Sitting in a U.S. Airways plane that just took off from the Phoenix “Sky Harbor” airport and I’m trying to summarize this latest Road Scholar trip.
For one, the people taking the trip were as interesting as always – some characters, some who always have to be the first off the bus, some who are so caring and sharing.
The weather was cold but fantastic – the sky was incredibly blue and I wish we’d had a chance to stay late at the Grand Canyon to watch the stars.
My Capitol Aerporter shuttle to/from Olympia, WA to the Sea-Tac airport was just fine. My Shuttle-U shuttle to/from Phoenix to Sky Harbor was terrific as well.
The front-desk staff at the Hassayampa Inn were just wonderful. They were always holding open doors, greeting everyone who came or left and willing to help with any request at the drop of a hat.
The staff that worked in the kitchen or were waitpersons were another matter. I guess I shouldn’t even say that – rather, I think it was the contract that was issued for our meals that was the problem. All the breakfasts were 90% identical. When you’re traveling, one of the things you look forward to are the meals. After five breakfasts of scrambled eggs and potatoes, well… Add to that that we always ran out of food. The servers always forgot to bring out things like ketchup, salsa, and even salad dressing for one dinner (half the people had gone through the buffet line before salad dressing was brought out). Food was often cold as well. Tea was difficult to come by, we always ran out of orange juice, the coffee was horrible, and the “hand-fruits” like apples, oranges, pears etc., were either too green to eat (pears), too bruised to eat (bananas) or just plain boring after five days. The one day that fresh melon/pineapple/berries were brought out – we ran out before half the people got fed.
I heard many complaints about our Christmas dinner “feast” as well – food that was cold, musical entertainment that ended exactly as soon as food began to be served, a bar that suddenly closed and was wheeled away and even boring pumpkin pie for dessert – which we’d already had for three previous dinners. I was told that the prime rib was no thrill, the ham was ok, but what was the idea of having mac and cheese for Christmas dinner? And the pre-dinner salad? Exactly the same salad we’d been served for every evening meal the previous nights.
The food was so unexciting that my small group ran away one day and paid for our own breakfast at another hotel. Road Scholar did pay for groups to go to the Gurley Street Grill one day and that may have been a mistake as it was soooo much better than the food we got at the Hassayampa Inn.
During the bus/train trip to the Grand Canyon we had horrible sack lunches of meat/cheese on bread, chips and a cookie. No drink and not even a napkin. In fact, there were no special meals included for vegetarians or gluten-free passengers. What the heck?
Our Road Scholar leaders were an issue too. I was in a group led by “M” and she spent a lot of her time dropping names and pointing out how important her family was to Prescott’s history. Surely there were other families involved? Her presentations were often rambling too and I ended up skipping her presentations at the end.
While I was not in “G’s” group (and he *does* have a terrific singing voice) I heard from others that he just never stopped talking.
As for the other presenters – the gentleman who talked about the Grand Canyon was good, the two singers/musicians during the week were good, the man who talked about Ancient Peoples was rambling and spent 16 minutes in a mini-rant about how great our veterans are – and apparently especially himself. Frankly, I skipped two of the presentations later in the week because of their often rambling and disorganized nature. I have to wonder too – with so many presentations why were there no projection systems used? Why no microphones – after all, this is a group of senior citizens and many had hearing aids. I’d love to hire myself out to make presentations for Road Scholar and really improve the organization and sequencing of the talks.
One thing that particularly bothered me was the people asking us to buy their things! Now I have no knowledge of “G” asking us to buy his “stuff”, the geologist was selling nothing, but the two musicians had their CDs for sale (not too pushy though), and “M” spent part of each of her presentations pushing her books. In fact I heard that one of her presentations consisted of her reading from her own books, while pointing out that one was out of print but she still had copies to sell. The man talking about Ancient People asked us to buy his products, his wife’s jewelry and even contribute to his favorite charity. On top of this, even the western entertainer on the train was selling miniature harmonicas!? Can I go nowhere without ads?
I was certainly well aware of our activity schedule before the trip, but living it was different than reading about it. There were copious amounts of free time (too much) and two entire afternoons of caroling. It seems that with the emphasis on Prescott being “Arizona’s Christmas City” surely we could have gone on some kind of ride to see holiday lights? Even a trip to see the city’s famous historical buildings would have been welcome. If you asked me how “Christmas-y” Prescott is, I’d have to truthfully say “not much”. The little town of Williams seemed to have more decorations. We did find out that there was a free annual display of gingerbread houses at the Casino very near Prescott and that too would have been a good idea for an optional side trip.
The Grand Canyon was terrific and Amber Rose on our train car saved the entire day. She was a delight and if I owned a company I’d hire her for customer service and pay her a great salary. But I’m still not sure why we even took the train to the canyon. Yes, it was something different, but it was such a slow train and trying to watch (what I was told was a worthless) wild west show in the middle of winter on metal bleachers seems a bit crazy. I think the two hour train ride could have been replaced with a one hour bus ride and given us an extra hour at the Canyon.
Thankfully my little group had a car and we escaped one day for a side trip to Sedona. I realize this was not part of the official trip, but it was so nice I can’t help but wonder why it was not a side trip for this Road Scholar trip.
While I’ve taken few Road Scholar trips to date, this one certainly does not deserve a very high rating.