Tuesday, January 27, 2015

On the Road: Don't Talk to Strangers? Part 1

When we were children, we were taught to not talk to strangers. That was good advice, but when I am traveling, everyone I encounter is a stranger. My problem has been that I am too friendly to strangers and some people have advised me to work on curbing that tendency. Since I was a teacher, I was used to meeting new students and making sure they were adjusting to their surroundings. When I am on the road, I tend to do the same thing. I cannot imagine how bland a trip would be if I did not talk to anyone.

For some strange reason, most people bond with me very quickly. Some have described me as very approachable. A former boyfriend had told me that it was easy for others to quickly see I was a nice person who was not a threat to them. For example, I was standing in a long line at the grocery store the other day and the woman behind me asked me about something I was buying. We started talking and found we had many similar interests. I was in line ahead of her and after I paid, I said goodbye to her. I heard her say to the cashier, "I feel like my best friend is leaving!" This kind of scenario frequently happens to me.

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)
The hotel property where I used to stay is quite large and when I was walking around it one day, some child actors I had met the previous year saw me and ran up and hugged me. They showed me all the stunt videos they had filmed on their phones while I was gone. When another boy joined the group, one of the kids introduced me and said to his friend, "This is the nicest lady on the property. She will talk to you and she's not boring. She will listen to you and never treat you like you are a bother to her." That was a really nice compliment and maybe that is what other people feel.

Some say a stranger is a friend you have not met yet. My trips would not have been as interesting without my encounters with the many individuals I have met. Some of them were really good people with whom I made a lasting connection. For ten years I have been friends with many of the people I met on my trips to California and I keep in contact with them when I return to Ohio. One of the great aspects of vacationing in the same place every year is getting to see familiar faces on the return trip. Meeting new people and making new friends is one of the gifts of traveling.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Spurs, Bypasses and Beltways: Rhode Island, South Carolina and South Dakota

English: The "Pineapple Fountain" lo...
English: The "Pineapple Fountain" located at Waterfront Park in Charleston, SC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Interstate 95 has two auxiliaries in Rhode Island and both are in the Providence area. Interstate 195 begins at I-95 in Providence and travels 40 miles to I-495 in Wareham, Massachusetts. In Warwick Interstate 295 leaves I-95 and runs 26 miles to rejoin I-95 in Attleboro, Massachusetts.

In South Carolina the four miles of Interstate 126 joins I-26 to US 21 in Columbia. In Charleston Interstate 526 uses its 19 miles to connect US 17 to I-526 Business in Mount Pleasant. This highway provides a bypass on the northern and eastern sides of Charleston.

Interstate 185 in Greenville is 18 miles in length. It connects I-385 to US 29. Leaving I-26 near Clinton is Interstate 385. It travels 42 miles to US 276 in Greenville. In Spartanburg is Interstate 585. this highway is just over two miles in length and joins US 126 to I-85 Business.

Interstate 229 is located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It leaves I-29 at Exit 75 and travels to the east and then north for just over 11 miles to join I-90 at Exit 400. The two miles of Interstate 190 connect I-90 to US 16 in Rapid City.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

On the Road: Hotel vs. Private Residence - Part 2

Although the Los Angeles area has thousands of hotel rooms, the city also has thousands of guest houses and private residences for rent. In the last post I gave both sides of the case for staying at a corporate hotel or apartment complex. Now is the case for the private residence option.

The positive side of renting housing from private individuals is that renters do not have to deal with the noise and actions of a variety of hotel guests. A renter's choice includes rooms, houses, apartments and guest houses. Some places require a lease of six months to one year, but others are available for shorter periods of time. This option affords travelers a residence that is closer to what they have at home, but is it the right choice?

A few years ago I had the opportunity to stay in a guest house. The price was much lower than the price I would have paid at a corporate place. I did have the advantage that no one was living above me and the place was quiet. Living in a Burbank neighborhood gave me a sense of security and community that I had not experienced in a hotel setting.

My landlady was a nice person, but as a landlady she left a lot to be desired. The heating never worked right and the temperature was never more than 60 degrees. Since the weatherstripping on the doors was missing, the wind would blow through the gap and crickets would frequently enter the place. I had to wear shoes all the time because I would step on the crickets. The landlady would tell me to try to catch them and release them outside because it was more humane. Then the bees came. I walked into the kitchen and saw several bees. I told the landlady about it and she said they would go away. I finally persuaded her to get an exterminator when I said I would move out if she did not handle the situation immediately. By that time hundreds of bees were swarming outside the window and she admitted she had faced that problem in the past. As stressful as these incidents were, the last straw was an invasion of privacy. I saw her as I was going out shopping and told her I would be back in 4-5 hours. I came back in an hour and found the landlady in my place. She claimed she thought she heard the water running, but I did not believe her. That destroyed any trust I had in that woman and the next year I went back to corporate housing.

That example involves one woman and does not speak for all landlords. I stayed in my daughter's apartment one year and it was a joy. This past year I stayed in another guesthouse and had a great experience. The location was the only problem. If I cannot find a place closer this year, I would consider staying there again. Each situation is different. My advice would be to start the vacation stay in a hotel and look around for a private rental. These are listed on AIRBNB and VRBO and those sites contain reviews. I have looked at properties on AIRBNB and this year I plan to try to rent a place through that site for the first time. Be careful for properties that are mentioned on Craigslist. Some of them are old garages or sheds that are made to look like a guesthouse. Some scammers try to swindle vacationers out of their money by offering a property that is actually owned by someone else. Remember that these rentals are not subject to any inspections or rules. If at all possible, inspect the property or have someone else do it for you.

Keep in mind that these housing options will be taxed in the same way a regular hotel room is taxed in certain communities. In California a room is not taxed if the occupant stays there for over thirty days. Be careful for those landlords who try to get by that rule by claiming the stay is for twenty-eight days per month. They may try to charge tax and just pocket the money. Research is so important when dealing with private rentals. This has been my option for the last few years. Other than my encounter with the cricket lady, I have found the private rental to be a great way to stay in Los Angeles.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Spurs, Bypasses and Beltways: Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania skyline photograph, t...
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania skyline photograph, taken from the West End Overlook. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Pennsylvania is home to ten auxiliary interstates. Three of these highways are in the Philadelphia area. Interstate 276 begins at I-76 in King of Prussia and travels east for 33 miles before crossing the Delaware River into New Jersey. Traveling north-south for 132 miles in the eastern part of the state is Interstate 476. It begins at I-81 near Clark's Summit and runs south to join I-95 near Chester. Less than seven miles of Interstate 676 serve to connect I-76 in Philadelphia to I-76 in Camden via the Ben Franklin Bridge.

In Reading Interstate 176 uses its just over eleven miles to connect the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76) to US 422. Interstate 180 in Williamsport leaves I-80 and travels north for 29 miles to US 15. Connecting I-80 to I-81 is Interstate 380. This highway runs north-south for 25 miles south of Scranton. Finally, Interstate 283 near Harrisburg uses less than three miles to connect I-83 to I-76.

In the Pittsburgh area Interstate 376 runs in a north-south direction for 81 miles parallel to Interstate 79 which is to the east. It connects I-80 with I-76 and joins New Castle and Beaver Falls. This scenic highway provides an alternate route for motorists to avoid Pittsburgh traffic. It also provides a route to the Pittsburgh International Airport. Joining I-376 to I-79 is Interstate 279. It travels on a diagonal for 13 miles north of the Ohio River. The last highway is Interstate 579. This road is less than two miles in length and joins PA 885 to I-279.