It was nine years ago in August that we took our first road trip. With school about to start and some summer cash in our pocket, we set out to tackle the Lake Superior Circle Tour. We started the journey in Duluth, MN, heading north to Thunder Bay, Ontario. The entire trip would take us through Minnesota, Ontario, Michigan, and Wisconsin before completing the circuit back in Duluth. We didn’t realize it at the time, but we were laying down the foundation of a passion for travel that would spark the first Project Wildness road trip nine years later. Paying homage to our first ever road trip, we decided to do the Lake Superior Circle Tour again, but this time with a twist of Wildness.
After a day of driving the Minnesota North Shore, we reached Thunder Bay, Ontario, ready to relax and enjoy the evening. Camping opportunities looked sparse so Nate started the search for an inexpensive motel. With few options in our price range, we quickly settled on the Munro Motel – a small “mom and pop” style joint nestled in a residential area far from the big chain hotels.
We pulled into the parking lot as the sky darkened and the street lamps flickered. To our right, a 10 room motel. To our left, a single house with a small sign that read “Office”. The apparent owner of the establishment met us at the door as Nate said, “We need to check in for the night.” The woman looked a bit puzzled and asked, “Do you have a reservation?” Nate quickly replied, “Yes. We booked it through Hotels.com.” Now completely confused she asked, “Is that like Expedia or something?”
Through some round-a-bout discussion we discovered that all internet bookings are set up to be emailed to her husband and it just so happened that he was gone all weekend on a camping trip. Nate nervously asked, “Well, what do you suggest we do?” “Well I trust you booked a room,” she said while inviting us into the house/office. “I just don’t want someone else to book a room online and think they can show up with a room ready to go.”
As the three of us sorted out the booking mess, the owner introduced herself as Marty before asking, “Where are you from?” We both responded, “Minnesota.” With that, we started to learn all about Marty and how she occasionally makes trips to Minnesota to go shopping and buy lottery tickets, “… But only when it’s really big ya know?” Nate asked, “What would you do if you won the lottery?” Marty thought about it for a bit and said, “Not anything really different. I would bulldoze the motel and plant some White Pine in its place. Other than that, I love my house and my yard. I wouldn’t change any of that.”
As Marty took us to our room she continued the conversation by describing the different styles of management her and her husband have when it comes to the Munro Motel. “I get stuck working all alone here on a long weekend while he goes out and camps with his buddies.” Taking into consideration the incredible amount of work it requires to run a motel on your own, Nate asks, “How do you do it?” Without missing a step as she folded our fresh towels, Marty responded, “Coffee. I love coffee.” After folding the towels Marty wished us a pleasant night’s sleep as she walked back to the house.
The next morning, we set out to show Marty a little appreciation by getting her some gift cards to McDonald’s and Tim Horton’s (her “favourite” two places to get coffee). When we returned to the motel, Marty had just come back from a local park. “I was helping the trees,” she said. A bit baffled, Nate asked, “How?” Once again, Marty educated us on the White Pine and how they can get open soars. Like a person, if that opening becomes infected the tree could die. “I go to a local park and put this stuff (a bottle of natural goop) on the open spots,” Marty explained.
With our last Marty conversation coming to an end, Nate handed an envelope with the gift cards and a note to her and said, “Marty, it was an absolute pleasure meeting you and staying at your motel. I know you work really hard to keep this place running and we just want to let you know that it doesn’t go unnoticed and that you are appreciated.” A bit shocked, Marty thanked us for the gift and for being such great guests.
There are three things that Marty truly loves – trees, conversation, and coffee. Over a short period of time we learned quite a lot about Marty’s dreams and goals – how she wanted to improve her motel and, “…attract nice people like you guys.” Marty also shared stories about her family as well as some tales of her more unusual guests. As we pulled out of the parking lot one thing was apparent – Marty was a character, but few people are as genuine as her.
Good character is genuine.
#ProjectWildness #LiveWildness #GoodInspiresGood
To Kim S… Kim, I think it’s only fitting your donation go to someone else’s coffee fix. After all, you’ve drank plenty of it over the years! You’ve always been a proponent of keeping the small local shops in operation in an age that has seemed to forget them – something I really admire about you. The Munro Motel reminded me of the old days, an interest I think we share. Your donation helped a struggling business owner by giving her a good reason to keep a smile on her face. Thanks for supporting us!
To Karen and David H… Today you helped a woman from Thunder Bay, Ontario, maintain a positive attitude in pushing forward in a difficult business. There’s no doubt it’s tough, but your donation helped us recognize Marty and her determination to keep her business afloat – not to mention her love for coffee! Thanks for lending your hand to us so we could lend our hands to her!