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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘AAA’

An American Odyssey (Part 2)

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

After arriving in Boca Raton, Florida, and spending a lovely Shabbat with the Century Village friends of my brother and sister-in-law, we started our American Odyssey of 10,000 miles across America. We spent our first days in the Deep South going through Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. In each state we visited one or two attractions that the AAA website listed as the best.

We visited the National Civil War Naval Museum, the Coca Cola Space Science Center and the George Washington Carver Institute. We did not find much Jewish life in these areas, but as we passed the Civil Rights Memorial and drove along though Selma, Alabama, we did notice a Jewish Star on a building and stopped to investigate. It was the Mishkan Israel Synagogue, but it was closed.

At Vicksburg we toured the military park and the recently flooded areas off the Mississippi River. The first Jewish community we visited was Temple Bnei Israel in Monroe, Louisiana. It was not an Orthodox congregation, but they welcomed us and we had an interesting discussion with those who gathered that evening about life on a settlement in Israel.

The Omnisphere Theater at the Coca Cola Space Science Center.

As I mentioned in my previous article, we usually requested home hospitality in return for the evening program. Monroe turned out to be very special. Our contact person explained that the homes in Monroe were small and that she could not find accommodations for the four of us in a home. One member of the congregation, however, owned a “small motel” and he would be happy to invite us as his guests for the evening and give each couple a room. One of our purposes in requesting home hospitality was to be able to spend the evening with a local family, learn about the Jewish community, and to also tell them about our community. Since they could not find a host, we reluctantly agreed.

Our first clue about the surprise that awaited us was the beautiful white stretch limousine parked in front of the Atrium Hotel. This “small motel” turned out to be a boutique hotel where each of us received a 2.5 room luxury suite for the night. We greatly enjoyed the health club, swimming pool and Jacuzzi, provided by Mr. Hadad. Now if only we could spend each night of the trip in such luxury…

From Louisiana we headed for Texas and the East Texas Oil Museum. The very interesting exhibits told us how oil was discovered in the 1930′s and how oil fueled the American victory in WWII. We drove on to Dallas where we would spend Wednesday evening and we were dreaming about finding a kosher restaurant for our first splurge of the trip. When I called one of our hosts for the evening, Sandra and Stanley Cohen, to tell them our plans, they insisted that they had already prepared dinner for us and we must come to them. We enjoyed a delicious home-cooked dinner and spent the evening schmoozing about the Dallas Orthodox community.

The Kennedy Memorial in Dallas.

Later that evening we drove to the Kennedy Memorial and the “Grassy Knoll” and toured downtown Dallas, before Avi and Martha dropped us off at our other host family, Linda and Steve Blasnik. The next day we headed for Ft. Worth, the Cowgirl Museum, with its beautiful costumes, and the Texas Stockyards, where we watched the cattle drive and toured the exhibits. We then headed to Houston for Friday and Shabbat and for our first restaurant meal at Susie’s Grill.

(To be continued)

Six Thousand Miles (Part IV)

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

        Part I of this series introduced the 6,000-mile driving tour to the Canadian Rockies that my wife, Barbara, and I took in the van driven by my brother, Avi, and our sister-in-law, Martha. It detailed the challenge of obtaining kosher food on a driving tour. Parts II and III discussed the hospitality we received in several communities.

 

         A very interesting aspect of our month-long journey was how we learned to save money on accommodations and attractions. We quickly learned that every motel offers various discounts from what they call the “rack rate” (the basic rate) – if you ask for them.

 

         We usually chose the “Choice Motel” chain because we found good beds, quite a few kosher items for breakfast, clean, well-kept premises and good rates. Reservations can be made via an 800 number or by calling the motel directly. We often called both and, surprisingly, often found that we could get a better deal via the 800 number. We also found that sometimes the motel said they were fully booked, but the 800 number got us two rooms at that same motel with no hassle.

 

         We also found that the AARP and AAA rates were higher than the “senior” (over 60) rate. Motels also offer “corporate” rates (and never ask for the corporate card), and local business rates, among others. And you can ask for the lowest rate available, if you are not shy. The rates sometimes differed when we called for reservations on different dates.

 

         As we entered each state, we stopped at the visitor’s information center found at the first rest stop on the highway (usually only open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.), and asked for “discount” booklets. Not only did the information service have the best information and free maps but, in addition, these discount booklets had significantly lower “coupon” rates at select motels (even some “Choice” motels) and discount entry coupons for many attractions. Remember, if you are more than one couple traveling, you need to request more than one discount booklet or ticket.

 

         If you are retired, almost every attraction – from Gondolas to boat rides, museums to parks – offers a senior rate (and a children’s rate). It certainly pays to ask for these rates. Even some shopping outlets offer senior rates. (Rockport at Woodbury Common, for example, gave us a 20% discount on our entire purchase when I “jokingly” asked the sales clerk for a senior discount.) When we purchased the Canadian Park ticket – at the senior rate – we purchased the annual ticket because it was cheaper than the daily rate for the number of days we planned to stay. And we may yet come again. On a previous trip to a military museum, my service in the Israeli army resulted in a free “courtesy” pass.

 

         In these times of rising gas prices, it might pay to check gasoline prices through the AAA trip site to check if it pays to fill up before leaving a particular state (or after entering a state) because some states charge significantly more than others. Of course, it pays to fill up in the U.S. before entering Canada. In Canada gas is sold by the liter, and the weak American dollar made the U.S. prices significantly more reasonable.

 

         Kosher food was also significantly cheaper in both New York City and Florida than it was in Canada and states without very large Jewish populations. It might pay to stock up on any foods that can be stored and preserved before the trip. An uncooked kosher chicken, for example, cost $15 in Calgary. (Luckily we had a cooler with food.) Please remember that transporting certain foods between countries is restricted.

 

         Many rural areas in the northern United States and southern Canada had no cell phone service, especially on the roads between cities. We also noticed that in the northern U.S., our phones incurred roaming charges even though we were still in the U.S. but within several miles of the Canadian border. If you plan to leave your home community, check with the phone company about the phone rates. We often used the computer to make phone calls. Most motels advertise “free wireless” but their systems are very weak. You might consider sitting in your car in the parking lot of a better motel or driving around and looking for “open” wireless networks.

 

PART V: The “Attractions”


 

        Comments may be sent to dov@gilor.com 

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/six-thousand-miles-part-iv/2007/08/29/

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