Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Spent the Afternoon in Congress

January 2, 2007

This morning we decided to break in the new year by going on a road trip. To be more exact, we decided it the night before but I was in no position to partake in any planning.

Sandi suggested going up to the Wickenburg area, an eminently-advisable idea since we could avoid I-17 and the tons of Phoenicians who might use the day off to go north. Wickenburg wasn’t a destination so much as a focal point since the town is not particularly picturesque or interesting. There’s a ton of history there, but not much of it is still there there.

So we looked around the Phoenix day trips book that we own and found a route that took us up to Congress. We had passed through the town on a previous journey and I’d since regretted not stopping. The book also suggested a trip three miles up the highway to a dirt road leading to Stanton, Octave, and Weaver. Unfortunately, we never made it further than the Parker Dairy Farm because the washboard road was just too jarring in our minivan. (We later learned that Stanton, the first of the ghost towns on that road, was another five miles still. So we made the right decision.)

After turning around, we cruised Congress for about a minute and stopped to eat at the Congress Cafe. I think we were something of a novelty because everyone was gawking and waving at our kids. I believe Congress is now mostly a retirement community. The food was quite good diner-style cuisine and the service was outstanding.

After that, we drove down Ghost Town Road and came up to the pioneer cemetery of which all the ghost town sites have photos. We didn’t go see it because Annie was coughing too much and I really didn’t know how far it would be to reach it. Looking over the photographs, I’d say that it would be worth visiting on a return trip though.

The drive home was uneventful. We took the US 60 all the way down to Bell Road. I love that stretch of US 60 because it is almost exactly the course of the historical Grand Avenue that connected Phoenix to Wickenburg for the entirety of the former’s history. I like that kind of association. All in all, a nice day off.

[UPDATE (1/2/2007): I forgot the most interesting part of the trip! After finishing our meal at the Congress Cafe, we ambled out to the minivan and saw that a DeLorean had parked in the “lot!” I’ve only seen one other DeLorean in my life (Back to the Future aside) and that was in Phoenix doing the morning commute on the Squaw Peak. Very nice-looking car even after all these years.]

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Good Deal

March 2, 2006

The worst part about travelling for me is the renting of hotel rooms. I abhor it mainly because I know exactly how variable the rates are. It’s always made sense to me that room rates should vary with the peak travel season or amenities, but the rest of it seems completely arbitrary and designed to extract the most money possible. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I always feel like I’m the rube who’s paying through the nose so those-in-the-know can stay in the same hotel for $9 a night.

I’ve used Priceline in the past and it always impressed me with its appealing slogan—”Name your own price”—that did not match the reality of the site at all. I tried to name my own price and gradually came to realize that my expectations of price naming were not in sync with any hotelier’s. When coupled with the site’s bizarre feature that you couldn’t name your own price for the same hotel twice, I gave up and went back to my rube-dom.

That all ended tonight. We’re travelling to the Fillmore/Santa Clarita/Valencia area at the end of March for a get-together with some of my wife’s Internet friends and so we needed to get some accomodations. My wife was able to find a room at the Holiday Inn for $136 per night. This is in March, mind you, and we’re talking about the Holiday Inn. I believe I paid less for that at a Marriott or Hyatt in Manhattan Beach in September. My sucker alarms were going off full blast.

Her friend on the scene recommended the Hyatt Valencia as the place to stay. She said it was an incredible hotel, but that it was pricey. We saw a rate of $186 per night quoted elsewhere and thought that that was très chérè. Priceline, as usual, disappointed so I decided to give Hotwire a whirl and see what I could come up with. They won’t tell you what hotel you’re staying at until you’ve already paid, which is kind of snarky to my way of thinking, but they did say it was 3½ stars and regularly $186.50 per night. I figured that there couldn’t be that many hotels in Valencia, California with those exact same stats. At the quoted $103 per night, I also decided that we could do a lot worse.

You’ve probably guessed that the hotel in question was the Hyatt and you would be right. Not only did I get a great rate but I broke my string of bad hotel-booking luck. I’d rent a car, but I don’t feel that daring.

Back in Heathenville

July 24, 2003

So I got back from the land of Brigham Young safely. Contrary to some people‘s belief, we were never in any mortal danger on the ride back. We kept the cruise control at 85 mph, though there were countless instances of dropping down to 65 mph or less.

It was a nice trip overall. Salt Lake City was hotter than it’s ever been, which is very nice for a Phoenician trying to escape the sweltering urban heat island that is my hometown. We went to the Hogle Zoo and saw poor animals desperately trying to stay cool in temperatures that they never signed up for—the polar bear kept only his head out of the (hopefully) cool pool in his enclosure. My grandmother fed Sandi and I as if we were trying to get on disability; she even commented on how I’d lost weight, but acted as if that were some sort of travesty that required her wholesale commitment to rectify.

We also saw all of the Mormon holy sites, like Temple Square and This is the place. The tour through Temple Square was excruciating to say the least. I was expecting some history since the whole Mormon settlement thing was also a pioneer trek across the west, but instead got lessons about how the architecture reflected Mormon beliefs and would I like to know more about those lessons because we’ve got nice people who’d be happy to tell you all about them. When the “tour” (read: walking proselytization) was over, we got to watch a video about Christ’s adventures in Jerusalem and America and fill in a comment card that immediately triggered a home visit if you put anything remotely identifying.

The Mormon quest to convert me into a source of revenue did get me interested in the Mormon religion, but not in the way that they were hoping. I’ve been an explicit atheist since I was 5, but I am woefully ignorant of Christianity and religion in general. To me, the Mormons are no less crazy in their beliefs than the Catholics. Upon further investigation, they are in fact significantly crazier. Their rituals make Catholic masses seem like reasonable exercises. Their history seems ludicrous on its face—I suppose that’s why the faithful don’t investigate it beyond the platitudes of “some sea gulls saved the pioneers’ crops.” It’s amazing to read some of the stories of ex-Mormons about the trials and tribulations of not only being in the church but trying to leave—I guess the church doesn’t want to let go of 10% of your income so easily.

At any rate, I’m glad to be back in the land of the heathen—where there’s no official religion save suntanning and driving.