When Stephen R. McDow II and family—his wife, Rebecca; two sons Sebastien and George-Arthur; a friend; and their Great Dane, Izzy—set off on June 17 in two cars, leaving their five-generation Oak Bluffs holiday home for a 441-mile drive back to Maryland, they did not expect the day to end with a reeking dog bed, a broken Cadillac and some unexpected hospitality in East Falmouth’s Green Harbor Waterfront Lodging.
Mr. McDow, who related the story in an email to the Enterprise, said the family road trip was derailed even before morning coffee, when Ms. McDow frantically called to announce that “Izzy has to go potty bad.” Although Mr. McDow kicked into action and quickly found a local dog park in Falmouth, the dog had an unfortunate accident in the backseat before they could reach the new destination.
“We darted into the center of the village and park. I ran to the local Walgreens and purchased trash bags, cleaner, paper towels—everything you need to fix a mess. Things were back to ‘almost’ normal because…well…then the smell was intoxicating. Rebecca and my youngest rolled the windows down to air out,” Mr. McDow said.
The family then reconvened at Intergas on Main Street in Falmouth, where a miscommunication led to a Nationwide tow truck and two hours of waiting around. While at the gas station, Mr. McDow recruited his sons’ friend to put 93 octane into Ms. McDow’s Cadillac after his elder son, barefoot from a pair of broken flip-flops, declined. The young man, who has never pumped gas before, misunderstood Ms. McDow’s sarcastic comment on diesel and ended up pumping it into a gasoline-fueled car.
“I thought the pump absolutely didn’t fit as a failsafe, but somehow, he made it fit. By the time I made it to the pump, he had a small but significant puddle of diesel fuel on the ground and 15 gallons in the tank,” Mr. McDow said. “The young man couldn’t figure out why the gas kept spilling, and why he had to force it into the tank!”
“I was HOT…I mean so mad I couldn’t speak to Rebecca for playing around at this moment,” he said.
After learning that none of the mechanics at Excel Gas & Repair in East Falmouth could fix the car until the next day, the frustrated family decided to rent a hotel room. As Mr. McDow waited at the shop, Ms. McDow, after some tears, called the first place she could find, Green Harbor Waterfront Lodging, owned and operated by Dorie Dineen Ketterer and her family for more than 60 years.
“Turns out this was the best choice! The staff was excellent! They helped the boys get into the pool, gave us extra towels, and made sure all our comforts were met,” Mr. McDow said.
While the family waited for the car to be drained and fixed the next day, Irene Buckley, the general manager of Green Harbor Waterfront Lodging, said she would not add extra charges since the McDows had already incurred unexpected expenses, and they were welcome to stay as long as needed.
Ms. Buckley said on behalf of the hotel, “We were so happy that we were able to help them, especially in that type of situation. We let them stay in the room and the facilities until they knew what was happening with their car. As a family-owned and -operated hotel, we try very hard to make sure that our guests are taken care of. We always treat everybody as if we are welcoming a member of the family in.”
“This spirit after dealing with COVID-19. God bless her!” Mr. McDow said.
He recalled being almost in tears because of the unexpected hospitality, tipping the staff just shy of a one-night stay and thanking all for their compassion on the family’s misadventure.
“This hotel is simply a family-friendly, dog-loving place with loads of charm and a spirit of relaxation. We could not have asked for a better place for the car to break down, and I thank God every day it was this hotel and not the side of [Routes] 28 or 95,” he said.
In the end, the McDows’ journey home brightened up. While waiting for the car, they took Izzy to the dog park and met, according to Mr. McDow, “the most amazing people”—among them a teacher, a retired teacher, a realtor and some students.
“I mean, no one ever talks to Rebecca and I at the dog park in Frederick, Maryland. However, in Falmouth…everyone was simply warm and fun to be around while we had our engine sorted,” he said. “Bless you guys!”