Thursday, May 24, 2018 11:42 AM (about Wednesday, May 23)

Dennis and I spent the afternoon yesterday in a pay-by-the-hour-motel.

Seriously. Me, germophone extraordinaire, not only went to a pay-by-the-hour-motel, I actually used the hot tub — something I never, ever do in any hotel, no matter how many stars there are in their Michelin rating.

The truth is, I don’t like using public swimming pools at health clubs or hotels, but I love, love, LOVE to swim. I have a bad knee and swimming is the only exercise I can do without pain.

A few years back , I overcame my germophobe ways enough to swim laps for an hour a day, five days a week, at health club. I did it for five months and my knee felt amazing. No pain at all. I’d like to get back to that. But I really, really don’t want to go back to swimming in public pools. It was this conundrum that brought me to the doors of the Sybaris Motel in North Brook, Illinois, yesterday afternoon.

The Sybaris motel is a small chain of motels in Wisconsin and Illinois that are marketed as a lover’s getaway. Brochures show dimly lit rooms with fireplaces, beds encased with lights and full size, private swimming pools.

I’m not a fan of staying in hotels in general. When I do stay in one, I bring my own blanket and I touch the bedspread only enough to pull it off the bed and cram it in the corner for the rest of my stay. I don’t go quite so far as to sleep in my own silk encased sleeping bag like Howie Mandel does when he stays in hotels, but I understand the sentiment behind his doing it.  Staying in the Sybaris, much less using any of the pools where you-know-what has certainly happened in them, has never crossed my mind.

Until I learned about the swim spa room. I discovered swim spas about three years ago. They are essentially a large bathtub with strong jets that propel out from one end. These jets are strong enough to allow you to “swim in place”. It is the perfect answer to my want to swim/hate swimming in public pools problem. They can be put indoors and they cost much less than building a regular swimming pool.

The problem is, and has been for three years, I haven’t been able to find a place to let me try one. This is a significant investment. One I’m not comfortable making unless I can give one a good long test drive.

The various places that sell swim spas offered to let me try their units out in the showroom. How appealing, having to show up in my swimming suit to swim in a showroom full of customers and sales people. Not! And how long could I use it? A minute or two? I certainly couldn’t swim for even fifteen or twenty minutes in there. How would I know if it was really a good workout?

Then last week, Dennis discovered one Sybaris location about two hours from our house that has a swim spa in one of their rooms. The rooms are expensive – well over $200.00 for a night. However, they did have the option of renting the room from 12:30 to 4:30 on a weekday afternoon for a little over a $100.00.

Could I do it? Could I get over the ick-factor of going in the water at one of these sex-motels to try out my swim spa? Now granted, this is a no-name swim spa, so I knew I would have to try out the exact model I want in a pool show room at some point. However, that could be a minute or two swim to try it out if I had already spent significant time swimming in a swim spa and knew I liked it. The Sybaris could be my proof-of-concept test. If I hated it, that would be that.

We booked the room for Wednesday afternoon.

The Sybaris was not what I expected. In spite of the subtly decorated rooms in their brochure, I was expecting to get a tacky, seventies-era room with mirrors everywhere, a fake leopard print bedspread and Bow-Chicka-Wow-Wow porn music piped in. There were no animal skins fabrics, there was an 80’s station playing and the only mirrors were a mirrored headboard. It actually looked like the room in the brochure.


There are strict rules at the Sybaris. Top of the list is no animals, no children and no more than three people to a room, no matter how large the room is. I’m assuming this is to discourage parties in their rooms?

From the time we drove off the congested highway into the parking lot, everything about the Sybaris screamed discreet. There were large hedges and privacy fences that blocked the busy road from seeing the cars in the parking lot. The desk clerk asked “which car” we’d be driving to our room. Only one was allowed. Apparently, there are many people who arrive here with two.

View from the parking lot when checking in

We drove through a privacy gate to our bungalow. It was a small house that was not connected to any of the other bungalows around it. More tall hedges and privacy fences hid the view of our bungalow from any of the others. We had our own parking space right in front of the door. I read that some of the bungalows have their own attached one car garage for those who want complete discretion.

The bungalows looked nice from the outside. They were landscaped nicely with flowers, and they had an architectural style that reminded me of a small tropical bungalow. All the bungalows are made of painted cement blocks. When I got inside the room I realized there were no windows. This place was essentially a bunker; completely sound-proof and the ultimate in privacy. If there’s ever a real threat of nuclear war, I’m renting out one of these places. I’ll get the one with the private one car garage so I can smuggle in my animals.

The room itself was nice looking. There was not a mirror above the bed as I expected, but there was a small lighted panel with the constellations of the zodiac. In the center was a large ring.

ceiling 1hook2

What was the ring for, we wondered? Then we opened the closet. Next to the ironing board and behind the suitcase stand was a sex swing. It was even wrapped up in the paper “sanitized for your safety” label that they normally put on toilets. I’m not sure if it came with instructions or warnings — weight limits or bad heart warnings, perhaps?  Sanitized paper or not, there was no way I was touching it to look.  There is no mention of the complimentary sex swing in their brochure on their website. Everything at the Sybaris is discreet.


Our room didn’t have a fireplace but it did have two TV’s with eight channels.  Two of them were porn. Bow-Chicka-Wow-Wow.

And then there was the swim spa. It was smaller than the ones I’ve looked it, but certainly large enough to give it a try. I changed into my Tankini (a two piece swimming suit that looks like a one piece) gritted my teeth and went in. It was warm which made me cringe. A cooler pool means less germs in my brain. I was somewhat comforted by the note on the check in slip that said the pools were serviced daily (even if guests were staying for more than one night) to ensure safe ph levels.


Swimming in the swim spa was a challenge. It didn’t have multiple speeds like the ones I’m considering. This meant that I had to swim fast enough to keep myself in the “swim lane”. If I went too slow, the current would kick me out and I’d bang into the sides. If I went too fast, I banged into the front of the spa where the jets were.

I learned a lot. I learned there is a light in the bottom that allowed me to center myself in the current to sustain the swimming rhythm for longer periods. I learned I need to buy a swim spa that has an under the water current because it’s hard to get a breath of air while there are jets throwing up water around your head. I learned that swim jets will cause the top of a Tankini to gather around your arm pits leaving the thin layer of lining the only thing between you and swimming topless. Learning this last lesson prior to trying out a swim spa in a showroom was worth the cost of the room in and of itself.

There were a lot of stops and starts at first, while I figured out what I was doing. Finally, I was able to swim for longer periods of time before stopping. I was out of breath a few times, which is a good sign it was a good workout, but I still wasn’t sure. So I did one final push to swim for a long time without falling out of my swim lane. I lasted about 2.5 minutes straight. Considering I used to swim for an hour straight, this isn’t much.

I wasn’t convinced that the swim spa gave me a good workout. Until I got out of bed this morning. Every muscle in my body hurts today. Shoulders, arms, even the tops of my feet! They say swimming exercises every muscle group in the body. I believe it.

Overall, the swim spa experiment was a success. I liked it enough to warrant further research and test swims. I will be buying a no-nonsense one piece suit before I swim in any show rooms, however.

When we checked out of the Sybaris, I was amazed at how many other people were checking out, too. Apparently, there’s a lot of people who rent hotel rooms for four hours in the afternoon. I wondered how many of them were actual couples looking for a change of pace and how many of them were there cheating on their significant other? I wondered if they were wondering the same thing about me. Maybe they were all testing out the various pools Sybaris offers. Probably not.

But I came here just to try out the swim spa. Honestly!

All in all, it was a fun afternoon. I got to try my swim spa and I caught a glimpse into a lifestyle I’ve not seen before. I think there could be inspiration for a story there. Finally, and best of all, as of this morning I’m free of any creepy, yucky rash I could have caught from the water.

Proof-of-concept completed.

12:48 PM


  1. Amanda · May 24, 2018

    Why wear swimwear in privacy? I’d have been nude the entire stay just because


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