My big break came when I saw the giant banana. And I don’t mean to suggest that I knew immediately it was a banana I was looking at when, from a considerable distance, I saw the yellow tumescent structure that menaced the clouds and partially occluded the bottom of the orange sun. While thinking about how an establishment that sells bananas could afford such a structure I remembered that my hotel was called The Orchard and that reference had been made somewhere, maybe a brochure or something, to some kind of cognizable fruit theme. That was enough for me and I accelerated towards the banana. And as I neared the banana I saw it had friends, an apple and a peach at first and later an orange. This was The Orchard and each oversized rooftop fruit represented a different wing of this colossal hotel.
(page 474 of the Xlibris version)
While I’ve been away from the area for quite a while, I wondered if this had been modeled on anything around there. Not aware of anything that size in the area at the time (I don’t believe the casino that stands out like the monolith in 2001 had been built at the time the novel was written), I figured it was part of the gag for the convention of the Society of Egalitarian Reptile Protectors Entitled to New Technology (SERPENT) being held at the hotel. There’s already a lot of literary license going on with the implied existence of a direct flight from New York to south Alabama (yeah, that bugged me too). Maybe the author had another hotel in mind when describing the place. But I still wondered—was there anything like this hotel around Atmore?
Instead of driving an hour to Atmore I stopped at the Page & Palette bookstore in Fairhope. A highly recommended stop if you find yourself on the east side of Mobile Bay (approaching tropical storms are not necessary for enjoyment, although it did add to the atmosphere). Be sure and check their webpage for a schedule of visiting authors. I talked to a few members of the staff who were incredibly helpful and patient for someone asking about such an esoteric fact (but then I’ve been known to bug people over less). No one was familiar with anything like The Orchard in the Atmore area (or anywhere close). My brother was certain that years ago there was a tavern close to Atmore called The Orchard, strategically placed in front of a no-tell motel (he swears he never visited either place). Even if he’s right, I’m still voting on the hotel being part of the SERPENT joke, but I thought I would pass on this information for the fun of it.