INNKEEPERS AT HOME AND ON THE ROAD
BY NANCY HOWELL AND GARY MCKECHNIE
The best thing about greeting our guests is serving breakfast the next morning. Not because we are gourmet cooks, but because we enjoy the camaraderie and conversation shared at our dining table. Of the hundreds of guests we have welcomed over the past eight years, we have heard thousands of entertaining, adventurous and humorous travel stories about them, their families, and friends.
As travel writers (our other dream job) these stories inspire us to continue exploring and writing about the great American landscape and the people, places, and things we've seen.
Our first cross-country adventure began in 1998 and resulted in the book, Great American Motorcycle Tours. Twenty rides and seven motorcycles later, the book hit the stands in 2000. To celebrate - and to stay home after a year on the road -- we opened the Coconut Cottage Inn here in beautiful Mount Dora and began welcoming our special guests. This had been a ten-year quest, so it was very exciting to have a book published and a bed and breakfast open all in the same year.
The book became the best-selling motorcycle guidebook ever, aided perhaps by the foreword written by Peter Fonda and an endorsement by the American Motorcyclist Association. In 2001, the book earned a Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award - known as the "Pulitzer Prize of Travel Writing" - presented by the Society of American Travel Writers. In 2002, we challenged the backroads of America again to add five new rides to the book, which continues to make news with articles in USA Today, Washington Post, Miami Herald, Austin Statesman, and numerous motorcycle magazines. In October 2008, Gary earned a second Lowell Thomas Award for 'Prairie Hog', an article written for Harley-Davidson's magazine, Hog Tales. In 2009 we expect to hit the road again as GAMT goes into its fourth edition with even more rides.
From Florida to Washington, from Maine to California, we have been thrilled by the beautiful and stunning sights this country has to offer. We have seen buffalo, bears, moose, elk, antelope and prairie dogs, as well as geysers, canyons, caves, deserts, mountains and waterfalls. We've met Indians, farmers, fishermen, ranchers, musicians, astronauts, artists, storytellers, prospectors and other interesting people all across America.
As we embraced this great country, we decided to write yet another book, USA 101. Scheduled for release in 2009, this National Geographic travel book will highlight 101 American icons, events, and festivals including the Statue of Liberty, Little League Baseball World Series, Indianapolis 500, Custer's Last Stand, Golden Gate Bridge, The Alamo, Colonial Boston, and beyond. We've experienced the best of America and have the honor of writing about its treasured landmarks.
But returning home to the Coconut Cottage to meet and greet our guests is an indulgence we appreciate equally as much. We look forward to welcoming you and enjoying your company over breakfast and we hope you bring along some travel stories to share. See you soon!