Sunday, June 30, 2013

Awesome Arizona - What Will You Do for Me, Xanterra?

A cute Southwestern lamp decorates the Maswik Lodge room nightstand.
Dear Xanterra,

You do a fine job running all the lodges, concessions, and restaurants at the Grand Canyon.  Your employees answer every question with a smile, service is excellent, the food is reasonably priced and reasonably good, and the beds are comfy.  David and I are impressed that you do all this so well while making every effort to have your guests conserve natural resources.

We know you're big on saving natural resources because there were signs everywhere telling us how to do that.  At every turn and in every corner was a reminder that the world's resources were in our hands.

And, believe me, we took that responsibility seriously.

You asked us to save energy and water by re-using our towels.  We hung them up every day.  But we just couldn't bring ourselves to follow your other request.  You wanted us to tell the housekeeping staff not to make our beds.  But, gosh, Xanterra, we were on vacation, after all.  We wanted one tiny luxury.  We thought maybe you were going a little too far on that one.

No lotion or shampoo found their way into our suitcases when we left.  And don't think that was because the shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and soap were mounted on the wall in dispensers.  We could've emptied some of that stuff into plastic bags if we'd wanted to.  If we'd been energy fools. Which we're not.

And when I needed a shower cap, you kindly gave me one at the front desk.  So what if I had to walk several hundred yards from our room in the Aspen building to the Maswik Lodge lobby to get it.  It was my energy I was expending, not the world's.  (You even let me keep the plastic shower cap.)

When we needed to make some notes, we didn't even look for the pen and note pad that weren't in our room.  We dug deep in the briefcase instead to fish out an old napkin to write on.  It worked just fine.
our table/desk

But our contributions didn't end there.  When we ate in the cafeteria, you asked us not to use a straw.  Wow, that was a tough one, and I've got to confess that David did better at that than I did.  But when I read the sign you posted on the table about the schoolbus being full of straws from one day's use, I tried to tough it out.

We're hoping the utility fee for the lights and air conditioning which we gave you every time we ate at Maswik Cafeteria helped compensate for my profligate straw use.  We didn't even know it was legal to charge an additional fee for lights we needed so we could see what we were eating, but, there you are.  The charge was on every receipt, so I guess you know what you're doing.  Sure surprised us though.  We just hope it helped make up for the two straws I used.

But, all in all, we felt pretty good about the energy we didn't use while we visited the Grand Canyon.  The only thing that bothered us was that you kept asking us to make sacrifices, but  y o u  never asked what you could do for us to help us conserve the world's resources, too, in our daily lives.

So, David and I tackled that issue and think we have an idea for you.  We'd like to see you lower the rate of the $176 plus tax room at the Maswik Lodge North, the rooms you say are refurbished. (Did you do more than add air conditioning 'cause the rooms are really pretty small and not luxurious at all and really look just like the rooms at the $97-a-night Maswik South?) We think you might want to consider lowering the price.

What would happen if you reduced the price to a far more reasonable and realistic $80 per night?  Think of the energy people could conserve by not having to work so hard to pay for their hotel room.  They could drive fewer miles, use far less gas, and spend lots less money on lattes and lunches to earn the dollars needed for a night at Maswik.

Truly, this idea could revolutionize the world, to say nothing of the hotel industry.  And just think about all those schoolbuses filled with extra cash!  Extra cash that represents untold quantities of saved natural resources.  Yep, we think it's an idea whose time has come.


Dru & David

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Awesome Arizona - Have a Perfect Tightwad Day at the Grandest Canyon of All

A Perfect Tightwad Day at the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and there are at least seven ways to explore it.  You can fly above it in a helicopter, catch the I-Max flick for an eagle's perspective, take the shuttle around the perimeter, hike the canyon paths, ride a mule to Phantom Ranch in the valley below, attend the ranger lectures, or simply sit on the edge and watch the light manipulate the ever-changing shadows on the canyon walls.  With enough time and money, you can use all these approaches, but, if your resources are limited, here's a day I think will please you.  While it is, in typical Tightwad fashion, short on expense, I think you'll find it long on enjoyment.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Awesome Arizona - World's First High-Rises

Seems like everyone wants a room with a view.

In Peru, Machu Picchu clings to a mountain ridge almost 8,000 feet above sea level.  Carved high in the dusky pink cliffs of Jordan, the remarkable city of Petra provides sweeping vistas of the desert.  And in Europe, old cities perch on hilltops.  All of these ancient inhabitants truly had penthouse views.  Of course, they also built "high" to avoid mosquitoes, disease, which was assumed to originate in the swampy flatlands, and encounters with marauders, but I'll bet it was the view that really sold them.

Even the first settlers of North America wanted a penthouse view.  Just an hour and a half north of Phoenix and a couple miles off I-10 lies Montezuma's Castle, a misnomer because there is no castle and the Aztec ruler had nothing to do with the construction, but impressive nevertheless. 

Built by the Sinagua, distantly related to the Hohokam, around 700 AD, the five-story structure was occupied from 1100-1400 by various native American tribes until they suddenly disappeared for reasons which are still not understood. 

The Visitor Center does a fine job explaining the backstory, and a path leads to excellent views of the cliff dwellings themselves.

Now I understand why my dad, a first-generation American who spoke only Swedish until he went to first grade, always told us children to build on a hill.  It wasn't because it was a Swedish tradition or because we lived near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where so many rivers crisscrossed the valleys that flooding was inevitable.  It was because he was following an ancient tradition and wanted his children always to have a room with a view.

Practicalities - For more information about Montezuma's Castle, click here.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Awesome Arizona - On the Way

Every day in June in Tucson has been in the hundred degree range. While it is true it is a dry heat, it's been a particularly dry heat since we have gone over 60 days with no rain.  We are waiting for the monsoon and the meteorologists, as well as everyone else, scan the skies daily for signs of  rain.

So maybe you can understand why David and I decided to meander through the mountains on two-lane roads on our way to the Grand Canyon.  We craved pine trees and grass.  Anything green, really.  But along the way, we found something even better.  Something blue.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Awesome Arizona

It was our dog that determined our vacation destination this June.  Our beloved Belgian malinois is suffering from degenerative myelopathy, which some describe as the equivalent of canine multiple sclerosis or ALS, and she's rapidly losing control of her hind legs.

I ordered a dog cart/wheelchair for her today (from the wonderful people at k 9 carts) which should help her get back to the walks she loves, but David and I know she's not going to be with us  much longer.  Because we don't want to be too far away in case she needs us, we've decided to take a trip to explore our own backyard.

Even though we aren't crossing any oceans, this promises to be an exciting trip.  Some of the most impressive country in the world is in northern Arizona, and we plan to explore as much of it as possible in ten days.

We'll spend a couple days at the Grand Canyon, in Monument Valley, and at Canyon de Chelly exploring all of those places plus the Painted Desert, the Hopi and Navajo Nations, the Petrified Forest, and the Homolovi Ruins.  The laptop will be in the backseat, but Internet reception may not be available everywhere in these remote areas, so blog posts may have to wait for our return.

Still,  I promise to tell you all about it in the next few days or when we get back.  Here's a photo of one of the places we'll explore.  See why we're excited?!
Monument Valley

Practicalities - Don't worry.  Our dog will be in the excellent care of our pet sitters who have become friends.  If you'd like to know how we found these wonderful people who are happy to get a mini-vacation in exchange for caring for our pets, see this article "Free Pet Sitting."

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Hurry - Get the Last Great American Bargain!

On the way to Saguaro National Park West
Want to be admitted free at any of the United States' national parks for the rest of your life?  Are there three other people in your car who'd like to get in for free, too?  Would you like a 50% discount on some amenities like camping?

Then don't hesitate if you're a US citizen and at least 62 years old to run to your nearest national park and pay $10 for the Senior Pass.  It truly is the last great bargain in America. It entitles you to free admission and use of all national parks (At most of the parks in the west--the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite-- you will save $20-$25 per car.) as well as Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Land (FWS), Reclamation and Forest Service properties (USDA-FS). And the $10 pass is good for the rest of your life!

But you've got to hurry.  The ranger at Tucson's National Saguara Park West (There are two on either side of Tucson.) told me that the legislation making the Senior Pass possible expires in 2014, and no one knows what will happen.  Everyone hopes the program will remain in place, but it may be discontinued or the fee increased considerably.  Luckily, though, the ranger assured me, all passes bought before 2014 will be honored no matter what.  And, if a new program is in place, current Senior Pass holders will be grandfathered in.  So, get your pass now, and you'll be assured of free admission forever.  What a deal!

Practicalities -

According to a pamphlet explaining the program, passes may be purchased at many locations throughout the country.  You can apply in person or by mail.  Note that you must provide proof of age and residency.  For further uinformation, click here.

Note that there are other passes available:  The $80 annual pass is available to anyone, while the Access Pass for US residents with a permanent disability, regardless of age, is free.  All active members of the military qualify for a free pass.

For further information about Federal Lands or to make reservations, click here.