On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, Paul and I were supposed to stay at the Stinson Beach Motel. It was at an extremely convenient location, right where the start/finish of my race would be on Saturday morning. From the pictures online, it definitely looked like a budget motel, but it looked cute! We normally try to save money and stay at non fancy places when we are on vacations in which we spend most of our time outdoors and away from the hotel we are staying at.
(Note: If you clicked on the link above to see pictures from their website, be advised that the actual hotel was WAY MORE of a dump than depicted in the pictures.)
We never had a bad experience with a budget motel. The worst is that the bedspread may be stiff, the walls can be thin, there may be a stray hair or something in the bathroom, the fixtures are outdated, and the in room coffee is not very good. But none of those things I listed are creepy, unsafe, or unclean. I've never felt UNSAFE or UNEASY at any of the hotels we have stayed at until Thursday night when we checked in at the Stinson Beach Motel.
(Note: We sometimes stay at nice places. I don't want you to think we never spring for something nicer, because we do!)
I know, you want me to get to the good stuff, right?
We pulled up to the Stinson Beach Motel on Thursday night around 7:30pm. We were so hungry and tired from driving all day. Paul told me that once we were checked in, that I could go to our room and eat my sandwich while he unloaded ALL of our stuff. What a guy! I was so excited to eat, shower, get cozy, and at 9pm, watch Big Brother with Paul. It was EVICTION NIGHT ON BIG BROTHER!
I grabbed my purse and went up to the motel office, which was right next to where we parked. I turned the doorknob but it was locked. But suddenly the door swung open... halfway... and a man appeared. He was slight, probably in his 50s, tan, and had about three teeth. The door only opened halfway because there was a counter in the way.
"Yes?" he asked.
"Hi, I am checking in," I said.
"Do you have a reservation?" he asked.
"Yes, I do."
"Okay, meet me around back and I will show you the room," he said and shut the door.
The man creeped me out. It was a combination of the man's demeanor and the tone of his voice. Paul heard the whole exchange go down and just left our luggage in the lot. "You're not going back there alone," Paul said and followed me into the courtyard. I didn't want to go back there alone!
The man appeared out of nowhere and opened a cottage for us. It looked very low budget and small, but that was okay. I honestly didn't look around closely. I just assumed that if this was a business with a license, it would be safe.
"This is okay," I told the man.
We went back to the office (him through the back and me through the half opened door out front. Paul went back to the car to unload.
"Okay, so one night is $121," he told me.
"Wait, I reserved three nights!" I said.
"What?" he asked confused. "Aren't you Peg?"
"No, I'm Megan," I said.
"Oh, oh, oh... okay, well I showed you the wrong room. I showed you room 7. Your room 3. You can go back and look at it, it's open.
Hmmm. This was strange. I grabbed Paul and we went back to look at room 3. Again, the cottage was very small and outdated, but we didn't look very closely. It seemed pretty dingy but the location was great and it was cheaper than anything else around. And it's not like we'd be spending lots of time in our room. It seemed adequate. I still had a really weird feeling though...
I went back to the office and told the man the room was fine.
"Yeah, there is no doorknob on the bathroom door, I'm sure you saw that, right?" he asked.
"Oh, no I didn't see that," I said.
"It's no big deal, just don't shut the door from the outside or it will lock on you. No big deal," he said nonchalantly.
This was weird...
"You can only pay for one night at a time," the man told me.
"Really?" I asked, surprised.
"Well, unless you pay cash, but..."
"Oh no, I'm not paying cash," I told him.
"Okay, then just pay for one night then," he said.
He ran my credit card. "Would you like extra pillows? he asked.
"Sure!" I said. Finally, some good news. Paul and I love lots of pillows. "I'll just wait here?"
He stared at me with the weirdest, blank look on his face, and in monotone, he said, "I have to get them from the back, Megan."
Now listen, I know there are any number of reasons someone might act strange. I deal with students all the time who are on the spectrum or who have other mental or emotional problems. I know many adults who are like this. But these people I have dealt with never EVER give me a weird feeling in my stomach or creeped me out.
This guy was different. I just really need to convey to you how I am not overreacting. ALWAYS FOLLOW YOUR INTUITION. But follow it before you pay someone $121....
I decided to help Paul carry our things to our room since neither of use wanted to be walking outside alone. Once we got everything inside, we realized the weird guy never gave us a key. Paul went to get it while I locked myself in the room. Luckily Paul came back within just a couple minutes. We looked around the room and got the lay of the land...
There was no air conditioning or heat. Just an electric radiator you could plug in for warmth. All of the windows were open. The bathroom window didn't have a screen, so it was wide open, which explained why there were mosquitoes in our room. Indeed, the bathroom door did not have a doorknob, but there was a note taped on the door that said not to shut the door at ALL (from the inside or the outside) or it would be locked.
"How the hell are you allowed to have a door like this that could lock on you?" Paul asked.
"I have no idea," I said. "I can't imagine it's that expensive to replace a doorknob..."
Paul needed a shower and I needed to eat. As he showered, I ate a couple bites of my sandwich and searched for CBS on the TV. Surprisingly, the TV was a big flat screen with HD. The wifi was working pretty well too...
But I still could not get that horrible feeling out of my stomach. I Googled reviews for the motel and was horrified by what I found. I will post some of them for you to read. They are from the Trip Advisor website...
Manager very unprofessional, rude. The room was full of spiders. I killed at least 5. I have stayed here many times over the years. The owners have let it go to hell. Never again. I got my money back and split.
Unfortunately not a very good impression, poorly furnished a very small room and very much in need of refurbishment. We actually asked for our money back we were so unimpressed. The towels were not washed and the impression was shabby to say the least.
I am only giving this motel one star for the location, if it wasn't for the walking distance to beach and restaurants, it would be a zero rating. I arrived with my family to be greeted by a grouchy front desk representative/live-in manager who was unprofessional and rude. The entire property smelled like propane, almost as though it would blow up at any moment. We were told that was just how it was. The cottages were filthy, so much I wouldn't let my young child touch the ground and the bathrooms were gross. The second night we were there, there was no hot water, as well as the following morning. I went and ask the front desk and was told, "yeah, we are out of propane." UNBELIEVEABLE!
The proprietor left the door open to the room/shack after showing it and when I came back there was loud breathing and movement behind the dresser. I bolted as it was quite late and didn't stay in the room. I think it was a raccoon as there was a number of them all over the area. WORST STAY EVER. Also, proprietor said they don't "do refunds".
My husband and I are pretty adventurous and understand that you get what you pay for within a certain price point for lodging. However, this hotel was very poorly maintained - screens missing from windows, carpet stains, shower curtain was disgusting, to name a few. The manager was awkward and made me feel very uncomfortable by asking if I'd 'like to look at the room first' when we checked in... Is there a reason I should look at the room first? Overall, if you were in the situation we were in, where there weren't any other vacancies in town, it's a place to sleep, but if you have any choice at all, don't stay here. It's not worth half of what they charge.
Now, I know what you are thinking, "Megan, why didn't you read these reviews BEFORE you booked the hotel!!!!???"
I really don't know why! There was a website and the rooms looked fine! It looked like a legit place! BELIEVE ME, I HAVE LEARNED MY LESSON!!!!!
After reading the reviews, the sick feeling in my stomach got worse and I got very homesick. My eyes wandered around the room. I wondered if the room had a smoke alarm. I looked on the ceiling and it did... but there were NO BATTERIES IN IT!
This was the last straw. I didn't feel comfortable ever since that weird man opened the office door halfway.
"Paul, we have to go," I told him. "We can't stay here tonight. There are no batteries in the smoke alarm."
Paul agreed right away. We both didn't feel good about it. We grabbed all of our stuff in just one trip and jammed it into the car. Since Paul was THE MAN (I know I am a feminist but in this situation I was glad to be the woman and wait in the car!!!!) he went into the office to demand our money back. He was able to get $90.
We took pictures of all the stuff that was wrong with our room, and Paul got a picture of the business license for the hotel. I called the Marin County Department of Health the next day and I'm still waiting for a call back. I need to follow up because this motel can NOT be open. It is unclean and unsafe.
No knob on bathroom door.
Note on bathroom door.
Wide open bathroom window.
No batteries in the smoke alarm.
We made the decision to leave just in time, because our only option for finding a place to stay was in Mill Valley. And since Route 1 was closed after Stinson Beach, our only route there was driving over Mt. Tamalpais... which is winding, has steep cliffs, and NO STREET LIGHTS. I'm not even sure if you're supposed to drive over it in the dark!
The story ends happily... sort of. We made it to America's Best Value Inn in Mill Valley and got a room from a RUDE clerk (more on her later). With tax, the room was $175(ish) for the night. But at least we were in a safe, clean room.
The best part? WE MADE IT TO OUR ROOM IN TIME TO WATCH BIG BROTHER!!!!!!