Saturday, July 24, 2021

Southwest Parks 2021 - Day 1 (7/9/21) - Getting to Flagstaff

Preamble: Fran and I skipped our yearly week-long sightseeing trip last year (2020) due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and instead did a trip to visit family and friends in the Midwest (with a couple of days of excursion). For this year, our first choice was a trip to Europe, but that wasn't in the cards as the pandemic recovery continues. Our second choice was Glacier National Park, but we were late on pulling the trigger, so had trouble finding lodging since the US is crazy about the parks this summer (and I'm not one to do the camping thing). So instead Fran arranged for us a week-long tour of three national parks in the Southwestern US: Grand Canyon, Zion, and Joshua tree.

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The trip started on a Friday, after a half day of work. Fran and I took a car service to JFK for our 4pm flight to Phoenix. That flight was on time, but our connection to Flagstaff was not. It was ~9:30pm by the time we arrived at the tiny airport in Flagstaff (~30 minutes late), and all the car rental desks were closed. We had reserved a car from Budget for that day, though didn't know that the rental desk closed at 4pm; unfortunately, Fran had put 12pm as the pick-up time, so there was no indication that it might not be open. We went outside to try to figure out how to get a ride to our hotel, and Fran also called Budget customer service. She found out that they had given away our car, and they suggested that we check in the morning when the office opened up.

My initial attempts to get an Uber or Lyft failed because my phone wasn't picking up cell service. We also ran into another couple in the same situation as us, only with Hertz. The taxi stand at the airport only had one taxi minivan, and he was already booked by another group of passengers. As he left with his passengers, he said that he could come back to pick us up after dropping them off. We took down the number for his car service from the side of the minivan and Fran called it to try to request a ride; it turned out that he picked up, and he confirmed that he would come back for us. While we waited, the man from the other stranded couple was eventually able to get Uber to work on his phone, and ordered a ride from there. A man picking someone up from the airport offered to give us a ride, but we turned it down since we had made the arrangement with the car service. Another solo woman later came out, also needing to figure out how to get a ride; it turned out that she was going to our same hotel, the Baymont Inn, so we told her to tag along whenever the driver returned. After somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes of waiting, he returned to pick the 3 of us up and take us into town to the hotel.

After checking into the hotel and settling in the room, I booked a car with Hertz for the next morning in case we didn't have luck with Budget. Unfortunately, there was a significant price increase ($1150 vs $700) compared to what we had booked with Budget. We also found the hotel to be a bit dumpy; well, it wasn't great, but I was fine with it, whereas Fran could not wait to get out of there as soon as possible.

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Full pictures for the trip here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/FQpbDfmdGRksjimi9

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