This happened at the end of summer 2019. I had recently wrapped my 14-week internship at Google and was looking forward to getting back to Austin to start the fall semester. Because I had decided to take my car to California with me, this meant I had a very long drive ahead of me.
Side note, it is not worth it in my opinion to take a car to California for an internship. Gas is expensive in California, I had a 1733 mile drive each way, and the Caltrain is a much better option than I gave it credit for. Although it allowed for some amazing trips like going to Big Sur and Big Basin, it would have been more cost-effective to rent a car on the weekends I needed it.
Either way, the drive back was shaping up to be an arduous one. I had a minivan with nearly 200,000 miles on it, a broken AC, and a long way to go before I got home. Thanks to my excellent timing, I left California on a Saturday, and the first day of my junior year started early Wednesday morning, just four days later. I planned to sleep in a motel Saturday night somewhere in Arizona, stay at a friend’s place in Lubbock on Sunday night, and get back to my college apartment by Monday, roughly 26 hours of solo driving.
Through a combination of podcasts, phone calls, and (many) Subway sandwiches, I was able to make it through the first two days without any major problems. Mid-Sunday morning I left Lubbock and set off on the last leg of the long journey.
A series of unfortunate events
After two days of driving, I saw a check battery light come on when I was just two and a half hours from my destination. After a quick call with my dad, I learned that this car had problems with the battery before, and I should pull over ASAP to get it checked out. I quickly located the nearest small Texas town and set my GPS destination. This town happened to be Brownwood Texas, a city that I had never heard of before, and after this trip, had no desire to learn more about. It is just far enough from both Austin and Dallas that neither my roommates nor family was able to reach me quickly to give me a ride in the case that I was stranded.
I pulled off the highway and into the nearest Autozone, where I deaded what kind of problems my car might have. After getting the check battery light diagnosed, I found that the alternator needed to be replaced, a simple, yet somewhat expensive, repair. However, as it was nearly 6 pm. all of the auto shops in town were closed, and I was quickly running out of daylight. The local Firestone told me that I could bring my car in though, and they get it repaired first thing in the morning. At this point, I was pretty overwhelmed by the events of the day, even more so because I was not sure where I was sleeping for the night and how I was going to get there without a car, and a phone on low battery. Luckily, after calling my parents they were able to help me find a room at a Budget Inn that was within walking distance, and I made a reservation online. At the time I was relieved, but I was naive and hopeful back then, and not prepared for the horrors that would soon come my way.
Let it be known that I am no stranger to motels or Budget Inns. I have stayed at a few here and there on road trips (including this one!), and generally had no problem with them. After a Subway sandwich for dinner, I walked over to the Budget Inn, looking forward to an early night after the long day on the road.
What follows below is the edited (1-star) review I left on the Budget Inn’s Google listing the week after my stay.
First off, check-in. I went to the front desk and told them I had a reservation, and after asking my name (to which I replied Levi Villarreal), I was told that there was no booking under that name, which was strange, as I had just booked the room half an hour before. After talking to the reception for a while, I eventually found out they had a reservation that matched mine, but the name was Ledi Delrio. LEDI DELRIO. This was by far the worst spelling of my name, but whatever, that happens. Unfortunately, I failed to recognize this as the bad omen that it was, and checked into my room.
When I first walked into the room, I tried to turn on the lamp. Nothing. I went to turn on the other one, which also did not work. After that, I went to the bathroom light, which eventually turned on after about 15 seconds. Once it did turn on, I noticed that there were several cockroaches in the bathroom, scurrying around the shower and floor. Although I was kind of grossed out, I figured that the sooner I got to sleep and got out of this town the better, and thought I could live with bathroom cockroaches for a night.
I then turned on the shower, both to wash the cockroaches down the drain and to prepare to wash myself, but soon realized that the shower did not drain. However, I was beyond caring at this point and quickly took a shower in the ankle-deep cockroach water. Soon after, I tried to go to bed but eventually noticed 2 cockroaches crawling around the blankets, and that was when I cracked. I decided that while I could put up with a few cocroaches in the bathroom, I would not share my bed with an unknown number of them. I went to the front office and politely explained the cockroach situation, and to their credit, they provided me with a new room without asking any questions.
Upon entering the new room (whose lamps also didn’t work) at 1 am, I checked that there were no cockroaches and promptly fell asleep. However, I was woken at 6:30 sharp by a cricket, which I searched for with a vengence, accidentally locking myself outside in the process, which forced me to return barefoot to the front desk for a spare key. Upon returning, I found that the cricket was inside of the room’s AC unit, which I had no way of opening. Once again defeated again by the insects of Budget Inn, I decided that I would give up trying to sleep and instead use the restroom so I could go ahead and start my day.
However, as soon as I sat down on the toilet, I heard someone unlock the door and enter my room. Confused and a little nervous, I quickly pulled up my pants and discovered a women standing in my doorway. She looked as surprised as I was, and explained that the room was not listed as booked for the previous night. I explained to her the cockroach situation, and how I was assigned a new room, and she kept talking, all the while keeping the door open.
During this time with the door open, a stray cat sprinted into my room and began running around, bouncing off furniture and running between my legs. I looked at the lady with disbelief in my eyes and she told me to catch the cat and throw it out, adding reassuringly, “I don’t think that it bites”. Try as I might, I failed to grab the cat, and it hid under my bed, silently mocking my pathetic attempts to dispel it from my room. The lady called a guy named Jose at the front desk, who helped grab the cat while I held up the mattress.
After this unscheduled entertainment, I decided that I would try out the free continental breakfast in the lobby, whose menu I found consisted of a single banana in a basket, plain bagels with no toppings, and cereal with no milk. While I was eating one of the saddest breakfasts in recent memory, I got to listen to the employee discourse, which involved talking about how the owner’s dog was left unchecked in the lobby and hotel offices, often covering the carpet in various stains which the employees refused to clean up. Needless to say, that fact killed my appetite, and I spent the next few hours in the auto repair shop sitting among the tires rather than stay a minute longer in that cursed place.
I have more to say about this hotel, but I will leave it here. Please burn this place to the ground. The employees were helpful and tried their best but management should be tried for crimes against humanity.
Do. Not. Stay. Here.
Is there anything to learn from this story? Probably not, I just wanted a way to share a very memorable end to my Google internship. After 800 dollars in car repairs and a few more hours of driving, I finally made it home just a day before the start of the semester.
I later made a online health code violation report to the Brownwood authorities regarding the Budget Inn, but no action was taken, and the place has recently been bought and rebranded as the OYO Hotel. From recent reviews, it seems to not have improved at all, which is pretty surprising, seeing as how low the bar was set from the beginning. However, they seem to be open, even in the midst of the pandemic which gives me some hope that if they can survive 2020, maybe I can too.