Monday, November 10, 2014

Behind the Scenes of Moon Santa Barbara & The Central Coast

In many ways, a guidebook is as important for what it leaves out as what it includes. There were a few places I went while doing research on Moon Coastal California and Moon Santa Barbara & The Central Coast where I thought, “I travel here so you don’t have to.” Of course, these disappointments, near misses or just plain unworthy places are not included in the books. There are so many worthwhile attractions, restaurants, parks, recreation activities, bars and more in the regions covered in these books that there is no reason to lead a reader to a place that is not up to par.
One example of a spot that did not make the cut for inclusion in Moon Santa Barbara & The Central Coast is a place of lodging in an agricultural town outside of Ventura. There are a few worthwhile sights in this area to warrant coverage of the region in the guidebook, but I would never recommend one establishment that I spent one painfully fearful evening in.
There was a major sign that the motel, which had a couple of almost glowing reviews on the Internet, would not be book worthy as I walked towards an ambitious tower-like building where the lobby was located. The sign was actually a sign: a banner haphazardly hung up on the building that announced rooms were available at nightly, weekly, and monthly rates.
When I walked into the motel’s shabby lobby, there was also something else that made me skeptical of the handful of positive Internet reviews of this motel that I had found: every corner of the room had a security camera perched in it like a quiet, malevolent spider. It was a crowded holiday weekend with all of the other area establishments booked up, so I checked in with the night desk lady anyway even though she was busy attacking some leftovers with a fork.
Up the stairs and down a hallway lined with a shabby, faded rug I went to the doorway of my room. The door was a slab of crappy wood that was strangely too small for the doorway it was in. Even worse, I noticed that the wooden door had been chipped away near the doorknob by someone I’m guessing had been trying to break into the room.
Luckily, my key worked, and the door swung open to reveal a room that looked like it would have been considered run-down a couple of decades ago. The furniture was rickety and appeared to have been purchased at an old elementary school’s garage sale. I knew that it would be unwise to see what was under the bed or under any of the furniture so I sat on the edge of the bed and turned on a device that a millennial would never be able to identify as a television.
When hunger struck, I turned off the giant, thick screen TV and walked out in the hallway. I moved towards the staircase and passed by two young men in sleeveless white T-shirts. Every part of their exposed bodies—including their necks—were covered in sinister tattoos of snakes and daggers.
After passing them, I turned to look back at them to see if they were really as stereotypically evil looking as I thought they appeared at first glance. Surprising to me, they had stopped walking too and were looking towards me while whispering.
I continued on but was shaken. Thankfully, the Mexican restaurant next door to the motel was quite good and a couple of Coronas soothed my nerves.
By the time I got back to my room, I was eager to get the evening over with so I could move on to better accommodations the next day. I turned on the ancient TV and lay down on the bed with all my clothes on.
I turned off the lamp on the battered nightstand and looked over towards the door. Since the door was smaller than the doorway, the light from the hallway came into the room from all sides. But as I looked at the doorway something caused me to suck in my breath and hold it. The bottom of the doorway darkened due to the presence of an individual standing right outside of my room in the hallway.
Eventually, I started to breathe, but the light under the doorway was still blacked out by someone who was standing ominously just feet and a crappy piece of wood door away from me. After what felt like the length of a thriller film, the shadow in the doorway finally left. Maybe it was just someone standing and texting right in front of my door? Or maybe it was one of those sinister tattooed guys standing there preparing to chisel away at my battered door so that he could get in my room and rob a stupid out-of-towner?
I thought about my options. I was in the middle of nowhere, and every other lodging option in the area was booked for the holiday weekend. My fear subsided, and I realized I was wiped out from traveling.
I got up from bed and opened the single pane sliding glass window of my room. I looked down 10 feet and realized I could survive a jump from this height if necessary. I left the window open.
Then I sat on the edge of my bed and looked toward the doorway. I stared for a half hour, and another shadow didn’t appear.
Still, I dragged all of the battered furniture in my room including the TV stand in front of the too-small door as a precaution. If someone broke through the flimsy door, they would stumble over the hill of furniture, waking me up before they could reach me and stab me with a knife. By then, I reckoned, I would have jumped out the open window and run to my nearby car.
I didn’t sleep well, but I slept and checked out early the next morning. I didn’t get stabbed that night, but you will still be unable to find any mention of this establishment in Moon Santa Barbara & The Central Coast.

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