Sunday, June 28, 2015

Dust Storms in Phoenix

A Rather Icky Summer Ritual

After living in Phoenix for 20 years now, I find a lot to love about it. We have 6 months of glorious weather followed by 6 months were we feel like we are living near the surface-of-the-sun! 

But in the grand scheme of things we've got it pretty good.

We don't have ice storms, earthquakes, tsunami's or hurricanes. We do get microbursts, but no full on tornadoes. In reality we are spared much of natures wrath. 

But in the summer Phoenicians do have to endure dust storms.

In the past we'd see three or four big dust storms over a summer. The wall-o-dust came in and was frequently followed by some monsoon rains. Now it is not uncommon to get 2 a week and they are rarely followed by rain.

New Phoenicians try to be hip and refer to our dust storms as Haboobs, but the term Haboob actually refers to the intense sand storms found in the Sudan near Khartoum. Think "The Mummy". Likewise the massive dust and sand storms in the Sahara are referred to as Simoons. 

Arizona just gets big old garden variety dust storms. Ours are the by-product of strong pressure gradients churning up dust and light sand into clouds of particulate that can rise as high as 20,000 feet. Periods of drought intensify dust storms. Our dust storms also stir up the virus spores that result in increased incidences of  "Valley Fever".

video
The Dust Starts to Blow
Blue Skies Immediately Turn Brown

It is an unchallenged fact that three of the events which offer 100% certainty of triggering a dust storm involve an approaching weekend, me washing a car or cleaning my pool.

Almost immediately after one of those triggers the skies in the east over Scottsdale turn the color of golden brown toast and winds start whipping the palms.

The grit and ick follows.

My Car 25 Minutes After Any Good Summertime Car Washing.....

And then, the storms pass and we start cleaning everything up all over again....

Roadboy's Travels © 2015

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Avon Colorado - Ahhh! in the Rockies

A Perfect Summer Weekend


Views from Avon CO

Living in a place that gets uber hot in the summer keeps me searching for quick, easy summer escapes.

For me anything resembling camping no longer constitutes an "escape". Nowadays I want scenery, comfort, good food and some culture.

Usually the desire to escape the heat results in a weekend in Prescott or Flagstaff. In years past Sedona might have made the list, but nowadays it is way too crowded in summer requiring an endless, inch at a time, crawl on a 2-lane to get there (only to find a bunch of candle, macrame and crystal people when you get there). Coronado and San Diego are classic escapes, but both are also pricey and jammed in summer.

I have found that summertime to a winter ski towns frequently works well. For example Park City Utah is very nice in summer. And, flights to Salt Lake from Phoenix are typically quick and fairly inexpensive. And, once you arrive you find summer rates in Park City's magnificent 4 and 5 star resorts are frequently amazing bargains.

Denver used to be on my summer respite list, but (similar to Seattle) this years avalanche of people moving to there coupled with the influx of Cannabis Vacationers (CV's) has resulted in skyrocketing summer hotel rates. And, since CV's tend to arrive by car in order to transport their dope home, planes have lots of capacity and airfares have been competitive.

So here's Roadboy's advice:
1. Fly to Denver
2. Rent a car
3. Take I-70 West.
4. Stop in Denver for an afternoon
5. Visit LoDo and Denver's various cultural amenities.
6. Maybe have a nice meal there.
7. Then get back on I-70 and drive west (while it is still light).
8. Take in the amazing scenery along the way.
9. In just a couple of hours you'll be in the cool pines of Breckenridge, Vail or Avon.
10. Enjoy!

Since Vail and Avon have opted to prohibit sßcx allowing marijuana dispensaries in town, CV'ers pass right on by on their way to the resort destinations that feature dispensaries.

With all that inventory designed for winter, there is alot of capacity available in summer. Vail and Avon's 4-5 start resorts have been offering very attractive summer rates (especially midweek). You can enjoy clean, dry 80° air by day, and sleep to the sound of the roaring Eagle River by night.

The Eagle River

This week I stayed at Avon's luxe Sheraton for only $159/nt and I have seen summer rates there flirt with $100/nt.

My room included a full kitchen, washer dryer, Bose wave radio, a fully jetted spa tub and a balcony with a gas fired BBQ. Like most of the premium resorts it offers a great fitness area, outdoor pool and spa and a rooftop game room for kids.

I am told the nearby Westin is even a bit plusher with views directly overlooking Eagle River. From either property it was an easy walk to a Starbucks, cafes and the path that runs along the banks of Eagle River.

Part of Avon's Public Art
(Enduring Navajo by Martha Pettigrew)

The town of Avon is immaculate, filled with art and parks (even a little lake).

Avon joins my list of perfect summer getaways. Plan your trip Here.


Roadboy's Travels © 2015

Monday, June 8, 2015

Has Anyone Ever Had A Good Experience WIth Spirit Airlines?


Today, I Tried So Hard to Fly Spirit Airlines

 I have never heard any traveler say anything nice about Spirit Airlines. But I thought maybe the anecdotes I'd been hearing might be exaggerations. Then I tried to actually fly Spirit. This is my experience......


Imagine a business model as follows:

You operate and airline with lots of planes filled with lots of seats. 

You fly your planes to lots of destinations.

You could make money selling seats to people who need to go where you fly!

Keeping the above in mind, let me describe my experience with Spirit airlines.

This morning I needed to book a flight from Denver to San Diego June 24 arriving before 9:00 am.

Poof "Fly.com" found a flight on Spirit Airlines for $68 arriving in San Diego at 8:40 AM.

Soooo happy! I've never flown on Spirit, but I am certainly willing to give them a try.

I aim my browser at Spirit's website and put in all the requested flight data

First, I am offered a membership in Spirit's "$9 Flight" club. It explains I will save a lot of money on today's booking (my flight to Denver would now cost $48)!

I sign right up and return to my booking.

Spirit website asks:
Q. Do I want to carry a bag on the plan? 
A. Well yes. 
OK Add $26.

Q. Do I want to check a bag?
A. Mai Oui.
OK Add $21.

Q. Do I want to select a seat? 
A. Great! Add up to $50.

Q. Do I want to check in at the airport? 
A. Do Bears Sh#t in the Woods?

Well that's extra too.

My $48 fare is now lots more expensive (plus my $9 flight club membership!)

I go to check out. A pop-up window says: "Wait While Something Awesome Loads!"

"Well that's kinda cute"!

The I come to realize the word "Load" was value laden.

The site crashes. All is lost. Undeterred, I try again. 

Spirit site crashes again. 

In cyberland no one hears your scream.

I try a different browser (Firefox).

The site behaves a bit differently and I now see the seat I requested before is no longer available. I fret. "did it actually book me in one of my various earlier attempts?"

I decide to call , but the Spirit website offers zero phone numbers.

I find a site called "Get a Human" (some irony there). It lists Spirit's (secret?) 800 number. 

I call. I am given prompt after prompt (I counted like 42 prompts).

I start saying "Operator". And after 27 successive "Operators", my call connects to a friendly call center gal in (I'm pretty sure) the Philippines.

I explain I've tried to buy a seat from Denver to San Diego on Spirit's site and it does not seem to be possible.

She coo's "yes our site can be like that". 

She runs me through the normal series of booking questions and quotes a price $30 more than the web price. 

I ask "why is it more?" She says "because you called me".

Of course! I should have known! If their site doesn't work, they'll charge more for my chat with a human.

I point out it is Spirit's site that is not working. I can mentally see her staring at her nail job during my protest.

I decide I'm not paying more just out of principal. I double back and ask her to check if there have been any charges on my credit card (i.e. did my other flight requests go through?).

She says "yes there is a charge for $55". I say "Wait the flight was more than that". She says "Oh it is not for a flight it is for the $9 Flight Club".  I say "Wait I thought it was $9!" She laughs gently saying "yeah, everyone thinks that."

I say "please cancel it". She says "absolutely" and goes off the line. When she returns she says "it is cancelled. Is there anything else I can do for you?", I say "no".

She says she is rolling my call to the $9 club rep. 

I think "Huh?" I thought we were done.

I decide I'd better wait and verify the charge was cancelled.

The wait is 26 more minutes. During which I get more prompts and then (finally) I reach friendly call center gal #2.

"No, the charge has not been cancelled and it is non-refundable". In fact, she informs me, it auto-renews annually and the renewal fee will be $10 more! I reaffirm that since I cannot actually book a flight on Spirit's website, I want to cancel my $9 Club (Actually $55 Club).

She gently scolds me about signing up for programs things I do not carefully read first.

While she offers her advice, I mentally roll through all those I-Tunes User Agreements I have routinely clicked "Yes" to without ever reading over the years.

I agree with her that I am a silly twit.

She accepts my apologies and cancels the charge. 

She then reminds me I will not be eligible for the discounted fare.

The fare I cannot actually book.

I acknowledge the reality I now face, without pointing out the irony of the Spirit business model.

She (I am not making this up) informs me I can get 15,000 Spirit Miles if I apply for a Spirit MasterCard. I demure.

She plunges ahead asking if "I might reconsider the offer if she throws in another $50 discount?" I reiterate that I have all the credit cards I need.

So for those keeping track.

Time elapsed = 1 hour 45 minutes

Frustration level = High

Spirit airfare purchased = 0

I go back to the web and this time I see the funny way Fly.com hints whenever a Southwest flight might exist.

I go to Southwest.com and see a non-stop flight arriving in San Diego non-stop even earlier. It costs more.

I don't care.

I book it in 3-1/2 minutes.


Roadboy's Travels © 2015