Thursday, September 19, 2013

Something New: Lodging via Air BnB

Where has September gone?   

The Labor Day holiday, nine days of work and then a four day trip to Wisconsin and suddenly, I'm here, on the 19th day of September.    Today is also my thirteen year anniversary with my company.    I've been at five different locations in three different states with about ten promotions and different job titles.   We went out for "anniversary coffee" at Starbucks this morning.   I stayed firm in my resolution to not have pumpkin spice anything until the first day of fall (Saturday for those playing along at home).   

Snowmass has views like this...from the grocery store
Anyway....back to the end of August where I did something new again.    Back in February my sister and I bought tickets to the Jazz Aspen Snowmass festival over Labor Day.    Grace Potter, Jason Mraz, Little Big Town, Keith Urban and Journey over three days?  In the mountains?  Yes please.    Every few weeks we would say to each other, "we need to figure out where to stay."   Ideally in Snowmass Village so that we could walk or take a local shuttle bus to the concert.  

Keith Urban rocked in the pouring rain
I kept tabs on a variety of different hotel and lodging websites but didn't want to spend $500 for a holiday weekend (this goes against the grain since I often stay for free or discounted rates with my employee benefits).    I had read about Air BnB in different travel articles, but I'd never looked at their site.    

Air BnB allows people to rent out a room or their entire house/condo so that travelers can have a more local experience.   It's also a way to support individuals and the local economy and you'll probably be staying in an actual neighborhood where people live rather than a tourist or hotel district.    There are a lot of FAQs on their site if you're wondering how it all works.   

Lo, and behold, there was an apartment available for a very affordable rate right in the village.    Nothing fancy, but all we needed was a place to park, sleep and to drink coffee.  The host and I communicated through email and text message.    Because of our schedule we didn't end up meeting in person, but she had all the details nailed down and even contacted me at the last minute when roads were closed unexpectedly and provided new directions.  The apartment ended up being a five minute walk to the concert venue.   PERFECT!   

This also happened  

Have you had success renting rooms / homes online when you travel?    
What was your best experience?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Best Sign Spotting: Leadville, CO

What is the criteria for "Best Wild West Saloon in America"?     
Who gets to decide that a sign that says "great food" should be posted?

While taking the scenic mountain route to Snowmass, we stopped in Leadville for lunch.    Leadville is North America's highest incorporated city.    We thought that stopping at a legendary saloon would be fun.   After all, it was voted the BEST.    The wild west is big.   Of all the saloons in the wild west, this was the BEST.   

{we interrupt this post for a quick rant}

I'm not sure who determined their status.   It had some good wild west saloon decor, but that was it.   Service was slow and indifferent.   French fries and the burger were cold and dry.   Some unfeeling guest decided to select a 15 minute Pink Floyd song on the juke box that was probably called Death Sounds of Halloween.   A table complained to the bartender that their food was taking too long and they needed to head out. She told them the kitchen was busy and backed up and they would still have to pay for the food even if they didn't stay to eat it.    What restaurant does that?   If you don't receive the service, you shouldn't have to pay for it.     

{end of rant}

The good news?    This was the only poor experience we had on our trip.    I have warm fuzzy feelings towards Slice and Big Hoss in Snowmass, The Meatball Shack in Aspen, the Quesadilla Mobilla and the Mac Shack at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Festival and the Buena Vista Roastery.   

Across the street from the "best" saloon was a distillery that had this sign.     .  

Of the two signs we saw in Leadville, I'm thinking this one would have been the better choice.  
Awesome is much better than best anyway.  

Have you been somewhere recently that met or missed your expectations for being the BEST?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Life and Times of a Travel Cheerleader

I am a self-proclaimed travel cheerleader.

When a friend asks "should I go (anywhere, everywhere, Texas or Spain)?"    I respond with a resounding "YES."   Travel is always a good idea.    Even if your hometown, state or country is the awesomest place in the universe and you can't imagine living anywhere else, you should leave it every once in a while.  Even if it's just to try the doughnuts, or the dim sum, or to climb that mountain / bridge / hundreds of stairs up to that temple.

I like to hear the stories as friends or co-workers are planning a trip.    The thrill of the hunt to find the best airfare.   Links to the hotel / lodge / airstream trailer that you are staying in.     What you are excited about.   What you are nervous about.  What you can't wait to try.   What you hope they don't have to eat.

If you have a crazy international bathroom experience, I want to hear about it in detail over a cup of coffee when you get home.

Travel Cheering is the warm and fuzzy fraternal twin of Travel Jealousy.  They share the same parents but have entirely different personalities.   You celebrate what others get to do rather than muttering under your breath about how it's not fair that someone else gets to have a special dinner in a bell tower in Prague (Mom, I'm talking about you....).  

I was helping a co-worker finalize some details for her upcoming trip to Hawaii. This is her award for winning Employee of the Year, which sure beats a watch with the company logo.   I thought Hawaii was great fun and I can't wait to go back.  But it's not about me.   I am equally stoked for someone to experience a new place for the first time: their excitement before they go and their stories when they get back.

A dear friend of mine is preparing to go on a mission trip to Cambodia next week.     We've been talking about this adventure since she first learned of the opportunity last year.    From "I think I'm called to do this" to "How am I going to pack?" to "What do I do on a 14 hour flight?" to "OMG I can't believe this time next week I'll be there."    This is her first time flying overseas.  This is her first time leaving the North American Continent (as she says).   She's going to a place that is going to look, feel, smell and taste wildly different from Colorado.    It's exciting and scary at the same time.

My Travel Cheerleader has definitely come out to play.    I've read the itinerary.   Talked about how to sleep on the plane.  Shared my experience from traveling in Thailand.   Evaluated travel snacks.   Discussed outfits. And I'm not going.    

I haven't been to Cambodia.   She's going to see Angkor Wat this month.  She's going to learn about the Killing Fields.   She's going to play games with kids in an orphanage.   And I'm going to live vicariously through her experience.

I was there when she first applied for her passport.  
I was there last year when she got her first stamp in Honduras.
Now she's going to have a passport stamp that I don't have.
And that is awesome.  

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Maroon Bells - Fish Eye Style

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I realize it's been about two weeks since my last post and that's slackerific....even for me.    After that crazy Saturday where I pulled a plane, I ended up traveling unexpectedly back to the Midwest.   
Then it was the theater.   And some fitness.   And lemongrass cotton candy.   

Cotton Candy as big as my head!
Finally Labor Day weekend arrived.  
('s too long between the 4th of July holiday and Labor Day.    All that work.   Let's not think about how long it is until Thanksgiving.  Fortunately I've got two trips planned between now and then.) 
Concerts.   Sun.    Rain.  Lots of Rain.   
God Bless Jason Mraz and Keith Urban who played their shows in the rain without missing a beat.    

Along with all the concerting and eating and drinking, there was some nature.   Nature in the form of Maroon Bells.    One of the most photographed places in Colorado....and rightly so.   But rather than share with you standard photos (they may come later), I'm going to share with you photos taken using the fish-eye filter on my phone.    

I've never thought about how fish see.    What in the world would happen if fish could use cameras?   It would be Shark Week in reverse....our finned friends would call it Human Week and use hashtags like #humanswimmer and #twoleggedkiller.     

Fish Eye or Human Eye? The Maroon Bells are awesome.    

What fun filters are you using on your camera or phone right now?


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