After serving the same corporate travelers for years and developing close friendships with them, Sharri Moore, who owns Fly Me to the Moon Travel in Alameda, Calif., wasn't taken aback when a client opened up about what he really wanted when he traveled.
He said business travel wasn't as much fun as it used to be when, at the end of a long workday, he would relax with a cigar and have an old-fashioned prime rib dinner, somewhere away from families with noisy children.
The comment gave Moore an idea.
Why not a guidebook of places where adults can be adults, where they can sit in a dive bar and smoke like a chimney without someone fixing them with a disapproving glare? Or lounge at a resort with a drink by the pool where kids aren't playing and splashing?
The result is Moore's book, "The Guide to Politically Incorrect Travel," published last summer by PublishAmerica and available in major bookstores.
Moore wants to emphasize: She doesn't drink to excess, smoke or frequent topless bars. She loves children and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, the hotbed of political correctness.
"I didn't write the book to be mean-spirited or to offend people. But I think it's OK if there are places out there that are politically incorrect. I've got the Jerry Lee Lewis Museum [in Ferriday, La.] in the book, but that doesn't mean I advocate marrying your 13-year-old cousin. These are places that are fun to read about and visit."
A common thread in conversations with corporate travelers is that with the emphasis on family-friendly travel, they aren't having as much fun on the road as they used to have, she said.
"A lot of businesspeople are accustomed to getting what they want, and they're not finding places where they can smoke, drink and be away from kids," she said.
Moore, who has been a travel agent since 1995, drew on her years of living part time in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and her driving trips around the country that were highlighted with stops at oddball attractions. She incorporated her knowledge of the weird, the funny and the risque places as she talked with her clients about their upcoming trips.
One chapter of her book covers gentlemen's clubs, among them Climax, a drive-through strip club in Pennsylvania.
Other stops can only be described as bizarre. Two examples are a museum of the Georgia penal system where visitors can sit in an old wooden electric chair and a huge statue depicting Romeo the killer elephant preparing to stomp a clown to death in Delavan, Wis., a town boasting a circus tradition that dates to the 19th century.
Other chapters cover cheesy, politically incorrect roadside attractions: a tobacco museum in Virginia and a rundown Mexican-themed park called South of the Border at the North Carolina-South Carolina state line, where half the rides are broken but you can have your picture taken with a smiling, sombrero-wearing character named Pedro.
Moore got her start in the industry at Omega World Travel in San Francisco, and in 2003, after stints at other travel agencies, she founded Fly Me to the Moon Travel.
She is a one-person, independent operation, using Incentive Connections of Phoenix as a host agency.
Moore's business is divided about equally between corporate and leisure. Much of the leisure travel is generated by her corporate clientele, many of whom are heads of small to medium-size businesses.
She is a certified travel associate and a destination specialist in Western Europe and the Caribbean. An ASTA agent, she participates in ASTA's online trip request program, a source of business for her agency.
Moore's clients have been thrilled with her guide, she said. "They've sent me postcards from the places in the book, thanking me for sending them there."
Her own personal favorite is the Waccatee Zoo in South Carolina, a private facility about 20 minutes from Myrtle Beach with donkeys, monkeys, pigs and the like. "You pay an entrance fee and get a big plastic cup of food. Not only is it OK to feed the animals, it is encouraged, and the animals are all over you for the food. It's a blast."
From Rome to Venice by rail
Sharri Moore of Fly Me to the Moon Travel, Alameda, Calif., counts Italy as one of her specialties.
She arranged the following FIT itinerary relying on train travel to see the country.
Day 1: Arrive in Rome after overnight flight. Transfers provided to the Accademia Hotel for a six-night stay, including daily breakfast.
Day 2: Afternoon departure for a half-day tour of ancient Rome.
Day 3: Enjoy most of the day at leisure. Depart Accademia for a tour of Rome by night.
Day 4: Spend day at leisure.
Day 5: Depart hotel in the morning for the Naples area for a full-day tour of Pompeii.
Day 6: Last day in Rome at your leisure.
Day 7: Travel via first-class rail to Florence, then take a taxi to the Hotel Atlantic Palace for a five-night stay with daily breakfast included. Rest of the day in Florence at your leisure.
Day 8: Afternoon departure for one-hour walking tour to introduce you to Michelangelo's "David."
Day 9: Spend the day viewing Renaissance art at the Uffizi Gallery.
Day 10: Day at leisure for shopping, or perhaps take a local vineyard tour or a day trip to Lucca or Siena.
Day 11: Travel at your leisure from Florence to Pisa via first-class rail. From Pisa's rail station, walk a few blocks to the Piazza dei Miracoli and the famous Leaning Tower. Travel back to Florence via first-class rail at your leisure.
Day 12: Travel via first-class rail from Florence to Rapallo for a two-night stay at the Astoria Rapallo on the waterfront, including daily breakfast.
Day 13: Explore the villages of the Cinque Terre by rail.
Day 14: Travel via first-class rail from Rapallo to Genoa for a two-night stay at the Hotel Locanda di Palazzo Cicala. Take the Ferrovia Genova-Casella railway to the tiny nearby village of Casella for a scenic ride ending with lunch and a walk around the town.
Day 15: Explore Genoa and visit the Genoa Aquarium, the largest aquarium in Italy.
Day 16: Travel via first-class rail to Como for a two-night stay at Grand Hotel Tremezzo.
Day 17: Enjoy the beauty of Lake Como.
Day 18: Travel via first-class rail from Como to Venice for a three-night stay including daily breakfast at the Hotel Concordia on St. Mark's Square. After settling in, embark on a one-hour excursion by private motor launch.
Day 19: Take a two-hour walking tour of the main sights of Venice. In the evening, enjoy a romantic gondola ride.
Day 20: Last day in Venice at your leisure.
Day 21: Transfers provided to Marco Polo Airport in Venice.