I promised the rental agent I would not be high maintenance once I arrived–too bad I was unable to keep my promise.
During the online reservation process, I experienced technical difficulties. After two days volleying instant messages back and forth, and playing answering machine phone tag, we finally had a completed reservation. I’m sure the technical difficulties were user error. They almost always are when they pop up on my screen. And being under a time crunch didn’t help.
You see, last year when it was time to place requests for our 2015 annual leave, I was still grieving Daddy’s death. I didn’t want to do anything or go anywhere. As a result, I never got around to placing my requests. In fact, the year was almost up, and I was in “use or lose” status: use 2.5 weeks by the end of November, or I would lose the time. There are ways around it—the possibility of obtaining a waiver to allow you to take the time later in the year, or even to roll the time over to the next year, but the process is a hassle and your request can be denied. I already give them way too much free time, so I started looking for places to go.
My plan was to find an out of the way cabin or beach house that had internet access. I would use part of the time to travel, see Mama and other relatives, and possibly attend a couple of the away games of my Alma Mater (that didn’t happen) with a week of rest, relaxation, and writing. My time off coincided with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) so maybe I would finish the stalled novel. Or at least work out some major plot points. In preparation, I had purchased a new lap top, and taken an online creative writing course. There really would be no excuses. I should at least get a large chunk of the writing done. What I needed was a quiet place, with few distractions. A Jacuzzi bathtub and an outdoor hot tub would be nice—as would a fire pit or fireplace—even though I know nothing about building fires. My needs were modest. My wants less so.
I started looking at different options as diverse as a solar powered shack in the middle of 80 west Texas acres. That was definitely out of the way. But maybe a little too remote since it would just be Bandit (my 10-year old Chinese Crested), Moggy (my 1-year old Domestic Short Hair rescue kitty), and tech-challenged but highly imaginative yours truly. Although, come to think of it, the remoteness combined with my overly active imagination could result in some highly suspenseful scenes if my Cozy-turned-straight Mystery-turned Romance-turned-Suspense-returned to Cozy, returns once again to Suspense. It would be a major step forward for me if I could just nail down the genre. I chickened out of total seclusion.
Then I found a renovated narrow gauge railcar in New Mexico—complete with a claw-foot soaker tub with a view. Soaker tubs have higher backs, and may also be called slipper tubs. The only thing wrong with this rental was the fact that the outdoor hot tub was not private. I guess that means it was not quite remote enough. I needed something in between the secluded solar shack and the relaxing railcar.
I revisited some of the more memorable places I’ve vacationed recently, cabins in Ruidoso and Oregon, condos on the beach in Navarre, a yurt in Hot Springs. Humm…maybe another visit to the yurt. I checked, and it was booked. So I looked at a couple of really cool places in Hot Springs. One of the places was a renovated garage. Another was a quaint attic apartment. Neither panned out. Then I decided to try eastern cabins and stumbled on to a site where each of their cabins were dog friendly, and six were also cat friendly. During this process I found out the reason many places are not cat-friendly, is because of the dander.
Because I am me, and love the planning process, I made charts comparing all the amenities, cost, and availability of the six cat-friendly cabins. Finally I settled on Laurel Knoll. I went to make the reservation, and hit major snags with the process. After two days of phone tags and volleys of instant messages, my last comment to the rental agent was my promise to not be high maintenance.
I stayed in a nearby town the night before check-in which was 3pm or later. No exceptions. It was a good thing because the night before, the weather turned rainy and cold and I realized my clogs were at home and the only shoes I had with me were the flip-flops I wore. As I took Bandit out to potty that night, I noticed a SAS (San Antonio Shoemakers) in the small strip mall next door. SAS is the only place I can find wide and double-wide shoes in stock. The next morning I stopped in and bought the most expensive pair of shoes I have ever worn, and a pair of socks. I was ready to drive the final hour to the cabin.
The driving instructions to the cabin told me to turn off my GPS when I arrived in Ellijay, the small town near my cabin. I dutifully did as instructed, and ended up driving in circles. Either this was another case of user error, or the instructions were not clearly written. Since I never found the road they listed (I ended finding the second street off of Main Street in the historical downtown), I am thinking perhaps it was not entirely me that was at fault. Before I stumbled onto the second street in the directions, I almost broke down and called the office. But I had promised. I was not going to be high maintenance. The third time I made the same loop, I realized I would have to call before the office closed, and it was getting close. I decided to make one more attempt on the road I was on, and then I found the place the road dead ended into a cross street. The instructions said it might not have a sign. The cross-street didn’t have a sign (this was good), but it was also a divided highway (this was not good). However, as often happens when I take a scenic tour before I came to a turn-around, I found something interesting—a sign pointing to the next turn in my directions. Somehow, against all odds, reading directions that did not name streets correctly, I had lucked onto the correct street!
I continued on, looking for the Emergency Response Building that was a landmark mentioned in the driving instructions. I never saw an Emergency Response Building; however, I did find a Fire Station. Close enough. The next named street was actually my next turn. When I came to the street where the instructions cautioned to drive slowly, but not slower than 10 mph, and definitely don’t stop because the grade was too steep, I laughed—this was not bad! It must have been paved since the instructions were written, or else what they called “gravel” in the Northern Mountains of Georgia, is really what we call pressed tar in Texas.
I shouldn’t have become cocky. The pressed tar road which was barely wide enough for one SUV, let alone two, had several blind curves—on the tops of rises. It was harrowing to say the least.
I found the steep gravel finally. It was actually a hairpin left-hand turn into the driveway to my cabin. I had arrived, and it was exactly as the video tour and photo slideshow had depicted it. Laurel Knoll was picture perfect. I nearly wept with relief.
Unfortunately, I did weep when I attempted to extract the house key from the lock-box. It had turned very cold and my frozen fingers were not cooperating. Blowing on my fingers, I warmed them up and finally, I retrieved the key and opened the door. I propped it open and unloaded the $140 of groceries I had purchased when I hit town, the small bag with pet food and dishes (even though the cabin furnished a dog bed, food and water dishes, and dog treats—my kind of “pet-friendly” abode), and my overnight bag. Everything else could wait to be unloaded. The food took several trips—I had been hungry when I shopped and bought way too much. I decided after I pottied Bandit, and set the pet feeding station and cat litter box up, my first order of business would be to make an early people dinner.
In preparation of my trip I had watched several recipes on you tube. For my first meal in the cabin I made a four cheese macaroni from scratch, green bean casserole (Mama never made this when I was growing up and in the last few years I have become obsessed with it), and a garlic pull apart bread. Even though I haven’t cooked in years, it all came together at the same time. In record time. I was feeling pretty cocky. The cockiness didn’t last long.
The next morning, I took Bandit outside and I grabbed the remainder of my luggage from the car, only to realize when I started back inside, I had locked myself out of the cabin. I was wearing my robe and PJs. I had my car keys. Luckily a second copy of the rental agency office telephone number was in my car. But my phone was locked inside the cabin. I looked around the front porch, tried all the windows and doors even though I knew they were all locked. Then I saw a second lockbox for the housekeeper. I tried my code, just in case. As expected, it didn’t work. My choices: drive to the rental office in my robe, or bother a neighbor. Again, in my robe. I opted for the neighbor since I didn’t have a clue where the office was located. When I sat in the SUV, I noticed my iPhone was still synced. I was going to avoid anyone seeing me in my robe. I dialed the number from the touch screen on my dash thanking Ford for overdoing the options (there are like seven different ways to perform every function involving the navigation, entertainment, and communication functions in my Escape). I was too quick to believe it would work. It didn’t.
So, off to the nearest neighbor with a car in the drive I went. I drove because the driveways are all treacherously steep. I pulled into one and a young girl was out on the porch in her PJs as well. She went for her Mother, who was also dressed in her PJs. It was still pretty early. I called the agency. The phone numbers didn’t work. But I knew they did, so I assumed they were vacationing as well and I dialed the number as a long distance number. Success! I told the office girl what I had done and she gave me two codes to try on the Housekeepers Lockbox. I also reported several problems: the cabin binder had been left on the screened porch by the last renters and it was soaked. I had found it that morning and had it drying on the hearth, but I could not find the instructions for the gas fireplace. Also, the microwave and kitchen light were not working. She told me to check the fuse box but was unsure where it might be. As for the fireplace, she told me it is activated by the thermostat. Easy Peasy.
The second housekeeping code worked. I found the fuse box (in the bedroom), but none of the fuses had been tripped. I checked the GFCI and that fixed the light above the sink and the microwave. I love two-fers.
I was feeling a little less high maintenance. Maybe medium maintenance. Until I tried to log on to the internet. Once again, the soggy cabin binder did not appear to have the internet instructions, so I called the office. Again. They told me what they thought it might be and said to call again if it didn’t work. So much for my not being high maintenance.
And making breakfast took longer than dinner the night before. Since it didn’t come together as well as dinner did the night before, I decided to start the prep-work for lunch (homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese) and dinner (cauliflower bread, roasted potatoes, leftover mac and cheese, and homemade apple turnovers). I don’t know what got into me, I never cook—yet here I was making all my meals from scratch. On my vacation.
I finally sat down and tried to log onto the internet after lunch. It only took three attempts before I got the right combination of characters. All I needed to do now was make a copy of the email with my soon to be worked on novel, and transfer it to a word document. Only, for some reason, I couldn’t make a copy. I’m so not tech savvy. I have no idea how to accomplish this task. So, rather than working on my novel, I’m watching the NCIS marathon. And cooking up all the remaining food.
So far the rest of my stay I have been the model, low-maintenance guest.