Looking at the Beer section of this new website design, I saw I needed more content. So I got hold of Rob Cheshire of the This Week in Craft Beer podcast to talk about our approaches to taproom tourism and to trade taproom travel stories. I also talk about mask hassles on a couple of recent flights, Hertz’s continuing downward service spiral, and Uber and Lyft driver shortages. All this and more – click here to download the podcast file, go up to the Subscribe section in the top menu bar to subscribe on your favorite site, or listen right here by clicking on the arrow below.
Here is the transcript of TravelCommons podcast #174:
- Intro music — Warmth by Makkina
- Coming to you again from the TravelCommons studio in Chicago, Illinois as things here start to open up from winter and COVID shutdowns. Increasing temperatures and vaccination rates have people out and about. Irene and I got a jump start on the better weather by flying out to San Diego on St Patrick’s Day to hang out at an Airbnb in Ocean Beach a block off the ocean and a couple of blocks south of Newport Avenue, the main drag that surprised me with its kinda hippy/surfer vibe. Which I liked. It reminded me of Huntington Beach in the mid-80’s when my folks moved there, before they tarted it all up. I give Ocean Beach credit for resisting the face lift, even if I meant I had to avoid the homeless guy changing his pants on the sidewalk when walking back with the morning coffee and doughnuts.
- It was a low-key trip. Nothing scheduled, no real itinerary; mostly walking the coast during the day — beaches or rocks — and then at night, chipping away at the list of some 150 microbrewery taprooms in the San Diego area; a lost cause for sure, but one I willingly threw myself at. Indeed, the only time we looked closely at the time was Sunday afternoon to make sure I could get to all my “gotta go” taprooms before they closed since we were flying back Monday after lunch.
- The bookends to the trip, the flights out and back on United, were a bit more stressful. The flights were just about completely full. And for some reason, United kept shoving me out of my aisle seat to the adjacent middle seat. But because I checked our seats after receiving United’s “We’re full; you can move to another flight for free” e-mail before each flight, there was enough time to rejigger our seats to adjacent aisles, which gave each of us a bit of room to lean away from a full middle seat. The bigger and, honestly, more surprising hassles were mask compliance. On the flight out of ORD, the guy in the row behind me had a loud, extended grumble session with his seatmate after the flight attendant told him to pull his mask up over his nose. I thought he was winding himself up for a protest, but he eventually calmed down. The flight back was worse for Irene. A young couple with an infant landed in the middle and window seats next to her. Both continually pulled their masks down below their chins; at some point, the husband fell asleep and started snoring with his down. And this is after the flight attendants made a number of very clear and pointed announcements on mask rules.
- This all really surprised me. All my prior flights — to Nashville, Philly, Phoenix — there wasn’t any of this. Now I’m no mask scold, but like I said in the last episode, everyone agrees to wear one before they can check-in. So if you have a personal objection or don’t think you can handle it for 4 hours, don’t get on the plane. And if you do, treat yourself to a new mask before the flight; one with new elastic so it says up over your nose.
- Bridge music — Dreaming by Astral (c) copyright 2013 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license.
- Long-time TravelCommons listener Nick Gassman sent in a note about last episode’s travel insurance update and COVID-related coverage. Nick writes:
- “In the UK, a recent survey found that whilst insurers would give you emergency medical cover if you caught COVID when you were away, none would cover you if the government advised against travel because of COVID and you therefore could not travel. Some would give you cancellation cover if you are diagnosed with COVID before travel, and others would further give cancellation cover if you had to self-isolate even without a positive test.
- As ever with insurance, the thing is to make sure you understand the small print and to compare policies.
- Nick, thanks for that. I think the advice to “read the small print” is valid in life in general, and in travel insurance in particular. I think the pandemic and known event carve-outs lurking in the small print caught a lot of travel insurance holders back when the initial lockdowns hit. I wonder, a year on after all that, how many more people are clicking through the “Buy Travel Insurance” box at the bottom of their Expedia booking page to the full rider and doing a Control-F in their browser to search for the word “COVID”.
- In the last couple of episodes, I’ve been talking about my efforts to decipher the activity rules for British Airways’ frequent flier program to stave off a year-end extinction event for my non-insignificant stash of Avios points. Since I’m not planning to fly BA anytime soon, I booked our Ocean Beach Airbnb through a link on BA’s site and, to my surprise, I saw 1,800 Avios points automagically hit my account a week later. I can’t seem to find the expiration date to see if it updated, but I’m pretty sure this reset the 36-month clock. And it was a nice find, the Airbnb-Avios link. It let me double-dip on Avios and Chase Ultimate points. Not sure when I’ll get to spend them, but it was a nice little get.
- In the last episode, I talked about having to work through a lot of cars in the Hertz PHX lot to find one with less than 24,000 miles. In SAN, I had to work to find a car — period. We walked to the Five Star aisle and it was empty. I tried to flag down a Hertz employee, but he just waved me off. After 5 minutes or so, a car showed up. I didn’t bother to look at the mileage; we just got in and drove off. I was late for a lunch date with a fish taco. Returning the car, I did my normal drill – top off the tank, get a receipt, and then when dropping it off, place the receipt under the keys on the dashboard so the check-in guy will see it. It usually works — except this time. The receipt hits my e-mail as we’re trundling the perimeter of the airfield in the rental bus. I open it up and see a fuel charge! Really? The last time this happened was about 4 years ago in ATL. I hit Twitter and the Hertz team fixed it in a half-hour. This time, the Twitter team got back to me pretty quick asking for the rental agreement details, but then… nothing. I pinged them the next day, nothing. And the next day, nothing. So I challenged it with Amex and got the fueling charge and associated taxes credited back in a couple of days and then moved on. Until earlier this week, two weeks later, Hertz popped up on my Twitter DMs asking for more information. It’s amazing how fast their service has cratered during this bankruptcy, which makes me wonder how long it’ll take them to recover. I gotta get some good discount codes for Avis.
- There was a spate of articles this week about Uber and Lyft driver shortages. We experienced it first hand trying to get a morning ride out to ORD for our San Diego flight. I swallowed hard and agreed to a good-sized surge, waited for a while, and still had the Uber driver cancel on us at the last minute. It shouldn’t be surprising, though. Drivers left the platforms when demand cratered at the start of the pandemic, when Uber said (and this was last May when everything was shutdown) that their volume was down by 80% vs. the prior May (May 2019). And in Chicago, the run of Uber drivers getting carjacked at the beginning of this year probably didn’t help either. But with stimulus checks in the bank and vaccine rates rising, demand has snapped back, a lot faster than driver supply. The headline of the Financial Times article reads “Uber and Lyft ‘throwing money’ at US drivers to ease shortage” and says that Uber is spending $250 million on a one-time “stimulus” package of driver incentives. But even with that, it takes time to on-board even returning drivers — re-doing vehicle inspections, background checks. In episode #160, my last pre-pandemic episode back in February 2020, I talked about the shrinking difference between Uber and Lyft, and how I found myself beginning to shift back to regular cabs. These recent experiences are only accelerating that. I’m thinking I may need to reload taxi dispatch numbers back into my iPhone.
- And if you have any travel stories, questions, comments, tips, rants – the voice of the traveler, send ’em along to email@example.com — you can send a Twitter message to mpeacock, post your thoughts on the TravelCommons’ Facebook page or the Instagram account at travelcommons — or you can post comments on our fab new web site at TravelCommons.com.
- Bridge Music — Emily and the Djembe by mghicks (c) copyright 2008 Licensed under a Creative Commons Noncommercial Sampling Plus license. Ft: Emily via Briareus
- Putting together the new website, I was thinking about what to put on the top menu. “Subscribe” and “Episodes” were given, but I also put “Food” and “Beer” because, well, I write and talk about them a lot. But then, when I clicked through the new “Beer” menu, it felt a bit sparse. I needed to add some content. And so in the craft beer tradition of collaboration beers, I pinged Rob Cheshire, a long time TravelCommons listener and now craft beer podcaster with his This Week in Craft Beer podcast, to talk about why we go out of our way to find brewery taprooms, and how he organizes his travels to hit the most taprooms he can on each visit.
- Taproom Tourism Discussion with Rob Cheshire
- Thanks again to Rob Cheshire for that collab. I hope you could tell that it was a lot of fun. Indeed, the full session ran around an hour and a half and a bit more beer. If you want to hear more of our taproom stories, head over to Rob’s This Week in Craft Beer podcast feed, he posted a longer version as a bonus Easter episode, or check out the TravelCommons website, Facebook page or YouTube channel for the full video.
- Closing music — Pictures of You by Evangeline
- OK, that’s it, that’s the end of TravelCommons podcast #174
- I hope you all enjoyed the show and I hope you decide to stay subscribed.
- The new website makes it a lot easier to subscribe. There’s a drop down menu at the top of each page, a set of subscribe links at the bottom, and a big red “Subscribe” button in the middle of the home page. You can use all those buttons, links and menus or you can just search for us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, SoundCloud, Google Podcasts, and Amazon Music. Or you can also ask Alexa, Siri, or Google to play TravelCommons on your smart speakers. And across the bottom of each page on the web site, you’ll find links to the TravelCommons’ social — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the YouTube channel.
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- Thanks to Nick Gassman, not only for the e-mails, but for calling out TravelCommons in the Recommended Podcast section of his blog site.
- If you have a story, thought, comment, gripe – the voice of the traveler — send ‘em along, text or audio file, to firstname.lastname@example.org or to @mpeacock on Twitter, or post them on the TravelCommons’ Facebook page, Instagram account, or website at travelcommons.com. Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to send in e-mails, Tweets and post comments on the website
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