The Oasis of Eden motel in the Californian desert has themed rooms. This is what initially drew me in, what prompted a previously unplanned U-turn on Route 101 and a subsequent windswept drive into the desert after a stint in the quiet wilderness of Big Sur.
The beauty of the sweeping ocean views in Big Sur was rivalled only by that of the looming mountains, which could easily be observed by those who weren't yet too relaxed to turn their heads away from the sea. The Post Ranch Inn, to which I had retreated for three nights, featured open fires in each of the lodges and two infinity pools, heated round the clock. You could walk the coastline at sunset and be back at the inn in time for a massage/facial/shaman session before tucking in to a five-course dinner. But none of this matters, because the Oasis of Eden has THEMED ROOMS.
The 1950s suite, for example, has a Cadillac for a bed, and the Jungle Room boasts a whirlpool hot-tub and leafy walls. And then, of course, there is the Cave Room. The grinning 1980s faces of the nubile women pictured just hanging out (as you do, with four close friends) in the Jacuzzi told me that the Cave Room is where it's at. Nobody, I was fairly certain, ever experienced anything other than fun times in the Cave. This is where I wanted to spend the night. This is the place I would reminisce about once my holiday was over.
Obviously, I realised that to some extent the Oasis of Eden was inevitably going to be somewhat vulgar – that was part of its attraction – but I thought that it would be funny and ironic and sort of gross, but in a good way.
Arriving at the motel at dusk certainly set the vibe for the rest of the evening. The building was shrouded in a creepy light. As we pulled up to the Oasis of Eden, having mistakenly sped past it twice already, I compared it in my mind to the endless motels that litter 'No Country for Old Men'. The alarmingly hirsute woman on reception parted with the key while eyeing up the fake leopard-print coat I had hastily picked up in Los Angeles (I wasn't sure about it either).
She rattled through the motel information and policies in a dreary tone not unlike the sound my computer printer makes; monotonous, bored, sometimes efficient, leaving no time for me to snigger at the pictures of other "suites" I could have chosen, which were lazily strewn across the counter but protected under some fake glass.
When I got to the Cave Room, which was at the end of a long cement corridor lit by the lights from the upper level, I once again became excited at the prospect of spending a night there. This feeling was almost immediately dispelled when I walked into the bathroom and was stared out at by a cockroach in the bathtub. Plucky bastards, those cockroaches.
"Never mind," I thought, "at least I can take some amusing photographs of the faux stalactites that reach all the way into the far corners of the bathroom – and thank God the bed is not only circular, but also has a leopard-print spread."
My search for the button to make said bed rotate, Austin Powers-style, proved unfruitful. The Jacuzzi, however, appeared to be in perfect working order, although I decided not to get into it, because I couldn't stop imagining all the people before me who had.
As night fell, I inspected the sheets for the third time before climbing with some trepidation into the circular bed. I had bought a candle to try to mask the weird smell in the cave, and I'd also invested in a bag of ice and some whiskey, hoping that getting drunk might make me giggle at the surroundings rather than fear them.
Even if the bats that cling to the walls are rubber, and the stalactites are made of painted fibreglass, a cave, even if it's fake, is a scary place to lay your head. After several attempts to drift off to sleep, I conceded defeat and put on a DVD of 'Gimme Shelter' to try to take my mind off the fact the front door wouldn't lock. A restless night ensued, in which every item in the room became a potential weapon I could use to defend myself. When the sun finally rose, we made a swift exit and hit the road back to LA ready to catch the flight home to London.
I was trying to think of any good that could have come from that night's experience, and I realised that it can be added to a list of important things I learnt on my travels – that comic irony soon loses its humour when the light falls; that In '*Out Burger is the best fast-food joint in the world; and the words to Estelle's song "American Boy", specifically Kanye West's part.