Motel Hell

Motel Hell

My four-year-old looked down at the carpet as we entered the motel room. “Mommy,” she said knowingly, “This is the kind of motel we keep our shoes on, right?”

We were on the adventure of a life time, a road trip across Canada. On that particular day, we found ourselves in Northern Ontario. God’s country really. Beautiful wilderness and a never-ending journey around the rocky northern shores of Lake Superior. My Mom, who was riding shotgun, would every so often say,

“Now, I wonder what lake that is?”

“Its Lake Superior, Mom.”


It became a running joke. When you are driving around Lake Superior, you really get the idea of why it’s called a great lake.

We decided to stop for the day in a small town with a few motels that catered to the hunters and fisherman who journeyed north in pick-up trucks loaded with rifles and fishing rods. I stopped at the town grocery store and picked up a few supplies. As I was paying, I asked the clerk which motel she would recommend. “The Motor Inn on the edge of town,” she said with a reassuring nod. “Don’t stay anywhere else, it really is the best in town.” Here is a word to the wise. When you drive up to the highly-recommended Motor Inn on the edge of town and there’s a large sign that says “Color TVs in every room!”, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Choosing a place to stay while vacationing can be a very tricky business. I was reminded of this just a couple of weeks ago when we decided to book a last minute beach vacation.
Motel Hell
I read through review after review, trying to pick a spectacular hotel in an unfamiliar area. No one mentions the beds? It means they are neither horrible nor memorable. The reviewer is sweeter than syrup and has no other reviews under their name? Then it’s most likely a manager, friend of the manager, or some other employee. Same thing goes with an over-the-top negative review but then it’s the competition. In the end we chose a great hotel. The room was lovely, the beds were heavenly, the breakfasts were made to order, and the bathroom had a soaker tub! All that with a FABULOUS view of the beach. We had a memorable time as we celebrated the last few days of summer vacation. But enough of that. It’s the bad places that are more fun to talk about later!

Now, to be fair, the motel in Northern Ontario was bad, but it was nowhere near as bad as the one my husband and I stayed in early in our marriage. We were on the way to visit the folks. It was an eight-hour drive, and we left late. I was working in television at the time, and I had to direct the 10pm news. My husband waited with our beloved German Shepherd in our brand-new 92 Saturn in the parking lot of the station. As soon as I cued the end credits, we were on our way.

Finding a dog-friendly motel wasn’t easy, but at 2 a.m. we found one. It was called The Track Side Inn, and there was a picture of racing horses, and for ten extra bucks the dog was golden. “Did you know there was horse racing around here?” I naively asked my husband as we entered the room. He shook his head. We soon found out the kind of track the motel was beside. The horses on the sign looked like they were running really fast – probably to get out of the way of the speeding train! To be fair, maybe there was a horse track nearby, but as soon as the race was over the horses were loaded directly on the train and shipped out of there so they could get a good night’s rest!

We had barely closed our eyes when the whole room lit up and began shaking. A quick look out of the window at the back of the room made me jump back! I swear the train was no further than 2 feet away from my nose! I still think to this day it can’t be legal to build that close to a train track.

But even The Track Side wasn’t as bad as another dog-friendly motel we stayed in. This time it was the middle of winter. The Saturn was loaded up with Christmas gifts, and we were off to visit my parents. When my husband asked if pets were allowed, the gentleman behind the desk said it wasn’t a problem. They didn’t even charge us extra! The Christmas spirit was a live and well. Or maybe not.

As we entered the room, the aroma of chicken coop mixed with one of those tree-shaped car air fresheners wafted over us. And there it was. The air freshener, in all its simulated pine glory, hanging from the light fixture. And right next to it, the sticky fly strip, laden with the mummified corpses of the buzzy flies of summer. Exactly which summer, we’ll never know. Our dog immediately began sniffing around every inch of the room. Since we had already located the air freshener, perhaps he was looking for the chickens.

If it wasn’t so late, and I wasn’t so paranoid of dying of carbon monoxide poisoning, we would have slept in the car. The nightstand had an ashtray, and in that ashtray was a pack of wedding matches. You know, the kind embossed with the name of the bride and groom in a hue that perfectly matches the bridesmaid dresses? Except these matches (cue the Twilight Zone theme music) were for a date that had not yet occurred!

Feeling freaked out but tired after the long drive, we gingerly laid down on the bed with all our clothes on, careful not to disturb what lurked beneath. Our hopes to get at least a little sleep were dashed quickly with the sound of the dog pacing back and forth, sniffing. Sniff, sniff, sniff. He would not lay down on that floor. No amount of begging, or pleading, or obedience school commanding could get him to lay down. All night long. Sniff, sniff, sniff.

At one point the sniffing stopped for a few moments. I opened my eyes. Through the winter moonlight I could see him standing with his nose in the corner like a naughty school boy, not moving an inch. It didn’t last long though. He went right back to sniffing. Sniff, sniff, sniff.

We high-tailed it out of there in the morning, worried we just might see what he had been sniffing once the sunrise was complete. We weren’t even out of the parking lot when our poor exhausted dog fell asleep and stayed that way, dreaming his doggy dreams, until we reached Grandma’s house.