Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Travel Tales: Doing the Airbnb Thing

Los Angeles has thousands of hotel rooms and most of them have a high price. I have been lucky that I have not had to stay in hotels in LA for several years. This year I found a great place through Airbnb. I had been looking at the site for a long time, but I was nervous to commit to a place I did not know. I was also concerned about what the neighborhood would be like. Finally, my daughter saw a place that was perfect for my needs. It was available for just the amount of time I needed and was within walking distance of her place, so I decided to take the leap.

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)
All financial transactions were handled through the AIRBNB website. Once the reservation was made, I was able to communicate with the host of the property. I was lucky that he was such a friendly guy. We figured out the particulars and completed the arrangements. I was relieved to have a place secured for my visit before I even left Ohio. I usually wait until I arrive in California and try to find a place while I stay with my daughter.

Every month Airbnb took my rent from my credit card. That made everything easy. I would use the site again.

Los Angeles, Santa Monica and many cities are trying to put rules into effect to prevent or limit property owners from renting to Airbnb customers. One rule being considered is the renter has to stay at the property for at least a month. I can see both sides of the debate. Hotels are losing revenue, but finding affordable accommodations is difficult for vacationers. Renting out a condo or apartment is a way for people to make some extra money. However, other tenants have a right to be concerned when a constant parade of strangers stays in their building. No one knows when one of these strangers could pose a threat. One other consideration to keep in mind, private Airbnb landlords are not held to the same rules as hotels are. When vacationers have problems, they have few options.

Some of the people renting their apartments have a lease which states they cannot sublet or rent to anyone else. For example, I knew someone who rented out his apartment is a huge complex. He knew that it was against the rules of his lease. He decided to rent it out anyway and was caught when the leasing agents happened to see the listing on the Airbnb website. That was not the fault of the website. The guy knew what was in his lease.

Airbnb is filling a gap in the short-term rental markets of cities. If they are concerned, the cities should try to come up with a fair plan for all involved. Finding affordable short-housing is challenging and Airbnb is just trying to help.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Travel Tales: LA to Akron 2015 - Day Three

The Mississippi River just north of St. Louis ...
The Mississippi River just north of St. Louis (2005) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
After two days in Topeka, I left to get home before the rain came into the area. I was well rested and I had a perfect day to travel. Four large cities were in my path home on Interstate 70 and I had to make sure to get through them without encountering rush hour traffic.

Kansas City was easy since I left Topeka at 2:30 in the morning and was there within the hour. By the time I got to St. Louis, I had to deal with some morning rush hour traffic, but it was not bad at all. I took I-270 to bypass the city. Once I crossed the Mississippi River, I noticed where the land was flooded. I have never driven down this interstate when the land was not flooded in that spot. The trip was smooth and I arrived quickly in Indianapolis. I intended to take I-70 through the city, but noticed on their new message boards that an accident had closed three lanes of traffic ahead, so I took the bypass. The last city I had to pass was Columbus. I was not worried about rush hour here because I know the back roads in the region that will take me back home. I was lucky to drive quickly through the area and head north on I-71.

I arrived home after twelve hours of driving. I always have such a feeling of exhilaration when I pull into the garage and shut the door. Another trip safely completed!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Travel Tales: LA to Akron 2015 - Day Two

English: I-35 entering Kansas
English: I-35 entering Kansas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I slept well in Amarillo, but the room was not as clean as it should have been. I said something about that to the man behind the desk as I checked out and he made good on the situation. The day would be clear with no weather problems. I was not going to follow my normal route this time because I wanted to visit a friend. I could have taken short cuts to get to Topeka, but heavy snow had fallen in the area in the previous week. I decided to be on the safe side and take the interstates.

I drove to Oklahoma City and when I arrived, I noticed the same situation as I have noticed on previous trips. Motorists who were driving east on Interstate 40 and wanted to travel north on Interstate 44 would encounter a long line of cars waiting at the exit. To avoid that backup I decided to continue east and catch Interstate 35 north. Drivers traveling north had a slowdown for a while. On the south side of I-35 was a five-car accident and on the north side was a two-car accident. Once I cleared that, I was fine. Arizona, New Mexico and Texas had 75 mph speed limits that enabled me to make good time, but Oklahoma had 70. I was able to resume the 75 mph once I crossed into Kansas.

Eight hours were completed on this day. Some people wonder why I obsess about the weather the way I do when planning a trip. I do it so I can have a driving day like this. Traveling cross country is hard enough without adding challenging weather to the mix! I brought my bags inside my friend's house, brushed my hair and left to attend a community fundraiser for a person who had high medical bills. I was surprised I had the energy, but eight hours is a really short day for me. After this visit I will have only one more day on the road!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Travel Tales: LA to Akron 2015 - Day One

Mojave Desert, 2011
Mojave Desert, 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I had an amazing trip to California this year. The visit to the Utah national parks at the beginning of the trip was spectacular. The apartment where I stayed was the best place I have ever had in Los Angeles. The weather in LA during my stay was very warm and as usual I did not want to leave to go home. I find it so difficult to say goodbye! The weather for the journey home was a nightmare, so I had to wait another week to start my drive.

I woke up at 2:30 and thought about trying to get some extra sleep, but realized it would be 3:30 in the time zone where I would be stopping. I always try to aware of the time difference for planning to avoid rush hour in the big cities. Time to get on the road.

Going through the Mojave Desert during the night is not my favorite because I do enjoy seeing the beauty of the desert. I had no problems. The price of gas was lower than when we made the trip west, so that was a blessing. I was not sure where I would stop. I made such good time that I was in Albuquerque before hotel check-in time, so I decided to keep going to Amarillo. I also wanted to take advantage of the good weather while I had it.

When I arrived at the hotel, I was told the place was full. Another traveler informed me most hotels were full. I never know how far I will drive in a day. When I finally decide to stop, I am really tired and looking for a hotel in an unfamiliar area is the last thing I want to do. Fortunately, I contacted my daughter who is a wizard in finding hotels and soon I was unpacking the car. I always take into the hotel anything that is visible in the car. I make sure that anything of value is packed in those bags. If anyone breaks into the car, he will not find anything worth taking.

Day one of fourteen hours was complete.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

On the Road: Zion National Park

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)
When I travel, I am driving from east to west so I always start with Arches National Park in Utah and make my way west with Zion National Park as my last stop. By that time, I think I have seen every type of red rock, but Zion is different. Zion National Park is Utah's first National Park and is a place of majestic scenery. This park has more facilities than the other Utah parks and has the highest attendance.

The closest interstate is Interstate 15. Those coming from the south should take Exit 16 and go right on State Route 9. Travelers driving from the north should take Exit 27 and turn left on State Route 17 and then left on State Route 9.

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)
From March 15 - October 25 and on weekends in November, Zion uses a shuttle system to take guests around the park. Parking is limited at the Visitors Center, so travelers can park in the town of Springdale. The shuttle has nine stops and comes every seven minutes. On the day we went to the park no shuttle was in use. At first I was happy we would have our car with us. Our food and drinks would be readily available to us, but after a few hours we wished we had the shuttle. Parking places were scarce and some people parked along the narrow main road. The parking situation made our park visit stressful. I would like to visit one time and use the shuttle. Parking problems have always made our Zion visits less than ideal.

Zion Lodge is available for those who wish to stay. The Red Rock Grill Dining Room is located at the lodge. Nearby towns also have many options for lodging and food.

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)
Even though Zion has more conveniences than some of the other parks, visitors should remember this is a wilderness area. Hiking the trails is fun, but some people have fallen to their deaths here when they were not careful. Water is also a big consideration here. Have one gallon of water per person per day for activities. Hiking shoes or boots are advisable.

As with all national parks, travelers should research the trails and know which ones would be suitable. The Park Service has rated the trails and provides descriptions including the amount of time needed, the elevation change and the length of the trail. The easy trails are Pa'rus, Archeology, Lower Emerald Pool, The Grotto, Weeping Rock and Riverside Walk. The moderate trails include Watchman, Sand Bench, Upper Emerald Pool, Kayenta, Canyon Overlook, Taylor Creek and Timber Creek Overlook. Some of the strenuous trails have long drop-offs. They may not be appropriate for young children or those afraid of heights. These include Angels Landing via West Rim Trail, Hidden Canyon Trail, Observation Point via East Rim Trail, The Narrow via Riverside Walk, and Kolob Arch via La Verkin Creek Trail. These last trails take from four to eight hours. Hikers should be aware of the types of trails before starting their journeys. Reviews on TripAdvisor and videos on YouTube will also give travelers a better understanding  of the trails.

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)
The eastern entrance into the park is impressive on the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. Drivers should be cautious when driving through the tunnel. Zion Canyon Scenic Drive intersects to the right. We went to the left to the Visitors Center first. The History museum and Nature Center are also located there. We backtracked to the Canyon Junction intersection and went north on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.  Everything is located on this road. The Court of the Patriarchs, The Grotto, The Emerald Pools, Angels Landing, Weeping Rock, Big Bend and the Temple of Sinawava were all located along the road. Another section of Zion is Kolob Canyons which is located off Interstate 15 at Exit 40. Turn right on Kolob Canyons Road.

We saw so many mule deer during our visit. One walked out in front of the car and just looked at us for a while. Another came out of the brush and walked near us on the trail. Others were just resting near the trail and were not startled by us. Mountain lions and bighorn sheep are also present in the park.

Visitors should check the weather forecast before embarking on the day's activities. Extreme heat or cold are concerns, but rain is also a factor. Heavy rain can cause a flash flood in some of the canyons. Put safety ahead of all other concerns.

Utah's National Parks are majestic and inspiring. Each park is unique and each park deserves a visit. These parks contain scenery that leaves an impression for a lifetime. For those who travel in the west, do not miss the opportunity to see the Majestic Five.