With bragging rights to beaches on two lakes, Penticton seemed to be a summer haven. The fumble of it was I’d wandered though town several weeks before the onset of the warmest season. In consolation, I sought to take advantage of the cheap motels lining the main streets. My reluctance to camp night-after-night-after-night was a lingering crutch, and the prices fell close enough to reasonable that the search felt justified. Patiently, I roamed, asking for the cheapest room in town until I felt satisfied with the price.
The meant-to-be motel revealed itself when the manager, an aimlessly talkative and charming old man, responded to my challenge by meeting his eyes to mine, turning a playful grimace, and asserting a question of his own:
You want to stay here, eh. Can I trust ya?
I appreciated his willingness to immediately move beyond the typical professional tone.
Sure you can. I partnered my aw-shucks response with an exaggerated smile to sweeten the deal. The manager laughed and offered a price seemingly made up on the spot. Lower than I would have asked for, and more than close enough to campground pricing. I accepted. The old man insisted that I stay for as long as I wanted.
As I paid, further pleasantries and mostly one-sided conversation capped our encounter. I chalked up the manager’s outgoing behavior to some combination of small-town generosity, off-season desperation, and his own unique brand of peculiarities. Before we parted, he politely interrogated my passing through.
You riding for a charity?
Nah, I’m just looking to experience the country in a different way.
Embracing the challenge.
Too bad, my buddy.
I would’ve donated your fee to the cause. You could’ve stayed for free!
Communicating my trip to others remained an awkward exercise. A life-altering choice still predominantly unexamined. Why aren’t I riding for a charity? Why am I doing this? I remained uneasy in my defense for experiencing my daily travels.
The manager seemed mildly amused by my trip, far more interested in how long I’d planned to stay at his motel. I wondered if our conversation might have been measured in dollars for my host. I politely insisted that I would be gone in the morning. I paid a one-night fee and set my sails to the comforts of a warm bed.
All was roses till the next morning.
Morning often arrives without fair warning. Every sleep feels interrupted, to some degree. Even the most sound slumbers.
This interruption felt especially alarming.
I awoke abruptly, to the manager and another man rattling tools and arguing outside my room. I opened my eyes and turned my body toward the noise, stunned to see my window removed and my door opened wide. The two men bickered as they struggled to dismantle the doorknob just out of sight. Tools were strewn across my room’s entrance. No regard for my existence. I felt inconvenienced, yearning for even a few minutes more of shut-eye.
With a slow rise and a few tired steps, I held my head out of the now-windowless hole of my room with a confused expression. The manager’s gaze transfixed on the doorknob as the other man peered down behind him. I tried to disguise my irritation with a polite tone.
Good morning? What’s happening out here?
The pair lifted their focus from the door with matching looks of surprise. The manager laughed uproariously and apologized, with a hand gleefully slapping his knee. My host explained they were completing motel renovations in preparation for the impending summer rush. He’d forgotten that I was occupying the room. No worries. The pair promised to stop working until I’d departed, hurriedly collecting their tools and closing the knobless door as I shut the curtains of the windowless hole.
I felt forgotten, a slight tinge of defeat. The most meaningful trip of my life was no more than a small moment’s worth of curiosity in this motel manager’s off-season. A minor humbling to start my day.
I couldn’t hold ill-will against the manager for his unassuming role, though I was slightly miffed by the you-get-what-you-pay-for experience I’d received. I shared no further words or connection with my host. He wandered off with his partner in crime for a break while I showered and readied myself for a ride further up the Okanagan. I checked out within the hour, pedalling through the rest of this off-season summer haven, still dwelling on my forgettable place in the old man’s day.