Hotel Ratings and Feedback

On this trip we spent a lot of time in hotel rooms. I have always been a clean freak about hotel rooms. Recent rating you can find online have always been important to me when picking a hotel to book. Since COVID everyone seems hotels have put a large emphasis on clean and sanitary. I felt at this point hotels were paying cleanliness more than lip service. Unfortunately I often saw in the ratings and reviews by folks who were quite unkind to hotel staff in their ratings. There were reviews that ripped a hotel for their skimpy breakfast; seriously I hope that was not the reason for picking a hotel for the night. Bed bugs….any bugs are a deal breaker. Price is important when you are staying in as many hotels as we were, but too cheap is usually too good to be true. Expensive locations meant we stopped early or we drove longer.

We are signed up for every chain’s rewards program. We generally try to stick with one chain to accumulate points and a possible free night. However we have found in some areas a particular brand may have have crummy ratings, so we did jump around a bit. I place emphasis on cleanliness. I don’t get hung up on if a hotel is need of a remodel or it not full of the latest amenities. I don’t pick a hotel because of the free breakfast. If the staff was not what a person expected I cut the hotel some slack. Service help is hard to find right now. A plus was a place to walk to to get a carryout dinner. Non-smoking and dog friendly without a fee were required.

When we checked into our hotel in Rapid City the person checking us in had laundry service under her name. She had a mask on so I was never sure of her facial expression. I was the eighth person in line and she was the only person working the front desk at the time. I was just grateful she was there. News stories tell about how hard it is to find help in the service industries. Since help is very hard to find I was grateful for her being there to check me in. Folks in line were carrying on about waiting. People were complaining because the pool was full of kids. Our room was clean and quiet. We were happy campers.

In Minneapolis we found our hotel was in complete lock down. It meant that there was only one door unlocked for entry and no guests of guests were allowed. This was also the only location where masks were required in public spaces for everyone. Was it inconvenient yes, but seriously, a hotel is where folks from all over the country congregate. If were were going to be in a super spreader event this was it. It made perfect sense when you think about. Yes I am fully vaccinated, but I don’t want a mild case of the new Delta, nor do I want to share it.

The Minneapolis hotel was in need of a upgrade, but our room was clean. This hotel had the most housekeeping staff around not just in the morning when rooms were being flipped but someone was always wiping things down, cleaning public area floors and just keeping things clean. The staff here was exceptional.

Breakfast is essentially gone now days. It is too hard to keep it all clean and I honestly don’t think I would be comfortable doing a buffet. Some of the hotels did do a stripped down version of breakfast, but we skipped those. Our hotel in Minneapolis had the best substitute for the “expected” breakfast. They had a bag breakfast program. Every night you filled out a breakfast ticket and there was a brown bag breakfast waiting for you in the morning. It included a juice option assorted juices, a dairy option of milk or yogurts, a protein option of breakfast biscuits/croissants for microwave, a fruit option including hand fruit or fruit cups, a carb option of bars, rolls and muffins, and all bags had a bottle of water. It was by far the coolest innovation we saw on our trip. We ate part of the breakfast early and then the second half later after we showered as we planned our day. Kudos to the Microtel of Inver Grove Heights.

So if or when you travel next think about leaving some good feedback for hotel. They get all the negative feedback they can handle justified or not. Take a minute to ask for the manager and tell them about something good that happened in their facility. It doesn’t take much to say something nice, good or kind. Enjoy your travels

Some People Spoil It For Everyone

On our trip across the US we had many plans to visit many National Parks. Most were out of curiosity because we had never been there before. There were a few parks that held special places in our heart and we had specific goals for that park. This plan turned out to be a bust and we ended up not visiting National Parks on this trip.

I love to get off the tourist track when visiting National Parks. I like to get out of our car and hike some trails. I really wanted to see sunrise and sunset at Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota on this trip. I had made big plans. It was something that was on my bucket list it was that important to me.

One of my favorite, under used and under rated National Parks.

Unfortunately we were traveling with a dog this time. I had never traveled with a dog before and did not realize the restrictions on dogs in National Parks. Dogs were only welcome to do auto tours or be in your campsite with you. Dog owners before me apparently were either crummy owners in dog discipline or delinquent stewards of the land because for the most part dogs are not allowed on trails in National Parks. I suspect this comes from dogs being off leash or appearing to be aggressive to people or wildlife. I also suspect that many owners have not picked up after their dog.

It sure put a big crimp in our plans It was too warm to leave Zip in the car. It meant we either had to tag team or someone had to miss out. In the end we bagged it and marked it up to something that was not supposed to happen this trip. I am not sure that we will get that way again, but if so we will likely try to do sans dog to get an opportunity to be more than a drive by tourist.

Art Of Moving With A Dog

Moving is never easy for humans. Humans are lucky, we know what is going on and that there is an end game. All a dog will see is change at best, abandonment at worse. We have had our rescue dog, Zip, for over five years. We have never moved since he arrived in our home. So this is a first for him that we know of.

We started packing in earnest when we listed our house. We constantly worked our way through the house saying we can live without this. At that point we either rehomed it, trashed it or packed it. So things started changing around our house slowly and Zip did not seem to mind when love seat that gave him window access disappeared. He looked at the moving boxes as a new vantage point and as long as his humans were around this was ok.

Last Thursday the movers came and loaded up everything but the clothes on our back that were going to make the trip cross country in the car. I was once again not sure what he would think. It did not seem to phase him too much.

We were blessed in that several of our friends offered us accomodations since the buyer’s loan was having all sorts of things that were delaying our closing. Once again Zip just settled in like it was his home. He’d always been a good visitor, but moving into another’s home,well one could never tell what to expect.

Our next step is spending hours in the car as we move across the country. He has never been a good car rider so it is a bit of a question how this is going to go. He is taking an anti-anxiety medication each morning before getting into the car. He is seeming to do well in the car but our laps are his first choice. We have a seat belt set up for him and cushion on the center console, but he is always looking to sneak down onto our laps.

We will keep you posted on how he does as we change locations as often as we change our underware.

Remembering the Days of Summer

Woke up to snow and wind this morning.    It made me think back on the sunny days of summer.   I went back and looked at some of the photos I took while on the road this summer.   On the crest of the hill in the distance you can see a windmill.   It was a “real” one that still pumped water into a stock tank for cattle on the range far from home.

windmill

Taken in Lake County, Montana

View from the Interstate

I recently read a blog post done by a person who said they traveled through Montana via Interstate.  Their post talked about how they did not see all the wonder that so many talk about in Montana.  This post got me to thinking about how we travel.

The signs on the interstate don't even hint at the potential places have if you visit.

The signs on the interstate don’t even hint at the potential places have if you visit.

Many of us travel via airplane.   When we fly, we accept that we are miles above the earth and what we see is from a perspective that many will never see.   We also accept that at this elevation we will miss much of what is below us. The most we will get is a mosaic perspective on the earth.

Others of us will travel via auto and the interstate.   When we travel this way we assume that we are getting a look into the world through which we travel.   I had always assume that to be true until I spent my summer on the backroads of Montana.  It was having my summer job and reading this blog that lead me to a new discovery, interstate travel really is only a common denominator for speedy travel.  It is not the way to see the USA.

An interstate was designed to allow a truck to travel from point A to point B with the least resistance.  It was to have the least amount of curves and hills. Business are located along the interstate to save truckers time and milage when traveling from business location to business location.

Knowing the objective of the interstate highway system it makes sense that when traveling to a vacation destination that we too will take the interstate.   We want to get to our vacation location as fast as possible.  When we travel at 65, 75 or even 80 miles per hour down the road we only get a glance at what lies along the interstate.  It also means that we sacrifice the places we drive through. When traveling through Illinois or Montana when we hit a town it will be lined with exits with easy access to the Home Depot, Target and Costco.   Each town will appear to have the same national chain restaurants.   No one would ever claim that McDonald’s and Chili’s are as good as the culinary experience you could find in neighborhoods in Chicago, but if one were to judge the Windy City by the restaurants named along the interstate one might assume that to be true.  The same is true of the viewshed offerings.   What lines the interstate will feel very same, almost monotonous.   This is why people claim the Dakotas are flat, the mountains in Colorado are just ok and Chicago is just tall buildings.   It also explains why driving seems monotonous and hypnotic.   The interstate is designed to be the same on each mile.  When we travel via the interstate; we get the interstate view.

So the next time you go on holiday and decide to drive remember that when you drive though a place and you never get off the interstate for more than gas or to eat you really have not visited that place.

If They Still Made Westerns

IMAG1397

This sort of reminds me of the opening panoramic view in the Big Valley, but this is found today in Montana.

Growing up the TV was full of old-fashion westerns.   They glamorized the history of the old west.   Bonanza, High Chaparral, Gunsmoke, and Big Valley were a few of the ones never missed at our house. One of my favorite parts of these shows beside the handsome heroic cowboys was the scenic lands of the west. This summer I realized that as the world has become more populated and we have more and more urban sprawl, the places where you can go to imagine what the west may have looked like long ago are becoming pretty hard to find.   Lucky for me Montana still has lots of places like that and I got to see many of them.   I always wanted to visit places like I saw on TV westerns and now I have.

Bear Country

There are many places in Montana that are bear country.   People have a tendency to think of bear country as the big woods, but in many cases is the open prairies that surround the woods. This summer I carried bear spray in my truck.   When I surveyed places where I felt that it was potential bear country, because signs told me or my gut said bears are possible here I strapped on my can of bear spray when I got out to do my surveys.

Not all likely bear places have signs like this.

Not all likely bear places have signs like this.

Only once this year did I feel uneasy about wild animals.   It was a place that was not really bear habitat, but mountain lion habitat.   They actually scare me more because they are so stealthy. I felt the whole time like I was being watched.    I got my business done and got out of there.   All the time singing any song I could think of or make up, making my body big and purposeful.

No matter where you go, no matter how short the time there if you are in bear country remember your bear spray.