Willits, California is not somewhere I’d recommend to the casual tourist. But for the road tripper, I feel the experience was a vital rite of passage. My companion and I left Oakland late and drove for around three hours before hitting our destination. On the way we’d stopped for a classic roadtrip burger from In and Out, a place in America that is after my own heart by having only about five items on the menu. One thing that I’ve begun to hate in the US is choice for food and drink. Just give me a few options and I’ll decide, don’t give me infinite choice – my British brain just gets all confused and hurty.
Arriving in Willits the action was slow. It seemed there wouldn’t be any tourist sights to view the next morning and we soon found a road with about ten motels on. With such a range of options some might decide to go for quality and which one looked the best, some might go for a chain that they’d heard of which would hopefully provide some kind of basic standards. We chose the one with the biggest neon sign. The Lark. And let me tell you, at midnight to a tired road tripper, that sign looked mighty impressive. What sealed the deal was a picture of Shiva hung behind the desk at the counter.
We rang the bell on the front window three times but with no answer and were about to give up when a yawning elderly Indian lady (EIL) emerged from the door and gave us a glare which conveyed the message “I can’t believe you weird looking fuckers have just woken me up, you bastards.” We then negotiated the booking of the room through a glass panel of the kind you get at late night petrol stations. Communication proved tricky with the EIL and eventually when most of the details were completed we gave her our booking card and she passed us the key. No have a nice stay, no good evening, no thank you - just supreme indifference. When we asked if that was ok, if we were good, she merely waved her hand at us with a dismissive contempt. Her total anti-customer service attitude was one I’d encountered before in Poland and in this nation of ‘Have a nice day’, I actually almost respected her commitment to sheer hatred of the customer.
And what a treat we were in for - Grandma sheets, holes in the curtains and an ancient TV. Still it did seem pretty clean if you don’t count the dead wasp on the bathroom windowsill, but I got the feeling that a horrific murder had occurred there sometime previously. On a business card pinned to the mirror, the motel billed itself as ‘Willits finest’, something that I didn’t entirely believe was true unless it was claiming Willits’ finest dead wasp.
The next morning we were awoken at 8am by a Harley Davidson revving loudly and persistently and the woman next door screaming “Shut the fuck up”. She had windchimes outside her room and was clearly a more permanent resident. I wasn’t planning to meet her so we soon bid a hasty retreat and got on the road.