Return to the Florida Trail: Chapter 20

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019

We got to the Holiday Inn Express around 1:30-ish in the morning. We were hopeful that whoever was working the nightshift would be kind enough to let us lounge around in the lobby until the daytime. Inside, there was a guy sitting at a table in the lobby lounge area listening to good tunes as he browsed through his laptop.  His name was Tom, and we told him about our situation: We were Florida Trail hikers; we had a room booked for tomorrow; we had been wandering around all night trying to kill time and wanted to know if we could wait there until it was time to check in. He didn’t mind at all!

Once we got to know Tom, the commendable nightshift employee, his awesomeness would build. He was incredibly personal with all of the hotel patrons that passed through those doors and treated us with equal respect, even though we currently smelled like dog shit! Speaking of dogs, he was the owner of several Pomeranian-Papillon mixes which he used to take on road trips. He was a Florida native who previously lived in Marathon Key, and he has plans to move out of the state and head out west to San Diego after his mother passes. We discussed ditching our vices and how those lifestyle changes have made life more pleasant. We shared some stories from our hikes, past and current. Tom was very easy to talk to. When we weren’t conversing with Tom, Frisbee was in the midst of a power nap and I was writing. Time would fly by.

Tom had told us when we arrived that he didn’t think he’d be able to get us checked in early. We were fine with that. We just wanted to be out of the gaze of law enforcement and the occasional shady character that was wandering the streets at night. He would surprise us, though! He welcomed us to breakfast and got us checked in at 7 am! Tom, if you’re reading this, you’re incredible! Thank you!

The rest of the day would be filled with hiker errands: laundry, showers, resupplying at Walmart, and lots of eating! We lounged in our room and tanned by the pool. The only downer was that the hot tub (one of the reasons I booked the room here to begin with), had been filled in. After talking to the front office manager, Sherry, we heard about the nightmare patrons who had shoved bottle caps in the jets of the hot tub, not just once, but on two separate occasions! The owner, understandably so, didn’t find it worth paying to have it repaired the second time around, and had it filled in instead. It only takes one asshole to ruin a good thing for the rest of us! Although there was no hot tub, we were still very happy that we stayed there. The place was clean and roomy, the breakfast served by Maria was amazing, and everyone who worked there went above and beyond for their customers. This was the perfect zero day destination! Take note future Florida Trail hikers! Holiday Inn Express in Okeechobee is a no-brainer!


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