Monday, August 21, 2017

Just waiting for the train

The very bright train station in Parkersburg, Iowa with several railroad items nearby. The station has moved a few hundred feet from the train station.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Review-Lodging-Michigan, Flint-Rodeway Inn


Background:

After a long day of traveling we were hoping for a decent place to stay. We would have stayed in Ann Arbor instead to make our drive a little shorter but the prices in Ann Arbor were two to three times higher than those in Flint. We either needed a room with two beds and a sofa or two separate rooms but could not find any rooms with a sofa so we decided on two rooms instead.
   
Reservations:

After looking at the various hotel sights I found the best prices to be at Orbitz so I booked the rooms from them.

I was a little nervous about reserving at Rodeway Inn after a bad experience at one in Baker City, Oregon back in 2015. The Red Roof Inn, Super 8, and Knights Inn were a few dollars more per night and seemed to be good options. We decided on the Rodeway Inn.



The Facility:

The motel is three stories tall and connected to a Quality Inn next door with both motels sharing the indoor swimming pool. The exterior of the Rodeway Inn portion looks like it has seen a recent remodel but once you walk inside you are thrown back in time. The facility appears to have been built in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s. Sleep Inns didn’t start until 1989 so I am not sure if it was once some other type of motel before this date or it just looked dated from the start.  


Check In:

Walking into the motel the front desk is on the right with a staircase to the left and the main lobby straight ahead. The lady running the front desk was friendly but check in was a little slow. In addition there was no mention that we would need to have wristbands to swim in the swimming pool. She also failed to direct us where our rooms were or how we could get to them.




The Room:

Looking at our room numbers I figured we were probably toward the back of the Rodeway Inn section of the motel. The back entrance did have a key card access but at the time of our arrival the door was open. Sometime after 10pm they locked the door but as it turned out the key cards would not work in the door.

When we walked into the building itself there was a strange smell that I could not put my finger on. The stairway area looked like it had seen a lot of use over the years and needed some refurbishing and we would soon learn that it was not the only part of the building in desperate need of change.

As you enter the room, to the right were a sink and a room separated with a sliding door that held the toilet and shower. As you continued into the main part of the room there was a desk/dresser to the left with a 25” television on top of it. Next to the window was the open closet that had a luggage rack. On the right were two queen beds with a nightstand in the middle.

Like the stairway area the room was in bad need of refurbishing. The carpets were torn and ripped in several spots, the door to the bathroom was damaged and dirty, in our second room the handle for the sliding door was completely missing, and the television was an older tube television.











Surrounding Area:

Within what should be walking distance there is a Fuddruckers, Qdoba, Sonic, Arby’s, Popeye’s and McDonald’s however, there are no sidewalks to reach any of those places. Within a bit longer walking distance there are a large number of chains including Golden Corral, IHOP, Applebee’s, and many others. For those like me who would rather go to a locally owned independent restaurant there is the West Side Dinner located a block to the northwest. For shopping there is a mall just over two miles away and many other shopping opportunities within a short drive.

Pool:

As mentioned earlier there is an enclosed pool which sits between the Rodeway Inn and the Quality Inn sections of the facility. The pool was large and appeared to be clean but you must have a wristband if you want to swim. The original sign next to the door said that you had to be 14 years or older to be in the pool without an adult but there was a hand written sign on the window next to the other sign saying you have to have a wristband and that all children under 17 have to have an adult with them. There is also a hot tub but it was drained and had a wood cap on top of it.

Breakfast:

With the condition of the rest of facility was I was not expecting much when it came to the breakfast and I was not disappointed. The breakfast room was large, probably originally a meeting room but the choices were slim. There were a couple of cereal choices, coffee, and milk but little else. After seeing the lack of selection we headed over the IHOP for breakfast at it was a better option that what was offered here.

Check Out:

Once again the person working the counter was friendly although the service was slow.

Final Thoughts:

We noticed that there was a sign on the Quality Inn that said that there was refurbishing on that side of the motel so maybe the Rodeway Inn side would see some work soon. Walking into the hotel you feel that you have been transported back to the 1970’s and that is a problem with the motel. According to some signage the motel was once a Sleep Inn that apparently had been downgraded by Choice Hotels to a Rodeway Inn.

The workers were friendly but not very efficient or experienced and checking in and out took longer than it should have.

The pool was in good shape but that is about the only part of the building that was. Once again you get what you pay for as it would only have been a couple more dollars per room to stay at a place that would have probably been in a lot better shape.

The staff being friendly is the only thing that kept this place from getting an F grade, but it still is a D- at the most.

This was an opportunity for Rodeway Inn to redeem them from our last experience but failed to do so and I would have a hard time choosing them again. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Review-Motel-Indiana-Merrillville-America's Best Value Inn

Sometimes you get what you paid for…

Background: 

I have stayed at several America’s Best Value Inn’s in the past and they seem to be hit and miss on the quality front. Like all chains the motel’s locations are mostly franchised but unlike the majors they are not formalistic cookie cutters that all look and feel the same. Many times this can be a good thing but as you will soon read at the America’s Best Value Inn Merrillville, IN it was not.

 Reservations: 

 We were traveling from Iowa to Michigan and the Gary, Indiana area seemed to be a good stopping off point for our trip. However, there appeared to be very few options in the area and most of them looked like they were not in the best areas. As it turned out we were planning on traveling east on US Highway 30 and the town of Merrillville, Indiana seemed to have several hotels to choose from. Because there were 5 of us traveling we either had to find a motel room with two beds and a sofa bed or get two separate rooms depending on the price. Some motels also offer family suites with 3 beds but they can be few and far between.

 Exterior: 

 The motel feels very out of place as it is a single level, spread out motel in an area that is mostly made up of more modern multi-level buildings that you typically find in an area near a mall. The motel is made up of multiple single family buildings that are spread out.

 Check In: 

 Upon pulling in there was not a place that was obviously an office, or it was hard to see because there were no lights in the front of the complex, but I finally found a glass door with the word office on it. I walked in and found myself in a room with tourist brochures and a drink machine. To the right was a late night window in a small room before opening up into the so-called lobby. There was one lady standing and a guy sitting on the couch. The room had almost no lights on but the lady that was standing walked behind the window to check me in.

 The Room:

 I was not expecting much from the room and I was not disappointed but there were two pleasant surprises in the room: first there was a flat panel television, although I would guess it was around 27”, and second the room had a mini-fridge and microwave which I would not expect from this room. Otherwise the room was your basic economy room with a table and two chairs next to the window, two queen beds on one wall with a short dresser, television and the previously mentioned fridge with a microwave on top of it. In the back of the room from right to left there was a small closet area, a counter with the bathroom sink, and in a separate room the bathtub and toilet.

 There were several problems with the room from the get go. When we walked into the room there was a strange smell in the room. It smelled like someone had smoked pot in the room and the motel tried to cover up the smell by spraying some type of air freshener in the room that when combined with the other smell gave it a very funky smell. A more important issue with the room was that the room was showing wear especially in the bathroom and to top it off it appeared that the room had not had a good cleaning in some time. The main room was a little cleaner but felt dingy because the lighting fixtures were very outdated and did not give off much light. The combination of having a dark red wall on one side and the dim lighting gave the feeling of being in an old dingy hotel you would see in the movies. While I love places with character and older furniture usually doesn’t bother me, it was the lack of cleaning and basic maintenance as a real turn off here.

Area around motel: 

For restaurants there is a Bob Evans, Red Lobster, Jimmy John’s, and Popeye’s within walking distance of the motel. The Southlake mall is just a couple of blocks away, however the area is not walkable at all. There is also every chain restaurant imaginable either a few blocks to the east or across Interstate 65 to the west. If you’re like us and like to go to independent restaurants they are few and far between in this area. I only had a short time as we left early the next morning but what little driving around I did there was no independent restaurants to be found.

 Checking Out:

 The owner/manager checked us out and was not really friendly but it only took a moment to hand him the keys. I did check out their so-called continental breakfast which consisted of a few Danishes and coffee.

Final Thoughts: 

This is one of those difficult places to rate because it does well in some areas but does poorly in some other fields. First it is well located a block from a mall and having a couple of restaurants nearby. It is also directly off Interstate 65 and US Highway 30. In addition the rates for the motel were very reasonable. While the motel cannot control if someone smokes in the room when they are not supposed to, they do have control over the condition of the room and the cleanliness at which they did a poor job.

For those arriving after dark the place needs to ensure their lighting makes the place look inviting and tiny pastries do not make a breakfast. The cost for our two rooms was just under a $100.00 so the price was right but that didn’t make up for the problems.

 My grade for the America’s Best Value Inn Merrillville: D







Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Book Review: Dancing With the Devil in the City of God

Dancing With the Devil in the City of God 
By Juliana Barbassa
ISBN 978-1-4767-5625-7
308 Pages

This is the forty-eighth book that I have read this year, towards my goal to average reading a book a week for the entire year, which I totally blew away last year.

Juliana Barbassa is a journalist that was born in Brazil but spent many years growing up in Iraq where her father worked for the Brazilian State Oil Company. They returned to Brazil but her father’s career would take her to Houston. After 20 years she moved back to Brazil and Rio de Janeiro in 2010 to witness the city and the country as it prepared for the 2014 World Cup and ultimately the 2016 Olympic Games. Barbassa gives a great history of the city and country including the military dictatorship that ruled for 20 years and what has happened since so called democracy took over. She covers everything from politics, to the police, the gang wars, urban renewal, how it is to be a business owner in the country and the environment.

After reading this book those living in countries such as the United States should have a better appreciation for our quality of life compared to Brazil. That is not to say that Brazil does not have some wonderful people, some of whom I had to the opportunity to work with last year. However, it is clear after reading this book that the country, and especially Rio de Janeiro, has some serious problems it still needs to work on. Also, for all those that whine about how hard it is to be in business in the United States, read that book and appreciate how good it is here compared to there. While it may not be impossible to run a business in Rio it definitely is not for the faint of heart.

However, while you can take heart in how we are better off we still have skeletons in our closet, especially when it comes to Urban Renewal and how it was run from the 1950’s to the 1970’s, and in various cases the way some projects still happen.

Overall the book is an excellent read and I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to see what Rio de Janeiro is doing to get ready for the Olympics, its history, and the current conditions that residents face in the city. It is also a great book to inspire some soul searching on the mistakes we have made in the past and how we can do better in the future.

This book gets an A.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Goal Block

English: football goal
English: football goal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most people know what writer's block is but what is goal block? Well it is actually the same thing except in this case you have a difficult time getting your goals down on paper. I went through this in the last week as I put together my goals for the month of September. There are several things I am looking to accomplish this month but putting down in goals proved to be difficult so therefore I went back to basics.

I previously said that goals need to be specific, written down, have a time line, and be realistic. I also have written that you need to have long range goals, medium range goals and short range goals and that the short and medium range goals should lead up to your long range goals. The difficulty was trying to write the goals so that they would be specific enough to create a good goal.

After several failed attempts at creating goals I finally decided to throw everything I had written and go back to the basics and look at my long range and medium range goals to see where I currently stand on them, what I can do in the next month to move toward those goals and what I other activities I must get done. I also had to take into the account the amount of time I would have over the next month to accomplish these goals.

By going back to the basics and knowing what I needed to accomplish I was able to set good goals for the month of September. This allowed me to set my goals for this week and for each day of the week so I am prepared for the month.

If you are having trouble setting goals for a particular month, week, or day go back to the basics, look a your long range and medium range goals, think about what you need to accomplish this month that sets you on track and if necessary do something that lets you clear your mind and come back at it again later so that your mind is clear and you can set goals that you will achieve.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Book Review: If the Allies Had Fallen

Animated map showing German and Axis allies' c...
Animated map showing German and Axis allies' conquests in Europe throughout World War II (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have always enjoyed alternate reality stories and a few years ago I started reading a variety of fiction about alternative realities. After reading a few books from one of the more popular authors of alternative history Harry Turtledove I wanted to read more from other authors and while searching Amazon the book "If the Allies Had Fallen: Sixty Alternative Scenarios of World War II" and decided to take look at it so I rented it from the library.

The first thing I discovered about the book is that it was not an alternative history book but a book about alternate scenarios that could have happened in World War II. Fortunately I also am a fan of history so the book proved to be an interesting read. The book is 284 pages plus a couple of pages of information about the different authors of the book. Most of the writers are professors so the book can truly be considered an academia book.

Second, the book title is extremely misleading since it really does have little to do if the Allies had fallen. There is only two sections of the book that talk about what would have happened if Germany had won the war. The first was the most confusing which takes place about half way through the book when one of authors discusses one possible scenario and then in the last paragraph gives an alternate history like it had really happened. The second section is the final 12 pages of the book that discuss certain scenarios that could have seen a German win in the war but most of prefaced saying that they were extremely unlikely.

One of the most interesting scenarios in the book discusses D-day and when the invasion should have happened but did not. It really gives an interesting light to the politics going on in Great Britain at the time and shows some of their motives.

Another aspect of the book that is interesting is the authors take on the situation in Japan. There will always be the controversy about whether the Japanese were ready to surrender or not and whether the dropping of the bomb was really necessary. The authors do a good job of showing both sides of the argument and the motivations behind each side but without passing judgement so you can make up your own mind which side is true.

Because it is an academia book it is a more tedious read although not terrible. Despite the flaws and the misleading title I give the book 4 stars because it does give an excellent run down of World War II and what could have happened during the war.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Last Years Reading List

English: Open book icon
English: Open book icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I mentioned in my post about the goals for next year, last year I read a total of 87 books after after seeing a posting from speaker and friend Rich Hopkins that he was going to try to read a book a week and decided to do the same.

My reading list included fiction, urban planning and design, motivational/self-help, business, history, biographies and politics. The fiction category comprised mainly of Star Trek books and the Tomorrow, When the War Began series which is a Australian version of Red Dawn but because they comprise a seven book series are much more details and character development than the Red Dawn movies.

Except for the Star Trek books most of which I purchased since they are not available in our local library, all the books I read came from the Multnomah County Library.

Here is a listing of the books by category:

Category/Title                                         Author:                                      Recommended?

Motivational/Self Help

The 5 Love Languages                           Gary Chapman                           Yes
Barefoot Executive                                 Carrie Wilkerson                        Yes
Raising Positive Kids                             Zig Ziglar                                    Yes
Think and Grow Rich                             Napoleon Hill                             Yes
The Millionaire Next Door                     Tom Stanley/William Danko     Yes
Be the Miracle                                         Regina Brett                               Yes
Hijacked By Your Brain                         Julian Ford, Jon Wortmann        Yes
How Full is Your Bucket?                      Tom Rath, Donald Clifton          Yes
Life Without Limits                                Nick Vujivic                               Yes
Break Out                                               Joel Osteen                                  Yes
Wishes Fulfilled                                     Wayne Dyer                                 No
Life Reimagined                                     Richard Leider, Alan Webber     Yes
How to Win Friends and Influence...     Dale Carnegie and others            Yes
100 Ways to Motivate Yourself             Steve Chandler                            Yes
How Successful People Think               John Maxwell                              Yes
Secrets of the Millionaire Mind             T. Harv Ecker                              No
E-Squared                                               Pam Grout                                   Yes
The Butterfly Effect                               Andy Andrews                            Yes
Better Than Good                                  Zig Ziglar                                     Yes
Outliers                                                  Malcolm Gladwell                        No
Relentless                                              Tim Grover                                   Yes
Power of Your Subconscious Mind      Joseph Murphy                             Yes
The Purpose Driver Life                       Rick Warren                                  Yes
Instant Influence                                   Michael Plantalon                          Yes
Drive                                                     Daniel Pink                                    Yes
Finding A Way to Win                         Bill Parcells                                   Yes
Top Performance                                  Zig Ziglar                                       Yes
Take The Lead                                      Betsy Meyers                                 Yes
Motivation Manifesto                           Brendan Burchard                          Yes
Get Motivated                                       Tamara Lowe                                Maybe...

Fiction: 

Daybreak Zero                                       John Barnes                                   No

Star Trek: 

From History's Shadow                         Dayton Ward                                 Only for Star Trek Fans
The Fall: Peaceable Kingdoms              Dayton Ward                                 Yes
Voyager: Protectors                               Kristen Beyer                                Only for Star Trek Fans
No Time Like the Past                           Greg Cox                                       No

Tomorrow When the War Began:

Tomorrow When the War Began          John Marsden                                Yes
The Dead of Night                                John Marsden                                Yes
A Killing Frost                                      John Marsden                                Yes
Darkness Be My Friend                        John Marsden                                Yes
Burning For Revenge                            John Marsden                                Yes
The Night is for Hunting                       John Marsden                                Yes
The Other Side of Dawn                       John Marsden                                Yes

Urban Planning/Design:

Zoned Out                                             Jonathon Levine                           Only to Planning Nerds
Planning a New West                           Abbott, Abbott, and Adler            Yes
Ethical Land Use                                  Timothy Beatley                           No
Planning and Diversity in the City       Ruth Fincher, Kurt Iveson            No
Planning With Complexity                   Judith Innes                                  No
Portland Edge                                       Various                                         No
The Seaside Debates                             Robert Davis, Tod Bressi,           Yes
American Urban Form                         Warner, Whittemore                     Yes
Living Over the Store                           Howard Davis                              Yes
Principles of Ecological Landscape
    Design                                              Travis Beck                                   Yes
How to Study Public Life                     Jan Gehl, Birgitte Svarre              Yes
Design for an Emphatic World             Ryn, Hawken                               Yes
Cities for People                                   Jan Gehl                                        Yes
Death and Life of Great American
    Cities                                                 Jane Jacobs                                   Yes
Walkable City                                       Jeff Speck                                     Yes
Urban Design                                        Cuesta, Moughtin, Moughtin       Yes
Living Streets                                        Bain, Gray, Rodgers                    Yes
Happy City                                            Charles Montgomery                   Yes
Urban Design Handbook                      Urban Design Associates             Yes
New Urban China                                 Laurence Liauw                           No
Toward Sustainable Communities        Various                                        Yes
  
Politics/Social:

Democracy and Populism                    John Lukacs                                 Yes
That Used to be Us                               Friedman, Mandelbaum               Yes
Planet of Slums                                    Mike Davis                                   Yes
New American Militarism                   Andrew Bacevich                         Yes
To Serve God and Wal-Mart               Bethany Moreton                          Yes
The Metropolitan Revolution              Bruce Katz, Jennifer Bradley        Yes
Bowling Alone                                     Robert Putnam                              Yes
Rise of the Creative Class                    Richard Florida                             Yes
Collapse                                               Jared Diamond                               Yes
The Elusive State of Jefferson             Peter Laufer                                   Yes
Convention Center Follies                   Heywood T. Sanders                     Yes

Business: 

Retail 101                                            Nicole Reyhle, Jason Prescott       Yes
Supply Chain Strategy                        Edward Frazelle                             Yes
Retail Doctors Guide to Growing
        Your Business                             Bob Phibbs                                    Yes

History:

They Got it Wrong: History               Emma Marriott                             Yes

Biography:  

Steve Jobs: The Exclusive                  Walter Isaccson                             Yes
Jim Henson                                         Brian Jay Jones                              Yes
Thomas Jefferson                               John Meacham                               Yes
Albert Einstein                                                                                           Yes
Elizabeth Smart                                  Elizabeth Smart                              Yes
Neil Armstrong                                  Jay Barbree                                     Yes
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos
       and the Age of Amazon              Brad Stone                                      Yes
Steve Jobs: The Man who Thought
       Different                                      Karen Blumenthal                          Yes

Misc: 

Frontiers Past and Future                    Carl Abbott                                   Yes

Sorry about the formatting but it is a Blogger thing.

It should also be noted that while I recommend all the books in the Politics/Social category I may not necessarily agree with everything that the book has to say.

I still have many books on loan to read plus I also received some for Christmas that I plan on reading soon also.

Happy Reading Everyone...