day of outdoor adventure — a cold glass of lemonade is waiting for you. Free toothbrushes! Forget to pack your toothbrush — they have you covered. Clean rooms with refrigerators and wi-fi.
The most memorable hotel worker was the night-shift desk clerk. Imagine Penn from Penn & Teller, covered with red, white & blue flair, and just bursting with enthusiasm about the holiday weekend, and with eagerness to help hotel guests. I couldn’t help but think: this guy loves his country, loves his job, loves helping people, and it’s 2 am and he has to deal with drunks and whatever maniacs are awake in the middle of the night. What a mensch!
The truck stop featured three or four gas and diesel stations, two burger joints, two hotels, a steak & country music restaurant, a Huddle House, a drive-through liquor store, and a lady who sold barbecued meats from a grill she towed behind her truck.
I know what you’re thinking: “how many times did you drive through the liquor store drive-through?” Sadly, zero times. Instead, I just walked there (and bought many PBR tall-boys).
And “did you fall in love with the lady who sold barbecued meats?” Sadly, no. If I did, I would still be in Kentucky.
PBR, country music wafting through the night air, and taking photos of gas stations at night. Once the cicadas are quiet, that’s how I do it.
The next day, while cruising around the Land Between the Lakes area, listening for cicadas (why I was in the area in the first place), I made sure I stopped by local stores and markets to get an idea of what local life might be like.
The local flea markets were intense and possibly magical. Imagine a roadside lined with rows of shacks made from plywood and hope. Inside each were antiques, toys, clothes, Christmas artifacts, knives, preserves, dolls, cellphone cases, drones, and other dreams without a home — you name it, they had it. I walked away with pickles, a knife and some LP recordings of the Bible.
Red Door Antiques was pretty good. They had a wide variety of antiques and collectibles. I picked up a vacuum tube tester and some rhubarb preserves. I enjoyed seeing a Big Jim vinyl camper that I think I had as a child (I vaguely remember destroying it by peeling the vinyl from its cardboard frame because I liked the sensation of the vinyl tearing).
I visited an outlet store mall. Only 10% of the stores were occupied. I bought another knife — this time a multi-tool. I was surprised by the overall lack of activity in the area — maybe it was because of the holiday weekend. Maybe not that many tourists were visiting the park?
But no, the Walmart was backed to the rafters with people. Probably all looking for a USB cable, just like me.