Saturday, November 05, 2011

Nightmare on Front Street

I like to stay in a bed and breakfast or small inn when I travel. I get to hang with the local folk, breakfast is often tasty, it usually costs less, and the money goes to the local economy. Stay in a big chain hotel and I might as well be in Chicago.

So, when I decided to go back to the home town of my childhood - Vanceburg, Kentucky - I went on online to find a nice little bed and breakfast. The decision was helped along by my Janie sister saying there wasn't a hotel within 25 miles of Vanceburg. She had lived in Vanceburg for several years before moving to Charleston a couple years ago.

Online searching found few pickin's but the one "Inn" listed on a Kentucky tourism website seemed to be just what I was looking for -

Take a step back in time to a place where noise, congestion and life's pressures have been forsaken. The McKellup House Inn is located in downtown Vanceburg, Kentucky, a million miles from a big city (at least it will seem that way). Relax and renew at the McKellup House Inn! We offer: four guest rooms, each with a private bath...period furnishings, a ground-floor guest room with ADA-compliant bath. Each room has been furnished with antiques reflecting the pre-civil war house. Beds include polished brass, iron, or carved oak. Although at this time we do not offer breakfast with bookings, we will do everything possible to arrange for whatever your needs or desires may be.

The online photo looked good, a nice historic inn,

My suspicions should have been raised on making the reservation - which took several phone calls - and the lady answered Redbud Realty, but, hey, it's a small town and people do a variety of things to make a living. Then she went on to say not only was there no breakfast, but no TV, no phone, no wireless. OK, I could live with that. I was looking to get away.

I arrived in town about 1:30 PM and went to check in at my little inn on the river. Well, the real live place looked a little different from the online photo. The paint was peeling, the landscaping had died, all blinds were drawn. Lookin' pretty run down,

Knocked on the door several times, no answer. Checked the address. Yep, this was 226 Front Street. I thought the hostess must be out getting some welcome snack and tea, so I went over to the Historical Society for a few hours to work on our family history.

Returned at 4:30 PM, still no answer. Hm-m-m. I asked the people sitting on the porch across the street - they still do this in Kentucky, kind of nice - did they know when the owner might be back.

"No, but they live just down the street, in the green house on the corner".

I hustled down to the green house. No one home there either, but a note on the door addressed to me gave a number to a pizza shop. Call there and someone would come to let me in. Now, tell me, how was I supposed know to go to the green house, and not the Inn to check in?

Sure enough, a lady drove up in a pick up truck about 10 minutes after my call, but I'd had to walk some distance into town because there was no cell phone service on Front Street.

The inside of the Inn was dark. No snack or tea. We sure have been spoiled in those European B & B's. The door was open to a downstairs bedroom, antique bed all right, but no mattress and the bedclothes were strewn on the floor. This must be the ADA room. All the other downstairs doors were closed. My room was upstairs, and it had a nice look.

My room would have been Civil War looking if not for a jacuzzi tub taking up a quarter of the space. Funkiness aside, a warm Jacuzzi bath could have been neat later in the evening were it not for a sign that said "Sorry, I don't work". The lady showed me how to turn on the gas heater hanging on the wall. Not like anything I'd seen before, a pilot light that heated up two bricks when the flame was turned a little higher.

I had a feeling and asked the greeter lady whether there were any other guests staying at the Inn.

"No, but I'll be staying downstairs after I get off from the pizza shop. I'll be late, so I hope I don't wake you up."

Well, at least there would be someone else in the house during the night. I was planning to be out late myself.

I went over to my cousin's house for dinner, and he asked if I wasn't going to stay with him and his wife, Nancy. I hadn't seen him for almost 50 years but I said no, I'd wanted to stay at least a couple days at my Inn and get the flavor of the town, and I liked being right next to the river.

It was 10:30 when I returned to the Inn. It was a bit spooky, completely dark, no light on, no one there, so I sang to myself walking up the stairs. I had trouble getting the heater to work. For some reason, the pilot light was off and I couldn't get the d--- thing fixed. And it was starting to smell like gas in the room. So, back downstairs, drive to the edge of town to get cell phone service, and call the number for the pizza place.

This time a guy came over, and after blasting the heater with a blow torch looking lighter for a few minutes, the pilot came on. The room still had a gas smell so I asked him to open the windows since they were stuck.

I slept in my blue jeans that night with the windows open. That elegant looking little bedspread was all the cover there was.

The next morning as I was leaving, the lady was out on the porch smoking a cigarette so she must have come in sometime during the night.

"The heater has a problem", I told her. "Could you have someone look at it today".

I spent the day exploring the town and running around with my cousin, Allen, catching up on 50 years of our adventures and misadventures. We are indeed from the same genes.

Kentucky is beautiful, and my Inn was right on the Ohio River.

Vanceburg is well past its heyday when it was a bustling, thriving river town, barges, and river boats up and down the river, tobacco growing in the fields. My grandparents' Victorian house just down the street from my Inn was beautiful in the 1940's, but now run down much like the Inn.

The house next to the Inn is a fixer upper,

Once beautiful houses are up for sale.

The town seems to have little activity,

Even the railroad through town that used to carry coal from the eastern coal fields, and livestock, and people has rusted.

Exhausted from the day, I returned to my Inn about 8:30 PM. It was dark, and as soon as I stepped inside I could smell the gas. Back down to the green house - no one home. Drive to the edge of town to get cell phone service to call whoever is running the place. Got that d--- Redbud Realty machine. Couldn't even get hold of the pizza shop, wherever the h--- it was. Back to the Inn, hold my breath and run upstairs to get my bag before the place blows up.

Gracious hosts they are, my cousins took me in.

Nancy smiled. "Had enough flavor?". I remembered her eyebrow had gone up when I told them the first night where I was staying.

It's a sad requiem for another Kentucky town.


Joan Perry; Sidewalk Curator said...

Yikes! Glad you didn't blow up!

Pat said...

Good God, Woman - you sure are mighty persistent! Most peeps wouldn't have stayed the first night. What a sad little town to not have anywhere else to stay. Remember how we talked in Ireland about what a confining life it must be to run a B&B? Guess not in Vanceburg...

Bob Borders said...

The house with the for sale sign in the front yard, is going to be restored soon back to the original.