Friday, October 28, 2011

Trying out my new car on a roadtrip

There is really nothing like getting in your car on a pretty day and heading down the road. I had a long distance trip scheduled this past week, and in addition to looking forward to getting out of town, I was anxious to try out my new car on its first roadtrip. The stereo system is very nice, and the interior of the car is quiet, unlike my previous car, so I was happy to find out I could listen to music without having to crank it up to split eardrum level. All was well until I got back into my car after lunch and headed back to the highway.

A few seconds later, the absolute worst noise surrounded me. I couldn't hear the radio anymore. The sound was indistinct--almost seemed like a pulse that was getting louder and louder. Then I noticed a squeezing pressure on my eardrums. I became frightened, thinking, what is this? The noise just came out of nowhere.  The car still seemed to be driving all right, and there were no warning lights on the dashboard. I pulled off at the next exit and got out to look at the exterior auto parts. I thought maybe I had a flat tire, even though it didn't seem like that was the case. And no one passing me had been pointing at the tires, like people do when you have a flat.

I circled the car--no flat tire. I didn't see anything wrong--not that I would have known what to do if I had. I got back in the car, hoping miraculously it had disappeared. I started the car up and drove off, and it was fine--for a second. Then the loud, almost sonic boom started again. I felt dismayed. The car was driving OK, and I had an appointment that I had to keep. Is there anyway I could drive 250 more miles under this condition? Do I dare consider that? No, I didn't think I could. And what if continued driving hurt the car? It is driving fine now, but what about tonight? Maybe it would strand me in the middle of nowhere.

I looked around at the surrounding billboards, hoping to see an auto parts store advertised, but no luck. The best I could hope for would be to get to the next town, find an auto repair place or an auto parts store to see if they could figure out what was wrong. And fix it quickly!

Just as I was about to despair, I turned my head around and looked into the back seat.  My right rear window was down. I must have hit the automatic window button by accident. Could that be the problem? Holding my breath it was, I hit the button to roll it back up. Success! How could a rolled down window have caused that racket? And that weird sonic boom feeling? Well it did. I continued down the highway once again a happy camper. And my car was a 10 on the road.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Vote For Your Favorite Cool Small Town

Budget Travel Magazine is again running its Coolest Small Town Contest. Only towns with a population under 10,00 are eligible. And they must have that je ne sais quoi.  Plus neat independent shops. Culture. Good energy. And good coffee! You can vote once a day. My favorite small cool town is Franklin, PA.,8/

Monday, October 3, 2011

Irritated by hotel internet fees? You're not alone

Checking into a nice hotel a few months ago, I held my breath. I regularly use my netbook and was hoping there was not an internet fee. I asked the clerk, and she said no. I was a happy camper!

But more and more nice hotels are charging as much as $14.95 a day for connection, and some charge per computer. That could add to some some hefty extra fees if multiple people in the room have a computer.

Mid-range and lower priced hotels tend not to charge for internet connection, because they want to entice you to stay there and don't assume their guests have big expense accounts.

Hopefully more luxury hotels will drop the fee. They assume their guests can afford the fees or are on expense accounts. It is what the market can bear, says one person quoted in the article below. But even so, that doesn't mean they want to pay it. Guests may pay the charge, but stay somewhere else the next time.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Gaylord Opryland Hotel Is Back In Business

It has taken me a while to get out to the reborn Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville. You may remember that it sustained a great deal of damage in the 2010 Nashville flood, with water 10 feet deep inside the hotel. Closed for approimately six months, it reopened about a year ago. To the casual eye, you can't really tell that anything is different. It looks wonderful, just as it always did. Except for one major change. The main entrance is no longer the Magnolia entrance but the Cascades.

Photo from the Gaylord Opryland Website

To the uninitiated, Magnolia and Cascades refer to major parts of the hotel, along with Delta and Garden Conservatory. Each of these arms of the hotel have distinguishing features. Cascades, as you may suspect, has waterfalls, Delta has a lazy river with boat rides, the Garden Conservatory is like walking through one of the largest greenhouses, and Magnolia is the original part of the hotel. In addition, there is a gigantic convention center.

Sitting in the Cascades dining area this afternoon, I soaked up the afternoon sun coming through the glass roof and watched conference attendees come and go. And I listened to the indoor waterfall just to my right. It is just like being outdoors, exept you are indoors!

The Cascades

You can find almost anything here in the hotel--shops, food, entertainment, even indoor boat rides. It truly is a little city under a roof. Those from out of town must feel like they have stepped into hotel heaven. So many things to do and no reason to leave the hotel. Those in Nashville, however, may hesitate to go out there, because of the steep parking fee ($18). But just grab a meal while you are there, and you can get your parking ticket validated.

Delta Boat Rides

From the Cascades, you can walk through the Garden Conservatory to get to the Delta or Magnolia areas. There are both lower and upper walkways through the Garden Conservatory. Are you in a greenhouse, an arboretum, or the jungle? A little bit of all of it. Some guest rooms overlook the conservatory area.

Views from the Garden Conservatory Walkway

There are buildings inside the hotel. Below is the Old Hickory Steak House.

Old Hickory Steak House

Magnolia Area

The Magnolia area is the original area at the hotel and has its own  convention rooms and ballrooms. Luckily, the great murals in Magnolia, such as the one above of the original Kirkland Hall at Vanderbilt University, were left unhurt by the flood.

There are a number of fine dining restaurants at Gaylord Opryland Hotel, as well as some quick eating options. There are also a number of nightlife spots and retail stores. Buy a pair of cowboy boots while you are there!

Guests have access to a couple of pools, a spa, and a video arcade. The Grand Ole Opry House is next door and a golf course is in the neighborhood. Downtown Nashville is less then 15 minutes away.

At the end of the day, how did the new hotel compare with the older version? As a Nashvillian, I spent many hours in the past at Opryland Hotel attending various functions. I always had trouble finding my way around. But today it seemed like a breeze. What made the difference? Was it that I am older and wiser? That I finally picked up a hotel  map for the first time today at the concierage desk? Or is it because they must have reworked the hotel to some degree to make it more navigable? Probably all of it.