Thunderhill Raceway, Willows, CA

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Willows is a quiet, quaint California north-central town of about 5000 people, and the community has bent over backward 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.

 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.

Willows, CA and area, supporting Thunderhill Raceway Motels


Best Western - Willows Inn
475 N Humboldt Ave. Willows, California, 95988-2644

Phone: (530) 934-4444

From I-5 South:
On I-5 take the exit at State Route 162, Exit #603, turn right at the traffic light (West Wood Street), turn left at North Humboldt Avenue, the BEST WESTERN Willows Inn is on the left side.

We are near the Thunderhill Raceway Park, Mendocino National Forest, Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, as well as casinos and golf courses.

The BEST WESTERN Willows Inn offers comfort and convenience you can rely on in a choice Northwestern California setting. With a convenient location off Interstate 5, this Willows, CA, the hotel is the ideal spot to experience everything that scenic Northern California has to offer.

Enjoy all the amenities that add up to a great stay, including spacious new guest rooms and service that makes you feel at home. Wake up to free full hot breakfast or, if you enjoy morning workouts, head to the exercise facility and grab a cup of coffee and fruit afterward. When you need to relax, take a dip in our outdoor pool. Use the free Wi-Fi to stay connected, or enjoy your favorite cable TV show in the comfort of your BEST WESTERN Willows Inn room.

David Ray says

Best Western Willows Inn uses the skeleton of the old Days Inn, but has completely redone the property throughout. All new plumbing, A/C, very nice furnishings and great beds. While the rooms are still tighter than the Holiday Inn Express, for one to two nights at a more competitive HOD rate of $79, this property is a good value. Also – the breakfast includes eggs, breakfast meat and nice fixings... and they open early for track drivers. Be sure to tell Rosa and the staff the HOD sent you! 


Holiday Inn Express: Willows
545 N. Humboldt Ave Willows, CA 95988

Phone: 530-934-8900

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 TVs. Their breakfasts are much more substantial than 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.


Baymont Inn & Suites (formerly Amerihost):

Phone: 530-934-9700

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.


Motel 6

Phone: 530-934-7026

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.


Super 8

Phone: 530-934-2871

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!

Willows, CA and area, supporting Thunderhill Raceway 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 the 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 9:00 pm if there isn't much happening.

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 to 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. It's 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 the back that can serve over 100. With a full bar (it's pretty dark in there), and what we'd call traditional Italian fare, prime rib, rib eye, pasta meals, and some fish entrees 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 entre can be in the $20-30 range, but the food is great. A 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 a 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!