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Angels in Edinburgh (With Snazzy Apartments)

Dear Rudy,

I'm writing in response to your request for stories about the kindness of strangers.

After two weeks of traveling in Edinburgh, Scotland in the summer of 1999, I realized that this was the city in which I wanted to spend the rest of my money. (I had no itinerary and no time limitations. I would stay until my money ran out.) I was trying to be a thrifty tourist: staying in hostels, eating cheaply, etc. But it just so happened that at the very time I was in the city, the International Fringe Festival, the Book festival, the Edinburgh Film Festival, the Jewelry Fair, and numerous other events were beginning, and that made finding an affordable place to stay difficult.

Luckily, I had booked a bed in a hostel for as long as they would have me -- four days -- and then I let a flat for a week. But I had no place to go after that. Where was I going to live? Hotels were booked, and hostels were packed to the brim. I visited about nine different rooms or flats, hoping to find something. No luck. I was feeling hopeless, and walking miles in the rainy Scottish weather apartment hunting was doing nothing to improve my spirits.

As I was returning to my humble rented bed the last night before I was homeless, I noticed a troop of men and women wearing Feed the Children aprons. Predictably, a young man approached me and asked for a contribution. I cemented myself in front of him and said, "I will donate if you can find me a place to live."

"Well, how much are you wanting to spend?" he asked.

"About thirty pounds ($60) a week," I replied.

As it happened, the young man, Drew, was renting a place above an art deco theater in the city center, but he was not living there because he had just moved in with his girlfriend. He proposed fifty pounds ($100) for a week and half. The luxurious apartment was in a prime location and had a wonderful kitchen, pool and sauna. I gleefully accepted. My best friend was arriving in town the next day, and I was worried that we would have to sleep on the street.

As it turns out, Drew paid about five hundred pounds (almost $1000) per month for the apartment, and he let it to me and my friend for almost nothing. Needless to say, we thanked him profusely. The week and a half we spent in his place was just enough time to spend the rest of my cash before heading home after nine weeks of glorious travel.


P.S. Unfortunately, in return for his kindness, I could not give to the Feed the Children Foundation because you had to be a citizen of Scotland to contribute. But Drew graciously accepted the pints of ale I bought him in exchange for his generosity.

The Kindness of Kings

Dear Rudy,

My high school graduation adventure consisted of a 270-mile bicycle trip with my brother and a friend taken from Wichita, Kansas to Roaring River State Park in Missouri. At the time, 10 speeds represented the height of bicycle technology. With sleeping bags strapped to bike racks and orange safety flags flapping to warn larger vehicles of our slow moving presence, we set out across the slightly hilly terrain of southern Kansas.

Our agreement with our parents obliged us to call home each evening with a progress report and proof we were still alive. At the end of the second day, 160 miles behind us, we had just completed a long uphill ride out of Seneca, Mo. A call was now due, but the next rest area with a phone was 20 miles up the road. None of us wanted to go back down the hill into Seneca. We decided to ask the residents of the house at the top of the hill if we might use their phone to make a collect call.

After explaining our need to the owners, not only did they allow us to use their phone, they invited us to unroll our sleeping bags in their living room for the night and took us to dinner at the local diner. Early the next morning, they fixed us breakfast and saw us on our way. Their last name was King. We felt it was an appropriate title.

The next year I made the same trip with two other friends. One catapulted over his handlebars when he applied his brakes too hard on the long hill into Seneca, ending up with a serious case of road rash. Mr. King again helped us by seeing to it that our injured companion got medical treatment. Me and my other friend continued on. The next day, Mr. King, along with his wife and two children, transported our bandaged friend to our destination, where we all had a celebratory picnic. That was 29 years ago, but I still remember them and appreciate their kindness.


Think You Got Visa Problems? Meet Morganna

Dear Rudy,

While I was preparing to move to Saudi Arabia, I discovered that to enter the Kingdom, my cat, Morganna, needed a VISA! The visa could be obtained only by providing a veterinarian's certificate stating that she was in good health and submitting additional documentation from our state department of veterinary services. She even needed to have a photo taken. The Saudi embassy was most helpful, but the paperwork got hung up in OUR department of state. I had to postpone my trip two weeks waiting for her visa.

The good news is that Saudi customs, notoriously thorough, were so charmed by Morganna that they just waved all my baggage through.


Road Trip to Romance

Dear Rudy,

On a recent show you asked for stories about finding romance on the road. My most romantic excursion cost $500, including the diesel fuel for a battered VW Golf. In late April, 1990, my husband and I drove to Florida. Initially we wanted to take a more elaborate vacation, but a financial shortfall dashed those plans.

Our trip began badly: We collided with a metal filing cabinet that had fallen off a truck in Charlotte, N.C. With a failing air conditioner, we limped into Florida to mooch off a friend of mine that I had not seen in 13 years. That's when things started looking up.

My friend and her husband opened their home and their hearts to us. Their generosity, warmth and hospitality soothed our spirits. Since he was an Everglades ranger, we were introduced to the beautiful waterways, the dark mango trees, the sandy islands and the menacing alligators. We met remarkable people, including a former pilot who lived comfortably in a tent at an amazing campsite, without electricity or phone. We were entranced.

But it got better. We drove to Long Key State Park, where we landed a prime campsite under a canopy of exotic trees, within a few yards of the gentle surf. There we stayed for five days. We snorkeled off our "front porch" and cooked fresh fish on the outdoor grill. We had a romantic, mystical time.

I remember that time through the lens of 17 years of marriage to a man that I love dearly. He is my soul mate, my verbal sparring partner, my lover, my respected colleague and the loving father to our treasured daughters. And it just gets better and better and better.

Rudy, thanks for a reason to revisit my romantic excursion. I enjoy your show, the way you treat your guests and the opportunity to travel in my imagination. I have to admit that I fantasize about luxurious accommodations and exotic locations, but I know that the most romantic excursions have little to do with cost or destination, and everything to do with your choice of traveling companion.



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