Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hostel? Hostile?

Tomorrow I will share with you some of the fun pictures from our Cali vacation, but today I want to tell you about the most hilarious part of our Cali trip... our "accomodations" in San Diego. Or should I say "El Cajon," a dumpy suburb 16 miles from the beach on the east side of the city.

To be fair, I knew our place was not right by the beach. I didn't know it was a full 16 miles away by freeway, but still, Google Maps informed me I was not reserving this place for its stellar location.

However, San Diego is San Diego, right?

So Micah and I don't have tons of extra money to spend this summer. We're not poor; I just don't get paid over the summer, and since we are saving for a new house, luxurious vacations aren't really a part of our summer finances. That's why we were so thankful for a partially paid vac-cay due to Micah's work trip. Micah took one day of PTO between his work meetings and we planned to spend our three day weekend in San Diego. Hoorah! However, hotel accomodations in San Diego are not cheap, and as much as I would have liked to "Sleep Above the Ocean" at the Crystal Pier Hotel like this ....

...it wasn't really in the budget. So we talked about our different options (camping?) and finally decided to check out hostels.com to see what was available. Hey, we're still young and hip enough to stay in a hostel right? We can just pretend we are visiting from Europe and that renting a sparse room near the beach is the glamorous thing to do...

However, even the beach hostels in San Diego were way out of our price range. (Micah actually stopped by one this weekend and the owner informed him that he actually rents out his "hostel" rooms as studio apartments and charges $1,000/month. People live in them all year apparently.) So I started looking further and further from the beach and finally found a place that would work for our budget - San Diego Travel Inn.


The place had only one review online. The front desk didn't have the guy's reservation when he arrived and it took over 30 minutes to get it figured out. Other than that he said it was in a "not fun" location, but it was clean.

I can handle that. The chances of the reservation debacle repeating were slim, we would have a car to drive us to the beach, and clean is exactly what we were looking for. A clean room in which to shower and sleep and that is all.

So we arrive to the address and we aren't even sure if we are at the right place. It's a Travelodge Motel - no "San Diego Travel Inn" in sight. Micah goes into the office and comes back out to tell me it is the right place but they need more info about our reservation. Huh? I go into the office which reeks of VERY potent Indian food (wow...I think I can still smell it now), and the receptionist needs to know how much I paid as our deposit and how much I still owe. They don't have their own records of this transaction...so I go out to the car, get my computer and sit down in the lobby to pull up my e-mail confirmation. Micah is keeping the door opened a crack so we can catch a whiff of air that doesn't smell like curry. I finally find my confirmation and the receptionist writes down the amount we still owe on a piece of scratch paper. I am pretty sure my remainder already included taxes and fees, but she added them on again, so we might have been ripped of by about $10, but oh well... At least we got the key to our room in 20 minutes - way faster than the 30 it took for the guy who wrote the online review.

We arrived in our room to find find two double beds, a TV, a table, a fridge, and a fairly clean bathroom. Not too shabby, except we had to decide on our sleeping situation. Sleep together? Apart? Bed by bathroom? Bed by window? (Just kidding on sleeping in separate beds...but we did joke around about it...) Honestly, it wasn't that bad. Except for a few things...

First of all, the first time I used the bathroom and went to wash my hands, the sink faucet broke off. We spent the rest of our two day stay with the sink faucet lying on the counter next to the sink. We would use it to pull the water on and off and then set it back on the counter.

We came home on our second night after a full day at the beach to find that housekeeping had made our bed and replaced our towels. Excellent. Except this time when Micah went to dry his hands, he picked up the towel and stared at it for a few seconds. "Is this a dish towel?" he finally asked. Why, yes, yes it was. One of our hand towels was actually a kitchen dish towel. But it was clean, so whatever. However, when I went to take a shower a few minutes later, I found that my bath towel was a bit off as well. It wasn't a dish towel or a hand towel, but only slightly larger than a hand towel. I would show you how small it was in comparison to my body, but I don't want to be indecent.

Finally, and this is the funniest and scariest part of our stay, we had a wake-call of sorts on our first night there. Except it wasn't a call, but a knock. On our door. In the middle of the night. I don't know if I can explain to you how it feels to be woken up out of a dead sleep by a pounding on the door when you are staying in a uncomfortable motel in a somewhat sketchy city you've never been in before, but it's not the best feeling. I woke up to a "thud, thud, thud" and pretended I must be imagining it. Until I heard the second "thud, thud, thud." By this time, Micah was also awake and we whispered to each other before ultimately lying perfectly still and pretending we weren't there. Thankfully, these were the only two rounds of knocks and the perpetrator moved on. However, I wasn't able to fall asleep again for quite awhile. The next morning Micah and I discussed who it might have been. Our top two guesses: either teenage boys that were staying in rooms on the other side of the parking lot playing a prank or a robber. Either way, Micah wished he had brought a gun. Thankfully they didn't bother us the second night.

I couldn't bring myself to take any pictures of our room, even of our broken sink faucet. However, this is the most accurate picture I could find online. Most of the online pictures are very edited and do not portray the truth about this Travelodge.  However, our AC unit looked just like this (except our knobs were not broken), and this was the exact lighting of our room!
So thank you, Travelodge of El Cajon, for pretending you are a hostel and for giving us a place to stay during our San Diego adventure. It's not so bad that you are a mediocre motel in a suburb outside of San Diego. It is rather questionable that you use a fake name and pretend to be a hostel on hostels.com, and even pretend that you have "dorm rooms" and "private rooms with shared bathrooms." It's also a little annoying that you have no way to track when customers reserve a room on hostels.com and the customer has too look up how much he or she still owes you upon arrival.

Still, Micah and I were laughing about our accommodations on our first night there and Micah made a good point. He's been on lots of travel adventures where he didn't always have a place to stay every night. Last time he went surfing, he had to sleep in his car and he said he would have given anything to have access to our Travelodge room. Thinking of him sleeping in a car for one night made me think of homeless people who often don't have access to a shower or a bed for nights on end, and this thought made me even more thankful for our "hostel." I was reminded to be thankful again the next morning, because when I stepped outside, there was a homeless man sitting near our door.


krislyn. said...

Your guys' adventure makes me laugh, only because I know exactly how you feel .. This happened one time to myself and a friend in Nashville! But the knocking, I would have had a heart attack.

Glad you all made the best of it and enjoyed your San Diego vacation!

seibelj said...

After seeing Crystal Pier Hotel a few years back, it went on to my "places I want to stay" bucket list. I loved San Diego and hope to go back someday...