News

An interview with Johnnyjet.com

Thanks to johnnyjet.com for picking my brain on his Travel Style section’s  Interview with Travel Pros series. The first question people ask me when I tell them I’m a travel writer is, “What’s your favorite destination?” It’s a little like being asked, “Which child is your favorite?” Something that separates a traveler from a tourist are the stories we bring back and the interview touches on a few of those. Mastering how to pack, those must-have carry-on items and discovering those hidden off-the-beaten-path eating spots typically only locals manage to know about. Read about those plus hear my earliest and most embarrassing travel moments. Learn which country I encountered the friendliest people, meanest immigration officers, favorite World Heritage Site, fav hole in the wall and fancy restaurant as well as my favorite island, beach, American city, International city, travel book/show/movies/apps/blogs, websites, favorite airline, travel lounge, travel tips and more. Just click here. 

Destinations

Old Man Winter piles on 3 feet at A-basin.

IMG_6254Three feet of fresh new snow this past week made for terrific timing  for my latest piece on johnnyjet.com. Check out  Spring skiing at Arapahoe Basin. Johhnyjet.com is undergoing a new web design so excuse the dust (or my squishy face on my bio) for now while they clean things up.

News, Tips

Jet-setting with Johnnyjet.com

Photo

I’m honored to get to be a contributor to one of the world’s leading advice and travel deal websites, johnnyjet.com. My story, 10 tips for maximizing a family ski trip at Keystone Resort, Colorado published yesterday. If you only follow one travel site (well, two if you count mine), Johnnyjet.com is well worth adding to your newsfeed. John is one of the handful of travel writers whose day job is travel writing and he’s traveled  some 150,000 miles a year for over a decade.

His website offers a wealth of tips and is loaded with travel tools to help you become a travel expert yourself. He’s appeared  on TV from The Today Show, CNN, MSNBC to The Travel Channel, BBC Travel and Ellen, heard on a variety of radio travel shows and featured in Travel & Leisure, Forbes, USA Today, Outside Magazine and countless others.

I first met John when he was speaking on a panel of travel experts at the Los Angeles’ Times Travel Show around 2000. I approached him afterwards to ask how I could get into travel writing and he suggested Book Passage’s annual Travel and Photographer’s Conference in Corte Madera, CA. My first assignment there, “Scared Shitless on Safari”  landed in Traveler’s Tales’ best-selling travel anthology, Sand in My Bra & Other Misadventures: Funny Women Write from the Road. It was always a pleasure to share a table with John at travel press luncheons when I lived in Los Angeles.

John’s number one travel tip (especially when flying)  is to simply be nice to everyone. If you’ve met John, you’ll know without a doubt, that’s no act. You’ll find my story next to John’s piece on his recent trip to “Shingles Hell“, a passport stamp I’m unfortunate to also share. Thanks for the writing opportunity John and well wishes on a speedy recovery.

Gear

Yoga/Surfing retreat gear that strikes a stylish pose

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 7.54.52 PM

Ummmmm. Wondering what to pack for that yoga/surfing retreat like Shiva Rea’s upcoming Riding the Vinyasa Wave- a Prejuvanative Retreat at Wanderlust Festival February 23-March 1st at Turtle Bay Resort in Oahu, Hawaii?

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 5.54.52 PMHere are a few ideas that are sure to make a splash.Let’s start with the bag. Gaiam’s Tree of Wisdom Cargo Bag is roomy enough to hold any yoga mat, has an adjustable strap and roomy pocket for your water bottle, keys, and essentials so you can get to class hands free. Priced at just $19.98, it’s sheer genius.

 

 

 

 

 

WTE10333-thOne mat company that’s on a roll with its non-toxic (free of chloride, PVC or latex) is PurEarth’s 2 Ultimate 3mm yoga mat ($44.99) At 60% lighter than PVC mats, it’s ideal for travel. The closed cell design makes it bacteria and moisture resistant. Its ultimate grip traction means even in the sweatiest of Bikram classes it won’t turn into a slip n’ slide.

 

Styles that let you get down with your downward dog

Be Present’s agility pants ($65) AGILITY_PACIFIChave darts at the knees and back slits that let you kick up into handstand without splitting a seam. Low-rider, drawstring waist and a wick-away cotton/Lycra/spandex blend keeps you as cool as you look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 6.30.32 PM

 

Prana’s Dreaming Top ($69) sports a uniquely webbed back strap and shelf bra with removable cups.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 6.35.31 PM

 

And for those whose girls need a little more support than an elastic shelf, with a sports bra, top it off with Prana’s Ariel top  ($60)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 6.48.26 PM

 

Feel a breeze? Zip up in this Bright Stripe Strength fleece hoodie by Athleta ($118)  with two front kangaroo pockets perfect for things like your cold hands.

 

 

 
LW4D77S_014861_1

 

If fleece seems overkill, and all you need is a  coverup that will breathe, Lulumon’s Rollin’ with  my Omie’s Hoodie  ($108) is made of softy french  terry.

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 7.13.39 PM

 

Polish the whole look off with one of Prana’s seashells bucket hat ($39) 50+ USP, foldable for travel, mesh headband wicks away moisture, foam brim floats in water.  Wide brim keeps the harmful sunrays off and the good karma in.

 

Atheta.com is a great one-stop shopping site for yoga/surf wear. Their own house brand and select others feature designs that are as funky as they are functional.

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 7.29.28 PM

 

 

For après surfing, sport this Wick-it Wader Cover Up ($69) with UPF 50+ fabric.

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 7.34.13 PM

 

 

Athleta’s swimwear offers separate tops and bottoms for a better fit. This Tara halter tankini ($72) provides great support to ride thru the heaviest surf and your choice of swim bottoms-ebb, low, medium or full tide swimsuit bottoms or a variety of swim shorts and skirts.

 

 

 

Paired with a matching Colorblock stripe rashguard ($69Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 7.35.05 PM) and you’ll be hanging ten in style.

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 8.39.05 AM

 

 

 

Reef’s Sandy flip-flops ($28) were made for walkin’. That’s because they’ve got awesome arch support thanks to their durable high density outsole. Its brushed EVA footbed provides better traction.

 

HS295-03T

Looking this cool, you’ll need shades like these Nalani’s by Maui Jim ($279). 100% UV protection and sand/scratch resistant. Salute the sun in these and the sun may just salute you back. With so many stylish choices let’s finish with an, “Ummmmmm” what to buy first?

Destinations

Baja: Whale Touching

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 3.57.57 PM
There’s whale watching, then there’s whale touching.

Magdalena Bay, Mexico  I’d been on my share of whale watching trips from Southern California all the way up the coast to Alaska and never spotted more than a blurry gray mass through binoculars.

This was different. The trip marked my last chance to travel kid-free as once I returned, I was to embark upon the arduous journey of trying to conceive via the fertility path as a single mom. (Read Last Call). It was an opportunity to not just whale watch but actually reach down and touch one from a small skiff boat in Magdalena Bay near Baja, Mexico. A photo opportunity for sure and I came armed with both still and video cameras.

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 3.18.36 PM

We’d gone over how to operate my video camera again and again. The plan was I’d operate my still camera, my friend and kayak partner Lori, my video camera. This must-do add-on excursion was what I was looking forward to more than the week-long kayak trip with Sea Kayak Adventures in Baja we’d just finished up.

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 3.20.37 PMDon’t get me wrong, the kayak trip was great insofar as sleeping out in the blistering heat of the desert, not bathing for a week, and having to pack up your loo in a kayak goes. No one organizes a trip like SKA. Guides are great. Food terrific.

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 3.21.52 PM

You’re given a packing list that if adhered to, covers all the bases and fits neatly in the provided waterproof bags. And even if you don’t know which end of a kayak paddle is up, the instruction given allows you to hold your own for a week out on the water without worry.

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 3.21.25 PM
Sea kayaking the clear turquoise waters of the Sea of Cortez

My friend I’d gone with, Lori, greeted each day with something along the lines of, “this is the best vacation I’ve ever been on.” And me, “I’m too old to camp, my back is in agony.”

280x187xtent,P20view300,P20C.Roose_.jpg,qitok=3Hd3WNFt.pagespeed.ic.hMY6-fGBw7

I was just biding my time until we got back to Loreto and could venture out to finally see a whale. While kayaking, in the Sea of Cortez side of Baja, we could see whale mist off in a distance but no close encounters.

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 3.56.38 PM

Finally back in town, showered, rested and off to the other side of Baja’s narrow strip of land, to the bay we headed. What was explained to me is that the whales are motivated to come up to the little skiffs to scratch their itchy barnacles on the boat’s bottom. Kind of like a floating back scratcher. It apparently brings some relief to the long journey these gray whales make 5000 miles from the Bering Strait to mate and bear their young in the protected waters of Magdalena Bay.

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 3.21.03 PM
A Baja sunset never disappoints

Not 20 minutes into the excursion, as we neared the deeper waters, like a slow-motion ride at Disneyland, this massive whale surfaced and floated almost stationary for several minutes. I snapped away on my Nikon camera, entrusting Lori to follow suit with what could only have been the best footage ever captured on my video camera.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw my trusted friend toss my video camera onto the boat seat, lunge towards the whale giggling like a schoolgirl to touch the whale. She’d completely aborted any plan of capturing this moment on film and even sat on my expensive sunglasses in the giddiness of the moment, bending the frames.

After the whale dipped back under Lori went on and on. “Did you feel how spongy the skin felt? Wasn’t that cool?” She asked, grinning ear to ear.

No I hadn’t. I sulked the whole way back miffed she hadn’t captured so much as a nanosecond once-in-a-lifetime footage on my camera.

lorimayfield-51d9b9141462bb0
Me (blue visor, left) fiddling with my camera missing the sheer joy of the whale experience

 

Then, this past week I was reading a touch-n-feel book to my precious three-month old son that involves uncurling his little fist to touch the smooth, slippery skin of a whale. Ames kicked his legs and waved his arms up and down squealing in delight. The movie that played in my mind was of me in Magdalena Bay and now wondering if I’d been the one in the wrong. I’d been stuck behind my camera lens trying to harpoon a photo but missing the childhood delight of feeling the skin of a rubbery spongy gray mama whale.

IF YOU GO:   Seakayakadventures.com

Magdalena Bay & Sea of Cortez Combo Trip

$1575 adults, $1417 children 12+

This story originally was published on divinecaroline.com. I have to chuckle looking back at stories I wrote right after having my son are in an altered state of pospartum nirvana. 

Destinations

Sundance Mountain Resort: Where art meets skiing.

IMG_6896
Mt. Timpanagos , Sundance Mountain Resort, Utah

Say “Sundance” and most people think celebrity spottings and movie buffs bustling Main street at the film festival which actually takes place in Park City, Utah. Few people know Sundance itself is a hidden gem of a resort located about an hour’s drive from Park City nestled just beneath Mt. Timpanogos near Provo, Utah.

In fact, cliché as they may be, the words nestled and hidden gem are as deserving to Sundance than any ski resort I can think of. In winter, it’s more than a place to avoid the crowds and long lines found at many other ski resorts. You won’t boast the most vertical feet skied in a day or find umpteen speed quads or gondolas. What you will find, among other unique offerings, is peace and quietude in a gorgeous setting.

0120620_mandan-29-0611_copy

If Goldilocks were going skiing (or snowboarding for that matter) she’d want to stay in Sundance’s cabin lodges. The western and Native American influenced décor with a flavor of “the three bears will be coming home any minute” is just right. You can choose from a small studio cottage or if you’re bringing the whole family, one of the larger mountain homes for let. The layout of the resort is unlike anything normally bearing the name resort. It blends in with the aspen groves and spectacular postcard-esque mountain scenery.

0120620_pine_haven-02-0678

Named after the movie that put Robert Redford on the map, Sundance was built in keeping with environmental conservation and artistic experimentation. Après ski activities include spinning a pottery bowl, glass blowing or making jewelry. I opted for the latter and hammered out a silver ring with a purple amethyst semi precious stone under the direction of one of the resident jewelry artisans. Just as much fun as making snow angels and lasts longer.

Art_Studio_Gallery
Sundance Art Studio

And the spa at Sundance? I can still hear the Indian flutes, babbling brook meditation fountain and smell the aroma of burning sage. I tried not to break wind during my four-winds massage (something about altitude and someone kneading my buttocks does that to me). Spa treatments are American Indian themed with names like the Sage and Sweetgrass rub or the Turtle Balancing treatment based on a Navajo legend.

Massage-1

I lived in Salt Lake City a decade ago and used to make the Foundry Grill buffet a destination on Sundays for brunch. Buffets typically make me cringe (tasting more like sterno fluid than anything else) but Sundance’s is not to be missed. The award winning Tree Room (named for the tree growing up through the center of the restaurant) serves exceptional mountain cuisine and showcases Redford’s private Native American Art collection. With dishes like Buffalo Pot Au Feu for a beginning, and Grilled Elk Loin or American Pancetta Wrapped trout for an entrée topped off with Pluot Crisp with Homemade Roasted Almond Ice Cream, you won’t be getting cabin fever anytime soon.

Foundry_Grill
Foundry Grill Restaurant

Sundance offers some of the best Women’s specialty clinics for skiing and boarding. I went to finesse both my skiing and boarding form. I’ve skied since I was a kid and boarded the past 10 years but had heard great things about the alpine instruction program. I skied one day and boarded the next. Workshops will even videotape you to fine tune your form. There was marked improvement on my technique from both lessons proving you can teach an old ski dog some new tricks. Just to round out the weekend, I also added in a day of Cross-country skiing in Sundance’s 26-kiometers of pristine backcountry trails. They also offer 10 kilometers of dedicated snowshoeing trails.

contentBlock_3981

If the name Sundance conjures up the famous Sundance catalog, you’ll appreciate the General Store on the resort property with handcrafted Native American and western-style jewelry, home décor and casual apparel. I scored some hand-spun coffee mugs to bring a little bit of Sundance to my java back home.

Owl_Bar_2_Matt_Morgan
Owl Bar

Nightlife at Sundance is pretty atypical as well. Sure you can grab a drink in the Owl Bar but for something more unusual, don’t miss winter star gazing or birding in search of night owls. And Friday is Film night in the Nature Center where you’re sure to catch an award-winning flick from the namesake film festival.

See website for other calendar events from everything from photography lessons to other writing workshops.  For a sleepy resort not on most people’s radar, Sundance has lots to shout about.

If you go:   Sundance Resort

This story was originally published on divinecaroline.com. I’ve since returned with my son in tow and plan to publish that piece here. Sundance is a terrific spot for families, couples or a girlfriends getaway spa retreat.

 

 

 

Destinations

ALTA: A favorite for skiers

0a4e4920-2982-4b4c-ba95-34f72ee401a7
                                                                                          Alta, Utah

Alta ski resort in Utah has long been referred to as the locals favorite so I asked a local riding up the chairlift if he skis anywhere besides Alta. “If I do, I feel like I’m cheating on my wife.” He said.

He went on to compare the various resorts in the area. “Deer Valley’s a bunch of corduroy groomed trails. It’s ribbed for her enjoyment.”

Most would argue, there’s not a bad place to ski in Utah and certainly Alta is the choice for many. It’s old school skiing at its best and holds out as one of the few resorts in the country that doesn’t allow snowboarding. I kept quiet that I do both.

Barring snowboarders isn’t the only reason locals love it. “The greatest snow on earth” is the moniker on Utah license plates. Rightfully so. It’s something about the desert air mixing with altitude that produces talcum powder-like snow conditions. It isn’t the Sierra cement we get in my home state of California.

Bella-Coola-04
                           Powder so deep you practically need a snorkel to breathe.

And there’s something about where Alta is positioned in Little Cottonwood Canyon. People joke that the powder gets so deep there you need a snorkel to breathe. Those a bit timid of steep and deep powder can find groomed trails at Alta.

Alta_Lodge_Utah
                                                                                   Alta Lodge

Alta Lodge is a throwback to skiing of yesteryear—reminding me of places I stayed in as a kid in Europe, where I learned to ski. Room rates which start at $129 in low season up to $533 in high season include breakfast and dinner. Alta Lodge’s dining room is family style. If you’re traveling solo as I was, you’re seated with others which makes visiting alone not so lonely. (You can also request a private table if you prefer.)

Alta_Lodge_Dining_Room80% of visitors there are repeat guests and it’s easy to see why. There’s nothing pretentious about Alta Lodge. It doesn’t try too hard because it doesn’t have to. There are no TVs in the rooms which encourages guests to mingle and interact. You will find some subtle frills like Aveda bath products in the bathroom. It’s got hot water, it’s clean. Ski in ski out. Food is decent to good. And I concur, it is the best snow on earth. What more do you want?

Alta_Lodge_East_RoomBecause they don’t over groom the area, it produces some of the best moguls of anywhere I’ve ever skied. I jumped at the chance to take one of the renowned mogul workshops. Having spent more time in recent years on a snowboard, I’d practically forgotten how to ski them.

An hour into the class, thighs on fire, I remembered how much fun they be. The Alf Engen ski school is world-class. And while the guy I talked to on the lift may think of Alta as a man’s place to ski, it has lots to offer women. The ski area’s website lists lots of ski camps specially designed for women.

Even if you’ve skied as long as I have there’s always room for improvement. Nothing makes for a great ski trip than feeling like you’ve improved your technique. What I learned too is you don’t have to be a local to make Alta your favorite ski spot too.

IF YOU GO:  Visit altalodge.com or alta.com

This story originally was published on divinecaroline.com. I’ve since returned with my son in tow and will be adding a new story here at globetrotter.com soon!

Lodging

Itching for home

Exterior1

Few would argue, when you’re sick, the only place you want to be is home in your own bed. But if you’re stuck a continent away, as I was in Europe with the stomach flu, there is one place that’s the next best thing to being home. The hotel d’Angleterre in Geneva Switzerland. It’s part of the small leading luxury hotels of the world situated on the shore of Lake Geneva with stunning views of the Jet d’Eau and Alps.

Junior Suite 1
                                       Each bedroom is individually decorated to the hilt.

I’d just finished trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc, a 10-day trek through the Alps of Switzerland, Italy, Germany and France. I was not only physically spent from what would have been grueling under healthy circumstances but I’d caught a nasty stomach bug towards the end of the trek. My innards were wrung out. It was all I could do to make the train ride from Chamonix, France to Geneva, catch a cab and collapse on my hotel bed without hurling en route.

I had one night in Geneva before returning home to Los Angeles. I had envisioned, taking advantage of the hotel’s close proximity to what had been touted as the best shopping in Geneva. I would venture no further than the lobby during my stay. It isn’t often you stay at a hotel and actually stay put.

PublicWindows1
                     The Stunning view of Lake Geneva from The Windows Restaurant

Built in 1872, the hotel maintains its historic Swiss regal tradition while embracing all the technology a savvy business traveler demands—high speed wireless Internet and five-star service. My suite was comfy and inviting with impeccable attention to detail. The linens and wall coverings were gorgeously appointed, the way I’d hire a decorator to do my own room if I could afford an interior designer.

They’d e-mailed me a questionnaire before I left home asking a series of questions such as duvet and pillow preference—even my favorite color (red). My room was red all right, floor to ceiling, but not nauseatingly so. (Believe me, in my condition, I would know.) The suite included a small living area with coffee table books on the history of the area. I picked up a few and went into the bathroom where I would spend most of the next 24 hours.

DA_Premium_006
If you’ve got to have the stomach flu while on the road, there’s no nicer place to be than here.

I drew my bathwater in the oversized spa tub and climbed in. The bathroom was spacious and beautiful enough to have been lifted from the pages of Architectural Digest magazine. I’m a toiletries snob so I was impressed to see deluxe size Penhaligon’s toiletries and floating votive candles for the bath.

My aching muscles that had canvassed four countries in the past 10 days melted in the hot steam. I flipped through the coffee table books trying not to get the pages wet, sipped my sparkling water and moaned and groaned in agony. It was a blissful misery. My stomach and intestines hurt, I had zero energy but I was content in my surroundings. A Mecca if you will for the stomach flu. Fluffy robes, plenty of towels including a towel warmer. A separate shower with steam and plenty of chilled mineral water.

The bathroom also was appointed with a bidet. I spent an hour staring across the room trying to envision how one is used. I mean, I know it’s intended to clean privates but I never knew how exactly you’re supposed to use one. I can halfway understand using one in the privacy of your own home but I’ve seen them in public bathrooms in Europe too and couldn’t imagine using one there.

I figure you’d have to take your pants off completely in order to straddle the thing. What if the spray of water missed and hit your shirt or soaked your socks? The hotel TV had a tutorial on how to use the TV, why didn’t it include one on how to use the bidet? Surely Europeans must hand down that information from generation to generation. There was a lot to ponder during my almost two hour bath. I only got out when my fingers had completely pruned.

PublicLObservatoire1
I looked out over lake Geneva while the mosquitos made their way into my hotel room window.

I managed to get myself up to go to dinner. I figured I needed some nourishment to make it up for my early flight the next morning. Before heading down to dinner, I made the grave mistake of opening my windows which faced lake Geneva to let in some fresh air.

I hadn’t factored in the time of year—mid summer and the large body of still water or the millions of mosquitoes that saw this as an open invitation to come on in by the swarms.

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 3.50.21 PM
                 Let’s make a run for it, while she’s at dinner.

While the mosquitoes were setting up the all-night party in my suite, I shuffled into the hotel’s renowned Windows restaurant. It was recently recognized by the prestigious Gault & Millau guide for 2006 as one of the top restaurants in Geneva. I will have to take their word for it as my meal consisted of some vegetable broth, a few nibbles of a dinner roll and a 7-Up. Sadly, that was all I could stomach under the circumstances.

I returned to my room after dinner to the gazillions of invisible mosquitoes. Warm with the night air, I changed into a nightie and went to sleep. This is when the mosquitoes awoke, gave the high sign and proceeded to suck much of the blood from my body. I awoke the next morning covered head to toe in mosquito bites.

My stomach bug was at its worst. I had diarrhea so bad, I was afraid I’d not be able to last the fifteen-minute taxi ride to the airport. I found a Lomotil pill covered in lint in my cosmetic bag and popped it hoping it would plug me up long enough to make it to my plane.

I made it onboard and thankfully, the Lomotil worked but there was a bigger problem. I had no anti-itch cream. Taking a closer look in the airplane bathroom mirror, I could see I was covered in spots. I looked like I had the measles.

I sat scratching my Swiss souvenirs wishing I were back in the hotel d’Angleterre bathtub full of cool calamine lotion.

If you go:  Hotel d’Angleterre

Tales

Caution: Low Clearance

inno_multi_fork_lock_roof_bike_rack1

After a day of mountain biking I tend to drive my car as if still on my bike— leaning into the twists and turns down winding Sunset Boulevard. Late for a party recently, this seemed to be working in my favor as I made it home in record time.

I pulled into the garage only to be startled by a thunderous crash from above. Oblivious to the cause, I backed my car up. This produced another alarming noise of crunching metal meeting aluminum and pieces of plastic shattering. The horror hit me. I’d just driven my brand new $1500 mountain bike mounted to my Saab’s roof rack into the garage.

My first thought wasn’t, “What damage have I done to my bike, car or garage?” but instead, “Oh God, I hope no one saw that!” Mortified, I bolted from the car.

If the loudness was any indicator, my car, bike or garage should have been totaled. By some Angel of Moronic Mishap Mercy, my car had only superficial scratches; the bike — a broken reflector; the roof rack — a broken wheel clip.

Now for the garage door – I braced myself and pushed the remote. A rumble suggested something still worked. The two-car garage door wobbled back and forth a bit but managed to shut.

I dashed upstairs to call my friend Shepard, who I was meeting at the party, to inform him of my catastrophe. “Oh honey, don’t feel bad,” he tried to comfort me, “I dropped my cell phone in a urinal last week…yes, after I’d used it …I’d have left it but all my decorating clients were logged in it so I had to fetch it out.” I felt a bit better.

A few days later a visit to a bike shop netted a bike repair at $30, the roof rack $20. Not bad.   The damage was looking pretty minimal.

Then a few weeks later, as I was getting out of my car, my landlord approached me. “Lori, do you know why your garage door is crooked?”

A long pause followed during which time I considered saying I had no idea shifting blame on the neighboring tenant with whom I share the garage. But instead I blurted out, “That’s because I hit it.”

“You hit it?” he echoed, aghast.

“Yes, I had my bike on top of my car.”

“The hinge is going to give any day and come crashing down on the cars. It must be fixed.”   He said sternly.

An even longer pause followed.

“Would you like me to pay for it?” I cowered.

“Well, was it an accident?”

“Well yes.” I answered, wondering if he thought I might actually do such a thing deliberately.

“Why don’t we split it,” he offered.

I was stunned at his generosity. “That’s very nice of you.”

He walked away only to return minutes later as I was unloading groceries from the trunk. “Lori,” he paused (I shuddered at what might come next) “I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your honesty.”

“Thank-you,” I melted.

That feeling could well be worth whatever this was going to cost I thought for a minute. Maybe two.

But what would a garage door cost? A few days later, the landlord informed me the estimate was a whopping $759. Was that the price of being honest? Or the price of being dumb enough to drive my car into the garage?

I wondered if my renter’s or car insurance would cover any of it. I had both policies through USAA.

I phoned them and got a recording. I was stumped, should I press two for renter’s insurance or three for auto claims? I pressed two. I told my tale of idiocy to the agent who asked, “Was the vehicle moving?”

“Well, yeah until it came to an abrupt stop right about when the bike made contact with the garage.”

She’d have to transfer me to auto claims as this was a “moving violation.”

“Were you wearing a seatbelt?” the next agent wanted to know.

At less than a mile an hour I didn’t see the point, but answered yes. She transferred me again to someone else so they could record my testimony.

“Was there any bodily injury?” the fourth agent asked.

“Just my pride” I answered. Not the least bit amused, she informed me my case would be reviewed and I’d get a letter in the mail.

The letter came.

California law requires we determine who was responsible for an accident and notify you if the driver of your vehicle was principally at fault (at least 51%). 

Was it possible if I drive my vehicle into a building, that someone else could be to blame? Like who or what? Could it be my bike’s fault for not ducking? The garage’s for not yelling, “Stop!”

The letter went on.

This accident occurred when the driver of your vehicle [okay that would be me, just say it] struck a stationary object [the garage, we can handle it]. Unfortunately, based on these facts, the driver of your vehicle was determined to be principally [okay, so not totally] at fault because under California law, a driver is responsible for steering clear of any obstacles.

Under another state’s law, like say Kentucky, could a stationary object be held accountable?

At any rate, there it was on the books. Here in California the garage was 49% guilty.

I phoned USAA to see about filing a claim. For property damage, there’s no deductible. But if the claim is over $500, my insurance rates go up $804 a year for three years. Ouch. I asked the agent if my landlord only holds me accountable for $499 would my insurance rates still go up?

“But didn’t you say the bill was for $759?” the agent asked.

“It is,” I explained. “That’s what the garage repair company will charge my landlord. If my landlord only holds me accountable for $499, and gives me a bill in that amount, would that suffice as a receipt for USAA? “

“Yes,” she answered. And “no,” my rates would not then go up.

The landlord was fine with this plan. I faxed off his $499 invoice and received a check the following week. Then I told my landlord, while I thought it was generous of him to offer to share the remaining cost, there was really no reason he should have to pay for any of this as in my mind I was 100% at fault.

He insisted he was getting a new garage door that would hold up longer than the previous one and convinced me we should split the cost of what USAA didn’t cover. $130 a piece. Fair enough. I wrote him a check.

All in all, the damage wasn’t too bad to my checkbook or, thanks to California law, to my pride. It still pays to be honest and a little ingenuity can temper a bout of absentmindedness.

Now when I drive home from mountain biking, I still lean into the twists and turns of the road but repeating my new post-cycling mantra “My bike is on top of my car, my bike is on top of my car.”

This story originally was published on divinecaroline.com