Once upon a time, back when I was a little kid in the 70's and 80's I loved staying at Motel 6. Somehow, to my twisted tike brain, it was a treat - swimming pools, cable television with strange and alien stations and beds you could jump on (provided you were on the ground floor) without getting too much stick from mom. In short, it was a comfort food kind of feeling growing up.
I guess that sense of nostalgia didn’t go away as an adult. When I recently was driving across the country from Seattle to Detroit up US Highway 12, I was trying to stay in the little mom-n-pop motels along the way and avoiding the big chains. Travel Lodge wouldn’t miss my 50 bucks, but the Mo-Rest Motel in Mobridge certainly would. And so it went, charming little holes in the wall - until Billings. I was running out of daylight and there was still plenty of urban sprawl left to go. Looks like I'd have to bed down at a Big Chain for the night.
Then I thought - hey, why not a Motel 6? Okay, it's still a Big Chain, but it has the right twinge of nostalgia about it.
Boy was I about to be proven wrong.
The room was considerably more expensive than the mom-n-pop places I was staying at the nights before. To give you an idea, my costs for motels were topping out at about 45 dollars, give or take. Motel 6 wanted 57 dollars and change - which when you compare it to other Big Chains like Super 8 (which wanted 85 for a room) or Holiday Inn (100 a night), it's cheap - but it was still one of the most expensive stops on my trip.
The room was clean enough (if a bit on the small side, but I was traveling alone), the bathroom was free of mildew or funk and the beds and linens were free of smell. So I can't fault the actual facilities. There was no alarm clock in the room, so I would have been in trouble if I didn't have my travel alarm with me. The room was mostly quiet . . . until about 2 in the morning. Then the trains started in - the motel was, I would guess, probably 300 yards off a main switching yard. The trains were not overpoweringly loud, but a light sleeper wouldn’t get a wink that night for sure.
Oh, and i should point out that this Motel 6 was not in the best part of town. Did I mention the not-so-discreet porn store RIGHT next door? Just in case the ambiance of the train yard wasnt enough for you.
But the biggest problem I had with Motel 6? They hit you with the Nickel and Dime approach. I had left my Toothbrush in the previous night's motel by accident, and I had not bothered to pack Shampoo with me, using the curtsey toiletries available along the way. It seems that Motel 6 offers the items - for a price. The front desk couldn't give me any, but they were more than happy to direct me to a vending machine that had them for three dollars each.
And then there was the wireless internet. *EVERY* single motel I had been in up to that point (save for one, who I could tell was having router issues) - even smallest of the mom-n-pop motels had free wireless internet access. Oh, but not Motel 6. They would be happy to give you all the internet you want - for 4 dollars a night. Shameful!
While it's not a huge deal breaker - I need a motel to do one thing: provide a quite room and clean bed - it's these little details that add up and make me feel cheap and tawdry. In my future road trips I'll only be using Motel Six as a choice of last resort.
Tom Bodett may leave the light on for you, but it'll cost you 5 bucks for the privilege.
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- Also Known As:
- Motel 6 Billings - South Montana
- Motel Six Billings
- Billings Motel Six
- Billings Motel 6