Confessions of a Sonoran
This is one in a series of articles designed to provide travelers with the discovery of the bed and breakfast experience. The author has drawn on “real life” people, events and actions on which to base these stories. All names have been changed to protect the innocent and any similarities to occurrences known or otherwise, are purely coincidental.
From All Around the World
A few months ago, we ran an article focused on guests who have come to us from every state in the union. One reader wanted to know if we had guests visiting from other countries. Yes, our bed and breakfast has hosted guests from all over the world as well!
We’ve had quite a few from Western Europe; Germany, France Italy, Belgium, Great Britain, Scotland, Ireland, Switzerland and Austria. Travelers from Eastern Europe have found our little neck of the desert too; Poland, Czeck Republic, St. Petersburg, Russia, and Bosnia.
One couple, Carmella & Yvonne arrived here from Bosnia on a ministry mission. Carmella was to guest preach at one of our churches in the Foothills for a Sunday service. During the week, he presented a number of sermons to the Bosnia refugee populace whose numbers here in the Valley are said to approach 8,000 individuals. Now, as before, the U.S. serves as a safe harbor for those seeking protection from a hostile government in transition.
Our neighbor to the north, Canada has seen fit to send us visitors from all provinces, B.C. to Nova Scotia. One of the most descriptive places has been a town in Saskatchewan called Moose Jaw! Moose there are as plentiful as coyotes are here in Cave Creek. Our guest, Paula, told us about her summer experience of watching a cow moose and her offspring feed in the shallows of a lake, submerging for algae and grazing on the nearby brush and moss. Sure beats watching coyotes scavenging for road-kill!
We’ve also had guests from Central & South America; including Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia and Argentina. This always serves as a good exercise for me to brush up on my rusty Spanish speaking skills, long over due for a tune-up from my college days. Buenas dias mi amigos!
From the land down under? Yes, we’ve had them from Perth, Sydney and Melbourne as well as from Christchurch and Tasmania! We’ve got to try heli-skiing in New Zealand someday.
Most exotic place? That would be Bangkok, Thailand, where Wolfgang and Sheila herald from. Their bi-annual trips are always as much a treat for us as for them. They typically bring back raw silk scarves and teak boxes as mementos from their motherland to thank us for our hospitality.
Most unusual place? This, hands down, goes to Mongolia, Asia. Jurgal and Anat, interns on a Nature Conservancy educational exchange study project were shy, well mannered and a perfect delight! Their mission here was to talk to ranchers to gain a perspective in grazing strategies to help preserve and conserve natural land resources. They told us about living in their small villages where horse-drawn wagons and carts were the norm, and automobiles were the novelty! Electricity consisted of a single electrical cord that passed through town where businesses and residents tapped into for power. The trip to the nearest airport to bring them to the U.S. took a full two days by horse-drawn wagon to the city of Ulan Bator, the largest city in the country. While they were here they were taken to a local Safeway. This brought shrieks of amazement and awe from them. They couldn’t comprehend how an enterprise like this was possible as there is no equivalent for that in their country. The diversity of food products and sundry items was an educational experience in itself! Imagine not knowing about a potato chip or the shock of seeing ready-made salads in a bag!
Yes, our little B&B has brought us bragging rights for guests hosted from around the world. Stop by and view our world map—we’ve got it staked from all over. Draw up a chair, pour a cup-a-coffee and we’ll share some of our best guest stories with you!
Housekeeping Forensics 101
With the popularity of all the “CSI” shows on television – CSI Las Vegas, CSA Miami, CSI New York, CSI Yuma – it is no surprise that even the humble innkeeper has been bitten by the bug to don the Sherlock Holmes pipe on the quest to solve the riddles of the room occupants. It’s fascinating to ponder the high-tech ways the Perfect Crime inevitably unravels under mass-spectrometer analysis, DNA testing, and dusting the nightstand with magic powders. I find myself looking for clues in the form of discarded fortune-cookie slips or smudges of lipstick on tissues, even though I haven’t found myself in the vicinity of actual wrongdoing for months.
There is nothing more sacred in our industry than the guest’s privacy. Well, OK, maybe revenue per available room (RevPAR) is more sacred, but guest privacy is way up there. It’s only after the guest leaves that we get to speculate on the events of the past 24 hours in the Saguaro Suite. And by putting on our housekeeping apron, we’re always the first on the scene. Sometimes Interpol has to be contacted, but most of the time the evidence is just recorded, sorted according to guest type and it’s onto the next room.
Some clues are simply too easy…empty liquor bottles, discarded matchbook on the nightstand, blankets and pillows in the vicinity of the toilet. No challenge there. But every now and then there’s an interesting case to cogitate, to the whine of the industrial vacuum, and the squeak of the linen cart.
Case # 147: bed not slept in, one empty pot of coffee, no complimentary coffee bags remaining, wastebasket full of crumpled pencil sketches of shoes. Insomniac foot fetish? Pressured shoe designer? After my shift I’d have to scour the town for shoemakers and establish surveillance at the Spirit of the West boot shop.
Case # 195: scattered belongings, TV left on, forgotten cell phone charger left plugged into wall socket. An obvious quick exit. Tipped off to police raid? Arrival of angry ex-wife? I would check the local court records for unpaid alimony, and examine clothing for the reflective paint used in making license plates.
Case #272: discarded bag and wrappers from Trader Joes, remnants of bean spouts in the mini fridge, left behind leotard and wrinkled Curves brochure. Health enthusiast? Or female facing mid-life issues? Requires a trip to the nearest Dairy Queen or Cold Stone Creamery to evidence backslide and subsequent remorse.
The best part is, there are new cases every day! Some get solved, some don’t, but the thrill of the hunt makes it a lot better when I have to spend my hours removing dried toothpaste from the lav top and wiping up hairs from the sink and shower. And most of the time, I don’t have to report my findings to anyone, which is a lot less hassle than the real world.
The problem is, there’s no way to earn an actual shiny badge!
From Every State in the Union
You see them everyday on the highway, RV’s with the states of the union plastered on the back of the vehicle. It’s been the custom of road warriors that have explored the highways and byways of our nation to display the decals of states they have visited on their vehicles as much as a statement of where they have been as to commemorate the roads they have traveled. This way they get to celebrate the discoveries of each leg of their trip and make a declarative statement on the distances they’ve covered since they left home.
As innkeepers, we stay put and let the states come to us… Well at least the people who come from those various states, that is. When we first started the bed and breakfast in 2003, we inherited a 3’ x 4’ map of the United States that was mounted on the wall of the little office that serves as our check-in area for guests. The map sported about 150 straight pins with colorful plastic heads that indicated where guests came from. This was a simple and fun attempt to learn where we drew many of our guests from as our B&B gained recognition and popularity as a boutique lodging property. The more guests we hosted, the more the US map resembled a well-used pincushion. Many of the pins were located in the northeast seaboard area from as far south as Virginia to as far north as Maine. Pins in Florida and the southeast were plentiful as well. The Midwest was pierced from St. Louis to Duluth. California and Colorado were well represented too. In fact, the mainland states looked like one giant paint spatter. With guests coming from Hawaii, Alaska and the Caribbean, our map was getting “stuck” all over. With one exception: Alabama. We had no visitors from the Crimson Tide state!
Why was it that we had no one from the Heart of Dixie? What kind of marketing would it take to get guests here from Alabama? How long would Alabama remain pinless? Finally, on a cold winter night in early 2006, Susie a resident from Oneonta, AL called and booked a weekend with us in March. Yeaaaaa! There was hope for Alabama yet!
When the weekend in March finally arrived and our Alabama guests walked in, we ceremoniously greeted them and then gifted them a free room upgrade. They were thrilled! We memorialized the moment by snapping a digital photo of them putting their pin in the state of Alabama. They in turn gifted us with a plasma-cut sign reading “Alabama” for our milepost sign pole.
Finally, all the states on the map had pins in them! We had achieved accommodating guests from every state in the union! And so our guests continue to dot our map with color, and get a thrill doing so. Such a simple declaration of being! Okay! So now where do I put that map of the world???
Karen S. Friend is the innkeeper/business manager of Spur Cross Bed and Breakfast in the beautiful Sonoran Foothills of Cave Creek, AZ. Established in May 2003, the innkeepers welcome your comments, questions and reservations at www.spurcrossbnb.com.
Six Degrees of Separation
There is nothing like serendipity to make a holiday trip even more enjoyable. As innkeepers for the last four years, it never ceases to amaze us how small this world truly is. Our breakfast table is the magical grounds where people discover that their paths have previously crossed. We are a small B&B, and one would naturally think the occurrence of having people realize they know or are acquainted with someone else who is staying here at the same time would be negligible. However, when it comes to gathering at the breakfast table family-style, we must admit there have been quite a number of six degrees of separation incidences!
Take our guest Terry and his wife who have been coming to see us every other month for over a year. At the breakfast table just last month, Terry was talking to a female guest, Barbara, 25 years his junior. After establishing that they were both from St. Louis, Barbara asked Terry for his last name. After he told her, she excitedly said, “Oh, I was a friend of your daughter, Mimi! Throughout high school, I used to come over to your house after school to practice our cheerleading routines. You built dune buggies and Mimi and I would cruise around in them when practice was over!” Terry could not believe that this woman had indeed been a friend of his daughter’s. After breakfast they hurriedly called Mimi on the phone and told her of the coincidence of their meeting so far from home and at a remote B&B in Cave Creek, Arizona!
On another occasion, Heidi and her husband John were sitting at the breakfast table talking about the escape from their two small children who were left at “nana’s.” They discussed how they haven’t had much occasion to be away from their children since they had moved from their hometown of Minneapolis, MN where they had family who could watch their children. Another couple at the table stated they were from Minneapolis as well. As they discussed the urban area they hailed from, they discovered they lived around the corner from each other and knew many mutual friends!
Just over a year ago, a young professional woman, Susan, working for a Fortune 500 company won an incentive trip to Arizona and stayed at our B&B. While relaxing and enjoying her time away from the cold winds of Chicago, another guest, Paul, struck up a conversation with her and told her about a cousin who relocated to Chicago after completing his post graduate work. It turns out that Paul’s cousin and Susan are working for the same company and even report to the same department head!
Then there was the Jeff, the retired college professor from Northwestern, who sat next to another guest, Holly, at the breakfast table. Halfway through breakfast they discovered that Jeff’s son had married her sorority sister! Small, small world!
The thin threads that tie our respective lives together are fragile, mysterious, but yet so powerful! As innkeepers, we watch this happen over and over and smile. We know that magic takes place here in countless ways, and we are privileged and blessed to witness the unfolding when it does. Come on by, feel the magic!
Be a Cowgirl (or Cowboy) in the Desert Foothills
"No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle," once said Winston Churchill, and "in the saddle" is one of the most exciting ways to explore the beauty of the Desert Sonoran Foothills. The crisp fall morning climate lends to a variety of outdoor activities and riding horseback through Spur Cross Conservation area and the Tonto National Forest is a truly wonderful experience. Coyotes, javalina, and bobcat sightings are possible, as the creatures begin to prepare their habitats for the cooler winter days and nights. Feel the cool breeze while galloping across the unspoiled land of a desert wash or the trails in the shadow of Elephant Butte Mountain.
Sunset and evening rides offer magnificent views of an orange-cast landscape as the sun sets on the west. Those longing for a taste of the old west may opt for an overnight ride with Windwalker Tours, one of our outfitters that will take you in the surrounding hills beyond Black Canyon City. Everything needed for an overnight horseback adventure is provided - simply bring along a toothbrush and a bedroll.
Riders of all ages and ability levels are welcome to experience the freedom of riding horseback in the desert with Spur Cross Stables. This outfit offers trail rides through the Tonto National Forest where you can see Petroglyphs, Native American Rock art or just enjoy the lush growth of the Mesquite, Saguaro and high desert terrain. Ride lengths range from one to four and a half hours. Some services are by reservation only, so please plan ahead.
Guests at Spur Cross Bed and Breakfast have come from as far as the U.K. to experience the thrill of riding in our high desert. After a riding experience, enjoy a nice, hot soak in the 7-person Jacuzzi tub on our property. It is simply heaven to have the water jets ease the kinks and then relax the over-worked muscles. At night you’ll be treated to the wide expanse of the starry sky. A glance overhead will yield you a glimpse of the Milky Way; then try picking out your favorite constellation. As a final indulgence, you might be treated to seeing a shooting star! Then its back to the room to relax after the soak and enjoy a good movie on satellite TV or open up a book for escape. A good night’s sleep awaits you on our wonderfully comfortable mattresses. You wake up refreshed and ready for the next adventure. Maybe you’ll be ready to ride Greased Lightning on your next ride!
Our cat is all smiles!
Admitting when you've been wrong is not a talent that comes easily to most folks, myself included. Worse yet is to not know when you've chosen the wrong approach to a problem, stubbornly persisting with a rationale that appears to be beyond dispute - but turns out to be indisputably wrong.
The chill of winter, too many late-night raids on the kibble bowl, and just plain laziness - these were the reasons our cat Chelsea was being so lethargic. With her weight increasing and my patience in decline, I begged and cajoled and even yelled. "Stop being so lazy!" was my refrain, as she buried her head beneath the couch cushions rather than being the lovable greeting mascot of our B&B.
Of course, the apologetic tone of this column should have already set the stage for the real truth: Chelsea had been beleaguered by tooth and gum decay. With her age of 12 years, it was inevitable that she might have problems in her senior years with her teeth.
In retrospect, my crime was one that everyone knows to avoid: seeing the situation through the mirror of my own foibles, I transferred my personal concerns to an external situation. I'm the one who doesn't like getting up on cold, chilly mornings; the midnight cookies were on my plate; the desire to just sit around and not be active was not Chelsea’s wish, it was mine.
Fortunately, this malady was corrected - her tooth surgery took place and after 6 teeth were extracted and her gums were treated and healed, we’ve witnessed a tremendous recovery: her spirit and mobility have improved and her fur coat is now soft and silky. My lingering guilt has tripled the number of tummy rubs, and each day I apologize for my mistake.
But is this just the tale of a cat who needed medical attention? Of course not - it's an abject example of a person who didn't look for the real cause of a problem, who made an incorrect assumption based on personal bias and faulty reasoning.
Today's world is hectic, fast-paced and requires an endless stream of snap judgements - but decisions that impact others demand extra attention and a special level of consideration. It's difficult to leave personal perspectives behind when a problem requires resolution, but now I truly understand that it's the only way to deal with a situation.
Stop by for a greeting from us and our mascot cat Chelsea. She’s sure to give you a friendly meow and purr.
Souvenirs, Samples and Small Treasures!
What did you bring back home from your last vacation? Most people want to memorialize their trip by bringing back a souvenir reminiscent of their travels. This can be for themselves, their children or their grandchildren. It’s always fun to see what is selected to represent a stay in our area. You might be surprised by what some of our guests have chosen to take back home from our beloved southwest.
So here goes with the mementos. Grab an ice tea and enjoy!
One couple was in the process of building a rather large home in Michigan. They fell in love with a particular type of flooring tile that was in one of our off-the-beaten-track pottery boutiques. The tile had been imported from a family pottery business deep in Mexico. The couple ordered a semi-truck full to be shipped to their home site back in the Midwest! Talk about a conversation piece, this will be the talk of the town back in that Michigan community…
Another guest fell in love with a steel javalina at one of our gift shops specializing in the whimsical and unusual. Imagine the traveler seated next to her on the plane as she sat in her airline seat holding the 2’ metal sculpture. Our guest had not shipped the item nor had she placed it in cargo. The airline authorized her to carry it on only after they had taken it from the box and checked it out to make sure it was not a weapon!
Many of our guests feel compelled to purchase something “western” while they are here. They get caught up in the western lifestyle and want something that depicts the allure of our cowboy/equestrian heritage. We’ve seen many pairs of cowboy boots, belts, hats and even spurs purchased due to the plentiful selections available from our local merchants. One has to wonder whether these items will be brought out of the closet and see the light of day when they get back to their eastern homes in Boston, New York and Philadelphia.
I remember one guest who loved hiking our little Galloway Wash every morning after breakfast. One day she returned with several little interesting stones, artifacts, and the skeletal head of a small coyote with a full array of teeth still intact. She was thrilled with this “treasure” and she said it would occupy a prominent place on her fireplace mantel back in North Carolina. Think this woman had botanist tendencies?
We had a fellow whose hobby was to build water fountains out of shallow copper bowls filled with rocks. He collected rocks of all sizes, shapes and colors from our area to take back to his home state of Wisconsin. Running out of room in his luggage, he spent $75 at Target for a sturdy suitcase to tote these items back. And who knows how much in airline cargo fees to haul the rocks back to his home town!
We once had a couple who were visiting from Florida and fell in love with a leather scrap throw rug that was in their guest room. It was a brand new one-of-a kind purchase we had just acquired. They expressed it would have been perfect for their new game room back in Jacksonville. They offered us $300 dollars for it and insisted that we sell it to them. They paid another $85 to have it shipped as it was very heavy. It now resides in their “southwest dream room” back on the east coast of Florida!
Think about your last vacation trip and remember back to what caught your fancy to take home as a souvenir. I’d love to hear what small treasure or unusual item you took back as memento from your travel to another area. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And happy hunting during this year’s excursion!
The Future of Hotel Reservations
I keep hearing that by 2008, 113% of the rooms booked in the U.S. will be sold through the Internet. If that’s true, we need to start planning now, what to do with all those useless telephones and reservations agents and brand directories. You know those museums where you see a wax figure of a telephone operator plugging patch cords into a big console to connect calls. Someday that same museum will have a wax figure of a reservationist wearing a little headset and staring at a GDS screen and visitors will remark, “How quaint. To get something as simple as a hotel reservation, you had to talk to a human.”
Today’s hotelier not only has to get the beds made and the eggs fried and the carpet vacuumed. Now you also have to get the revenue managed, make sure your Google placement is optimized, review click-through traffic, ponder conversion reports, check independent guest rating sites and make sure no one hijacks you keywords. Soon your sales department will be staffed with people who learned their trade blogging and playing Nintendo. They will have pierced eyebrows and torn jeans, but that won’t matter because they will never actually meet a client.
In the future, guests will make their reservations on a little Dick Tracy wristwatch, which will automatically scan all the hotels in their destination area and rank them by price, location, amenities, eco-friendly laundry policies and bedspread color. The Universal Reservation Computer, buried deep within Cheyenne Mountain, will receive the reservation from the guest’s mobile unit, along with a binary code which supplies the guest’s arrival and departure data, credit card number, room preference, stay history and any identifying warts and moles. Within milliseconds the reservation is made and guaranteed. Future rooms inventory is adjusted, the procurement system orders one more logoed Bic pen because the guest has walked off with 63% of prior pens, the clock radio is notified to tune itself to the guest’s favorite station on the day of arrival, and the guest’s historical filth index is transmitted to the system that schedules housekeeping.
As hotel systems become more sophisticated, they will actually anticipate a guest’s future need for travel and make the reservation before the guest is even aware he will be traveling. When the guest arrives, either by conventional means or by molecular reassembly in one of your new beam-down units, he will no longer be required to interact with the touch-screen kiosk, because the room lock will already sense his proximity, admit him to his preassigned room, and tell him in a pleasant prerecorded voice that the door’s magnetic imaging system detected a slight misalignment of his C7 vertebra.
But it’s not the future yet, unless you’re reading this a long time from when I’m writing it. Today, we’re still struggling to be found, and have our rooms booked, by ordinary people surfing the Web. And they can get just as frustrated as we are. Spyware redirects their hotel inquiry to a pop-up window about refinancing their mortgage, Web-searching sites bury the hotel they’re looking for, beneath 37 listings promising “luxury hotels cheap” (which, through nine successive intermediaries, sell your rooms for the same price you would have if the guest had just appeared in the lobby). And when they do find you, they’ll have to call with any special request or questions anyway.
So don’t go dipping your reservationist in wax, for just a little while longer.
Karen S. Friend is the innkeeper/business manager of Spur Cross Bed and Breakfast in the beautiful Sonoran Foothills of Cave Creek, AZ. Established in May 2003, the innkeepers welcome your comments, questions and reservations at http://www.spurcrossbnb.com/ .