Category Archives: Travel

Mustang Sally

20160204_222721We had expected cars to be expensive to rent while we were in California after we discovered we’d be there over the Super Bowl weekend.  We were pleasantly surprised that the prices were not jacked up. We were doubly surprised when we found a convertible for the same price as a standard/smallish regular car. The weather for the weekend was expected to be in the mid 70s, so we thought we might as well enjoy a bit of convertible weather in February!

The reservation said “Mustang Convertible or Similar” which we were looking forward to just for the fun of it. When we got to the rental counter, the young woman put on the full court press.

“Do you want to prepay your gas”  “No.”

“Are you sure? It can save you money.”  “I’m sure.”

“Do you want the insurance for the car.”  “No, our company has insurance that covers it.”

“Are you sure? Even for a convertible?”  “Yes, and even for a convertible.”

“Well, if you are sure they would cover you.”  “I am.”

“Ok. Oh, look, for only $20 per day, I can upgrade your Mustang to a Camaro.”

“Nope, that is fine, just what we planned for.”

“Are you sure?  It’s a pretty nice car.” “No, the Mustang will be fine.”

So, having failed at all her up-selling efforts, she sends us to the lot to pick up our car. We tell the attendant we are looking for the Mustang Convertible and show him our paperwork. He says they sent the last Mustang off an hour before, all they have is the Camaro Convertible.

Yes, we were already scheduled for the Camaro that the car rental counter person was trying to get us to pay extra for as an upgrade.

No, that doesn’t seem scammy at all.

 

 

 

 

Well That’s Just Super!

This is the conversation Philip and I had last night.

Philip said, “I made our reservations to fly into Oakland on the 4th. Our event with Bob is on the 5th and we’ll stay the weekend and have our meetings and training sessions through the next week. See what hotel you can get close to Fremont.”

So  I clicked away and checked out our regular haunts.

“Looks like there is some big event going on, the hotels are either unavailable or really high priced that weekend.”

Then I googled “Super Bowl.” I knew it was going to be in the San Francisco Bay Area, I just didn’t know it was that early in February.

Philip knew it was on the 7th, he just didn’t know it was in the Bay Area.

So, here is the ugly truth– we are sports illiterates.  We are not fans, we are not followers we didn’t watch the Royals in the World Series, but did follow the final games online. We didn’t watch the Chiefs in the play-offs, again catching the final score online. We are happy for both teams doing well this year. We are happy for our friends who follow every game, who watch the Royals in the burning heat or the Chiefs in freezing cold.

We are not those people.

But those people were driving up the cost of the hotel rooms we usually stay in when we are in California.

We spent almost 2 hours finding a hotel that was within driving distance to our event on Friday  and that cost less than a month’s mortgage. We’d  enter our dates, search for a hotel , find one that listed some reasonable price, click select and the next page would show that price for one night, a price 3 times as much for the following night, and a warning that rooms were paid immediately on reservation with no refund for changes.

Um, NO!

We finally used some (a bunch, actually) of Hilton points to offset the cost of one hotel and the on Saturday we’ll move to Windsor, north of the city. I haven’t got the rooms for the rest of the week yet, but we’ll figure it out. By then, the fans will have thinned out and the prices won’t be so hard to take.

And this way, I’ll be strolling the square in Healdsburg to taste some wine while the fans are cheering on their teams. And they and we will all be happy!

On the Road Again

We just got back from nearly a week in Texas.  It was 4 degrees when we left home and in the mid-50s when we got to Galveston.  Not sun bathe at the beach weather, but certainly warmer than home.

Not that we were heading to the beach anyway. This was a work week, so we spent most of our time in conference rooms, training centers, or working in hotel rooms.  That said, we try to have some fun on the road. But, we arrived on a Sunday, so we did take a bit of time.

I had googled “Wineries in Galveston” and found one nearby, in Santa Fe, TX.  We stopped at the Haak Winery  and tasted several of their wines.  When we are tasting several, we always share a tasting, both to save money and so we aren’t drinking too much.  We sat on their deck, which was possible because they had heaters, and enjoyed the sunny but chilly day. We bought a bottle of their White Madeira to take home, and walked around the vineyard a bit and drove on to our hotel.

Rooms were a bargain in Galveston, cheaper than nearer our client site, so we drove an extra few minutes in return for a view of the beach.  Originally we had a view of the back parking lot, but the sink in our room didn’t drain, so we were moved across the hall to a room with a patio/deck and yes, we could see water, if we looked across the Walmart parking lot and the road.  I’m not complaining, since I wasn’t expecting a view. And it wasn’t as if I was spending my time on the deck drinking margaritas!

We ate at a couple of local places.  It felt like the local prices were high (tourist town) so we also went to our fall back position for diet friendly,  fast and economical– Wendy’s salads. Oh, such connoisseurs are we!

When we finished with client work there, we drove for one last night in north Houston, and finally found what Philip had been wanting– Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen had cheap oysters on the half shell.  So he had a dozen oysters, I had a shrimp cocktail with 9 large shrimp and we each had a side salad and a glass of wine and we were very happy.

Client visits went well, had some different food, found a new Texas winery.  Working hard but taking time to smell the roses (you know, the ones planted at the end of the rows of grapes!) Great way to start the year!

 

 

On the Road Again!

I’m on the road again.
We’re drivng this time— 3 states, 5 cities, 2 weeks and countless public restrooms.
I have long joked that apparently my purpose in life is to visit every airport restroom in the USA—which has had its share of yucky moments, but that pales in comparison to the sense of adventure one feels when opening the door of a public restroom in an fast food restaurant, a gas station or rural convenience store.
It is like the final bit from the old game show—What lies behind the door—relief or angst?
I’ve had pleasant surprises—clean as a clean can be restrooms in run down convenience stores in the middle of nowhere or my favorite, sparkling public restrooms that smell of bleach. I’ve had some horror stories, such as one in Mississippi a few years ago that didn’t have a door between the restroom itself and the rest of the store, though most of the stalls had doors.
But I digress. While the cleaning habits of the store or restaurant management plays a large role in how good or horrific a public restroom experience may be it is the people who used the facilities before you who make the biggest difference. To this group of strangers I have a question.

Were You Born In a Barn?

Seriously! On what planet is the way you leave a restroom acceptable?
And if you are not one of these people, you know who you are, and you may join me in my irritation.
I have a short list of rules that I think we should put into place. We could even vote on them, if needed. The problem is, when people fail to follow these rules, it is the next person in line who pays the price.

Rule Number 1–Stop peeing on the seat.
I stopped at a a chain restaurant yesterday and made my “I’ve been in the car drinking coffee for 4 hours” run into the restroom— and it was wonderfully clean when I walked in and it was clean and dry when I left.
An hour later, I made my “better go before I get then car for another 4 hours” stop and went to the same stall. This time it had pee all over the seat. Seriously ladies, unless you can levitate and hit the mark, please stop this squat, aim and miss practice. This was a sparkling clean restroom, it had seat liners in each stall which are useless because someone PEED ON THE SEAT.
If you make a mess of the seat—and by mess I mean any bodily emission of any kind—clean it up before you leave. There is toilet paper right there, wipe up after yourself. Or be defined as nasty.

Rule Number 2— Flush the damn toilet.
Flush toilets are one of the best inventions in the history of the world, so use them. I don’t care if you “let the yellow mellow” at home all that does in public restrooms is mess with the plumbing by ending up with too much toilet paper to flush and eventual clogs. And make sure the toilet flushes before you leave the stall, Self-flushing toilets don’t always self-flush, but there is always a button to do it yourself. If one flush doesn’t do it, do a second, but make sure whatever you left in the toilet is gone before you leave the cubicle. View it as you would camping in a pristine wilderness… leave no evidence of your visit.

If everyone did just these two things, public restrooms would immediately improve on so many levels.

Hello, Mr. Angry

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes while traveling we run into people who are just clueless about how to act in public. I was riding on a hotel shuttle bus that was dropping four sets of two people at various restaurants at various points in Market Square and along the Riverwalk in San Antonio. Philip, me, a couple of women, and two sets of guys, all either tourists or in town on business. Not a lot of cross talk, mostly, we were all waiting for our stops. I was sitting with a couple of guys heading out for steaks. Philip was sitting in front of me with two women going out for Mexican food. It was a random grouping of strangers who happened to be in the same hotel on the same night, and I’d not recognize any of them if I saw them today.
Out of nowhere, one of the guys sitting by me began going on about politics. Specifically, he began to discuss, loudly, his hatred of politicians. And his possibly made-up-as-he-went-along belief that something should be done–like blowing up buildings.
Although it was clear he was a blowhard, who might or might not have been spending some dedicated time at a happy hour before heading out for the evening, everyone’s private conversations stopped and it seemed like we all perked up our ears.
“Keep talking, I’m recording you,” said the man’s buddy.
And the man did keep talking—which clearly was not what his buddy hoped.
“We hear you, too” said a woman in the seat in front of me.
And the man started again.
Then I quoted Arlo Guthrie and said, “And they all moved away from him on the Group W Bench.”
My comment flustered him to the point he paused. And his friend took the opportunity to jump in, “I haven’t thought of that song in years.” The friend began singing lines of “Alice’s Restaurant” until the shuttle got to the steakhouse and he and Mr. Blowhard left the shuttle.
Do I believe this man would ever really blow up a building? No. But none of us wanted to hear him blather on about it, just as no one wants to hear people joking about blowing up a plane while they are waiting in line at the airport. It was an uncomfortable moment that can happen when strangers are thrown together even for a short shuttle ride. But I can say I usually have more comfortable moments with the people I run across in the course of my travels.

Happy Anniversary Baby, I’ve Got You on My Mind

We’ve been celebrating our anniversary for a month, and it has been a great month.

This year we celebrate 35 years of marriage.

Yes, that is a long time.

And, if you must know, yes, we were young when we got married. Around 10 years old, I think—at least that is my story and I’m sticking with it.

But I digress.

We had thought of going to Hawaii, or some big trip to France or Italy, but frankly, making the time wasn’t working, and we’d rather not have that cash outlay right now. So, we decided to have some fun here.

We bought new phones, which we love. They are fast, sleek, have big screens and do lots of thing—and the cameras on them are very good, for snapshots and things you’d need day to day.  And we got small tablets for ourselves, which make it easy to read books, nicer than the phones for searching without dragging out the laptop. Who doesn’t like new toys?  So, even though we bought them a month before our actual anniversary, we counted these as “Anniversary gifts”.

Then we went on the mega work trip. And it was work—not a vacation at all.  We were up early to go to client sites to prep the rooms, ate the free breakfasts at inexpensive hotels (expensive hotels don’t offer free breakfast!) where we stayed, lived on weak conference coffee and when available, ate free dinners, which are usually carb heavy (Lasagna, Potatoes and gravy, rice) and lots of lettuce, with maybe some cheap wine offered for good measure.  However, free is free, and really, on the road unless we are going someplace really special, most of the time   we end up eating salad for dinner anyway.

But, we also took a day off and toured the Missions in San Antonio, TX one Saturday. And went to the Lodi Zinfest the next Saturday when we were in California. And it was great fun.  For us, both counted as anniversary celebrations.  We stopped for a couple of wine tastings when we finished our appointments. We had small plates one night and people watched from a sidewalk table. On our way home on a Saturday, when they announced the flight was overbooked, we scored free tickets for an upcoming flight simply for waiting in an airport for a few extra hours—and while we were there we shared a glass of wine and some pâté at an airport restaurant that we never would have found without the extra time.  We define all of this as part of the anniversary celebration.

Since our actual anniversary was a “school night” we defined the day before as the actual celebration day. We went to a new restaurant that had just opened a few blocks from our home and had appetizers and shared a glass of wine before going to a movie at a new theater. After the show, we bought macarons and took them home for dessert for the official anniversary dinner at home—where we had filets, baked potato, asparagus and a split of 1997 Opus One wine in our own dining room.

I guess it is hard to define a celebration when life is to be celebrated. We may not buy cards or flowers or balloons to punctuate every life event, but we do tend to have a good time wherever we happen to be. I think we succeed in making the commas in our life story enough fun that we don’t have to wait for exclamation points!

Ten Pounds of Stuff in a Five Pound Bag

I’m on the road again and apparently felt I not only needed to take everything I own with me, but that it should all go in my purse.  Sounds good, but unless I buy a little red wagon to drag the purse along in, I’m going to have to lighten the load.  Not only am I carrying pounds and pounds of stuff in my shoulder bag, I’m lugging it though airports…. 3 different ones today. So, when I need something out of it, I have to dig, because inevitably the thing I want has filtered down to the bottom of the main area of the purse.  I have/had a system, but right before this trip, I changed phones, added a small tablet, and my carefully planned purse system is now just a little off. Here is a list of what I currently have in my purse.

First external zipper pocket:

  • Two lipsticks (which I usually forget to apply)
  •  Lip balm
  •  Small mirror, (in case I ever apply the lipstick
  •  Flying earplugs  in a case—since my ears have been bothering me
  • Black earbuds for listening to music
  • Two packets  of wrapped mints from restaurant last night.

Second external zippered pocket:

  • Phone –not too much else can fit, this phone is larger than my last one

Larger external zippered pocket

  • Driving glasses in hard case (So I can see to drive)
  • Sunglasses in hard case (So I can see in the sun)
  • Reading glasses in soft case—these are hardly ever used, but they there if I need them
  • Receipt
  • Paper napkin—from fast food place at an airport
  • Packet of lemon juice from fast food restaurant at airport
  • Pen
  • Two tea bags

Small internal Pocket:

  • Business cards–mine and other people’s
  • Electronic key card
  • 2 packets of Equal

Second small internal pocket

  •  Half roll of Tums  (For my tummy)
  • Package of dental floss
  • Larger internal pocket
  • Two  pens
  •  Small fold over note pad
  •  Two receipts
  • Conference badge on a retractable cord.

 Main Purse area

  • 7 Inch tablet in case (This is new, and I love it for reading my Kindle books—much better than my old phone that I used to use for reading books!)
  • Oversized Billfold.  (Love it, but it is too big and too heavy )
  • Sheet of paper with list on it. (Could likely toss this, since I usually use Evernote)
  • Small hairbrush
  • White earbuds
  • Blue scrunchy
  • Car charger and wall charger and two cords in a case that is too small for all that stuff
  • Checkbook (I write almost no checks, but I seem to always have it with me)
  •  Wendy’s coupons
  • Two emery boards in a plastic cover
  • Empty Ziploc bag
  • Quart Ziploc bag filled with:
  1. Five bottles nail polishes (Glass bottles are heavy—this should be in the suitcase, really)
  2. Allergy meds
  3. Four- 5 Hour Energy drinks (this is 20 full hours of energy, folks)
  4. Hand sanitizer      
  • Package of Southwest peanuts
  • Package of Southwest pretzels
  • Package of Wheat Thins, also from Southwest
  •  Three magazines
  • Rolling Stone (left for me by seat mate—saved for article on musicians favorite songs)
  • Psychology Today (bought at airport newsstand for the article on Reinventing Yourself)
  • Spirit magazine (Southwest free magazine kept for Sudoku puzzles)

So, yes, some of this is clearly temporary and travel related, but—I am going to find a tote or specific travel purse to deal with this, because a lot of this is now standard for any future trips.

And I’m not  even going to discuss what is in my briefcase— but it at least has wheels!