Customer Service As It Should Be…

Off the beaten path in Oregon

Yesterday, in the middle of nowhere Oregon, I mapped everything out and decided I could make it as far as Boise, Idaho for the night. I need to be in Denver by Monday night for my flight to BlogHer on Tuesday, so I am trying to evenly space out the driving time over the three days. Once I picked Boise, I researched parks between where I was and where I wanted to be for camping, and when I came up with nothing in the right area, I went on to Hotwire to book a hotel room.

I did a search, selected a room in Boise, made it part way through the booking process, hit confirm … and … loading … loading … loading … nothing. Error page. I tried to look through my account on the site, and didn’t see a confirmation. I checked my email. I waited and checked my email again. Nothing.

I needed to get back on the road, so I started the process over, and booked a room in Meridian, Idaho. Everything worked, I set the address in my GPS, and I was off.

This morning, before leaving the hotel, I decided I should check my email and clear out my inbox — where I had TWO Hotwire confirmations for two different hotels. The one I stayed at in Meridian, Idaho, and the one that I thought didn’t go through for Boise.

CRAP.

I called Hotwire. Explained what happened. Braced myself to have to beg and plead for a refund – but I didn’t have to do it. The rep immediately offered up that she would refund the unused room in Boise. She completely understood. (I’m sure it helped that the room I booked was in Meridian, just a few miles away.) She was delightful and chipper. Easy to understand. We talked about my road trip, and I said that driving through Oregon was GORGEOUS. She then revealed that they were in Oregon as well, so she was familiar with the Columbia River Gorge.

No automated system. No “Press 1″ menu with a million options. Just straight through to a knowledgeable customer service agent, who was happy to help me.

I’m still a little blown away. WAY TO GO, HOTWIRE!!! You got it right. I’ve been a loyal user for at least 9 years, and I will continue to be one from here on out! I’m sure I’ll be using you again on this road trip adventure of mine.

Photo above taken with the GoPro, off the main road as I took a little detour off of I-84 just to see what else was out there. Fields, farmers, and Mt. Hood off in the distance to one direction, wind farms off to the other, I saw this beautiful farm where I was able to get a diy chicken coop idea, I think I’ll give it a try, chicken coops have always been my obsession. Breathtaking around every curve of the road.

Hello, June! Goodbye, June!

Colorado National Monument - Rim Road

WHOOOOOOOSH!!!

That would be the sound of June 2013 flying past me. The month started with a flurry of activity around attending BlogHer Food. From there, there were the summer Flirt, Hot Mama, and White Sheet sessions for a lot of wedding and anniversary gifts, even a zegarki watch, how exciting! I was formulating the plans for the Avenger of Sexiness North America Tour (#aos13 on Twitter and Facebook) … and then it all came to a screeching halt.

I had a very sudden, excruciatingly painful gallstone attack on Saturday, June 22nd. Just days before I planned to leave town. I went to the ER, and they ended up admitting me to the hospital. Instead of heading west on June 25th like I had planned, I had my gallbladder removed. I was finally released on June 27th.

I don’t normally make a lot of plans because I *HATE* it when my plans get changed. I cried on the night of the 29th because I was still at home, instead of in California with my friend Tara like I had planned. It didn’t help that it was the hottest June day in Houston … EVER. I was miserable.

Since our plan always was to drive, and the doctor cleared me for travel when he released me from the hospital, I asked Mike if we could go ahead and pack and leave. There was no way we could do the California leg of our journey, but we could still make it to Portland in time for the World Domination Summit, which I was lucky to score a ticket to months ago.

My Mini Cooper at Colorado National Monument Rim Rock DriveWe spent Sunday morning quickly packing our bags, loading up my Mini Cooper, picking up a GoPro camera to record the trip and heading out. Our journey took us north through Oklahoma City, on in to Kansas, west to Denver, through the Rocky Mountain National Park Trail Ridge Road, across to Grand Junction – where the above photo was taken, at the Colorado National Monument Rim Rock Drive, in to Utah, on through Idaho — and here we are today in Portland, Oregon.

I made it. I took it easy, but I was able to convalesce just as much in the passenger seat of the car as I would have been at home in bed. I did drive the Rim Rock Drive and through part of Utah – INCREDIBLE. I could not be more thrilled with taking this trip, and with being able to be at the World Domination Summit tonight!

I’ll share more in the coming days about the adventure we had getting to Portland and the plans I have for the trip ahead. For today, I’m just going to soak it all in and savor Portland.

Taking It On The Road…

Seattle Mt. Rainer

It all started with plans to go to Portland for the World Domination Summit. I mean, seriously, HOW could I resist going to something with a name like that??? I wanted to go the past two years, but always had weddings scheduled that conflicted with it. I was thrilled when I snagged a ticket for the 2013 event.

Mike & I talked about it, and we realized that that would be the perfect time to visit his aunt & uncle in Portland, and then to head up to Seattle to see his brother & sister-in-law and to meet our new nephew who was born earlier this year.

You know, since we are going to be on the West Coast already, we really should visit my aunt & uncle plus our friends in San Francisco too…

From there, it is easy to see how the idea of a road trip started. I mapped things out. We will drive from Houston to Marfa, then on to Arizona, all the way to Los Angeles. Turn north for San Francisco. Make our way up to Portland, then on to Seattle. Possibly Bellingham & Vancouver to see friends there as well.

Every person that we visit as a stop along the way, Mike wants to cook for — more food adventures for Spoon & Knife!

Then I will turn and start to head east. I can finally see Idaho, Montana (Glacier!), and visit my parents who will be traveling in North Dakota. I have to be in Chicago at the end of July where I am speaking at ViewFinder Day at BlogHer, and immediately following that I am helping to coach at the Team-X Fight Club in Denver. (There will be a flight between Chicago and Denver, because I can not bend the time-space continuum and get from one place to the other in 12 hours.)

Summer 2013 is going to be one BIG road trip. The Avenger of Sexiness North America Tour!

As I became more introspective on this road trip plan, I realized that this past spring was really hard on me, and it isn’t over yet. I had pneumonia, I was diagnosed with asthma. I have a node on my thyroid and a reactive lymph node that causes partial numbness in my face. Dealing with the MRI, the ultrasound, the biopsy, the asthma testing, this thing and then that — well, it started to consume me. It was overwhelming. I still have endocrinologist and possibly rheumatologist visits coming up. More testing will take place, I am sure.

All of the medical drama forced me to stop and consider where I am, what goals I have, what I want to achieve. Life is short. I don’t want to look back and have a long list of “I should have…” regrets, so I am making them happen. I refuse to let this health drama get me down – instead, I want to CELEBRATE! What better way to do that than to take my Mini Cooper out on the road! (Complete with the WHEEEE license plate!)

I want to go where the city lights don’t block out the stars from shining bright. I want to see the Milky Way. I want to visit the mountains – both the Cascades and the Rockies. Dip my toes in the Pacific Ocean. See the Great Plains. Look out across Lake Michigan.

What about my business? Well, The Law Offices of Stephen Lukach III will explain new jersey DWI penalties in detail. I’ve had countless requests for sessions along a lot of this route, so I am scheduling those in to this trip. July is normally a very quiet time for boudoir photography, so it is perfect. I’ll be taking files with me in case I need them, and I’ll have internet access at various times throughout the trip to upload albums and things like that, and I’ll have email access on my phone, so I use some holding device to secure my phone, and I just need to learn how to properly take off a popsocket. Shaking the cobwebs out and getting out on the highway will give me a lot of writing time. I need that. It all works out. I’ll be back home just in time for the beginning of the boudoir holiday season. Between fall anniversaries and then Christmas gifts, things will kick up right as I return, thankfully we got prepared holiday meals for all the family meetings already.

Have you ever done a big, cross-country road trip? Any advice or suggestions for us along the way? Tips on what I should pack? I have to keep it minimal, we will be in a Mini Cooper!

To Federicksburg & Back In One Day

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A “quick” trip to Fredericksburg to do a bridal portrait session for Brittany’s niece was exactly what I needed to get my mind off of this week’s drama, and keep me from focusing on waiting for the results. I’m so glad Brittany went along with me, and that she drove most of the way.

In other places in the world, most people wouldn’t consider 4 hours each way close enough to do in a one day road trip. I realize it sounds a little crazy. However, Mike has been gone all week in Calgary, and since he returned to Houston at the same time we arrived there, I wanted to just get back home.

We did make a stop though at Hondo’s on Main for some kick-ass burgers & sweet potato fries. Just what we needed to fuel our journey home.

I have only visited Fredericksburg once before, my senior year in high school on a class trip where we camped at Enchanted Rock. It all looked quite charming, and I definitely want to return soon. Hopefully for more than a few hours next time!

Day 20 of 365. Photograph taken at Hondo’s on Main in Fredericksburg, Texas with my iPhone 5 on April 13, 2013.

The Cherry Cricket – Denver, Colorado…

Duffy's Cherry Cricket

Since we are talking about amazing food in Denver, I absolutely must mention The Cherry Cricket. I absolutely LOVE a good hamburger, and the Cherry Cricket? Some of the best burgers I’ve ever tasted! I make a point to try to go there every time I visit Denver. My friend & business coach Jeff Jochum tipped me off to them in 2010 on my first trip there for a workshop. I liked them so much, I went back the next day for another round!

Last October I went with Mike to Denver for one of his work business trips; while we were there I took him on this gorgeous fall day for his first Cherry Cricket experience. I’m sure it won’t be the last time we visit there!

I don’t know how they do it – words can’t even adequately explain the magic – but their burger and fries are phenomenal! The sweet potato fries were pretty stellar as well.

Day 12 of 365. Photograph taken with my iPhone 4S, filtered through Instagram, on October 28, 2012 in Denver, Colorado.