AirBnB for the Holidays

AirbnbTo most of us, the holidays mean gatherings with family and friends. This Thanksgiving Ilene and I had the pleasure of experiencing airbnb for the second time where we enjoyed family and made new friends.

Destination: Tacoma, Washington

Reason: Thanksgiving with family!

Although my brothers both offered their homes to us for our holiday stay, we chose to use 40f67060_originalairbnb to find a place to stay, instead. We had an ulterior motive; we wanted to look at homes in downtown Tacoma since Ilene and I are getting close to quitting our jobs and retiring. What better way to find out if a neighborhood is a place you’d like to live?

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Grand Teton National Park 2015

DSC_0042The clouds hang low over the valley masking the mountain tops. A cold drizzle reminds us of the Pacific Northwest. According to the ranger at Jenny Lake Ranger Station the low clouds and rain are driving wildlife off of the mountains.

We’ve come to Grand Teton National Park to view the Tetons, of course, but we don’t feel shorted that the clouds hide our view. We’ve seen moose, elk, buffalo, a martin and a fox since we arrived. Not too shabby for one day. Continue reading

Yellowstone and Teton Wildlife 2015

One of many herds of elk

This month is National Novel Writer’s Month. All over the world, novel writers and aspiring novel writers have dedicated themselves to writing 50,000 words for a new novel. This year I decided to participate and am now up to my butt in alligators putting words to word processor.

So with that in mind, today’s post will be a little different. I didn’t want to short my readers so today I’m going to share some of the wildlife photos we took on our trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks this summer.

Enjoy          

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Buffalo Herd
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Pronghorn Antelope

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Yellowstone National Park 2015

Welcome to Yellowstone National Park
Welcome to Yellowstone

What can one say about Yellowstone National Park that hasn’t already been said? The first national park, established in March of 1872, it covers three US states, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Books have been written about it, documentaries have been produced, and countless movies and television programs take place there.

To prepare for our trip, we watched every documentary we could find associated with Yellowstone. One of the best is: The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, found on PBS.

You can watch the videos, read the books, and hear the stories, but nothing can actually prepare you for your first encounter with Yellowstone. That first day we came in through the South Entrance which also included a drive through portions of Grand Teton National Park; but more about Grand Teton National Park later.

After flashing our Senior Pass we headed north toward Lewis Lake. The National Parks and Federal Lands Senior pass has a ONE TIME cost of $10 for US citizens and permanent residents over age 62 and gives entrance to all National Parks and more.  : Senior Pass.

Look! An Elk!
Look! An Elk!

The scenery driving to Lewis Lake is wonderful with the Tetons to your left and the Lewis River on your right. Mountains, river valleys, and trees! We desert dwellers enjoy the trees! Oh, and take a glance in your rear view mirror now and then for some spectacular mountain and lake views. You’ll want to pull over and take a few photos, I guarantee.

This early in the season, before Memorial Day, don’t expect all the roads to be open in the park. Don’t expect all the attractions and concessions to be open as well. When you pay your entrance fees, make sure you get a park flyer and ask the ranger about closed facilities and roads in the park.

During our stay, the road from West Thumb Geyser Basin directly to Old Faithful was closed. That meant we had to take the full loop around the park to get to the world famous geyser. Since we got a late start we decided to stop at West Thumb Geyser Basin at experience our first geysers.

I say experience because no television program can prepare your nose for the smell of a geyser basin. Pee you! We parked in the lot near Grant Village (closed) and as we stepped out the smell of sulfur almost overpowers you. But hold your nose, because you’ll want to check out the mud pots and small geysers that lie along the west thumb of Yellowstone Lake.

Walking among the sulfur pots was a great way to stretch our legs and really experience the

What a smell...
What a smell…

sites, sounds, and smells of Yellowstone. Be advised, however, the ride home will include a bit of aroma you’ll pick up from the “fresh air” of Yellowstone.

We hiked about an hour around the basin then headed back toward Jackson since it was getting late and storm clouds were threatening. About four miles from Moran and our turn south, I noticed a line of cars along the side of the road.

In the National Parks that usually means—WILDLIFE!

We certainly weren’t disappointed. About a half mile from the road we could see a mamma bear with three cubs cavorting in the meadow. I asked a ranger who had stopped if the bear was a grizzly and was told that indeed she was.

Our first grizzly in the wild!

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Mamma Bear and Two Cubs

I grabbed my camera and did the best I could with what small lens I had. Once again I realized rule number one: Bring a BIG lens to photograph wildlife.

I’ve seen bears in the wild but this was Ilene’s first time. It didn’t matter, however, seeing one of God’s magnificent creatures in the wild like this was almost a religious experience. To know creatures are still out there that can run free unmolested by man, or any other beast for that matter, is humbling.

It was a perfect way to end our first trip to Yellowstone.

Jackson, Wyoming 2015

DSC_0067Cars line the streets of Jackson, Wyoming the week before Memorial Day. We’ve just arrived after a short stop to photogragh a young moose grazing near our timeshare at Teton Village.  Jackson is a popular place even though it’s not the “height of the season”.

This is our first trip to Wyoming, home to the first National Park, Yellowstone National Park. To get our bearings and decide what we’re going to see and when, we’ve decided to spend a little time in Jackson. Continue reading

Teton Village in Springtime

Teton Village in Springtime

The signs read, “Caution Moose Crossing”, not something we expected to see in the lower 48; or at least outside of Northern Michigan or Northern Minnesota. But there they were several signs on the highway leading into Teton Village warning us to be on the lookout for this massive critters.

Teton Village, our destination on this trip, is best known as one of the premier ski resorts in the American West. Rooms at the Teton Village resorts can run as low as $5000 per night at the height of the season to tens of thousands of dollars.

Fortunately for us, we were traveling during the off season and used timeshare points through Diamond Resorts for our stay. I did look up the rate for our week and I’m pretty sure it was $500 per night…or somewhere close to that.

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The Teton Club

The Teton Club at Teton Village sits adjacent to the aerial tram at Teton Village and, as one would expect, at the base of the Teton mountains. The views are beautiful and the room (or should I say apartment) was, five star.

The friendly staff at The Teton Club greeted us warmly and offered to answer any questions we may have about the local area. First and foremost on our minds was finding a decent place to eat and a couple of adult beverages.

The staff suggested we try The Spur Restaurant & Bar at the Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa located just a short walk from our three bedroom, three bath apartment.

Amazing appetizers, super service, awesome cocktails and gourmet main dishes greeted as at The Spur. We shared the dining room with about four other parties, it was off season, and used the opportunity to spend quality time with our servers.

We found the Wyomingites friendly, helpful, and interesting! Our servers suggested places to visit in town, a couple of local micro breweries to try, and some of the sights most travelers miss. Again, an enjoyable first evening at Teton Village.

With full tummies, a bit of a glow from our cocktails and locally brewed beverages, the walk back to our apartment was just what we needed to burn off a few of the extra calories.

We’d decided after our conversations with the locals, our first stop on the morrow would be the town of Jackson itself so we could get a feel for our surroundings and explore what Jackson Hole, Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks had to offer.

Next week we’ll explore Jackson, Wyoming and let you in on a couple things we didn’t know as well as some must-see sights in and around town.

Until then, we hope all your travels are pleasant and full of adventure!

A Look at AirBnB

Victorian-style Mansion dowtown SLC
Victorian-style Mansion dowtown SLC

Imagine staying in a Victorian-style Mansion with a private room, bath and kitchen for less than the cost of a chain motel. Now add in the convenience of staying downtown in a major city with the nightlife and fine dining and you’ve got a pretty good combination.

That’s exactly what we had on our trip from Las Vegas to Jackson Hole this summer. Rather than drive straight through, we decided to stop about half way and stay in Salt Lake City.

With the help of AirBnB, we found a nice apartment, with a gracious host, in an interesting part of town.

Using AirBnB was simple. I downloaded the app and used it to search prospective properties in the Salt Lake City area. Once we found what we were looking for, we simply used a credit card to hold the reservation.

It really was that simple.

Let me go into some of the fine points about the transaction, our stay, and my thoughts about our first-time use of AirBnb.

All initial communication is through emails on AirBnb’s servers. Once we’d made our request, our host, Alexa, contacted us via email and offered her phone number so we could ask questions and make plans to meet her at the appropriate time.

Billing is taken care of through AirBnb. We pay them, they pay Alexa.

Our confirmation email included FAQ, cancellation information (which we’d already reviewed on Alexa’s AirBnb ad), confirmation code, etc. Everything you’d expect with a hotel or motel reservation.

The day of our arrival Alexa met us at the house and gave us a tour. We asked her about the local nightlife, restaurants, and must see points of interest within walking distance. She was a fount of knowledge and encouraged us to call if we had any questions.

With that, she gave us the keys and left us to our own devices. We enjoyed a pleasant evening walking around the neighborhood, visiting a local restaurant and bar, and spending a peaceful evening in the Victorian mansion.

The next day checkout was easy. We left a message thanking Alexa, and left the keys on the counter for her to pickup later.

All in all, a very pleasant experience and one we plan to repeat in the future. If you’re planning on staying in downtown Salt Lake City, you may want to stay HERE.

What about you? Do you have any personal experience with AirBnB? If so, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.