Willows, CA and area, supporting Thunderhill Raceway:
|Official Web Site: http://www.thunderhill.com|
|Willows is a quiet, quaint California north central town of about 5000 people, and the community has bent over backwards to welcome participants at Thunderhill.
Much of the commercial activity is centered on the Highway 162 exit off of Highway 5, but there is a nice downtown to the east, with several excellent antique shops,
and grocery and banks.
The Glenn County seat, the County Courthouse dates back to the 19th century.
David Vodden, Thunderhill CEO, reminds us that we are guests of the community while in town, en route to the track, and on track as well.
Our good citizenship as visitors will assure us of a secure future for our hobby at this awesome facility. |
RADAR ALERT: Be sure to remember that the two lane highways surrounding Willows, however empty they are, are no more than 55 mph zones!! We had the unfortunate experience several years ago of going on an exploration drive east of Willows on Highway 162 in a BMW. We got nabbed by mobile on-coming radar in a CHP car, while doing 71 on what looked like a road that should have an 80mph limit, but I was reminded in a friendly way that it was 55 (while he handed me the ticket!).
|There is a concentration of commercial properties at the second Willows exit (coming from the South), Highway 162. When you exit, you’ll want to turn right to get to motels, then there is an immediate left or right decision at the first light, Humboldt Avenue, depending on which motel you’ll be staying at. Turn right and you’ll be one block from the Best Western Golden Pheasant Inn, and the Amerihost Inn. Turn left and you’ll be one block from the Motel 6, Days Inn, and Super 8.|
|Holiday Inn Express: Willows|
Address: 545 N. Humboldt Ave Willows, CA 95988
Web Site: http://www.holidayinnexpress.com
Directions: Just off of the Highway 162 exit. Next to Starbucks!
Opened in 2009, this is by far and away the best motel/hotel property in Willows and the surrounding area. Owned by the Kumar family who own both the Travelodge and the Baymont Inn, it’s obvious to us that this is intended to be their top of the line property.
The rooms are well appointed and spacious, with many having two large flat screen TV’s. Their breakfasts are much more substantial that those at Baymont and Travelodge, and overall, we rate this facility as acceptable by all but the Zagat fanatics. There is a smallish outdoor pool.
As usual, ask for the Thunderhill/HOD rate – it should be around $99.
|Travelodge Golden Pheasant|
Phone: 530-934-4603 (press 0) and speak with the front office staff – and tell them you are with HOD!)
Web Site: http://www.travelodge.com
Directions: Turn to the right (after filling up at the Shell station, of course!), and you’ll see a Denny’s next to the Best Western, Golden Pheasant Inn.
Yes, during hunting season, you’ll need to get your reservations in early, as the Pheasant is full of hunters AND drivers – plenty of dogs to greet you in the parking lot! The Golden Pheasant has become a favorite, and has a special rate, for HOD participants. As paying customers, be aware that they have made a special deal for our coaches who come for your benefit as volunteers on their own dime. So supporting the Golden Pheasant also supports your coaches. OK – realistic review here: The GP is a bit tired – probably built in the 60’s, and has been redone, but not necessarily to very high standards. The reason many of us stay there is that the rooms are large, and the “deluxe” rooms have a large, two sink, private bath/shower. This makes having a roommate much more civilized. The cable TV service is poor, with a limited selection of stations – so to see SpeedTV, you’ll have to go next door to Casa Ramos to watch that Saturday night NASCAR race or any such nonsense. Fast internet is available, but bring a Category 5 cable as it is not wireless. Also, the GP has two outdoor pools that are decent, and the kids will enjoy – usually one is heated and one is not. They have a very modest continental breakfast in a room behind the registration office. Lastly, the GP has an HOD rate – our tip is that if you call in time, to ask for the deluxe room in a quieter location. As the GP is a one story facility and fairly spread out, they have some areas that are much quieter than others. We had one car broken in to a few years ago, but nothing since, and they have mounted security cameras all around the property and we’ve had no issues for some time. Lastly – we like the GP because it’s next to one of our favorite restaurants and watering holes, the Casa Ramos. More on that in the restaurant section.
|Baymont Inn & Suites (formerly Amerihost):|
This facility is owned by the same family that owns the Golden Pheasant and was new in 2002.
We have quite a number of our HOD drivers who prefer Baymont Inn & Suites because of this newer construction and amenities, and the fact that they have a very nice indoor pool (small but great for families), with hot tub. The parking is a bit more organized, as the building is a simple rectangle aimed at the freeway and you’ll be able to see your car in the well lit parking lot. There is also more elbow room here for car trailers. The reason that HOD leadership makes the close call to stay at the Best Western is twofold: The rooms at the Amerihost are quite a bit smaller, and as it is a three story motel, you may end up with a room that is pretty close to the freeway noise – so many rooms will be louder than the slightly more tucked away Golden Pheasant – you help this by requesting a room that is further from the freeway. Internet is on the same connection as the Golden Pheasant – is high speed but bring a Category 5 cable to connect, as they have loaners and sometimes run out. The Amerihost has a PC on the Net available in the lobby. They also have a modest continental breakfast.
Another favorite for HOD participants, especially those trying to squeeze nickels, the Motel 6 has two big advantages (beyond price) over the competition in Willows. First, they HAVE SPEEDTV! So there goes your excuse that there is nothing to do in Willows! Second, as you turn left on Humboldt and the motel is one block, and on the right hand side of the street, it is NOT backed up against the freeway, thus a fair amount quieter. You can however, (happened to us last time we were there) have a room with a shower window overlooking the AM/PM shipping area, so we were awakened by the early morning deliveries…but overall the Motel 6 is quieter. Of course, the rooms are Motel 6 in size, so it’s a bit tight for two adults that are not well-acquainted. No breakfast option here – and wireless internet that doesn’t work about half the time. If you need internet access, be sure to ask for a room that is close to the wireless router.
A very efficient and clean facility, with smallish rooms, but a large parking area for trailers – the Super 8 surprised us a bit and is very clean and neat. Nothing wrong here except its being adjacent to the world famous Interstate 5. Free wireless internet. Small swimming pool – looked a bit underused. Walk to Starbucks and Dreyers Ice Cream Parlor!
Clean and neat rooms, but a bit small. Small swimming pool as well. Good parking for trailers. Free wireless internet. Walk to Starbucks and Dreyers Ice Cream Parlor!! Very light breakfast bar.
Willows Area Restaurants:
|There are a surprising number of very nice options for dining in the area. Here are some of the favorites of the late apex crowd.|
|Casa Ramos: This drivers’ favorite has an advantage as it shares parking lots with the Best Western Golden Pheasant on one side, and the AmeriHost Inn on the other. So check in, unload and stroll over for dinner or a nightcap. Now a fairly large regional chain, Casa Ramos serves some of the best Mexican food you will find. The atmosphere in the main dining area is California casual – you’ll see nice dress-up clothes, rancher attire with boots, and plenty of race car baseball caps as well. The bar in back can handle small groups and has TV with SpeedTV if you can outvote the crowd. Service sometimes is a bit slow, but the food is worth the wait. After fighting off pretty hot salsa for years, I recently discovered that you can request mild salsa and it’s the best I’ve had. The bar has all options available, but on weekdays tends to close around 9:00pm if there isn’t much happening.|
|Nancy’s: Another long term favorite for track aficionados, Nancy’s is long on character. Sharing its location with the Willows airport (5000 ft. runway) just to the west off the 162 exit, across from Wal-Mart, you can imagine yourself on the set of Sky King from the 50’s if you’re old enough to remember that Saturday morning favorite TV show. Lots of ranchers, truckers, fly-boys/gals, and track folks will hang here for a very traditional diner fare. Their strength is breakfast, with the best bacon you can find – and we’ll bet you can’t eat an entire short stack let alone a tall one!! Good sandwiches too, with a reasonable salad bar. Sometimes things are a bit hectic at Nancy’s so let them know if you’re on a schedule. Nice folks, nice place.|
|Black Bear: Across the street from the Best Western on Humboldt Ave. the Black Bear is like Denny’s on steroids. The food is great, awesome sandwiches, breakfast, and casual dinner as well. Do not go the Black Bear if you’re not hungry! The helpings are huge! And – try the milkshakes…ah – the real thing!|
|Pat & Larry’s: 530-934-4273 (reservations on weekends a good idea) - Located on Tehama Street on the east side of Willows – drive east on Wood Street (Highway 162) about 1.5 miles through town and you’ll see Tehama with a stoplight. Turn right, and it’s on the left just before you leave town. Its nicer inside than it looks from the outside. Formerly Franco’s, Pat & Larry’s is the only restaurant in Willows that can serve a large function. They have a banquet room in back that can serve over 100. With a full bar (its pretty dark in there), and what we’d call traditional Italian fare, prime rib, rib eye, pasta meals and some fish entrées are to be counted on. Pat & Larry’s does good work!|
|Hunan Villa: On Humboldt, just north of Wood Street – next to the Motel 6 – Bottom line here – the place is not impressive from the outside, but we all have been very pleased with quality Chinese food here. The inside has been freshened up recently, and we can simply say that the food is very good to excellent. It’s a nice change of pace from some of the ruts we get in to when in Willows!|
|Maxwell Inn: 530-438-2521 (reservations recommended on weekends)|
This is a lucky discovery for HOD. We stopped in here in 1991 when the committee to build a race track stopped in while shopping for land to build a track! What we found was a historic hotel building that has been restored, with so many stuffed animals and game that you better not be a member of Greenpeace or you’ll have a tough time eating your meal!! We consider it a bit of a splurge to stop here on the way up to the track. The bar is spacious and charming. Maxwell Inn is a top level quality restaurant, and pretty expensive as well. A top entrée can be in the $20-30 range, but the food is great. Rack of lamb, rib eye, game, and an excellent salad all make for a great night out. Maxwell is about 15 minutes south of Willows. Take the Maxwell exit and go to the west – drive the limit as the County Sheriff tours the area frequently! The Maxwell in is in the center of this very small town – you can’t miss it!
Note: The Maxwell Inn has an outstanding room upstairs with separate bar, dance floor and multi-media for large and pretty extravagant gatherings. Be sure to have a designated driver from Maxwell – it’s far enough to Willows to get you in trouble!