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Arizona Highways Halloween Edition

October 26, 2017 3 Comments

Halloween car

Halloween car

I love living in Arizona. I used to travel around the world all the time. In fact, I was a travel agent for years, living the good life on the gravy train of the travel industry. The market has changed significantly and the service on airlines is not as great as it was in the past. I used miles to upgrade my international flights to business class back in the day, but those seats are never available with miles now. The super gold elite platinum members suck those all down for themselves. I no longer fly or collect airline miles for the future. I am happy as a tourist in my own spectacular state.  We have it all, including the Grand Canyon.

I recently downsized my possessions and bought a Mini Cooper to drive.  The change brings money into my budget and a fun tiny car that meets my needs perfectly.  I drove the car recently to Phoenix for the Cannabis Expo weekend.  It is super easy to park and easy to drive.  My wanderlust for the open road has been revived by my new wheels.  When I first saw the car I did not like it because it is orange and black.  I have come to adore the colors, and think it is a snazzy sporty look.  I will drive it down to Tombstone and Bisbee tomorrow for a Halloween weekend visit.  Bisbee is all about haunting and history. Tombstone is all about gunslinging, Doc and Wyatt.

The drive is an easy two hours, about the same as Phoenix, from home.  I will stop in Tombstone on the way down then take a day trip to Douglas on Saturday.  Douglas was once a very wealthy smelter town for the Bisbee copper mine.  The Louis Comfort Tiffany Window in the Hotel Gadsden is a remnant of those high rolling times.  It is worth the drive to Douglas to see that window.  Tombstone, Bisbee, and Douglas grew up around mines.  The history of the wild west is still celebrated, particularly around Halloween.  It will be a fantastic retreat, as well as a bargain for the cost.  I feel lucky to have so many excellent and varied destinations to discover by a short drive.

 

Value For Dollar, Air bnb

March 13, 2017 1 Comment

I was a travel agent for many years, and have not lost my love of hotels. There is nothing like a stay at a first class establishment to make you feel pampered and rested. I prefer to save up for a special stay if I want to stay in a hotel. When they converted the Waldorf-Astoria to apartments last week I was really happy I had stayed there a couple of times. Once I talked the sales representative into giving me a two bedroom suite for the price of a double room. It was spectacular, and I will never forget it. The Sunday brunch was also to die for.  Five star hotels are memorable, but they are not the only way to have a special vacation.  Since air bnb started I have used it for particular locations. Sometimes the most important aspect of the stay is the exact location.  Air bnb has expanded my choices when I travel to include a large and growing number of private homes, guest houses, and rooms for rent to paying customers.  I used to rent private flats in other countries, and it was tricky.  Now this has become easy and safe for all involved parties. Air bnb connects renters with exceptional spaces to rent.

The company carries insurance for both the renter and the property owner.  There is a vetting process, and the reviews are made public.  If a guest is undesirable and is reviewed as a bad prospect, other owners will not want to rent to him.  Conversely, if an accommodation is reviewed as less than perfect, prospective renters can take this into account when deciding on a rental.  I have only had one property that worked out well for me but I declined to review because I thought it was not appropriate for most travelers.  I have been around the world and have a pretty wide range of tolerances, but this is not the case for all clients of air bnb.  The base of customers and rentals is growing, which means there are new places on the rental market all the time. I keep some wish lists of properties for future reference.  This helps me check certain cities for my dream accommodations quickly. There are many choices, and trip planning is a sport for me.  I can get lost in the air bnb site for hours, just doing research on new locations.

I go to Tempe, Arizona at least once a year for a weekend.  I like to live like a regular person in the neighborhood when I am there.  I don’t always cook, but I like the option of a kitchen for flexibility.  This is one of the major advantages to hotel life in my mind.  Each host is different, but generally the renter is given free use of the kitchen, and normally the outdoor barbecue, if there is one.  If nothing else this allows me to store any produce I pick up at framers markets, and gives me a place to make my coffee in the mornings.  Hosts almost always provide coffee and tea.  Some go all out with gifts of food and wine for the traveller. I have moved in to find a case of fizzy water and other goodies left by the previous tenant.  The host describes what is provided so there is little chance of surprise.  Being accurate in the description is an important issue to the company.  I find they are all good at that.  Obviously, some personalities will fit better than others, and staying in someone’s home is intimate.  All my hosts have been just right for my tastes, usually leaving the premises, and leaving me alone.  Many will leave a key or a lock box for convenience checking in while they are at work.  My recent stay at Larry’s place in Tempe worked out very well for my needs.  I would recommend his property for anyone.  He is friendly, but low key.  His very well presented guide book helped me navigate the area when I arrived.  It was  very helpful.

Larry's yard

Larry’s yard

Larry

Larry

The referral and vetting system is similar to Uber or Lyft.  If you use my invitation link to sign up , you will receive a discount of $40 on your first booking.  I will be rewarded with $20 in credit after you take your first trip.  It is a win/win situation. Have you tired using air bnb, gentle reader?  It is becoming much more popular all the time.

#WeekendCoffeeShare, Spring Farming

February 25, 2017 8 Comments

If we were having coffee I would invite you to once again sit by the wood stove, which has been cranked up for a couple of days. This short cold snap may be the last time we need to burn wood this year. The quick warm up has caused all the trees to go into blossom mode. My peach tree is in bloom, and the apricot and grapefruit are budding up. Since I still had a large crop of ruby-red grapefruit on the tree I needed to act quickly to get them picked. It stresses the tree and the fruit will start to lose weight if I leave it much longer. I picked about 100 pounds, and took them to the farmers market. I am a member of a coop sponsored by our food bank that allows us to drop off our produce to be sold at the coop table.

It is great because small growers who do not produce enough to want to rent their own table use the coop to sell their fruits, herbs, and vegetables. I joined last year when I had too many grapefruit at the end of the season, and think it is a wonderful service to the community.  I take extra herbs and citrus that turn out to be more than we can use.  Others are doing it to increase income from home gardening.  I came back to the market at the perfect time!! Tomorrow there will be a party at a brewery downtown hosted by the Arizona Small Scale Farmers Alliance, a ranger and farmer meet up.  This will be a very fun event for me.  I plan to attend and find out what is happening in local farmer land.  I have also made my plans for wildflower safari to Tempe and Scottsdale in the beginning of March.  One of my Air bnb hosts up there has a miniature farm with free range chickens and organic gardens.  Guests are invited and encouraged to eat the produce and eggs.  That will be interesting to see as well as taste. I want to see what farmers do in Scottsdale.

My trip to Maricopa County will include the opening of a new butterfly pavilion at the Desert Botanical Gardens for which they are having a party.  It will be wildflower as well as citrus bloom season up there, so the sights and scents will be very exciting.  On Sunday I will visit the Museum of the Musical Instrument, where I will see the exhibits at leisure the attend a classical matinée concert by the Phoenix Symphony.    There are special exhibits about 20th century guitar art, and another about Woodie Guthrie. I could easily spend an entire day there.   I am enthusiastically looking forward to my weekend away, not very far from home.  I plan to purposely take some botanical/architectural images to use later as prompts for poetry or fiction.  There will be plenty of subject matter from which to choose.  I am still writing fiction once a week to Sue Vincent’s photo prompts, which gave me the idea to capture a few of my own for future use. April is poetry month and I always use an image with each of the 30 poems, so might as well prepare.

If we were having coffee I would be seriously pushing the grapefruit juice, and sending a few fruits home with you when you go.  I want to hear about your week and writing projects.  I know many of you are still in winter, and are probably getting tired of it.  My early spring farming issues might not inspire much sympathy if you are still snowed in.  Think of it this way.  Soon you will be able to enjoy the blaze of color and flash of Phoenician spring without leaving home.  I will bring it to you on coffee share. I only wish I could transmit the amazing aroma of citrus in bloom.  It is sweet and uplifting beyond measure.  Thank you for visiting this week. Take some spring vibes home with you.

If you want to join other writers and digital beverage drinkers visit Nerd In The Brain to hook up with stories from around the globe each weekend.  Feel free to read, comment, enjoy, or submit a post of your own here.

#WeekendCoffeeShare

#WeekendCoffeeShare

Vacation Budget

May 30, 2015 4 Comments

I worked as an outside sales travel agent for many years. I took care of my own clients and split my commissions with the agency where I worked.  I served all kinds of different clients, mostly recreational.  They knew the destination and how long they would stay.  They wanted to find the best airfare.  Back in the day only agents or the airlines themselves had access to the digital systems used for booking.  Some people wanted nothing more than the best fare for a flight, but others wanted some guidance in planning.  Naturally each vacationer wants to think they have a great bargain package, but very few would tell the agent how much they had planned to spend.  This question was rarely answered.  Today, of course, consumers shop for their own travel and have resources available to do research.  Yelp and TripAdvisor help prospective clients judge destinations by reading the reviews of other holiday makers.  This helps people fit the vacation to personal taste, and avoid costly bad matches in accommodations.

In summer thoughts turn to vacation.  I no longer book travel for other people but I do want to offer some advice for a stress free and happy trip, no matter where you roam.

  • Pack your schedule lightly so you can take advantage of surprises
  • Compare all kinds of lodging located near your destination
  • Choose some splurge activity you have dreamed of doing and do it
  • Indulge your own passions and collections when browsing and shopping
  • Less is best when choosing how many times to move base camp
  • Take less gear than you need with plans to purchase a souvenir you can use
  • Pack old items of clothing you no longer want and throw them away as you go

You need to budget both time and money in order to get the most value out of your time on holiday.  Think first of the beginning and the end of the trip.  Leave plenty of time on both ends for unexpected events and delays.  Don’t fly to a wedding on a flight that is scheduled to arrive 3 hours before the ceremony.  Don’t drive home for 12 hours straight on the last night of your time off from your job.  I always like to have a full day at home before I have an appointment, just so I can recover and/or be delayed in transit. If you give yourself plenty of leisure time you will come back refreshed, even if you use it to be very energetic.  Cramming too many destinations or plans into the time allowed can ruin the rhythm of your rest and relaxation.  It is bad to return exhausted.

It is worse to return home in deep debt.  A satisfying vacation is one you can afford without sweating.  After you calculate your airfare and special events be reasonable about how you will want to dine, shop, and entertain yourself.  There is a strong association between freewheeling spending and American Dreaming.  Remember this especially if you plan to spend time in Nevada.  I think the worst buyer’s remorse is that of the vacationer who has not yet paid for the trip that did not really come up to snuff.  That charge on the credit card remains to add insult to injury for a long time.  Please set a limit, a budget, and a goal for your holiday spending. Be creative to make the most of your free time.  Bon voyage, gentle reader.

Reverse Culture Shock, Being Home

August 2, 2014 2 Comments

Travel is exciting and broadens the mind. I love to go, but I love to come home even more. When I compare my ease and comfort at home with life on the road, even at wonderful places, I am always pleased that I live where I do.  My midtown location makes it simple and fast for me to shop for anything I want.  I am surrounded with very high quality body workers and Chinese Medicine practitioners.  My esthetician is the best in the world, and her practice is just blocks from my home.  I miss my pool and giant jacuzzi when I travel because it is private and rarely used by anyone but me.  I go in the morning during the summer and have the water all to myself every day.  I do like the pools at my health club, the Tucson Racquet Club, in the winter months because they are heated and next to a steam room.  This time of year (August) nothing pleases me more than to walk around the corner and have hours with the private pool all to myself.  I have never been anyplace else where this is true.

I am happy to be back in my kitchen.  Dining and tasting all over town has its merits, but whipping up anything you want to eat because you can is better.  I am a good cook, and have brought some of the flavor ideas home with me that I learned in my neighborhood of East Austin. I met more than one great craft cocktail maker who have given me new ideas for shrubs, punches, and custom soda drinks.  I tasted some pickled veggies that made sandwiches pop, and are very easy to prepare and keep on hand in the fridge.  I was served the best mac and cheese which was baked in the same black cast iron pans I use at home to bake bread.  I will knock off the black bean, jicama, avocado, romaine salad from El Chilito and it will be as if I never had to leave Manor Rd.

The University of Arizona students will come flooding back into town, but there are fewer of them than at University of Texas.  While I was on holiday the new tram opened downtown which will make our transportation system much fancier and desirable.  The students will now be able to tram all over downtown to drink, then tram back home without getting behind the wheel.  This new attraction will be fun for us also.  We plan to ride down to check out some of the new businesses along the tram line very soon.  There is still plenty to discover right here in Tucson.  I am shocked at how much I love my hometown.

Air bnb vs Hotel Throwdown

July 27, 2014 3 Comments

I came to Austin to attend a reunion party that was held yesterday at the Drury Inn. Although I am very happy in my Air BnB Airstream I decided to check into the hotel for one night to have the best experience at the party. I am glad I did because the festivities were extensive and the crowd big. By staying there I was able to visit and enjoy the group, drink alcohol, and then just fall asleep in my hotel room. I brought my bathing suit thinking I might go in the pool, but the party was the focus, so I never unpacked the suit.  I had a wonderful time and ate some amazing food that was brought to the giant potluck.  Someone even imported white cheese from Venezuela for the arepas.  I got so full I could not taste all the goodies, but I was impressed with the creativity of all the cooks.  There was a giant paella prepared, then some music and dancing after dinner.  All in all this was one of the best organized and entertaining parties to which I have been invited.  It was really fun to see friends from 50 years ago.

Today it took me less than 5 minutes (because it is Sunday) to move back to East Austin to the Airstream.  I like both hotel and Air bnb, but for different reasons.  My love for hotels will never die, but now I have a choice when I travel, so I do look for availability in the rental market to compare prices/value.  It all comes down to one thing for me..or, or if you are a real estate professional you could say three things..location, location, and location.  If I can situate myself in the exact spot I want to be I consider the Air BnB option to be the superior one.  You will be exposed to the local culture, have a chance to live like a native wherever you are when you rent a space from a private owner.   I have found my hosts to be very attentive to my personal needs, offering much information and guidance that makes the stay more individually crafted.  This time my host is out of the country and two very local managers handle anything I need.  My full of organic food and drink kitchen saved me both money and time upon arrival.  The two fancy bottles of wine for which there is a $15 charge if I decide to drink them are a super nice touch.  I have laundry facilities and plenty of parking off the street.

I liked my hotel stay because:

  • It was convenient, clean, and well managed
  • The staff was very helpful and friendly in every way
  • The internet was the fastest I have had in any hotel (often this is a problem)
  • They serve good coffee at breakfast (this is not always true)
  • The bed was excellent, providing full comfort when I crashed
  • There was room for our big party and they let us make paella in the parking lot
  • They have bathtubs and unlimited hot water (this was my favorite part..I took 3 baths during my overnight stay)

I am happy to be home in the Airstream because:

  • I am integrated into this neighborhood and know my way around
  • I have total privacy
  • I have a full (tiny) kitchen and lots of storage space in general
  • I am not right next to the freeway
  • My rent is about half what the hotel costs
  • My managers are on hand to answer all my questions and give me good advice
  • I live here as a part of the community rather than a pure tourist. I meet people who live here.
  • Now I can say I have stayed in an Airstream

I am not sure how you like to travel or what your priorities are, but check out Air BnB for the fun of it.  You can start a wish list if there are properties that strike your fancy.   Depending on where you want to be it may or may not be the best choice, but I think it is worth investigation.  The Airstream has no TV.  I do have Hulu, but I can only see the evening news 24 hours after it is broadcast.  These days there is so much tragedy in 24 hours, and all the news comes on twitter anyhow.  Being spared the ritual of news watching at the end of every day at this particular time has been a blessing.  At breakfast in the hotel the television was large and looming. CNN was showing us all the freaky horror going on in the world…over our morning meal.  This, I can certainly do without.  Home sweet Airstream, for 3 more days!

 

Travel Time

July 16, 2014 2 Comments

luggage

luggage

Time may be finite, but I notice that it can expand and contract based on circumstances. When I am home I always have some day to day chores waiting for me. Being busy is not my style, but I do cross items off the to do list in a regular fashion. Planning is big for me, but it often leads to changing plans.  I drive very little by choice, so on line shopping is a big friend of mine when I am not supporting local businesses.  My routine includes time with friends, my dog, and my neighbors as well as tending the garden and running the house. I find excitement in studying my ancestors, history, culture and the arts.  I rarely need to go anywhere to stimulate my imagination and creativity.   I had a long career as a travel agent, so I am very able to make choices and plans that suit my fancy in terms of a destination.  I like to spend my holiday time involved in activities I either can’t do at home, or just don’t do at home.  Some of my favorite vacation features are:

  • Natural bodies of water..of any kind, with a strong preference for hot springs
  • Sporty, creative community
  • City life..I like nature just fine, but I don’t want to stay in it
  • Shopping of an unusual, artistic nature
  • Music
  • Museums, art, science, anything
  • Historical societies
  • Graveyards
  • Interesting cuisine and agriculture

My budget for both time and money is set free during holiday times.  I look for new ways to spend both that I have never done.  I do a lot of research before i visit a place.  I usually have a long list of possible places I want to go, and then let the weather be the deciding factor.  I need some rainy day plans as well as some perfect day plans.  My main goal in traveling is to flow into  a new schedule, a new culture, and a new rhythm based on what I discover.  I usually do some reconnaissance on foot to see what the neighborhood has to offer before I set out in a car.  I study maps and read reviews to help me decide what to investigate.  It is a perfect combination of very well informed and not obligated to anything.  I am looking forward to doing this for the next to weeks in Austin, Texas, live music capitol of the US.  I hope my gentle readers will enjoy the trip as you come along for the ride.

 

Travel Time

October 2, 2013 4 Comments

jet

jet

I have learned to budget time by planning many trips for myself and travel clients. When tour companies take groups out on an excursion the itinerary is published to give all a sense of unity. Planning time for commuting in a city or check in at a strange terminal must be done with precision and plenty of lead time. I think travelers are often too optimistic about the amount of time it really takes to get across town or out of town.  Being on time for appointments or performances is essential to enjoying a visit.  I also think free unstructured time to explore is an important element of happy tourism.

Here are the ways I like to expand my world when I travel.  I use time in new ways:

  • Explore museums of all kinds, usually by myself
  • Enjoy a lot of walking outdoors, cityscape or natural path
  • Try food I will not find at home, both new preparations and new items
  • Rearrange my at home routine by eating breakfast
  • Meet with friends for special performances, events, or meals
  • Use a big part of each day taking taking photos

I learn before I go.  My research into options can take weeks for some destinations.  I study maps and transit systems, look up details and make notes if there is something I want to make sure I see. No matter what I learn from reference materials I always ask for a local’s opinion if I can.  Once I have made the arrangements for the elements of the trip, lodging, transportation, dining, and exploration I believe it is important to give in to serendipity as much as possible.  I find that being open in both mood and schedule allows  the magic of the place to speak to me.  Sometimes I meet cool people who inform me; other times I am called by special architecture or botany.  I find that when I plan and inform myself just enough to know where I am, but not too much to make assumptions, time is my ally.  It expands and allows me to turn a few days into an exciting yet easy to accomplish new adventure of discovery.  I am working on turning next week in San Francisco into just that.  If you know about something special I need to know before I go, please pipe up, gentle reader.  I do enjoy the unusual, and already know about many of the usual highlights of the bay area.  I am open to learn more.

Part of the Community

September 2, 2013 6 Comments

“Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.” Confucius
Packing light is a good idea, but never leave your heart at home. To do justice to any travel experience an open mind and flexible attitude are both needed. You bring your culture with you, know it or not, and you either decide to break out of it and meet new ones, or not. It is now possible in the United States to stay in chain hotels, and eat in chain restaurants, shop in chain stores, and wear the exact same fashion to the point at all destinations can be reduced to a low and common denominator.

My trip to Pennsylvania was prompted by a reunion with old schoolmates. My curiosity was strong about the town where I grew up and went to school through 8th grade. I wanted to know how my old friends and classmates are now. The weekend was full of parties, visiting, and remembering our younger selves. I like the chance to be in different environments and see plants and architectural styles that are out of my normal range. Destination Oakmont, PA is almost the exact opposite of Tucson, AZ. Being present for leaves changing and the reunion parties has made this an exciting and fulfilling visit.

20130902-203425.jpg

How do you choose the places you will visit? Do you always go to places where you know people? AirBnB is a great way to be a guest in a community and be part of it. The agency facilitates on-line rentals of rooms, guest houses, apartments and more in private homes. I have stayed in a spacious clean home with kitchen privileges, coffee machine and private bathroom en suite. My host family is helpful and knowledgeable about the area. I was given some local history books to read upon arrival that were excellent. Staying in a neighborhood also gave me the perfect location. Our class reunion party was only a block from my place. I do like hotels for certain purposes, but the growth and popularity of airbnb shows the increasing interest in a new way of traveling. It offers a chance to take part in the life of the community more than a hotel can. Before your next trip, take a look at the available rental properties in the system. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised. I have been more than happy both times I have rented with the company.

Extended Spring

May 11, 2013 1 Comment

I had the super fine opportunity to extend the season of spring this year in the most pleasant way.  By visiting New England I had the chance to study my ancestors in the places they lived and died.  One of the strongest impressions I have of my visit is of the flowering trees.  The botany of the ancestors reminded them of spring and hope in a way that was dramatic every year.  To witness the return of color, warmth and spring fashion unfold before my eyes was a treat that stays in my memory. Hope is the motto of Rhode Island.  I have a dreamy set of images that express hope through blossoms.  I will not forget how happy all the flowers made me feel.  I am comfortable and at home with all the people I met in Rhode Island.  I love the way Jamestown, an island where my ancestors had dairy farming business in the 1600’s, is still a place for dairy and produce farming.  They are completely rural and close to town at the same time. Hope springs eternal.

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