Many area people have been to Phoenix or passed over it as they moved through that airport as they traveled in flights to other parts of the U.S. or the world. Few have stopped to smell the cacti and enjoy the desert city and all things the city offers for vacations, business meetings and recreation. Recently, my wife and I attended the National Newspaper Association’s 127th Annual Convention and Trade Show in Phoenix.

By air there are hassles

Phoenix is actually an easy place to go by air. There are direct flights from Omaha that take about two and a half hours. It takes two days to drive 1,350 miles.

Of course, if you fly you have to put up with the hassle of security and their search of your luggage plus the full-body scans.

My wife and I got through all of this and then I realized I had forgotten to take my pen knife out of my pocket and place it in the checked luggage. After all, it was one of those terrible knives with a two-inch blade. The last I heard was a “kerplunk” as the knife hit the bottom of the confiscated items box.

We found there are all kinds of ways the airlines have of getting extra fare from their passengers.

If your original boarding pass was not correct they charge an extra $25 per person if you want to sit together with your wife.

My wife and I decided we wanted to sit together so we plunked down the $50 and moved onto the airplane with the side-by-side seats.

When all the passengers were on board, and the door shut, we discovered there were several empty seats side by side. So long, fifty bucks.

We found another little trick the airlines have to increase their revenue. We noticed when a passenger asked to have a blanket the stewardess said, “Sure. That will be $8, please.”

A lady who wanted the blanket said, “I don’t want to buy the blanket; I just wanted to rent one.” 

The flight was smooth and on time. The taxi ride to the hotel was about a half-hour and cost $25 plus tip.

The location of the convention was in the Arizona Grand Resort, one of many very nice hotel/resorts in Phoenix.

We found that the summer and fall time is a great time to visit this city with many very nice hotels and resorts. The weather is very hot and the summer is not their peak season. As a result, the rates are low. Our room was $149 per night and included a full kitchen, king-sized bed in an oversized bedroom, a mirrored bathroom surrounding a glass walled shower plus a whirlpool. There was a living room with two sofas, and two recliners. Two TVs and all this opened onto a balcony with two chairs and a dining table.

Water park included

The view from the balcony looked out over the resort’s water park. The water park had a double three-story water slide that dropped almost straight down into a wave pool.

For the more sedate patrons, which included us, there was a moving river running through the park that you could ride through on big yellow tubes.

Because of the size of the resort, and the limited parking, they provided extended golf cart-type of transportation with drivers that would take you to and from your resort residence.

I asked one of the cart drivers what the rate was per night during the winter’s heavy tourist season. He said it depends if it is close to the Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s holidays. He said he did know that people paid $250 per night and up — not the $149 we were charged for the off-season.

The summer occupancy is definitely down because of the heat. One afternoon the temperature hit 107 degrees. The temperature also made a difference on golf charges in the mornings on the very nice beautiful courses in Phoenix. In the summer, the morning green fees were $150 for 18 holes with a cart. In the afternoon, the rate dropped to $75. Even with the lower afternoon rates the courses are nearly empty in the afternoons.

Plenty of places to eat

Phoenix is a city that is noted for their restaurants.

As you drive around and look at the many places to eat, you find there is something for every taste.

We selected what the locals referred to as a unique eatery. It was located on what the hotel clerk called a mountain that looked down over the city.

By Nebraska standards their mountains would be called “big hills.” But it did have a beautiful view as you looked down on the lights of the city and the dozens of airplanes taking off and landing at the Phoenix International Airport.

The name of the restaurant we chose was Rustler’s Roost. It was definitely of a cowboy theme. In fact, it had a live Texas Longhorn steer at the entrance, complete with the aroma. No question this was a steak house.

To get into the restaurant you had to walk up a loading shut ramp where you were greeted at the top by an option of sliding down a ramp one flight to a dance floor and a six-piece cowboy band playing country and line-dance music. If the children went down the slide they got a free meal. If the adults went down the slide they just got applause by the other people watching from around the dance floor.

Eat from old tin plates

You walked through the sawdust on the floors to your table complete with a kerosene lantern and an old tin plates. The plate was your salad plate served famil-style. The menu was printed on an old tattered newspaper and featured giant steaks and fried chicken with a scattering of fish items. The drinks were all served in old fruit jars slid across the tables to the thirsty patrons.

After the hearty meal, you could join in the line dancing or watch the others stomp away. It was too noisy to visit so you just watched waiters as they brought the complimentary dessert — cotton candy on a paper cone, just like you find at the county fairs.

It all boiled down to the fact that Phoenix is a great place for a vacation. And you can save a few bucks if you take that vacation during the off-season in the summer or fall.

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