2010-05-30

Things I do for driving

Let me tell you a bit more about my track weekend, but this time concentrate more on the time I was not at the track. Specifically, let me tell you about the Safari Motel, how I ended up there, and how I lived to tell the tale.

Now, let me back up to the time when I first got the Miata. I had no garage at the track yet, and no readily-available way to transport the car there anyway, so I did not sign up for any track days, lest I have to miss them, because the car won't be there on time.

Bill, being so full of win and awesome as he is, found someone willing to let me share their garage, on Monday, 17th of May. He also said he'd transport the car there for me, so suddenly, the event that very next weekend, 22nd and 23rd of May, was no longer out of reach. Bill encouraged me to sign up, and as there were still beginner spots available, I did on the same day.

I am forever astonished that not everybody's lives revolve around driving and racing, but apparently Chico State University was having a graduation that same weekend, and all hotels in the area were booked full.

It did not help that I forgot to take care of booking the hotel until Wednesday evening.

In any case, I failed to find any vacancies using the popular travel web sites, like Expedia and Orbitz, and was casting my net ever wider, until somewhere I came across the name of a motel that was not listed in other places: The Safari Motel.

The site did not offer any information on availability, just a phone number, so I called. Amazingly, they had a room available, and I booked it right then and there.

Then I went to look for reviews. There weren't any. There was a Safari Inn in a neighbouring town, but this one was barely mentioned anywhere.

I found one real estate listing selling this hotel from 2008, and also looked at it in Google StreetView. Neither seemed to bode well for me, but sleeping in the garage at the track did not present a better option, so I decided to see just how bad it would get.

I got to the hotel the first time after Bill and I finished installing the passenger seat belts in the car. We were going to have dinner together, but I wanted to make sure to stop by and get the key before too late.

They said they had no vacancy, but there were only two other cars parked in the lot. One of them later turned out to be the owner's. The lock to the room was touchy, but I got the door unlocked, inspected the room quickly and was about to leave as Bill waited outside, when the neighbouring unit's door opened and a disheveled-looking man came out.

"You're the new neighbours?" he half asserted, half asked.

"Yeah," I said vaguely.

"The guy was in that room there before you, he was noisy as hell. He was trouble. They had to call the cops and get him out of there."

"We won't be noisy," Bill came to the rescue, while I mentally high-fived him. No need to let the dude know I will be in that room alone. Purple belt or no belt, I'd rather sleep than practice self-defense.

"Oh, you're alright," concluded the neighbor. "That guy, he was not all there. Talked to himself, threw things around. That sort of thing."

"Well, we will go have dinner now. You have a good night sir," I said and we headed to local Denny's for a nine p.m. "breakfast."

After dinner, I dropped Bill off at the track where he was staying in a friend's mobile home, and got back to the motel. I locked the lower latch and tried to lock the deadbolt. It was hitting on the plate in the door frame. So I lifted the door up by the handle and the deadbolt slid in. Victory!

This is when I realized that I forgot to bring in anything suitable as a weapon from the car. Like my torque wrench. Or the handle to the hydraulic jack.

I tried to open the deadbolt, but to no avail. Lifted the door, but the damn thing would not budge. I was locked in.

I called the front desk. And they helpfully told me to lift the door. I said that I did, and the deadbolt was stuck, and they relented and agreed to come out and help me.

Ten minutes later, they weren't there (all the way from across the parking lot), and I decided to try the deadbolt a few more times. In a frantic effort, somehow, I managed to get it unlocked. That's the exact moment the owners (a middle-aged couple) picked to show on the scene.

"It works," they proclaimed.

"No, it doesn't," I said, "Come in and look."

The husband came in, as I demonstrated how much harder it was to unlock the door than to lock it.

"Oh, I see," he said, after futilely fighting with the deadbolt, locked in with me for a number of very long minutes.

Together we unlocked the door, but in the process we discovered that my window did not lock at all. The owners promised to fix both issues in the morning, as well as free me when it was time for me to head for the track at 6:30 a.m., and with this, left.

I went to the car and weighed my weapons options. The torque wrench is a precision instrument, and would be a shame to damage, so I settled on the jack handle, made of tubular steel. Heavy enough to be formidable in anyone's hands. I put it on my nightstand.

Thus armed, plus protected by a number of noise-making objects in front of the unlocked window, I went to bed. Once the momentary excitement over the spartan accommodations passed, my mind went immediately back to Thunderhill and I fell asleep running the track over and over in my head.

The night was uneventful, quite to my delight, as was the next night, and I can say I had a good night's sleep both times. The owners followed through on the door repair, and put a screw into the window frame to prevent the window from sliding open. Not very elegant, I admit, but functionally sound and frankly, par for the course for this motel.

If I have a choice, I will not stay there again, but given none, I bet I would.