Book 'Em, Dodo! - Grampies Track the Tortes (2019) - CycleBlaze

March 1, 2019

Book 'Em, Dodo!

It all started with Scott Anderson. Dodie popped up the other day and reported that Scott and Rachel had booked accommodation for their entire trip.  That's crazy!, I think we both exclaimed.  If you lock in all the days, then one miscue - some mechanical, physical, weather, road, or other problem, and even if the bookings may be cancellable, you get a knock on chain rebooking headache of mammoth proportions. Plus, bookings that can be cancelled are normally a hefty amount more costly than irrevocable ones for the same rooms.

Spinning off these thoughts, Dodie reintroduced a concept she has floated before, but that has never found favour with me: Just cycle out each day, and see how it goes.  That way, if things go well, you can find a place far down the road. And if hills or any other factors intervene, you can stop short. The disadvantage of this is that once you roll into a town you have to go searching for the Tourist Information, or wifi, or cruise the streets looking for a place. Then you maybe end up either with a closed TI and nothing or with a desperate grab at something too expensive. That's why I favoured looking ahead one day, and booking from the comfort of a room, the night before.

But as fate had it, we missed any chance to debate the merits of these two models. It started when we found we had a chance to meet up with Dodie's Aunt Sophie, her cousin Ronni, Ronni's husband Joe, and Joe's daughter Kathryn. This would be in Prague, on one specific day.  So we fired up Booking, and saw that most places in Prague were already booked. This would be equivalent to Scott's discovery that Sicily was already booked. 

Once Dodie had booked in Prague, she began to scan up and down our track, only to see many places already booked all over the place, or at least few rooms left. I suggested that this could be a typical Booking trick of trying to stampede the customers. Sure, maybe Booking had no more rooms at a given hotel, but maybe the hotel had only allocated few to begin with.  So,  in an admittedly unscientific move, I took one where Booking had something for the day previous but claimed all sold out for the day we needed. I bypassed Booking and went to the hotel's own web site. And - Booking's story proved true.

So that did stampede us. Using patience possessed only by Dodie, it became a question of guessing where we might be, or could stay on each of about 70 days. To do that, you need to assess the route, look at what towns and accommodations are around, and make a stab in the dark. Given that stab, you need to guess what the scene will be for the next night. And repeat - 70 times! 

That seems to be about a three day job. And if there is a glitch - it could be longer than that to do cancellations and rebooking, and/or looking to short circuit matters with a train. This makes me more nervous than the prospect of any hills, cold, or rain we might encounter on the trip.

One thing we have also noticed is that hotel prices seem to be about 20% higher than what we remember for Austria and Germany just a few years ago. The average cost is about 85 euros (we will give exact figures later). That means that as Dodie and Booking crawl the route, they are playing with about 6000 euros in total. That's about $CAN 9000. That is definitely more than small change for us. Adding to it with some, or any, "no show" charges would be a bad idea!  That's a reason why it's good to have Dodie ("Dodo" to the Montreal kids) on the case. I can scarcely be trusted to know my own birthday, let alone on what date to book what place for how much  in Torgau, or wherever.

Oh, wait a minute now. Dodie has just computed an actual value for that 85 euro estimate, and it's 68 euros - including breakfast. Dodie says she achieved this by frugal choices in a sea of costly places. OK! So the 6000 euros I was crying about becomes 4000, taking into account times when we are staying with friends.  So my error in the paragraph above is 2000 euros ($CAN 3000). That's a giant pile of tortes. Let's go for it!

Appendix I: Bicycle Parking

For each booking, Dodie sends an inquiry about a safe place to stash the bikes. Because of the language barrier, some responses are pretty humorous. How about this one:

"Hello ,Mr Miller of cours we can require you two bicycles . Are the bicycles for a human or for a women?

Von meinem Samsung Galaxy Smartphone gesendet. "

Or this one:

"Dear Customer Thank you for your booking!An important clue: In case of loss of the card we charge a fee of 25 € "

OK, we'll try to hang on to the card, whatever that is. Now what about those bikes?

Appendix II:  Book 'Em Dodo?

This title came to us because of watching a lot of the detective show 'Hawaii Five O" from 1968. Oh my, that's 50 years ago!! Anyway, still fresh in our creaky minds is the fact that the star, Jack Lord, on solving the case at the end of each and every episode would instruct his assistant, Dan: "Book 'em, Danno - Murder One"!

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Jacquie GaudetHi Steve and Dodie

I too did an Anderson for the first 3 weeks of my upcoming trip, the part Al will be along for. Accommodation is booked for all but the 3 nights before we *have* to be back in Bordeaux (that night's booked). It's rather scary because I've never booked more than a night or two where my plane lands and from whence I'll be flying home. After all, the flights are fixed, barring something big and bad happening.

After Al heads home, it's just me and my tent for another 6 weeks and no schedule until that flight home.

Jacquie
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3 months ago
Scott AndersonI’ll be interested to see how this works out for you. There are so many pros and cons, but as long as you look ahead a ways and cancel before there’s a penalty due, I look it as just preserving the option to stay in a place in the part of town you want to be. We’ve had a few times where we’ve Gotten stuck with the cancellation fee because of a last minute change of plans, but it’s been really rare.

Also, FYI, we almost never inquire about bike storage and have almost never gotten stuck. Offhand I can only think of one time, in Seville about 20 years ago. They’ll virtually always find space somewhere.
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3 months ago
Scott AndersonAnd thanks for reminding me where Book ‘em, Danno originates. That phrase has been in my dictionary for years, but it’s so far back I’d forgotten where it came from.
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3 months ago
Keith ClassenPersonally I would lose my mind (small as it is), much hair, and several days of my life if I decided we should prebook our rooms for our entire trip. I guess knowing exactly where you are going would help. I marvel how Scott does it. I was hoping our paths would cross last fall so we could sit down and give me some lessons in planning. The most I have prebooked is the first, second and last night. I like the flexibility of not prebooking ... allowing for possibility of a change of plans/routes, longer stays in a particular spot etc. I recall us taking the advise of cute server in Ingolstadt who suggested we take the Altmutal bike route from Kelheim to Rotenburg making our way back to Frankfurt. And according to the Lonely Planet guide the Altmutal route was ranked in the top 5 long distance cycling routes in Germany. It was indeed a great route. We would never had gone through Zell am See if it weren’t for the suggestion of a bike shop employee in Salsburg to alter our proposed route. This good fellow even offered us his GPS device telling us we could just mail it back to him. I guess he was worried about the old people. I will be really looking forward to seeing how it works out for you. Keith
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3 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Jacquie GaudetAt least with the tent, a campground can almost always find a spot for you. We always liked to think that at least in principle we could pitch anywhere, if needed. That often was a clear fail, with fences and deep ditches all along routes.

By the way, a good reference for campgrounds in Europe is http://archiescampings.eu/
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3 months ago
Keith ClassenSteve - just another thought concerning booking rooms and the cost. I typically use Trivago which seaches all the main booking sites such as Booking.com, Hotels.com, priceline etc. . When I can I book through Hotels.com which has a rewards program that essentially gives you a “free night” after 10 bookings in there site. . Actually the “free night” is a credit based of the average cost of the 10 nights. It has worked for us on several occasions.
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3 months ago
Tricia GrahamI think you are very brave booking it all. We are nervous sometimes booking a day ahead! Will be interested to hear how it goes
Good travelling
Tricia
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3 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Tricia GrahamI am actually petrified. Already I found one major booboo in Czech that left a giant gap of 130 km between bookings. I had accidentally booked a spot way off the route and it took a fair bit of juggling to find an alternative. Fortunately we are still at home and I have the resources to fix these disasters. But what will happen out on the Trail? Stay tuned, all will be revealed as it unfolds. Anxiously, Dodie
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3 months ago
Tricia GrahamI am sure you will have no trouble biking 130km in a day with your new knees
Tricia
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3 months ago
Sue PriceSounds like a pickle! We booked everything in advance when we were in the Yucatan because it was Christmas and New Years and we figured we would have a hard time finding places during that time, but once we got to Cuba it was pretty free and easy and we rarely had problems. I suppose a lot depends on whether you are in busy places, which it sounds like you are. It's nerve wracking for sure, knowing one little error can cause a gigantic collapse of plans. Ah well, you two are masters of all this! You will sail through with flying colours I am sure!
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3 months ago