Well It’s One for the Money Two for the Show

by Nancy Bestor

IMG_3377Have you ever noticed that hardware stores have some of the friendliest employees? I can’t tell you the number of times I have walked in to my local hardware store, Ashland Hardware, during the 22 years I’ve lived here, and been reminded that it is lovely to be helped by nice, knowledgeable people. It’s also fun to get a free bag of popcorn while you’re shopping!

I kind of love hardware stores in general. There’s something about their orderliness. They always stock about a million things (or more!) and yet employees always know exactly where everything is, and how everything works too. And hardware stores really do sell everything, or at least it seems like they do. And necessary items—screws, nails, etc.—sell for pennies a piece!

When I met my husband Bob, his grandfather, also Bob, worked in a hardware store. I learned that the hardware store business had been a part of the Bestor family since the early 1900’s, as Bob’s great-grandfather (that’s my husband Bob III, not to be confused with his grandfather Bob I, or father Bob II either) owned and operated Bestor & Swatek Hardware in Plattsmouth, Nebraska, beginning in 1914.

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Thus on our trip to the South last Spring, when Bob mentioned taking a detour to Tupelo, Mississippi, to visit Tupelo Hardware, a store owned by a customer and friend, AND the place Elvis got his first guitar, I gave an enthusiastic thumbs up. I didn’t think we could go wrong with some musical history, some southern charm, and of course, some nails and screws. And boy, was I right. This two-hour stop turned out to be one of my favorites on our southern musical odyssey.

Walking into Tupelo Hardware is like walking into a time capsule. It’s old school, with well worn wooden floors, shelves that reach to the ceiling, and those fabulous library-style, built-in, rolling ladders that allow employees reach the highest of high-up items on those shelves. The feel, the smell, the organized clutter, and the employees, all add up to an ambiance that you just don’t get at Home Depot. Sorry, but Lowe’s doesn’t measure up either.

Adding to its mystique and giving it its place in American musical history, is the story of a young woman named Gladys who in 1945 brought her son to Tupelo Hardware to buy him a birthday present. Apparently, he wanted a rifle, but his mother didn’t really like that idea. She also told him that a bicycle was too expensive. In the end, with the help of one Mr. Forrest L. Bobo, she talked him into a guitar. The price—$7.75 plus tax. And that my friends is how Elvis Presley, the King himself, got his first guitar!

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But Tupelo Hardware isn’t just about the guitar. This family-owned business was founded by George H. Booth in 1926, and is run today by George H. Booth II and George H. Booth III. And you won’t meet nicer people anywhere. On its main sales floor, like all good hardware stores,  they pretty much have one of everything. But on our visit, our good friend George II instructed his son George III to take us on the VIP tour which included a visit to the store’s upper floors. There we found shelves upon shelves and boxes upon boxes containing an amazing array of screws, nuts, bolts, and so much more. Much of it was decades old and just waiting until the day somebody needs it.

People visit Tupelo Hardware from far and wide for tools and supplies. And everyone seems happy to spend a few minutes shooting the breeze with employees and other customers. And they’re always happy to share the story of their slice of Elvis history. They still sell guitars too, so if you are thinking about taking up an instrument, there’s definitely some mojo on offer at the corner of Main and Front Streets in downtown Tupelo.

If You Really Like it You Can Have the Rights

by Nancy Bestor

This may come as a surprise to some none of you, but I’m not as young as I used to be. I can remember very strange and obscure facts, like the fact that Gary St. Jean was once the coach of the Sacramento Kings, but I can’t remember the last book I read or how I celebrated my last birthday. Thus I learned early on that if I wanted to remember our vacations—where we ate, what we did, and what we saw—I was going to have to write it all down.

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I actually started journaling my travels when my sister and I went to Europe for seven weeks when I was 16 years old. I wrote about how we were too cheap to go up in the Leaning Tower of Pisa, about how two women we met on a train stole some cheese and then got kicked out of a youth hostel in Zermatt, and about how two American soldiers kissed us (without our permission, gasp) on the steps of the train station in Venice.

When Bob and I got married and honeymooned around the USA for five months in a Volkswagen bus, we took turns journaling every single day. This might be a secret, but there are even lyrics in that journal to a song Bob wrote about our trip and about his blushing bride, while sitting at a campfire in Arizona.

These days I don’t write about strange men kissing me on train station steps (I keep those kind of really special experiences to myself), but I jot down as many details as I can—including trip costs—to help jog my memory when it’s time to write about my trip, or tell others about it. Consulting these notes/stories/factoids, in addition to looking at photos, seems to lead to even better recollections of things I did not write down.

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I’d like to think my taste has improved with age, as these days I write in a small, skinny and very stylish moleskine journal. That would be compared to the teddy bear journal I wrote in when I was 16. (Don’t mock me, I was a young 16.) When looking back through my note books, I notice that some days my handwriting is pretty good, and other days it is almost illegible. We’re such a computer driven world that I don’t have many opportunities to criticize my own handwriting anymore. We’ve got friends who take a glue stick along on their journeys, and glue ticket stubs, stamps, and other fun papers they pick up along the way into their journal. I’m not that organized. I hang on to all those ticket stubs and fun papers, but just stick them loosely inside my moleskine.

Bob’s grandmother Lois journaled every single day from about 1961-ish until a few months before she died. I’ve been fortunate enough to read many of her journal entries. Some days it was as simple as: “went to the fitness center, had a visit from Bob and Nancy, saw the eye doctor.” While other times she told great stories in her journal, like when she flew to Alaska to meet her first grandchild (my husband Bob) in 1963 on a turboprop plane. She always won arguments with her husband about things that happened in the past (note to self), because she could go back and find out exactly what she was doing on any given day.

As my memory banks continue to suffer ever greater and more gaping holes, I’ll remain diligent about writing in my travel journals. If nothing else, they will remind me that you only go around once, and maybe you should spend the money to go up in the Leaning Tower of Pisa when you have the chance.

A World Where Every Neighbor Is a Friend

by Nancy Bestor

Well it’s the start of a new year once again. We’ve thrown our glittery confetti, tooted our New Year’s horns, and downed our glasses of bubbly. (Or, in my case, we’ve sat on the couch, read our book, and gone to bed before the clock struck midnight.)

The last few months of 2015 brought big changes in my life. Bob and I went from a full nest to an empty one, as our youngest daughter went off to college at Oregon State University, the same school her older sister attends (Beaver Nation baby!). Our house instantly got quieter, and—dare I say it—cleaner too. Our girls are just 3 ½ hours away, but I’ll admit, there are days when that seems really far.

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The truth of the matter is though, it was time for them to move on, experience new things, and meet new people. And it was time for Bob and I to enter a new phase of our lives. We’ve been enjoying exercising and hiking together, we’re cooking and eating new and delicious things, and we’re even learning new hobbies—Bob the lap steel guitar, and me the traditional guitar. (Bob is my guitar teacher, and I’m certain he would tell you I don’t practice often enough, but I digress.) It’s actually a fun place to be in life, 48 and 52 years old respectively, and for the first time in a long, long time (21 years to be exact), we are only responsible for ourselves, at least on a daily basis.

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Our plans in 2016 include traveling more—just the two of us—particularly in the off-season. It’s definitely a different type of travel when your kids don’t come along. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s better or worse, just different. I’ve loved traveling with our girls over the years. We went on our first big trip to Italy and Croatia when they were just two and four. And we were fortunate enough to take them to many places around the globe while they grew up. I’d like to think they learned flexibility through our travels, as things didn’t always go our way. (The non-existent hotel reservation in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, upon our arrival from the airport at midnight, comes to mind.) I also hope they learned to appreciate different cultures, for the people we met around the world sure loved them.

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I know our family travels are not over, certainly not as long as we’re willing to pay to take Emily and Sarah on vacation with us. But our travel is changing. Bob and I are planning trips to more far flung destinations, including Thailand and New Zealand next month, and we’re hoping to get to Africa some day. We can be gone for longer if we don’t have to worry about school schedules, and let’s face it, it’s cheaper to buy two tickets to Africa than four (sorry kids).

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Change isn’t easy, but if I take a lesson from the Brady Bunch, I’ll remember that “when it’s time to change, then it’s time to change. Don’t fight the tide, come along for the ride. Don’t you see? When it’s time to change, you’ve got to rearrange. Who you are and what you’re gonna be.”

Best wishes in 2016, and happy trails to you.

 

Bob Wills Is Still the King

by Sarah Bestor

2015-03-23 08.16.48I grew up on music. Something was always playing in our house and often it was classic country. We listened to Johnny Cash as we sat around the dinner table and Waylon Jennings while we played board games. And my dad regularly sang Hank Williams songs while we all sat in the living room. I think the thing that would surprise people most about me would be the number of old country songs I have memorized. I can sing every word of Merle Haggard’sIf We’re Not Back in Love by Monday or Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” on demand, and I know the chords to “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright” by heart on the guitar. So, when we were planning our spring break trip, I was in full support of our musical tour of the south.

My job for this trip was to create an appropriate playlist. I chose songs like “Jackson,” which we listened to while we drove through Jackson, Mississippi at 1am on the night we arrived in the south and “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?” which I casually put on—much to my family’s dismay—every time it started pouring on our trip, which was often. And it warmed my mother’s heart when we were driving the Natchez Trace and I cued up America” by Paul Simon. To me, experiencing the music of where we were was incredibly important, because music is a huge part of what shaped the south. It added a movie-like aspect to the trip, as we had our own soundtrack directly related to the places we were going and the people we were seeing.

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Obviously we went to the south to experience many things, the endless farmland, the fried chicken, and the southern hospitality, to name a few, but for me the highlight was the music. We went to museum after museum, learning about what Bob Dylan wore to specific performances, standing in Studio A at Stax Records and even seeing the places where Elvis Presley recorded his first song and bought his first guitar. It was highly entertaining to hear original recordings of many songs that I’ve heard my whole life, and see footage of early television performances (the original music videos).

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It’s true that I often roll my eyes when the speakers in our kitchen blast out “Ladies and gentleman, Mr. Waylon Jennings!” But I always have and always will have a special place in my heart for the music of the south.

Every Picture Tells a Story

by Nancy Bestor

IMG_3357I love my passport. It’s great fun to look at the stamps inside, reminisce, and in some cases try to decipher where they’re from (as they’re not always legible).  I love taking a look at my expired passports too. I’ve managed to hold on to my last three, and it’s fun to see how I’ve aged my passport photo has changed over the years.  Fortunately, when you renew, you can get your old passport back, to take a walk down memory lane.

Beginning in 2016, US citizens will no longer be able to add extra pages to their passports. No matter what your expiration date is, if you run out of room for stamps you’ll have to apply for a new one. The US State Department says they’ve done away with adding extra pages “for security reasons.” Regular passports are 28 pages, but beginning in 2016, you can apply for a super-sized, 52-page passport.

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Here are a few other little known rules and facts about US Passports:

  • Some countries require two to four blank visa/stamp pages in a passport, South Africa for example. You can check any country’s passport requirements on the US State Department’s country information page.
  • Your passport expiration date must be at least six months away when traveling to most countries. Again, you can check the State Department’s information page for those countries requiring the six months, but a better idea is to just renew your passport eight months before it expires.
  • Certain citizens can be approved to have two passports. I find this ruling awesome. If you are a frequent traveler to countries that require visas, the State Department may see fit to issue you a second passport. This is because you have to send your passport away to a country’s embassy to obtain a visa, and if you’re a frequent international traveler, you may need a passport to travel somewhere else while your first passport is getting the visa. You may also be issued a second passport if a country you’ve visited is on unfriendly terms with a country you plan to visit. Having a stamp from a country at war with a country in which you’d like to travel may prove a bit problematic, so this rule makes a good deal of sense to me. In both instances you’ll have to pay full price for your second passport. Sorry, no quantity discounts.
  • You cannot smile in your passport photo. It’s true, the rules state that in passport photos, citizens must have a “neutral” expression. Both eyes must be open, and the mouth closed. A smile with a closed jaw is allowed, but not preferred. This apparently helps with facial recognition.
  • If your passport has been significantly damaged, especially the cover or the page displaying your personal data and photo, you will need to apply for a new passport. Conditions that may constitute damage requiring replacement include water damage, a significant tear, unofficial markings on the data page, missing visa pages (torn out), a hole punch, or other injuries.

In a Town This Size, There is No Place to Hide

by Nancy Bestor

bridgeOur town of Ashland, Oregon has a population of about 21,000 people. Coming from the Bay Area 22 years ago, Ashland felt like a really small town. After living here as long as we have, I’m certainly used to small town living now. There are so many things that I love about it – running into my daughter’s pediatrician in the park and having her ask me if she is feeling better and does she need more medicine; having the UPS man deliver a package to me even though it was incorrectly addressed; and the lack of any traffic whatsoever. There are certainly times, however, when I long for the Big City. Thus on city visits for business or family time, I try and soak up as much atmosphere as I possibly can.

Last month I was in the San Francisco Bay Area for business and family combined, and enjoyed two great big city experiences. Every Friday night, the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) sponsors Friday Nights @ OMCA. From 5-9pm gallery admission is half price, there are about a dozen Off the Grid food trucks parked outside, a cash bar set up (outside-ish), and live music and dancing near the museum steps. This is every Friday night, all year round. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit twice now, and have loved it both times. It is so fun to watch the wide array of people—young and old—dancing salsa or swing or tango. I’ve seen folks dancing interpretatively all by themselves, grandparents cutting a rug with their grand-babies, teens boogie-ing in groups, and fabulous couples who move effortlessly as one, obviously after years of experience dancing together.

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On my most recent visit, my sister, brother-in-law and I even took in a few exhibits inside the museum. This included a short term Day of the Dead exhibit and a permanent exhibit on the history of California and its settlers. Both were fascinating. I highly recommend a visit to Friday Nights @ OMCA, and a half-price ticket to the Oakland Museum is well worth it if you have the time.

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Another fun Bay Area experience was a walk I took one Saturday morning along the “new” span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The east span of the Bridge was replaced in 2013, with an entirely new look. It is now the world’s longest Self-Anchored Suspension Span and includes a pedestrian/bicyclist pathway (approximately three miles one way). This pathway offers a fabulous view of the Bay, the 525 foot Bridge tower, and the old bridge, which is currently being dismantled/demolished. On the day of my visit, a portion of the old bridge was dynamited at 7am, and when we walked across the Bridge at 11, cleanup was till taking place on the water below us. It’s a noisy walk, as cars and motorcycles are whizzing by you across the Bridge while you’re walking, but you really can’t beat the views back to the city of Oakland and its ports, and forward towards San Francisco. The San Francisco Bay Area really is a beautiful place, and a walk across the Bay Bridge just amplifies that allure.

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So yes, I’m happy to live in my small town, and to enjoy its truly special advantages. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy my forays into the big, anonymous City, where I can pretend to be a great dancer who just happens to stop by Friday Nights @OMCA to show off my salsa dancing skills. Until, that is, I actually start dancing.

Let the Buyer Beware

by Nancy Bestor

I’m a big fan of owner operated vacation rentals. Sites such as www.airbnb.com and www.vrbo.com offer accommodations at good prices in cities all over the world. It’s great to stay in an apartment or small home, particularly when traveling as a family. Usually there’s a kitchen for cooking meals, and room to “hang out,” as opposed to just sitting on a hotel room bed or in a chair. We’ve stayed in some absolutely stunning homes for very affordable rates. In the dozen or so times that we’ve booked a rental directly from an owner, it has worked out mostly perfectly. In two instances however, our rental was cancelled by the owner. In one of those cases it was just two weeks before our stay.

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Last month Bob and I were headed to Corvallis, Oregon, to visit our two college-aged daughters (go Beavs!) on Dad’s and Families Weekend. I booked a vacation rental through airbnb nine months in advance, knowing that Dad’s weekend gets booked up crazy quickly, and that Corvallis hotel rooms are both crappy and expensive (particularly on popular weekends). I received a confirmation just after I booked, and was charged a $50 deposit, and all was good. Or so I thought. Two weeks before Dad’s weekend, I received an email from the owner, saying she had to cancel my reservation. She did not explain why, but offered me $200 towards another hotel booking, in addition to refunding my money. While this gesture was nice, it was pointless, because there were no hotels in Corvallis available two weeks before Dad’s weekend. Not even any crappy ones. So Bob and I ended up sleeping on the floor of our daughter’s collegiate apartment.

On another trip, many years ago, we booked an apartment in Paris through vrbo.com, only to have the owner cancel on us a month after booking, saying she had mistakenly “double booked.” Fortunately, we were able to find another apartment without much trouble, but it was disconcerting.

I tell these vacation rental stories to warn you—and to remind myself as well—that rentals by owners don’t give you much leeway if they’re cancelled just before a trip. I’ve never had a hotel cancel a room on me in all my years of travel, and have only stayed in vacation rentals about a dozen times, with two cancellations. I can’t say that I like those odds. I’m not going to stop booking vacation rentals, but I will definitely think twice about using one when I know there won’t be much other lodging available.