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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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.