Here is a link:
During my cross-country road trip, I was interviewed by an online magazine called 203 Travel Challenges. The article was just published!
Here is a link:
I learned recently that on Sunday March 18th there was a massive solar storm. I have no idea what that means.
We packed up our bags, for the final time, in an Airbnb in Kansas City. Our hosts lived right there with us, but spent most of their time in the basement - off limits to guests. Friendly, but valuing their privacy. There are many valid ways to be a host, and that is one. Needless to say, there was no podcast interview.
I dashed off a blog post, closed my laptop, and headed out the door to the car for a final long drive. At some time during the trip, I had discovered that I now get motion sickness if I'm in a car for more than a couple of hours. Today, I was prepared with extra strength ginger beer. Non-alcoholic, but potent. A sipping drink.
During the drive, I learned that in my blog post I had violated one of my cardinal rules: never ascribe emotions to anyone but myself. There was a sentence in that day's post that had crossed this line. My bad. I apologized and removed the sentence when I was again in front of a laptop, later that day. Reaching Saint Paul in the late afternoon, I dropped off Tess at her house, stopped by Common Good Books to check on my book sales and buy gifts, then headed home.
The end of a long trip.
My Airbnb guests, a family of four, were in the final stages of packing to leave after their two-month stay. They had moved to the Twin Cities in late January and had found a temporary home at my Little Purple House while looking to buy a home of their own. I hope we keep in touch - they are kind, loving people.
I also heard from Alex. I had helped her set up her Airbnb listing this autumn, and had co-hosted for her over the past several months while she was out of town. We had hosted some delightful guests: a young family from Switzerland, a woman from London visiting family in Saint Paul, and several others. Families visiting families. Without exception, they were friendly, considerate, and left the condo immaculate. It turns out some of Alex's neighbors had decided that they did not want to have an Airbnb in the building, and had fabricated stories about loud parties and rude people while Alex was out of the country. They didn't bother to get Alex's side of the story. Alex called to let me know that the condo association had passed a new bylaw to forbid short term rentals there.
She had to cancel three bookings, and closed the listing. She will be selling the condo soon. She didn't deserve this. Neither did her guests.
People act in ways that don't reflect their best selves when they are hurt or afraid. I remember seeing the fear in people's faces when I attended public hearings last spring. They didn't want strangers in their neighborhoods. I wanted to tell them stories about the strangers I had met who then became friends. About these good, honest, and kind people who had learned to trust in the kindness of hosts from around the world who had opened up their homes.
But there wasn't time in that meeting, so I collected stories instead and turned them into a book.
Over the next several days, I'll be going through my hours of recorded interviews with the hosts I've met during the trip. The goal is to produce a series of podcasts: Air Be & Being.
It was a very long drive yesterday. We passed through the grasslands of Texas, making a small detour into an abandoned town while I stopped to check the oil. Back on the highway, we stopped at a local Steak and Catfish place for lunch. In the restaurant, Fox News was on the tv in the corner, posters of Elvis and other reminders of a bygone time on the wall. Under the plexiglass sheet that covered our table, ads from local vendors claimed our attention. About a dozen other patrons were dining: mostly seniors, all of them looked like they belonged there. Chatting pleasantly with each other. Exchanging the news of the day.
"What will y'all have?" asked our waitress in a friendly way. We both settled on variations of the catfish. Tess brought out her iPhone and started telling me the latest news about Trump Junior. "No politics here!" I said, eyeing our fellow patrons.
From my perspective, we already stood out, with our iPhones and our northern accents. In some ways, the little town felt like a foreign country. I wondered how these people would have felt if they heard a conversation that denigrated one of their heroes. There was no time for true connection in that restaurant. However, there was also no need to be rude. Intolerance presents in many ways, sometimes unknowingly.
As we continued our drive through Texas, into Oklahoma, and on to Kansas, I thought about the boarded up homes and businesses that we saw in the abandoned town in Texas. A ghost town, where countless dreams had died. I started to understand the anger and despair that had ushered in our current establishment.
There is such a need for people to connect. North and south. City and country. Citizens and newcomers. We need to talk, as people, who share many of the same values despite our political differences. We need to open up our homes to strangers, share a meal, and talk.
And talk some more.
According to the friends I visited, the weather near Durango Colorado can be somewhat unpredictable. We got rained on when we went for a hike. Then the sun came out. Then it rained.
Over dinner in town, my friends let me know that Wolf Creek Pass - an infamous stretch of U.S. Highway 160 that spans the continental divide - would likely be covered with heavy snow due to the weather. Apparently, it is well known for its deep, stable snowpack - two to three times that of other north and central Colorado mountains.
Who knew? Today's planned route to Dodge City would have taken us right through that area. Given that Tess and I were driving a subcompact car with 2-wheel drive and no chains, we might want to think about alternate plans.
Go south! Yes - that seemed like a good idea. We settled on Amarillo, with the thought that with a long drive the next day we could make it to our scheduled stay in Kansas City Kansas. Got the hell out of Dodge... the reservation, that is. (I've always wanted to say that.) I had to eat the charge because the cancellation was so late, but didn't quibble. I'm a host, after all. I don't like it when guests cancel at the last minute. Requested a reservation at a 2-BR former B&B in Amarillo. Congratulated myself on a quick resolution.
Not so fast. My host in Amarillo (who was pretty new to Airbnb) accepted my request but then told me that only one bedroom would be available. The listing was for 2 bedrooms. I was annoyed. If I cancelled my reservation, I would lose my fee. My host did not respond to my emails.
So began my very first call to Airbnb corporate for a dispute. I was on hold for 20 minutes, but then explained the situation. My customer service representative was able to see the email exchange that I'd had with the host and let me know that per protocol, she would need to attempt to contact the host and give her an hour to respond. If she didn't, I'd get my reservation cost back plus an extra 10% to go toward another listing.
Deal. By 1:00 a.m., I got word that my reservation was cancelled by corporate and my fee refunded. By 1:05, I had made another reservation in Amarillo at a lovely 2BR home with a Roaring 20's theme. When I woke up this morning at 6:30, there was a fluffy coat of snow on the ground. We drove all day, leaving the snow and the mountains behind us.
I'm at the house in Amarillo now, doing laundry, drinking a beer that my hosts kindly provided, listening occasionally to the news blaring from the cable tv in the living room that Tess is watching. We plan to see the Cadillac Ranch on our way out of town tomorrow. Ten Cadillacs buried nose down in a field at an angle that mimics the Cheops Pyramid.
Life is good, when I don't think about politics.
I just scanned the Internet for word of the snow on Wolf Creek Pass, wanting confirmation that we had made the right decision to detour south. Turns out, there was a fatal crash there yesterday.
It's a scary world, sometimes.
I got a little overwhelmed by Antelope Canyon the other day. Generally, I've taken a photo here or there, coming up with a total of five good ones by the end of the day. Pick one for the blog post. Maybe a few more on Instagram. Easy. Done.
Not so much for Antelope Canyon. I have dozens of photos, all of them amazing, none needing "help" from a filter. How to choose? I couldn't. A couple of days passed with no blog entry. The opposite of writer's block... I had too much material.
Still do. Someday, when I'm brave, I'll go through those photos and select carefully.
We're leaving Glendale Utah today, heading east to Durango Colorado. Yesterday's visit to Zion was gorgeous... Fortunately, only a few photos to sort through.
As I'm thinking about it, part of the issue with Antelope is that I was up close to my subject. The canyon felt personal. I got to know it, step by step. The closer I got, the more interesting it became. I wanted to see more, learn more. Take more photos.
Yesterday's trip to Zion was magnificent, but less connected. Too much, viewed from a distance. No relationship to speak of.
It occurs to me that I have the same pattern in my relationships with people.
It rained yesterday at the Grand Canyon. We were standing at the rim, peering over the edge, seeing... mist. Every now and then, we would be able to spot a hint of the majesty before us, emerging in the air like a dream before vanishing into the white blanket of fog again.
I've been to the Grand Canyon three times now. This is the first time I have not been terrified.
Sometimes, it's helpful not to be aware of the depths and dangers that lie in front of you. You catch glimpses of them, occasionally, but then they disappear back into the comforting fog.
I spent the entire "tourist day" in Joshua Tree staring at my laptop, earphones on, working on setting up the podcasts. So much to figure out! We've been typically staying two nights at each Airbnb, playing tourist during the full day between travel days. Not for me in Joshua Tree.
I am pushing hard. Willing these podcasts to happen.
Tess explored the town on her own. Our hosts came over in the evening for their interview. Turns out, they had never lived in the house and generally didn't connect much with their guests. That makes a difference. Our interview was done in 12 long minutes... in stark contrast to the two joyful hours we spent with the couple in Yosemite.
We explored Joshua Tree park on our way out of town yesterday morning. Gorgeous scenery. I love how the edges of things in the desert are so defined. Each item as a separate study, shown in contrast to the world around it.
We did not interview our Sequoia Forest host for the podcasts. Instead, after meeting her and realizing that she was a total newbie in the world of Airbnb hosting, we spent all of our time helping her transform her listing into one that would bring her guests. It felt good to be giving back, for a change.
Being a guest is all about receiving kindness. Wonderful, but a little exhausting after a while. It's good to give as well as to receive.
Tess and I left the snowy mountains of Sequoia National Forest yesterday and traveled south five hours to 75 degrees and Joshua Tree. Our host is a former Hollywood sound guy - there is equipment everywhere. There is also creativity everywhere... it feels a bit like my gal cave back home.
Today, I will start transforming the interviews from the trip into podcasts.
We wandered around a LOT yesterday. Down to Muir Woods, only to discover that the park was full unless you had a reservation. Over a rocky and pothole-filled road to Alamere Falls in Point Reyes Seashore, only to learn that the actual falls was several miles from the trailhead.
Fortunately, we were not particularly concerned by any of this. The drives were stunning. The conversations with Tess - delightful.
It all has a way of working out.
Last night's conversation with my host was unusual and thought provoking. For the first time, we were staying in what has been a Bed & Breakfast that is now accepting Airbnb guests as well. The world is changing rapidly for traditional innkeepers. More changes will arrive.
A work in progress.
We left the Sonoma vineyards yesterday and backtracked south along the coast to Stinson Beach. Searching for seafood. Finding, instead, great nachos at a beach cafe. It helps to be flexible when you're traveling.
Airbnb traveler since December, 2012
Little Purple House
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