A Penniless Traveler goes to the Opera – Asheville, NC

I’ve had people tell me they were penniless when they had a hundred dollars in the bank. If I had a hundred dollars in the bank, I’d be thrilled! When I say “penniless” I mean just that. That I do not have any negotiable currency, paper, coins, or plastic.

This week I find myself in hyped up, hipped out Asheville, North Carolina to see the opera and while not penniless, I am going to be working with less than forty dollars. So here are some tips and tricks for that. (If you want to know how to travel with no money, see my previous blog “https://twiztedtails.wordpress.com/2010/09/21/hotel-cheats-from-waystation/ ”)

I should also note that my lodgings are being paid for by my current employer, or this would be impossible. I also got my tickets in advance when money was more freely available.

First off, Asheville is actually easier without a car. Parking downtown and in most of the outlying areas is hard to find, competitive and expensive. Parking garages run in the $2 an hour range, with some rare instances of $5 “special event parking”. Daily parking adds up quickly. Almost all street parking is parallel and tight. A Smartcar is doable but a Ford F350 or any mid to large SUV or truck is a real stretch.

If at all possible, I recommend leaving your car or rental in the hotel lot, or even better catching the airport shuttle, taxi, or some friend going into town.

Asheville actually has a very good public transportation system with buses going to most destinations either every fifteen minutes, every hour, or every half hour, or every hour. Payment is in cash – but make sure you have change – or by bus pass which can be purchased at the bus station on Richland Avenue.

And most of the city is actually in walking distance from most of the hotels (West Asheville being the exception unless you can do a three mile walk.)

Secondly, Asheville restaurants range fall into just a few categories – cheap and fast, cheap and slow, expensive and fast, expensive and slow, and bars. These are all pretty well distributed around the city but the cheap stuff is mostly on the two major strips, Tunnel Road off downtown east and Patton Avenue across the Patton avenue River Bridge on Patton Avenue in what is technically West Asheville.

I got a hotel in West Asheville as I have a car and a gas per diem on this trip (WOW!) and mainly frequent McDonald’s and Burger King because of their dollar menus. $5 bucks is four sandwichs which is two meals. Hotel water and ice are the beverages.

To keep that from getting too monotonous I also went to a dollar store and purchased a box of tea, a bottled water (for the bottle), and a few packets of instant drink mix. I also got a package of cookies, a bag of chips, a box of oatmeal, a box of grits, a box of six Ramen noodles, and a package of eight slim jims. Total cost: $10 after tax.

I use the coffee machine in my room to make hot water for the tea, grits, noodles, and oatmeal. I also hit the free continental breakfast and make a show of getting breakfast for me and “my fiancee” (I have one but he’s not present.) which fills in any remaining mealtime holes.

I packed one bag which contains two shirts, two pants, undies, and one set of formal wear as well as three books, two DVDs, and my laptop. I wash my clothes in the sink with the provided shampoo, wash my body and hair with the provided soap bar, and then hang my clothes off the shower rail to dry. I will steam the wrinkles out of my formal wear by hanging them in the bathroom while I shower.

Instead of going out and spending money I do not have, I watch TV, use the room’s free wifi connection, and watch the DVDs I brought on my laptop.

I will be required to dine out twice this opera week and so I will be sticking to very small meals, salad and water and not drinking any alcohol and then coming back to my room for noodles in private.

And I will go see La Boheme looking like I stayed the night in the Downtown Radisson hotel rather than a cheap room off I-40. Manners and clothing make the man in public after all.

I may even land a gig doing further write ups and then I will be able to review Asheville from the money end. Til then, good journeys and “toi, toi”!

 

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Vaccinations – a misadventure and some advice

Okay, so I went to my doctor’s office because I needed a tetanus shot. Unfortunately the only thing on hand was the new tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis vaccine.

To be fair the physician, a wonderful doctor who deserves NO blame for what follows, did ask me if I had ever had any problems with this vaccine.

I stated that I did not know but that I did not think so.

My bad.

I got the shot and left the office. I was unlucky in that my appointment was the last of the day. The nurse was locking up as I left.

About four minutes later I was suffering from severe anaphylactic shock.

Here I got lucky. My fiancee who was with me took my seriously when I said I was in deep shit and he went around the building and pounded on doors until he got the attention of the nurse inside.

And so fortunately I found myself back in the examination room I had just left getting poked with all kinds of needles.

I’m actually a bit hazy on the details but I believe they included a benedryl shot and a corticosteroid shot. I don’t think the epipen they had actually got used. I then spent thirty minutes on my back talking to the doctor and nurse as they monitored me until I was out of danger.

They saved my life.

The lesson here? Ignorance is not bliss and if you are doing traveling that involves vaccinations it would be a very good idea to know what your risks are and what allergies you may have.

That said, how can you protect yourself?

Get your vaccinations at a doctor’s office rather than a clinic. Try for an early appointment so you don’t have to worry about locked doors if something does go wrong.

Ask questions about any possible side effects and the incidences of an allergic reaction.

Remain in the clinic for fifteen minutes after the vaccinations – this is legally required in most states but a lot of doctors will let it slide. It is your responsibility to ask to wait and to explain why if challenged.

Keep a list of all vaccinations you have had and take it with you to the doctor’s. And if you are taking other drugs you might want to ask about interactions.

Since more and more laws about vaccination are coming into effect you are going to want to take more precautions than usual.

It is also a good idea to visit the CDC Yellow Book website to find out what diseases are in the area you are going to and what vaccinations are required. (http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/content/yellowbook/home-2010.aspx )

You might also try their travel health page at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/ .

And if you answer the question “Are you allergic to [drug]?” with “I don’t know?” then make sure your doctor will look out for you.

If it turns out you are allergic to something see that a big notation makes it into your medical records and also make a note of it yourself somewhere.

Trust me, with anaphylactic shock, once is more than enough.

It’s about to snow here in Western North Carolina

Preparing for the snow storm here tonight. Four to six inches, oh my! I remember being a child in Michigan and seeing twelve foot snows, I also at the ripe age of 33 remember when this area got four foot snows. Ah, climate change. But I digress. 

Since me and my brother, Dan,  were both raised by survivalists, we are better off than many – we both keep what out blood father called “oh shit kits” stored in our rooms and cars. Candles, flashlights, batteries and essential foods and meds are all on hand. We have a wood stove and plenty of wood. Lots of blankets. Canned food and can opener. Cast iron for cooking on the wood stove. (A trick better not tried with thin bottomed aluminum pans!) Stuff for our cats.  The only tricky bit is water as our well pump is electric – something we intend to rectify soon. I am filling up lots of gallon jugs tonight. I usually try to keep twenty or so on hand…and if it snows all the better. We can wash dishes, clothes, and so on in snow melt. At worst, I will be typing this on Steve’s laptop – on battery power – and sending it by analog landline before reading a book by candle light, eating a stove top meal of canned stuff, and then sleeping in a bedroll near the fire. We’ll stay better off than many. Last time we ended up hosting our  neighbors because they had no ideas and no tools for coping. Hopefully they learned something from that adventure and will be better off this time. 

And at the very worst, I go out into the woods and shoot a deer and find some edible lichen…but that seems unlikely. The worst I expect to face this go round -knocking on wood – is some dangerous driving, mostly caused by my fellow NC driver, all of whom seem to mistake their SUVs for tanks. People here seem to go absolutely crazy here at the sight of a single flake.

And perhaps a shortage of bread and milk – which I neither eat nor drink but which some people seem to feel are absolute essentials during a storm. No idea why.

But perhaps this would be a good time and place to post some basics for the modern dweller. So I am adding a new page link from the home page here call “There’s a storm coming. I need…” Check it out for a quick list of useful things that will help you survive the storm.

Hotel cheats from waystation

I spent this weekend in a transitional hotel between a hospital and home. So I had lodgings but no food or cash or credit for two days whilst I waited on my designated ride. 

Here is where some of the more useful hotel tricks came into play. 

First I raided the hotel lobby’s pile of complimentary items. 

Dinner: 

Ingredients… 

three packages of ketchup

1 cup of hot water (made using the lobby coffee pot)

one salt packet 

Instant tomato soup. Put the ketchup in the cup with the salt. Add the hot water. Stir with a coffee stir stick. 

Beverage – cup of hot water over three free Star peppermint hard candies from the counter. Peppermint “tea”. 

Bath: 

Run as hot as possible and fill to drain hole…as water begins to gurgle out, turn on shower at same speed as the drain plug so that water level and temperature remain constant. Bath with complimentary soap bar, wash hair with same. 

Clean clothes after bath: 

I only had two changes of clothes on me and was damned if I was putting them back on dirty.Took clothes and wet them in the bath water, took them out and lathered them heavily in the complimentary shampoo. Sprayed them under the shower attachment and sloshed them repeatedly in the bath tub. Let out bath and rinsed them in the shower spray and in clean water. Wrung them out very throughly and hung them over shower rail to dry and turned on infrared heating lamps. 

Wrapped self in towels and slept. 

Morning: 

Dressed in dry clothes and went down to free continental breakfast. Grabbed two of everything, three of the cereals and fruits. Grabbed cocoa packets in fours/teas in fours. Snagged four cups, milk in two, juice in two and bowls and lots of condiments and groused under breath the whole time about the rest of the family being too lazy to come out for food for other guests’ benefit.

Returned to room, ate, washed cups and bowls in bar soap. Put the rest of the food and washed clothes in my zipper bag. Go for a walk so maid can do up room and provide more soap, shampoo, etc. 

Lunch/Dinner: Scrounged foods from this morning. Reused cups and bowls after washing in sink with new bar of soap left by maid.

Repeat bath and put on clothes that are clean. Repeat wash of dirty clothes. 

Next morning repeat scrounging for food stuffs. Discovered a nearby Walmart and ate samples, too.

And so forth. 

This kept me respectable for the required two days until I could get my ride home. And all for free – save the room which was paid in advance.