When your college-age son has waited four years to see his favorite rock band, and you’ve traveled 500 miles from home to make his dream become a reality, the last thing on your mind is researching the geographical location surrounding your hotel. So I did what all good dads do — I used the Internet to find a reasonably priced hotel somewhat close to the concert venue. Of course, being an Atlanta area resident and not really knowing all that much about Richmond, Va., I trusted the website of the hotel to paint an accurate picture. Well, that picture was about as accurate as an airbrushed supermodel cover photo.
Here is literally what the hotel website said: “We’re Richmond’s most central accommodation and convention site, located at the crossroads of I-64 and I-95, nestled on the north side of the Boulevard and just less than 1 miles from Virginia University, University of Richmond , and less then 2 miles from Commonwealth University! The Holiday Inn Central is the happy host of numerous events and guests throughout the year …”
So, reading that, I’m expecting a Downtown/City Center location, right? Wrong. The only “happy” people inside this hotel were the people working behind the counter — people who seemed utterly oblivious to the blight, crime and poverty strewn all around them. Yes, the hotel was close to one amenity — the home baseball stadium of the minor league Richmond Flying Squirrels — but there was a good reason those squirrels were flying. They, like me, wanted to get the heck out of Dodge as quickly as possible. And they weren’t the only ones anxious to leave town. The Richmond Braves fled that stadium last year to move into a picture-postcard-perfect stadium just 7 miles from my house in Gwinnett County, Ga. They are now known as the Gwinnett Braves, the triple-A affiliate of our hometown Atlanta Braves.
So we followed suit, packed up our bags, and left the Holiday Inn in our rear-view mirror about as fast as we could. After depositing my son Christopher and his buddy Greg at The Canal Club on East Carey Street in downtown Richmond, my wife and I set out on a quest to find accommodations that might actually live up to their billing. Enter Hyatt Place at Exit 195 just off I-64. Can you say “oasis”? Can you say “suite”? Can you say “the complete opposite of dark, dreary and depressed”? When we arrived at this gleaming hotel and were told that — yes! — they had vacancy, my wife and I were both about as excited as the boys at the concert.
Speaking of which, seeing The Classic Crime perform live on stage was just the beginning of my son’s dream come true. As the photo at the top of this post attests, he met the entire Seattle-based rock band backstage and spent a few minutes clowning around with them. Every band member signed his poster, posed for pictures, and even got together to record a special video message to Christopher’s girlfriend back home in Buford, Ga. And, best of all, they performed every one of my son’s favorite songs.
When I returned to pick up my son and his friend later that evening, neither one of them had to say a word. Their sheer joy was written all over their faces. When I asked Christopher how things went, the words started pouring out of him like a firehose stuck on full blast. Already elated that he had survived his freshman year at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., and was about to head home to Georgia, Christopher beamed with the excitement of a young child who had just unwrapped the greatest Christmas present ever.
We all felt the same way about our new hotel.