I'm on the road this week, doing first-hand research. Which means a wide array of cool things - new places, new people, long stretches in the car with the iPod on Shuffle and life's random playlist timing itself to the vast landscape of 'Merica. Another thing that this sort of road trip means to me is sketchy hotels and motels. The cheaper and more poetically located, the better. I stayed at a tip top version last night here in western Iowa. Without boring anyone with the details, I rolled into the parking lot just in time to head up to my room for the GOP Candidates' debate in Florida. I thought I'd timed it perfectly after a long day on the road. I opened my assigned room's door with barely a minute to spare. What I found bore the indistinct feel of a recently cleared crash scene. A vague sense of recent death might even have still lingered in the air. Or I'll just paint with the picture with that and ask you to skip over the details. Save one thing - my damn TV didn't work. It was, in fact, upon close, antic inspection missing most of the buttons. Cue the scene of me dashing to the front desk, where I exclaimed that "I need a new TV or a new room or could someone please help me because the Debate was starting?" Don't believe it when you hear that everyone in Iowa takes the nomination process seriously, because the slow walk back upstairs to test the TV ("oh, that doesn't look good" was the prognosis) and shuffle to the next room took what seemed like four of five insults worth of prime debate clock. But I'm pleased to report that the replacement room was, well...better. Not quite lovely. Certainly less murder-y. I caught the lion's share of the debate (even a junkie feels good after a fix). Recharged overnight. Woke up to single-digit temps. Which is better than what was forecast. And after a morning of getting what I hoped for on the interview circuit, I'm heading back East. Maybe I'll be in another hotel room tonight for the President's State of the Union. Here's hoping it will be just as random and delightful in the way it offers safe harbor. Or at least an equally entertaining snapshot of a completely different State, with a similar state of mind.