Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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September 11, 2013

For travelers, there's a whole new rental world out there

(Continued)

Before heading out for coffee at a Russian cafe, I showed Galo the air mattress that he'd so graciously pumped up for me the night before. It had exhaled all its breath; the plush carpeting was my primary source of cushioning. Fortunately, the box of booze near the pillows hadn't seeped any liquid onto my head.

Galo, who runs a global student exchange company and often works from home, was a consummate guide and insta-friend. He and his roommate have hosted more than 40 visitors. I was their first American — most guests hail from abroad, and to expose them to the U. S. of A., Galo will prepare an American breakfast and organize outings to a Giants baseball game and dive bars.

"The people who 'surf' or 'trip,' " Galo said, "want the die-hard local experience."

As soon as I landed in San Francisco, Galo loaded me up with suggestions, including the dynamic murals in the Mission District, nourishment at Mission Chinese Food and John's birthday party at Golden Gate park.

Once I was officially the third roommate, he offered to take me on a personalized city tour. When he had work obligations, he sent me out on my own, but with motherly warnings.

"They'll either ask you what kind of drugs you want or will ask for money," he informed me about Haight-Ashbury denizens. "Just keep your head down."

As a thank-you for my hosts' generosity, I offered to take them out to dinner in Lower Haight. Our dinner ran late, or maybe we ate slowly, and my red-eye departure was creeping up.

I'd planned to take Sidecar, a donation-based ride-share service, to the BART station. Galo looked up the wait time (a driver was about three minutes away) and the suggested price ($20). In the true spirit of sharing, he offered to drive me instead.

As a member of the community, I accepted.

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