Don't Even Go There—Travel Writing for the Rest of Us

Even if the world is your oyster, you can still chip a tooth on its shell. While travel magazines feature exotic locales of breathtaking beauty, we expose sites so depressing that no traveler this side of Edgar Allan Poe would venture there without a tub-load of tranquilizers. Take Las Vegas (please) and the $5.99 all-you-can-eat buffet line at Sam’s Town. That's the world we explore at Don’t Even Go There.

On this site, we tell of places we’ve visited but wish we hadn’t. We reveal vacation plans gone awry and relate horror stories from the road best abandoned. These true stories reflect where we’ve chosen to go. We only have ourselves to blame. We rarely needed to exaggerate—the truth really is stranger than a Dan Brown novel.

Don’t Even Go There: travel tips for those of us who aren’t escorted by security guards, pampered by wealthy benefactors, or provided a generous per diem. This blog is for seasoned travelers and armchair tourists who want the real world first-hand and head-on, with all its drama, horror, and humor. You’ll laugh at us, cry with us, and decide to stay home more often.

08 June 2008

From Soup to Gnats

Many people—including us, unfortunately—stay in a timeshare while on vacation. Having a timeshare is like owning a second home (or in most cases, a condo) with fifty of your closest friends. If you can’t quickly name fifty people with whom you’d like to share a home, you just got the joke. Read on for the punch line. —MB & JS

You can find them all over the world—anywhere there’s an island, a mountain, a golf course, a lake, or just a historical plaque. Timeshares pop up wherever lots of people like to vacation. However, if you’re the type to go backpacking through Ireland, trekking in Nepal, or kayaking down the Royal Gorge, you probably won’t find a timeshare where you need one. But if you love the resort life—if you love riding the waves or skiing the slopes—timeshares might be perfect for you.

Timeshare units offer amenities hotels don’t: a kitchenette, a pull-out sofa, even laundry facilities. Once you own a timeshare and an exchange membership (which are not inexpensive), you can get a room for a week for free. For the right person, a timeshare can be a good vacation investment. That’s the rub. If the phrase “vacation investment” appeals to you, we have a timeshare to sell you.

Most timeshares are pristine. If cleanliness is next to godliness, timeshares are the holy Mecca of recycled lodging. But like all blanket assertions, there are exceptions. For us, despite some memorable vacations in exotic (read: warmer than home) locales, we had one horrific experience. Here’s the story.

Everything looked promising when we arrived. The timeshare we had reserved online, built sometime in the 1970s, seemed well groomed from the outside. Several golf courses and other amenities were close by.

Our lovely view: a parking lot and a fairway. We spent time on both.

The first problem arose when the women left us to fend for ourselves. They had serious sunbathing to attend to. We enjoyed our freedom until noon, when a potential life-threatening issue confronted us. Could two cave-dwelling Neanderthals like us manage lunch without a grill?

Our timeshare had a working kitchenette. A quick trip to the grocery store could have provided anything we needed, but like many American men, we usually grilled our meals. Without a grill, our cooking skills devolved into reheating, boiling, and toasting.

We eventually decided on soup, an easy meal that required only heating. But who wants to eat soup on a hot summer day? So we did what any intelligent person would do: we cranked up the air conditioning and pulled on long sleeves. Hey, we had to eat. After lunch, we played a round of golf to warm back up.

This became our daily routine. During the following days, we spent time with our favorite authors, consumed hours watching every available bonus feature on the ultra-expanded, 12-disc Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, and successfully decompressed from our hard-scrapple lives as self-unemployed writers.

The next problem appeared gradually, like syrup leaking onto a refrigerator shelf. You don’t notice it for days, but when you suddenly realize what’s happened, it’s a real mess. We were halfway through watching how makeup artists create orcs from rubber and paint when we discovered hundreds of tiny insect bites on our legs. At first, we thought the little varmints were bedbugs, but the women were completely untouched (and totally unsympathetic, but that’s another story). We eventually tracked the problem to the couch, where we spent most of our mornings.

The couch, it turned out, was a breeding ground for gnats, a self-serve restaurant for “no-see-ums.” They crept onto our skin and had their way with our flesh. Apparently, the air-conditioned cold from our lunchtime meals forced them to seek warmth more vigorously than usual. By mid-week, our swollen, itchy legs looked like they belonged to sunburned orcs after a bad day with an angry wizard. At this rate, we’d need medical attention by the time we returned home.

The timeshare management offered to asphyxiate us with pesticides, but we refused; we’d rather be bitten than poisoned. So we did the only thing that made any sense: we invited friends for the weekend.

Lessons Learned:
Timeshares aren’t meant to be kept to yourself. That’s why the sofa expands into a bed . . . to share the love.

How We Saw It
Blight-Seeing: 1
Communication Breakdown: 2
Customer Dis-service: 4
Discomfort Level: 5
Grunge Factor: 1
Inactivity Guide: 3
Rent-Attainment: 2
Spontaneous Consumption: 2
Fun Fraction: 3/5
Vibe-Rating: 2

If You Won’t Listen to Us
Nearest Airport: Douglas International Airport (Charlotte, NC)
Native Population: 1,050
Normal Attractions: Golfing, Chimney Rock Park, and Lake Lure, with its recreational lake activities like sunbathing and waterskiing.
Final Point of Interest: Chimney Rock, despite its appeal, is shaped like a penis. See for yourself:

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