Arch Cape woman helps vacationers experience a different vocationARCH CAPE - At St. Bernards Bed and Breakfast, Barbara Dau bustles around the kitchen.

She's hurrying to get a bottle of champagne on ice before guests arrive. They're celebrating their anniversary and everything must be "just so" in their room.

On a normal day, owner and Innkeeper Dau has plenty to keep her hands full. But today she's doubly busy because she's also teaching Heidi Gutenkunst Wilkinson of Milwaukee, Wis., and Anne Martino of Chicago the finer points of running a successful bed and breakfast. Dau is a mentor for Vocation Vacations, a business that allows people to experience a vocation while spending time on vacation.

Created by Brian Kurth of Portland, Vocation Vacations matches people interested in learning a particular job with successful mentors. Several people train with the mentor for one to three days while on an otherwise traditional vacation. In addition to the Innkeeper vacation, the company also offers cheesemaker, fishing outfitter, raceway manager, brewmaster, horse trainer, professional gardener and vintner packages.

LORI ASSA - The Daily Astorian

Anne Martino, a Chicago, Ill. resident, serves Francois Ermaleh one of three breakfast courses. "It's a lot more work than I thought," says Martino of running a bed and breakfast. "That's the biggest surprise.""I was stuck in traffic when I came up with the idea," Kurth said. "I started to think about the things I'd love to do. I started it first as a hobby business and went in full launch mode this fall."

Kurth connected with Dau on the recommendation of a family member who had stayed at the bed and breakfast. He knocked on Dau's front door, explained the concept, and asked her if she'd like to become a Vocation Vacation mentor.

"I liked the idea because I'm a teacher," Dau said. "So many people come here and say 'oh, I've always wanted to run a bed and breakfast.' I've always wanted to say 'oh, you fool, come and see what's it's really like."

Transition to InnkeeperDau, 62, has owned St. Bernards for less than a year. After living in Chicago for 20 years and raising a family, the former high school and community college science teacher became frustrated with the lack of good jobs for women her age. She was living in California when she decided to pursue innkeeping.

"I figured I was going to have to create my own job," she said. "It was a different idea for me. I was a young woman of the 1950s and I had adhered to those stereotypical roles. I never would have thought about running my own business."

So Dau began shopping for an appropriate property between Seattle and San Francisco. She limited herself only to those she could turn into a bed and breakfast because she felt that sort of inn provided a more personal touch.

For more information• Vocation Vacations:

( or 866-888-6329.

• St. Bernards Bed and Breakfast:

( or 436-2800.She stumbled across St. Bernards on the Internet and originally thought the building looked too pretentious. Built as an inn in 1995 by original owners Don and Deanna Bernard, the building had a "storybook castle" feel, complete with turrets and gabled windows.

"Originally, it wasn't what I imagined I wanted to do," she said. "In my mind, a bed and breakfast was a Victorian home with rocking chairs on a wrap-around porch. But I had no idea Arch Cape was so beautiful."

Although Dau still needed a bit of convincing by her Realtor, she saw other plusses. Because the building was designed as an inn, it included spacious owner's quarters, something that other buildings did not have.

"Many old Victorians are beautiful, but the owner lives out in a shack because they can't afford to live in such a beautiful house," she said. "And it was in good repair. Old Victorian homes need a lot of repair."

In the end, Dau bought the business turnkey - with almost all of the furniture intact - and hasn't changed a thing. She spent 10 "exhausting" days of intensive training, following the Bernards around with a tape recorder and writing tablet to learn all she could quickly.

It's training that she's putting to good use as she teaches others about running a bed and breakfast.

18 hours a day"I'm used to bossing people around," Dau joked as she got ready for Gutenkunst Wilkinson and Martino. The two women were Dau and Kurth's "test run" of St. Bernards participation in Vocation Vacations.

"I had a big house in Chicago and had to run a staff and entertain," she said. "It didn't feel that different to me to run a bed and breakfast. It's a lot of hard work, which was familiar to me, sometimes working 18 hours a day."

Dau put Gutenkunst Wilkinson and Martino through the paces, straightening pillows, cutting ribbon to tie on champagne glasses and instructing them how to register guests and show them to their rooms. But the real work came the next morning, as they helped Dau prepare the three-course breakfast typical at the inn. Dau had created a morning "itinerary" that helped the three stay on schedule while preparing apple cake, chili baked eggs and broiled grapefruit.

"There's so much more to running a bed and breakfast than I ever thought," Martino said. "There's so much that goes on behind the scenes, so many details. I'm not really sure that this is what I would want to do full-time, but it's fulfilling a curiosity."

That's the whole point of Vocation Vacations, Kurth said.

"You're able to test the waters of a dream job while on vacation," he said. "You don't have to tell your boss or take time off of work. You don't even have to be considering a career change."

Dau plans to teach about one Vocation Vacation per month, for seven to eight months each year. She will not participate during the summer, her busiest season. Her test run with Gutenkunst Wilkinson and Martino went well and it gave her a chance - once again - to be a teacher.

"It was very strenuous to talk to them while I'm doing things, because I'd gotten used to doing things by myself," she said. "So I'm learning at the same time. But I loved it. Hopefully, I'm able to convey the idea that running a bed and breakfast is just a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-work-hard job.

"I've never romanticized it, but every morning I get up and look at the ocean and can't believe it. All in all, I'm happy with my choice."


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