Monday, August 23, 2010

A Life That Matters

Don't Ignore Quiet Despair

This post will be short, it has nothing to do with travel, yet I want to scream it.....

This weekend I learned of another young life cut short by suicide. While I didn't personally know this young woman, she was well known by the kids in our church's youth group. When her death was discussed a terrible sadness came up from somewhere deep inside me. 

Suddenly I was 12 years old again; sitting at lunch with my friend John Bowler at one of those big cafetorium tables that folded out of the wall.

That is the day John cajoled his teacher if "he were to commit suicide, how would he do it?"

The teacher said, "why even consider something like that?" But John pestered him all day long and finally in frustration the teacher snapped "well I guess I'd climb in a barrel and go over Niagara Falls!"

When we arrived to school the next day we learned John had loaded his dad's gun that night and killed himself.

Please, if you know a teen, young adult (or anyone) who is sending out warning signs (aloof, cutting themselves, whatever), tell them how much they mean to you. Tell them you are there for them. Be direct about intervention. Be a friend.

42 years later, I still believe the world would be a better place if John had joined us on the journey.

Roadboy's Travels © 2010

Saturday, August 21, 2010

College Calls

All Those Backpacks!

I must admit I love to travel in late summer. This is the time of year when airports are filled with young adults heading off to college. I sneak peeks at them. Most have a look of equal parts; fear and excitement.

For most parents it is both a happy and melancholy time. You want your son or daughter to have a soft landing as they fall from the nest, but you know you will desperately miss the child that is departing your home forever.

There are those awful moments when you walk past that quiet and empty bedroom. No more riffs of Guitar Hero. And when you look in there, you see the trophy's, posters, and the spot where all those Lego masterpieces and action figures used to reside. 

Despite knowing they will come back for the summer, you know they will never return as the children that left.

Mr. "B" and Sis Before Returning to ASU

Roadboy sends love to all you students (especially my own!)

Roadboy's Travels © 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

Why I Hate ATL

AirTran's Fantasy Hub!

Then the preacher said "Son, even if you're destined for heaven, you'll still connect through Atlanta!"

Over the past 24 hours I have had to bail out a staff member who was booked to travel from Reagan Airport (DCA) back to Phoenix (PHX). He had his ticket on AirTran's flight connecting through Atlanta (ATL).

The whole thing would have been chalked up to traveling on Friday the 13th, except the same thing happened to me on AirTran last month from Washington Dulles (IAD) to PHX through ATL. 

My flight was weather delayed in Dulles for 25 minutes, so my connection in ATL to PHX was lost. 

Once in ATL AirTran told me their am flight is oversold, and they would fly me home at the end of next day.

I checked into my hotel. 

Adding up the extra's I ultimately paid to get a cheap fare on AirTran: A day lost at work, a night at the Westin, an extra breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I returned on the same flight I would have been on the night before.

Once on board the plane to PHX, the flight attendants told us all to scrunch up cause "every seat was sold". Yet, when we took off (on time) the plane was at least 20% empty. For those keeping track that spells 20% of the passengers misconnected. In other words, we had a repeat performance of what happened the night before. The staff confided in me that for much of the year it happens every night.

Fast forward to yesterday. 

My staffer calls me "AirTran is gonna be 3 hours late taking off from DCA due to bad weather in ATL. They tell me I will surely miss my flight from ATL to PHX. They will not re-book me on anyone else" (despite the dozens of PHX flights available on various carriers.....). 

He was then told (with a straight face) that the earliest flight they would assure him a seat from ATL to PHX would be three days (I am not making this up!) later. So he'd have to bear the cost for three days of hotel and food in ATL. So much for the cheap airfare!

I told him to call their bluff and demand a refund on his non-refundable fare.  

He did.

We then booked him a four star room in DC on Hotwire for $99 (he said he "felt like a rockstar") and flew him home on Frontier the next day for about $80 more. Yeah, he lost a day thanks to AirTran's Fantasy Hub in Atlanta, but got a free day to tour the Smithsonian.

What have we learned?

AirTran may be fine for cheap North / South Atlantic service. But, no matter how cheap it seems, DO NOT fly AirTran East / West if your plane connects in ATL (which it will.)

Telling a passenger that they fully intend to strand you at your own cost in ATL for three days, is the equivalent of sitting for hours on the tarmac, except you have no recourse.

I fly almost every week. I fly through some of the busiest and most weather impacted airports in America. But without fail the worst problems I encounter usually have ATL somewhere in the itinerary. 

And that is why I hate ATL.

Roadboy's Travels © 2010

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Park City Waldorf Astoria

The Sweet Life in Park City

To me the concept of branding the name "Waldorf Astoria" just seems odd. Here in Arizona The Arizona Biltmore will always be The Arizona Biltmore and in Rome The Cavalieri will always be The Cavalieri.

I do not understand the desire / need to try to add more cachet to these luxe properties via branding them as "Waldorf Astoria this" or "Waldorf Astoria that". I sort of find it hard (and pretentious) to say the "Waldorf Astoria Arizona Biltmore".

But, despite what I might think, branding is now a fact of life. And the gaggle of private equity geeks running around these days buying everything in sight know it is costly and time consuming to create prestige brand names like "Ritz Carlton", "Four Seasons" or "Conrad" from scratch. Conversely, it is cheap to simply buy provenance.

In order to jump start the new Waldorf Astoria (WA) line of hotels, Hilton began by acquiring and re-branding a carefully assembled selection of ultra-prestige and much loved properties.

The process has been successful and Hilton now has a critical mass of celebrated properties carrying the "Waldorf Astoria" name. Now, instead of merely buying and/or re-branding existing properties, Hilton has begun developing new properties in high-end destinations (where suitable prestige properties are not available to buy and re-brand).

One of the first of the "from scratch" WA properties is the new Waldorf Astoria Park City.

I got to enjoy a stay there last week.

Although all of logo's and paperwork at the hotel lists its official title as The Dakota, once you are away from the property itself, you will only see it referenced to as Waldorf Astoria Park City.

At first I was a bit surprised that the hotel was not located in posh Deer Valley and was instead sited in The Canyons resort. In retrospect I think this was a very good choice. The WA is next to the ritzy Miner's Club and a new tram. So, although it lacks the ski-in / ski-out feature of Deer Valley's new St. Regis, this location allows you to simply walk across the street and be whisked to mid-mountain.

The Canyon's location is easy for guests to find. It is a far more family friendly hill since kids can snowboard here, but not at stodgy old Deer Valley. Finally, this location will soon feature direct access to a brand new golf course.

Across the Street - A New Tramway That Whisks Skiers Direct to Mid-Mountain

It offers a Golden Door spa, great pool area, a beautiful restaurant, and a great fitness area.

 Standard Cliche "Mountain Chic" Architecture 

The uber-cliched "Mountain Lodge" architecture of the hotel is so overdone everywhere in Park City it now provokes a gag reflex in me and the furniture choices in the hotel can only be described as gold dust epoch meets kitsch.

Note to WA, try to restrain your electrical engineer. Every room (including each bathroom) had no fewer than five light switches! In an era of sustainability do we really need such excess?

That said, the rooms are amazing. Many offer the equivalent features of a full condo. My room for example had two full bathrooms, two fireplaces, a full size washer dryer, and a spacious kitchen outfitted with full-sized Viking appliances.

I was ready to move in!

The Living Area

The Kitchen

The Bedroom

The Ultimate Family Luxury 
A Full Sized in-Room Washer Dryer!

Roadboy wishes he could have spent about three days here (with his mountain bike, a good pair of walking shoes, a couple of books, and a swim suit!)

They still have to get some bugs out (service in The Spruce restaurant was slow, the coffee cold, and the prices high). But those are just birthing pains.

The rates in the summer were wonderfully low. Even with the silly "Resort" fee tacked on, my daily rate was only about $175/nt. However, when the snow flies, prepare to listen to your wallet scream. The posted rates for this very same room in January start at an almost completely unbelievable $825/nt!

Between the new St. Regis and the New Waldorf Astoria, my beloved Stein Erickson Lodge has taken a quick one-two punch. 

Roadboy's Travels © 2010