Monday, June 18, 2012

Welcome to the Hotel Zico California

Spent the weekend in Northern California. Attended the graduation ceremonies at Stanford. My daughter-in-law, Kim received her doctorate in Electrical Engineering. I offered to punch-up her thesis but she said no, it was funny enough. We’re all very proud of her. My dad asked if she could prescribe marijuana.

Needless to say, finding a room anywhere between Gilroy and Daly City on graduation weekend was a chore. The decent places jacked up their rates and were reserved for a year.  And since it's Stanford, they charged even more. 

So we had to be creative. Looking on line we discovered the Hotel Zico in nearby Mountain View. It was described as a “Mediterranean style boutique hotel.” We like Mediterranean style boutique hotels.   So we booked it for the weekend.

The description went on to say it was “nestled in a soothing suburban setting.” That was our first clue that perhaps we were somewhat misled.

The Hotel Zico is right off the 85 Freeway. And by right off I mean, it was practically in the carpool lane. The hotel entrance was poorly marked and tucked behind an on-ramp. So if you turn one minute too soon you wind up on the freeway headed to Los Altos.

The Zico is flanked by this roaring freeway on one side and a giant electrical tower on the other. As for the building itself, perhaps a “Mediterranean style warehouse” might have been more precise.

The clerk at the desk was Wilford Brimley with a long pony-tail twisted to look like a rope extending down to his back. I glanced around warily just to make sure there were no stuffed birds on the desk.  I said we didn’t want rooms facing the freeway (Annie was with us).  So we were assigned to the electrical tower side. To block that eye-sore, large trees are practically pressed against the side of the building. So there was no light in the room whatsoever.  Dracula could have woken up at noon and had the whole day. And to ensure that your room was as dark as a Kentucky coal mine during a lunar eclipse, the bathroom was painted dark blue.

The room had a sickly chemical smell as if they were purposely hiding something. I kept imagining Janet Leigh’s body parts hidden in the walls. The bathtub was filthy and there was one towel for two people. Ants scurried across the desk. Annie’s room key had to be re-programmed seven times.

From the hotel website: “Just 35 miles south of San Francisco puts the best of the bay area’s restaurants, shops, and attractions temptingly close.” A) 35 miles is only close if you’re traveling by helicopter, and B) the attractions that are “temptingly close” are – a Burger King, a Jack in the Box, a tire shop, and a tobacco store.

They boast wonderful amenities. No pool, no Jacuzzi, but a private bocci ball court, and a “mini store” in the lobby, which was two vending machines.

Got back to the room Friday night at 11:00 only to discover that there was major construction going on on the freeway. Jackhammers and drills practically in the room. The walls were shaking. At any moment I expected Janet Leigh’s leg to pop out.

I called the front desk. Wildord assured me they were told whenever there would be construction and they hadn’t received any warning about tonight. So, what, I’m making it up? It’s not really happening? I asked to be moved. He said they were sold out. By the way, I should mention, over a three day period I did not see one other guest, ever.

So these were our sleeping options: Keep the window closed, hear only muffled deafening construction but swelter. Keep the window open and try to sleep with the jackhammers in your ear. Window closed and turn the air conditioning on. The A/C was a wall unit from 1964 that made more noise than the work crew. Or take advantage of one of Hotel Zico’s many fine amenities: ear plugs.

On Saturday night it was the same story. Although this time it sounded like they were dropping giant concrete chunks from a bridge to the ground. Loud teeth-rattling crashes joined the jacks. My wife and I are in bed. She’s trying to read. I’m trying to find the Giants-Mariners game on TV. They don’t carry that channel. HGTV but no Comcast Sports.  Another world-class amenity. At 11:00 our room phone rings, startling us. It’s Wilford. Apparently the guest in the room underneath called and complained we were jumping. What the fuck?!  She thought the noise from the freeway was coming from our room???

That’s when I put on my shoes, marched downstairs, and went all Sam Kinison on this clerk.

Checked out the next morning. Again, never saw another guest. There was a new clerk at the desk. She made the mistake of asking how our stay was. I ran down the list. She was completely unmoved. No reaction at all. I mentioned I write travel books. Nothing.  Let's see when I alert them to this blog post. 

So that’s my charming stay at the Hotel Zico.  My rating: From 1-10 with 10 being best, I give it a 1. I’d give them a zero but I suppose it’s worth a point that my body parts aren’t now in the walls.


Anonymous said...

I am sorry you had a horrible experience but I so thoroughly enjoyed this blog post. You are such a hoot when you describe your travels. I am surprised they didn't tout "relaxing jackhammer vibrations with a constant, soothing tempo." We've all been there! Thought we found a nice motel and discovered the underwhelming and sometimes traumatic amenities inside. Julie

Nathan said...

You could have had a marching band staying in the rest of the rooms.

Tom Quigley said...

Maybe, if there's any karmic justice, a crane might "accidentally" drop a concrete slab or two from the construction work at the freeway on top of that dump.

Slugwriter said...

In front of the clerk I would've been calling my credit card company and disputing the charge, "I never stayed at the Hotel Zico, there IS no Hotel Zico. It's a damn construction site or maybe a prison. It's very difficult to tell which."

kent said...

I realize I'm a bit late here but I would like to share a true Batman story.

Right as Batman hit his TV peak my mother got called for jury duty. At 3pm on day two of their deliberations they were deadlocked 10 to 2.

The deadlock broke and they reached a verdict because they knew they if they weren't out of there by 4pm they would miss the second half of a two-part Batman!

I mean, it was part TWO and they had already seen part one and this was before VCRs much less TiVO.

I happen to have become a Deputy D.A. and I still find myself shaking my head and thinking; If only the judge, the attorneys and the defendant had known how that case was decided.

Ron Rettig said...

Great motel review Ken. Hopefully you have also posted this somewhere like Yelp.

R.W. Thomas said...

Ken, sorry to hear about your motel accomodations. It reminds me of a Super 8 Motel we stayed at in the Midwest. I wish a government agency would supervise motels and hotels; they have become disgraceful in the country since franchising took control. But I loved your desciptions of the place. Great blog, will be back to read often. Thanks

Markus said...

It sure does look kinda... not so terribly great an area...


Tom Quigley said...

One more thought, Ken. Maybe you happened to catch the place at a time when they were just in the process of being taken over by a new hospitality chain: Motel 666...

Ed said...

I worked in minor league baseball and hockey during an era where the hotel stops went from excellent to horrific depending on the city and / or a team's economic well-being.

Ken, have you used your own bad travel experiences in TV episodes you've written?

Jeffrey Mark said...

My wife and I went down from San Francisco to LA for Passover at my mom's and kill two birds with one stone and also attend the huge, amazing Rose Bowl flea market back in 1995. Just not a good idea staying over at mom's Woodland Hills townhouse that year. (Jodie Foster was her across the way neighbor.) Of course being Jewish, mom was offended to no end by us not spending the night, and so to get back at us booked a couple of nights at the fancy-schmancy "No-tell Hotel-Motel"(a chain of mid-low budget) out on Ventura Blvd. Passover was fine...only a half a box of Matzo was flung across the room...but what came next at the 'joint was just the plain shits. No sooner settled in around midnight when we heard LAPD choppers buzzing overhead. Thought they were filming a pilot for some cheesy new LAPD cop show, but, it was the real deal right outside our window. My wife and I couldn't even hear ourselves during sex it was so loud. Went on and on...and we were getting up at 6 to get to the Rose Bowl flea early - I'll be damned if I wasn't going to miss out on some good early morning finds there because of all this noise. I called the desk and yelled out that I was a "miserable" guest. My wife immediately started laughing hysterically at my comment. They offered us another room, but we were just too afraid to go outside with all of the shooting going on...could ya blame us? Miserable...that was the word for it. The manager did nothing to satisfy me other than giving me the name of his district manager, whom I called and nicely received a free stay comp at one of their hotel-motels anywhere I could find one. Yeah, and the water was brown, and you had to jiggle the handle on the toilet to stop it running.

Hey, Ken, years ago I lived right behind that schmotel you stayed at in Mountain View off the 85 freeway - I know exactly where it is. Back then it was a cheezy-sleezy adult joint with adult entertainment...they even advertised it on KFRC, I believe. Or maybe that was the Edgewater West up in Oakland.

Lauren said...

Ken - I am so sorry you went through that!
I was right near you at my sister's and I know that neighborhood very well! four blocks away was Mayberry!

John said...

Main line railroad track. Your hotel was missing a main line railroad track running alongside it to make the nighttime experience perfect (I would suggest for future trips worthy of irate blog posts any motel right next to the UP or BNSF track on old U.S. 66 or U.S. 80 through Texas, New Mexico or Arizona during the summer.

Just make sure to get a room where the air conditioning is broken and close enough to a RR crossing so the train horn can sound right through the window. That's the true final touch of ambiance in a wretched old motel experience (and, yes, Gila Bend, Az, about 15 years ago. It was either that or drive another 80 miles to Casa Grande at 12:30 in the morning).

J. Edgar said...

Like many other men I had a crush on Janet Leigh...the wholly one. My fantasies never included showers, disections or Tony Curtis or Perkins. Maybe the Zico is part of that renowned chain of family motels owned by the Bates...bringing misery to every stay.

Where was Rick Sat.? Was surprised to hear Wilson (the Voice!) and Fairly but no Rick. Was he at a graduation too?

Unknown said...

Ken it can be very very dangerous (money wise) to make screenshots of Google Maps and post them to your blog.

Either use the embed-code or get rid of the image.

Speaking from experience here...

Unknown said...

Here's a Google Maps link.

I love that the Google folks drove on the bike trail/road west of the hotel...,+Mountain+View+94040&ll=37.380798,-122.068781&spn=0.002592,0.006695&hnear=200+E+El+Camino+Real,+Mountain+View,+California+94041,+Vereinigte+Staaten&gl=de&t=h&z=18&layer=c&cbll=37.380799,-122.068782&panoid=Pmz6-YPETRTf4Y2I2-Gv3A&cbp=11,143.97,,0,0.87

Bob and Rob Professional American Writers said...

"The walls were shaking. At any moment I expected Janet Leigh’s leg to pop out."

Possibly my favorite line ever written…by anyone.

Anonymous said...

Go figure: Mostly positive reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor. ("Ranked #6 out of #23 hotels in Mountain View".)

Katherine said...

A couple of times a number of years ago, my brother and I flew from LA to San Antonio over Christmas in his little single-engine plane (that was before we got sick of looking down to see trucks on the 10 freeway going faster than we were). Depending on the headwind on the way back, we would stop in El Paso for the night. Stayed in a hotel near the airstrip. One year I was in the last, virulent stages of an abscessed tooth, and we woke up to drunken mayhem, thunderous footfalls up and down in the hallways, hooting and hollering, and so forth. My brother was on a different floor and said the chaos up there included a woman screaming in the hall outside his room - said it sounded like Tailhook was going on. At about 3 am I called the desk and complained. No diff. At around 4:30 am two security guards come to my door. Me - middle-aged lady in a flannel nightshirt, with a toothache, mad as a bear. Them - about half my size, trembling in fear. They say that there is a football team staying in the hotel and there's nothing they can do. They're there for the New Year's game with UT El Paso and they're having fun. Do it every year. I yell - "Don't they have KEEPERS?!! Where's the COACH?" They say, "He's in another hotel." to which I yell "It FIGURES." Their only suggestion is that they move me to another room. "AT 4:30 IN THE %$#@$ MORNING? ARE YOU KIDDING?!!!" and so forth I answer. I remember that the rooms around mine were silent as I let the security guards have it. I remember at one point yelling, "This is REPREHENSIBLE BEHAVIOR" and so forth. I could all but hear the breathing on the other side of the doors as the ball players leaned against them, ears pressed to the wood, to hear what I was saying.

Amazing as it seems, they stayed in their rooms after that. Probably looking up the meaning of the word "reprehensible."

Needless to say, don't stay at the hotel near the airport in El Paso before New Years.

Richard Y said...

So, I guess no 5 Star AAA report then?

Breadbaker said...

I once stayed in a hotel in Philadelphia (this is on TripAdvisor if you'd care to look it up) where I had to work until about five in the morning in my room, only to be awakened at seven to the sound of jackhammers taking apart the wall between the next two rooms. When I complained to the front desk, I was told that all they could do was to move me (in the end, of course, I had to move myself) to another room, and refund the night's room rental (which my company was paying anyway). So, TripAdvisor.

Chris said...

<<I wish a government agency would supervise motels and hotels<<

I am reading this in utter disbelief.

Bryan said...

Tsk, tsk..

Phillip B said...

Yelp actually has a 3.5 star rating on this place:

which fits a pattern and my experience. You can staple two large cardboard boxes together and get two stars on Yelp!

Cap'n Bob said...

This is just a few miles from either of two places I lived down there many years ago. I can't recall if the Hotel Sordide was extant at the time. You should send a copy of this to the fleabag's management. I'm sure they could use a good laugh.

Brian Phillips said...

I've only had one really bad stay at a motel and a couple of not-so-good ones , but the topper for me was related to us by Mr. Leon, our German teacher/Soccer coach in high school.

The team was booked to stay in a motel. One of the players came up to the coach about his room. It seems that someone had taken a dump on the floor.

When Mr. Leon went to the front desk to complain, the reply from the front desk was:

"This ain't the Hilton, y'know."

Friday question: You've been writing with David Isaacs for a long time and I gather there have been some disagreements over the years. What have been some of the sticking points and what were the results?

Brian Phillips said...

My uncle used to travel quite a distance for work. One night, he stayed at a brand new Motel 6 in Indio. Apparently there was also a biker rally nearby, because they booked a great deal of the other rooms.

My uncle said that the noise was unbearable, between the loud music and excessive cursing. Somehow he made it through the night.

The next morning he checked out, but I remember him telling us that the last thing that he saw. He said that "every last stick of furniture had been thrown in the pool".

Courtney Suzanne said...

I attended a sci-fi/fantasy convention years ago at the Henry VIII hotel, a place I'd actually stayed at previously with no problems. This time was different.

I was in my early 20's, and stayed in a room with 4 guys around my age. I know what you're thinking, but it was a sci-fi convention, so nothing happened. When one of us decided to take a shower, we found that you'd get about 2 minutes of cold water before being blasted with scalding-hot water for the rest of your shower. We decided to traipse across the hotel in our pj's to a friends room to use their shower. It worked, but their a/c unit did not work and was leaking all over the floor.

This wonderful weekend we also discovered someone had died recently in the pool and it took over a week for the management to realize it. We also found out the hotel was about to be demolished, and this was the last big even there, so no one gave two craps about anything.

We later disfigured the sign outside which read "Discover the Charm of the Henry VIII" to "Discover the Harm of the Henry VIII." There's probably a picture of this floating around the internet somewhere.

I sincerely hope the celebs at this convention were staying off-site.

jcs said...

What about the free breakfast? Did you dare to try it?

Paul Duca said...

Courtney Suzanne...are you talking about the Henry VIII hotel in St. Louis, near the airport (for those out of the loop, it and a big chunk of the former neighborhood there is now part of the airport)? The convention in 1999? I was there, too...part of the MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 crowd.

Paul Duca
MST3K Info Club #56954

Paul Duca said...

"Then I put on my shoes, marched downstairs, and went all Sam Kinison on that clerk"

It would have been more effective if Ken had been wearing something BESIDES shoes.