World Airshow News        

Motel from Hell

 Circa Feb 1996


For many new to the airshow business, the idea of being a performer and traveling from show to show is an exciting adventure.  You get to see new places, meet new people, and enjoy wonderful experiences. 


For the old hands, the enthusiasm to be “on the road again” is tempered by memories of when things just didn’t go right.


Living, for weeks, out of a suitcase you can fit into an aerobatic aircraft, long boring hours of cross-country without an autopilot, fighting weather in a VFR Only airplane, finding a place to wash your clothes, get a haircut, etc. etc.  The list goes on and on but what most performers seem to remember are the “Motels-from-Hell.”


Prior to the proliferation of “chain” motels, an evening’s lodging could be best described a chancy. You fly until the sun is setting below the horizon, scoot into a small airport, staying away from the big metro facilities, and hopefully, hop a ride into town with a friendly local; or you arrive at the show site, tired and just wanting to rest, shower and get something good to eat after seemly days of airport cracker machine cuisine.  Each time, in the back of your head, a little voice speaks, “They are going to put you in the MOTEL FROM HELL!” 


Every long time performer has a story of less then desirable billeting.  Here’s mine:


Bluefield WVA.  The airshow was being sponsored by a local civic club.  One of the club members offered to guide us to the motel via an "over the mountain route."  That was quite a trip, on a one-lane road, but it worked out beautifully.  We emerged from the forest overlooking Bluefield as it spread up and down the valley below.  We could see the entire downtown area and the northbound highway where several "name brand" motels were located.

As we descended the circuitous route to the valley floor, our guide informed us that we would be staying at a small, independent motel owned by a fellow club member.  “Helped with the budget don't you know.”


We pulled into the parking lot of, well, a classic motel.  Oh well, after years on the circuit we thought we had seen it all and had stayed at worse.  Wrong!


As the performers were checking-in, Doctor Butch Harbolt punched me in the ribs and pointed to a sign, painted in 6" red block letters on the wall above the teenage clerk.  It said," NO REFUNDS AFTER 30 MINUTES"


The sign foretold what the rooms were like: carpet of undeterminable color, sway back beds with see through sheets, and an undeterminable aroma that reminded one of cigars, stale beer, sweat and fuel oil.


Being discriminating airshow performers, we elected to move to the Sheraton across the highway.  Cost was no object; visions of slamming doors and cars coming and going all night assured us that we would get no sleep.  But as I walked back to the office, I noticed a large group of people, what appeared construction works, coming down the hill from that Sheraton.  There had been a fire and every guest of the Sheraton was being moved to our "No Tell Motel."  It was either here or under the airplane’s wing.


Fortunately, it was not all that bad.  The same guy owned a liquor store next door and gave all motel guests a discount.  We needed that!  Bought a bottle of 180 proof; poured it on the shower stall floor!


Bob & Pat Wagner have two great stories.  One about having to be rescued from their room (another time at the above referenced motel), by a crow bar totin room clerk.  The second about having to sleep in a cast iron bathtub when gun fire erupted outside the next “cabin” when an irate wife located her husband with his girl friend.  The best part of the latter story is that the motel owner was very distraught by the events, seems the husband was one of his best customers.


Now the show sponsors’ have a little idea of why performers are so concerned by “Where are we staying?”


Performers, if you can top any of the above, please forward a note describing your worst “Motel from Hell” story to “World Airshow News” or



A winner will be chosen by a totally bias panel of “judges” and the winning story(s) published in a future issue of WAN.  The judging will be overseen by representatives of the Cheatem, Cheatem, and Howe drinking team and the voting results compiled by an accounting firm consisting of second grade math students.


Prizes?  Are you kidding!  We’re saving up money to up-grade the next time we are billeted at “The Motel From Hell.”