Days 57-58: Denali National Park

It was time for me to check out of my Airbnb and head towards Denali National Park. Living as a nomad has its challenges. I needed some refills on medications and though my doctor overnighted them to my Airbnb, they still hadn’t arrived. The owner said that overnight to Fairbanks takes about three days and she offered to ship them to me in Anchorage once they arrived.

My next motel was in Healy, Alaska. It’s only an hour and a half drive south of Fairbanks and it’s the closest city to Denali National Park. The drive was fairly flat and I missed  driving through British Columbia and the Yukon. But as I got closer to Healy, mountains appeared in the distance.

img_6083

I pulled into the deserted gravel parking lot of the Denali Park Hotel (which was actually a motel) around 4:00 pm. The lobby was in an old train car. I asked the girl at the desk what there was to do there and she gave me a map that included some hikes. She told me the motel used to be inside the park until a law was passed prohibiting accommodations inside the park. They relocated, but were able to keep the original name.

I pulled my car in front of my room and unloaded my bags in the cold wind. The motel seemed to be on a raised foundation and it sounded hollow below my feet.

It was an ok motel, but the view from my window was fantastic! A massive, beautifully majestic mountain loomed just outside.

img_6095

Despite the view, I was angry that I paid $375 for two nights there. This was the most expensive place I had stayed so far and it felt unfair that they could charge so much just because it was close to Denali. There are a few hotels right outside the entrance to Denali National Park, but they were $300-$700 per night!

There were just a few businesses (grocery store, gas station, restaurant) along the two-lane highway that ran through the tiny town. I went to the small, expensive grocery store and picked up some food. After returning to the motel to eat dinner, I turned on the TV. I watched a classic, Groundhog Day, and relaxed.

The next morning, I prepared for a hike in Denali National Park. Denali mountain is the tallest peak in North America and only 33% of visitors actually see the top of the peak because clouds often roll in. Visitors can only drive 15 miles into the park. To see more, you have to take a guided tour bus. I considered taking one, but they ranged from six-ten hours and I didn’t want to spend my time inside of a bus. I preferred being closer to nature and hiking.

One of the bartenders in Fairbanks told me about an 8-mile hike (roundtrip) that starts at mile 13 of the drive inside. I found the trail entrance pretty easily and there was plenty of parking. The hike started out flat and easy, but within half of a mile, it started to climb.

I was nervous about wildlife, bears in particular, so I kept my eyes peeled. Once I started to climb, the trees became less dense and I had outstanding views! I was really happy that I chose to hike instead of take a bus.

img_6108img_6113img_6112img_6119

After about a mile in, I passed two rangers who were taking a break from repairing a section of the trail. After two miles, the elevation gain was noticeable and the cold wind kicked in harder. Without tree cover, my shorts and a t-shirt weren’t going to cut it. I saw a few other people who were wearing pants and coats and probably thought I was crazy.

I took my pants and jacket out of my backpack and put them on. I’d start with my wind/rain jacket first and see how warm it kept me. I also put my gloves on because my hands were starting to hurt from the cold.

img_6134

I arrived at the top and the wind was dramatically worse, making it hard to keep from being blown over. The gorgeous rocky mountains full of green trees reminded me of Norway.

img_6120img_6144

I continued on the trail that went down the other side of the mountain to the parking lot at mile 15 of the road. The hike wasn’t as pretty as the other side and I needed to hike back the way I came to make it to my car, so after a mile I turned around. The total would be six miles with 1,800 ft elevation gain and I was pleased.

img_6129

When I came to the peak again, the wind seemed to be even stronger. A woman and her mother asked me if I’d take a picture of them together. I took theirs and they took mine. As they started to hike away, she yelled something to me. She was about 10 feet away from me and I couldn’t hear her. After having her repeat what she said a few times, I realized she was just telling me to have a good hike. The wind was that loud!

img_6140

I thought about putting my coat on, but my jacket was better at resisting the wind. It felt like it must be about 35° F. I can only imagine how cold it is when it’s not summertime.

I was happy to get back to my warm motel and to rest. Attempting to be productive, I downloaded pictures from my phone to my PC and got some writing done.

The next morning, I needed to drive to Homer, Alaska. It was 500 miles away (about eight and a half hours of drive time). I knew it was an ambitious day, but I wanted to check out Homer after the bartender told me about it.

The first two hours of the drive was beautiful as it winded alongside Denali National Park. It was raining and the clouds were hovering above. I was told the best place to see the elusive mountain peak is south of the park. I kept my eye out, but I’m not sure if it saw it. It didn’t bother me. The hike inside the park was beautiful enough for me.

Post Edited By: Mandy Strider
Thanks for reading! Leave a comment below or message me if you have any questions!

 

Day 48: Tear Inducing Scenery

The Liard River Hot Springs was only a 45-minute drive north from where I was staying at the Northern Rockies Lodge. I drank a protein shake, loaded up my car, and headed to the hot springs.

img_5457

When I arrived, I paid a small entrance fee and the guy at the gate told me I would need to park and then walk for about 15 minutes on a boardwalk through the swampy area to get to the springs.

img_5465

The area was surrounded by trees and was very beautiful, despite the strong smell of sulfur that emanated from the springs. After changing, I slowly got into the hot springs. The further to the right that I went, the hotter it got. It was quiet and most people weren’t talking. I felt awkward just hanging out alone.

After 15 minutes, I swam near a few people so I could listen in on their conversation. They talked about the fires in Toronto and how it was going to take hours before the redness subsided from their face due to the heat.

After 30 minutes, I was getting too hot so I got out, changed, and walked back to my car. Shortly after leaving the hot springs, I came across buffalo on the side of the road! There must have been more than 20 of them on both sides of the highway, and occasionally crossing the road. The few of us on the road pulled unto the shoulder to take pictures and video. It was slightly raining, but the buffalo didn’t seem to care. They just kept nonchalantly grazing.

I continued north as dark blue clouds rolled in, making the mountains look even more majestic.

img_5490img_5493

I crossed into the Yukon, which is a different territory than British Columbia. The landscape was so beautiful and so isolated, that tears came to my eyes. I couldn’t believe I was fortunate enough to be here and experience this wondrous place.

img_5508

When I arrived at the town of Watson Lake, I saw a forest made entirely out of sign posts. I pulled over and saw thousands of street signs from around the world! It was incredible. The signs were nailed to giant wooden posts standing far above my head.

img_5512

In 1942, the town of Watson Lake didn’t exist, but there was a US army camp located there. It was common for the military to put up a sign post indicating the direction of surrounding communities. One day, Private Carl K. Lindley was recovering from an injury at the base and added his hometown sign of Danville, Illinois because he was homesick.

The Sign Post Forest has become world famous and there are now over 72,000 signs. Visitors who didn’t bring their own can buy a piece of wood from the visitor center. I walked through the forest amazed and got excited when I’d see a sign from a place I knew. It was such a neat concept and I had no idea it existed.

I drove to the gas station next door to fill up and to see if I wanted to stay the night in Watson Lake. The gas station was sort of like a truck stop, with a small market and a restaurant attached to it. In the restroom, there was a large orange bucket on the counter filled with condoms. The sign warned of STI’s and said the condoms were free. I thought, “Whoa, looks like I’m in the Yukon now.”

I sat in my car and decided to stay in the next town, Whitehorse. I booked a place on Orbitz that was a B & B but they only offered a very small breakfast. The drive continued to impress me and the fellow travelers became fewer and farther in between. Sometimes I pulled over in one of the look-out areas, and other times I just stopped right on the road, rolled down my window (or quickly stepped out) and took pictures.

img_5552img_5457img_5592

The rain stopped and I passed a coyote on the side of the road. The road winded through the mountains, and lakes just kept appearing. The Yukon was giving British Columbia a run for its money. The dark blue clouds returned, bringing forth more rain. The sun reflected off of a giant lake as it started to set. Everywhere I looked was like a postcard.

It was more than eight hours of driving that day, but I never got bored. People have asked me if I listen to podcasts and wondered how I could tolerate so much driving. If you saw the scenery, you’d understand. It’s breathtaking and peaceful. All I need is my music.

img_5602img_5606

I successfully arrived at Whitehorse, but was struggling to find the B & B. I called the owner and he explained it’s actually located 30 minutes south of the town, which meant I passed it. As I left town, a rainbow appeared but I was heading into dark storm clouds and it was getting dark.

img_5618

Since it was dark and raining, I couldn’t find the small gravel road that would take me up the hill to the small B & B. I called the owner again and he stayed on the phone with me for several minutes until I could find the road.

I drove to the top of the hill and arrived at 10:00 pm. There were a few cars in the gravel lot and I ran inside, trying to avoid the rain and the cold (it dropped to 50 degrees F!). My room key was on the small entrance table, so I grabbed it and walked down the hallway to my room. It had two twin beds and I had my own bathroom. Of course, there was a creepy spider hanging out inside.

The B & B had a shared kitchen, living room, and dining room. There seemed to be around five rooms and I could hear some kids playing around in a room near mine. After a nice warm shower, I went to sleep.

In the morning, I woke up too late to have the small breakfast and coffee, so I packed up my stuff. I was getting really behind in my blog posts so I asked the girl who was cleaning rooms if I could stay in the dining area and use the Wifi for a little while. My room was emptied so she could clean it. She let me stay and I ended up writing for the next two hours.

I had a great view out the window and I enjoyed being in the middle of nowhere. I like cities too, but after spending 15 years in Los Angeles, I prefer less crowded areas. Being in such a remote area, I realized how much light pollution there is in cities. The darkness and lack of people makes life feel simpler. It helps clear my head and not to be caught up in the rat-race.

Post Edited By: Mandy Strider

 

 

Day 43: Welcome to British Columbia!

I was happy to have a bedroom inside a house again after spending two nights in a tent, but I had a very difficult time sleeping. I was burning up. I had the fan on me with the windows open, but spent most of the night wide awake. Still unable to sleep by 5:30 am, I gave in and played on my phone.

At 9:00 am, I was packing up my car to head out because I had a lot of driving ahead of me. Looking at the map for sleeping options in a decent-sized city, I found Prince George about an eight-hour drive away (500 miles).

I drove to Wal-Mart to get some cheap snacks for the drive ahead. I had a soft cooler on the floor of the passenger seat so I could try and eat healthy snacks (like string cheese, humus, and fruit) instead of gas station junk food.

As I left Vancouver, it felt like this would be a different chapter in my travels. It was going to be a lot of driving through British Columbia, the Yukon, and Alaska. I was excited about leaving cities behind and experiencing a part of the world not many people have seen.

The kilometers per hour confused me on the speed limit since my car shows my speed in miles per hour. I kept using a converter app to help me understand my speed. It was strange to see signs showing 100 kph (which is only 62 mph). It took me days to realize my car does show kph in small print just inside the mph.

img_5175

The first 90 minutes of the drive was flat, but the mountains loomed in the background. Then the road started winding through the mountains. I went through tunnels, saw rivers, and drove on the side of cliffs. It was hot outside, and climbing into higher elevation didn’t seem to cool things down at all.

img_5161

img_5160

img_5165

img_5174

Parts of the mountains were dry, which reminded me of southern California. Trains passed through the corridor, wrapping around the mountains. Just as I saw a sign warning of “wildlife corridor,” I saw some big horn sheep. The sheep were mostly on the side of the road, but sometimes I had to stop and wait for them to cross.

img_5192

The rest-areas were usually situated off of a lake, with restrooms available in small wooden buildings. The entire drive was stunning.

img_5199

When I stopped to take some pictures on the side of the road, I saw white-water rafters cruising down the raging river in the gorge.

img_5171

It was close to 9:00 pm when I arrived at my motel in Prince George. The motel was located in a somewhat sketchy part of town, but I needed a place to sleep. As I carried my suitcase to the second floor, I noticed the motel was not in good shape. The carpet on the outside walkway and in my room had stains. The essentials like the bed and the bathroom seemed to be acceptable though, so I got ready for bed and went to sleep.

The next morning, I ate toast in the small restaurant and packed up my bags. As I was grabbing a bag, I noticed a small tick crawling from the side of the white sheets near the headboard to the top of the bed. Panicking, I started searching my body for ticks. I thought I was going to throw up. I’ve never seen a bug in my bed. I prayed that guy just arrived and was alone.

I carried my suitcase to the parking lot in the back of the motel where my car was parked. As I got close to my car, a skinny, wrinkly man with long gray hair in his late 50s started walking across the alley towards me. He asked where I was headed and where I was from. His name was Roger and he’s from Prince George. When he was 18, he moved to Toronto for a bit and worked at a newspaper place. He told me he delivered 3,000 papers in three hours and was faster than the trucks.

I was nervous as Roger talked to me while I loaded my suitcase. He told me he has COPD and I could hear the strain in his lungs when he talked. Then he asked me for some money. I told him I only had American cash on me and he said he’d take it. I explained that my purse was in the motel and I’d be right back. I was afraid he’d mess with my car or stuff inside if I didn’t oblige.

When I came back to my car with my purse and last of my bags, I gave him $5. He told me the Husky gas station down the road would exchange the American money for Canadian money. I appreciated his tip. He asked again where I was headed and told him north, to Alaska. He warned me that there aren’t many roads up north.

I headed out and stopped at the Husky gas station to exchange my money. The attendant said he’d exchange my money, but would give me the same amount I gave him. If I gave him $20 US, he’d give me $20 Canadian. I explained that the US dollar is stronger than the Canadian dollar, but he was basically doing it as a favor. I declined his services and went outside to pump some gas. As I was pumping, a guy in a truck next to me yelled with excitement, “Welcome to British Columbia!” and nodded towards my California license plate. I smiled and thanked him.

I headed towards Dawson Creek, where the Alaska Highway begins. It would take about four hours (250 miles) and I couldn’t wait to arrive at the start. The start of what? I didn’t know. But I couldn’t wait to see what was in store on this famous highway.

img_9710 Click here to see a quick video of the beautiful drive.
Post Edited By: Mandy Strider

Day 16: Arriving in Portland, Oregon

After backpacking in Olympic National Park, I left Tracey’s house in Hood River around 9:00 pm. Because I couldn’t check into the hostel in downtown Portland until the following day and I just needed a place to sleep for a night, I booked a motel in the suburbs of Portland.

I arrived at Rodeway Inn around 10:30 pm. I asked the woman at the front desk if there was a room on the lower level. Up to this point, almost all of the rooms I had received at motels had been on the second floor, with no elevator. I was really tired of carrying my luggage up all the stairs all the time. To my surprise, the woman said she could give me a slightly upgraded room, on the first floor, with no other rooms above it. Finally, my luck with motels was starting to turn around!

The room was nice, and had a newer white comforter/sheet on top. It was clean, large, and I didn’t have to go up the stairs. After not showering for four days while backpacking, I enjoyed the shower and headed to bed.

I slept in but went to get the free breakfast just before time ran out. The motel is near the airport so they cater to travelers leaving early for flights and only offer quick to-go items such as yogurt. It was free, so I took it.

The hostel in Portland made it clear that I couldn’t check in until 3:00 pm so I had some time to kill. I needed to do some laundry so I headed to a laundromat. The last time I used a laundromat was about ten years prior. They’ve moved up in the world and now offer the option to use a credit card (I realized this after I changed my $5 bill for quarters). It didn’t take long to wash and dry the one load of laundry I had. I bought a sandwich for lunch at the convenient store next to the laundromat. It was strange – folding my laundry and putting it back into a trash bag reminded me of simpler times in my life. A time where I was living in an apartment – a time before homeownership and other adulting responsibilities.

I still had some time to kill so I drove to Voodoo Donuts. I always heard they had amazing donuts and it’s the thing to do in Portland. To my surprise, there was no line where the barriers clearly helped guide customers. I walked right up to the counter and got a donut (or two…ok three, don’t judge). I ate a donut outside and took the other two with me to devour later.

I got to the hostel, which consisted of five old Victorian buildings. There was a hip café next to the front desk, a board game room with the only TV available (times for the world soccer cup were displayed for all to watch at early morning hours), and a courtyard outside to enjoy some live music once a week.

I attempted to check-in at 2:00 pm but they would not let me so I sat in my car until 3:00 pm. When I went back in at 3:00 pm, there was a line to check in. I was worried about people snoring so I booked a private room for nine nights. My room was in one of the buildings next store through the courtyard. I was lucky that I got my own bathroom, but this room was old, hot, and small. It was also right across the hall from the communal bathroom, across from the stairs leading upstairs to more rooms, and next to the kitchen. Needless to say, it was not a quiet room. The kitchen was nice and had plenty of seating. It had flags from multiple countries displayed, and felt inclusive.

It was hot with no air conditioning so I asked the front desk if they had a fan. They gave me an old, dirty box fan that shook when it was on the top speed. I took it since Portland was going through a heat wave.

Feeling extremely exhausted for some reason (maybe recovering from the backpacking trip), I took a good nap. I had to rest the fan on the luggage holder so it was at the level of the bed; the good thing about the fan being noisy on a high-speed was that it helped to block out other noises.

Hoping to meet other travelers, I ate at the café in the hostel (it’s also open to non-hostel guests). Unfortunately, everyone there was on a phone or a laptop. The digital age is killing personal contact. I purposely stayed in the hostel so that I’d meet travelers but it didn’t appear that would be happening.

I decided I needed to get out and walk around. I found a movie theater about a mile away so I could walk and not lose my parking spot. The walk through downtown was great – full of life, art, and friendly faces.

I got to Living Room Theaters and it only cost $6! Must have been because it was a Monday. When I walked inside, it looked like a bar – there were people sitting at the bar and at tables, drinking some wine and beer. The menu had items like kale and strawberry salads, and served popcorn in little white square dishes. Very upscale for $6. Of course, I spent twice that much on a glass of wine and a small popcorn.

The theater also offered free water with normal sized cups in the hallway (all theaters should be doing this!). I took advantage of this and headed to the theater with my wine, water, and popcorn. The seats were large and looked deceptively like recliners. The movie I saw was Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. There was hardly anybody in the theater and it felt good to be there. I’m not sure why, but it made me feel comfortable. I hadn’t seen a movie in a theater in months. Traveling for the last two weeks was an adjustment. This felt like a regular life, and I needed that.

The movie ended close to 11:30 pm and I decided to walk back to the hostel and enjoy the night air. A piano sat outside on the sidewalk, decorated in art. Letters stamped on it read “Please play me!” and there was a young guy playing the piano while a young woman played the trumpet. I stood there and enjoyed the delightful free show with a couple of other people.

I passed a church that was housed in a beautiful building with closed doors. A man with long hair sat outside, legs crossed, facing the middle door. He sat right up against the door and even though he was across the street, I could feel his pain. I could only see his back, swaying back and forth. I wanted to help but didn’t know what to say or do. I wished the doors were open for him.

As I got closer to the hostel, a woman zipped by me on the street on an electric, standing scooter. There was a slight breeze on this Monday night, and Portland felt like a city that had character. I think I’ll enjoy it here.

Post Edited by: Misty Kosek

Days 6-7: The City of Bend, Oregon

I loaded up my car so I could check out of the Airbnb by 11:00am, and on the way out, I stopped to talk with Victoria, the owner. She asked where I was going next and we talked a little about my next destinations. Then I told her I wanted to make a documentary about higher education and the lack of diversity in thought on college campuses.

Victoria told me that when she was in college many years ago she took a class about feminism and literature. She read a story and had to write a summary of her thoughts and opinions on it. She was surprised by the story and in her paper, she described her understanding of the piece. However, it did not fit the narrative that the professor was trying to promote, so the professor gave her a lower grade. Victoria was upset because she had always received good grades.

She talked to the professor and explained the assignment was her interpretation of the writing and that is how she read the piece. The professor refused to change her grade because it did not fit what she was “supposed to be learning” – the narrative that the professor was trying to push down their throats.

Victoria had been very surprised by this and it upset her. This happened a long time ago and I explained to her that it’s only gotten worse. We had a great discussion and I felt so much more energized. It made me feel more like myself. I enjoy deep discussions and debates and hearing how other people think. It reminded me who I am and what I’m good at.

I headed to Bend, Oregon which took just over three hours. On the drive there, I stopped in Eugene to have lunch and just outside of Eugene, I stopped at two covered bridges; my friend Tracey had told me that Eugene was known for its covered bridges. They were so beautiful and almost magical. There was nobody around so I was able to get out and walk around a bit to see the construction inside. The bridges looked like something from a fairytale. They had been around for over 100 years. I can’t even imagine what it took to build them but they were very well constructed (and reconstructed).

The drive to Bend was full of giant green pine trees and mountains. But when I arrived in Bend, it was much drier – similar to southern CA.

I checked in at the Sugarloaf Mountain Motel. The girl at the front desk had half of her face covered with her hair. Seriously, her hair was so side-swept that her right eye was completely covered. It made her look lazy and aloof. That and her sour attitude. I asked her if the room I was in was one of the remodeled rooms because what’s advertised is the remodeled rooms but on Trip Advisor, I saw rooms that had the old bedspreads (which I hate).

She very rudely said “I don’t know.”

“Ok, well, don’t you at least know which buildings are already remodeled?”

“No.”

“Ok, well if I get to my room and it’s the old style, can I switch it for a remodeled room?”

“No, we’re very full. Housekeeping is still cleaning rooms.”

“Well, it’s 4:30pm, I’m sure the rooms will be clean soon?”

“I would have to ask the head house keeper.”

“Ok…Please do that.”

The girl left the front desk for about 10 minutes while several bikers (as in full leather motorcycle guys with beards) and two families tried to check in, patiently waiting in line.

“The head housekeeper doesn’t have any other rooms clean.” Ugh.

I drove my car over to my room, which was on the second floor. Again, wishing I had someone to carry my luggage up the stairs, I opened the door and saw that the room had been remodeled. Listen lady, you could have just told me that! At least there weren’t men outside on the balcony drinking and smoking watching me unload.

I got comfortable and checked my matches on the dating app. There was a guy who liked me who had nothing but pictures of him with dead animals he’d killed while hunting. The profile picture was him with a giant moose. He was cute, but there is no way I could date a guy who hunts so frequently (or maybe at all). I love animals and killing them for sport is a big turn-off. I texted the profile picture to my cousin Misty and said, “He likes me. All three pics are of him killing animals. No thanks.” She wrote back, “No way”. I also had a 23-year-old like me (15 years younger than me).

The next morning, I took some time to research hikes nearby and then went for a run outside near the motel. My friend Sarah in Los Angeles had put me in touch with a friend of hers who lived in Bend, Bethany. Bethany let me know about a festival that was going on that evening.

I headed out around 7:00pm and the festival was celebrating the 25th anniversary of Deschutes Brewery. There were your typical food booths and lots of tents for beer and ciders. There were also tents for Kombucha and Hydroflask, which reminded me I was in Oregon.

I got some food and a couple of ciders, watched the sun set on the water, and stood around the stage listening to bands. The temperature was nice, the people friendly, and the music fun. I enjoyed it but wished I had someone to share it with.

Around 9:30pm, I headed to Worthy Brewing Company where I saw on Facebook events that they had an observatory on-site. When I arrived, I saw that it was a restaurant, brewery, and after going up a narrow spiral staircase, an observatory. I ordered a beer and looked through the telescope. The view to the stars was a bit disappointing because I couldn’t actually see much. But the view of Bend, with the setting sun illuminating the mountains, was gorgeous. The breeze was chilly but I hung out on the top by the observatory for a while drinking my beer and then went down to the second floor where there was an indoor/outdoor bar. I sat and ordered a beer, which was fun, but lonely. I looked forward to being able to go for a hike the following day.

Post Edited by: Misty Kosek

Day 1: Merced, California

After driving for about 5 hours, I decided I needed to stop for the night in Merced, CA. Merced has a population of about 81,000 people. It’s very dry, flat, and has a small-town feel. It’s most known for being close to the entrance into Yosemite National Park (it’s only a 2-hour drive from there).

I didn’t have anywhere to stay that night so I pulled into a parking lot and looked on Orbitz because I had a coupon code. I needed something cheap since I was now unemployed and it was just one night. I was relieved to find the Merced Inn and Suites for around $60. Orbitz had it rated as 2-1/2 stars and I thought that should be fine.

While fitting the standard of “fine,” the gloomy, old, strange smelling lobby definitely lacked appeal. The woman at the desk was chatting with a male friend who seemed to be hanging out.

The motel was 2 stories and my room as on the first floor. I parked just outside my room to unload my stuff, which turned out to be 3-4 trips because my stuff was all spread out in different bags, and I didn’t want to leave my electronics in the car. There were 2 middle-aged men drinking beer, just standing outside their room door…2 doors away from mine. They just stared at me as I unloaded my car and gave me the creeps.

Once I unloaded my car, I noticed the room was very large and was furnished with a couch, refrigerator, TV, and a large bed. The yellow lighting made it appear very dreary. The bathroom was old, the fixtures in major need of repair (or replaced, really). You know, the kind of bathroom you say to yourself, “Ew, don’t touch anything”.

Before I left Los Angeles, I ordered this device on Amazon which was supposed to tell you if there is a hidden recording device around. I had recently seen some news story about how easy it is to hide cameras and microphones but this device beeps or lights up to tell you if there is a device transmitting radio waves. You just have to wave it close to each area. I hadn’t opened it before this moment but thought, “THIS is the place to use it.” I turned it on and it started beeping. I noticed there was a scrolling wheel to adjust the sensitivity so I adjusted it and tested it against my phone. Sure enough, the lights and beeping started. Then, I started to go across the room, the coffee table, the dresser, and the TV stand. It started beeping near the coffee pot on the dresser. Confused, I looked all around it because there shouldn’t have been any radio waves. I moved to other areas and it went off again near the fire alarm. I continued this for about 15 minutes and finally gave up. I couldn’t determine if there was a hidden device or if this thing was even working. Later, I read reviews on Amazon (which had a great rating) and saw reviews that said all the other reviews and ratings were added at once, likely from the manufacturer. Ugh, probably doesn’t even work.

I took a shower in the old, musty bathroom and reluctantly got into bed and went to sleep (hoping there weren’t any bedbugs). In the morning, I choked down a waffle in the continental breakfast area, as it was the only food that appealed to me.

When I got back to my room to pack up, I felt sad. At first I couldn’t pinpoint it, but then it hit me. Over the last several years, I had been staying in 4-star hotels. They’re modern, clean, and they go out of their way to ensure you’re comfortable. Now, I was at a 2-star hotel that was old, dirty, and the staff didn’t seem to care at all. It’s weird. I did not grow up with much money. When we traveled, it was to visit family. When we stayed in hotels/motels across the Midwest, it was in 2-star motels. Ever since I was a kid, I loved staying in motels/hotels. I think it was because our whole family was in one room. That one room was the living space, bedroom, and bathroom. It felt like it forced us all to be closer. It always felt like an adventure.

As an adult, I’ve continued to love hotels. Seeing the different amenities, the things they do to set themselves apart, and the comforts they provide (like little bottles of shampoo, so cute!). When I traveled for work, I was able to stay in very nice hotels and I didn’t realize just how accustomed I had become to this standard of hotel. In that moment of loading up my car at this crappy 2-star hotel, I thought, “Is this what my life has become? Is this my new normal? Oh no.”

Post Edited by: Misty Kosek