Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Circus Circus, Tahoe and High Sierra Snow (part 1)

A few years ago, I took the boys on an adventure to Bend. Hearkening back to that, today's post reflects on a trip I took last month with the older one.. visiting colleges. We were gone a week, so I'm splitting this up into multiple posts. Part 2 here. Part 3 here.

My son T is in his senior year of high school and hasn't decided on a college plan quite yet. He knows there is a real money constraint, though, so he's been looking through that lens. The experts say to just apply where you want to go and see what the money is later. I think T looked at that as setting up for disappointment. He wanted to see University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) and University of Colorado, Denver (UCD). Since both schools are in areas that experience colder weather than we do here, I thought a mid-winter trip could help him recognize the climate difference. We also wanted to go when school was going on so he could get a sense of what the real vibe on campus was like. Having settled on a trip around MLK, Jr. Day, we started planning.

I started working on a plan to pull the multi-city trip together in November. I tried Kayak, Google and a few other ideas, but the prices felt kind of high. So, I tried a travel agent to see if that made a difference. It did, but not in the way I expected. The price was about the same, but the accommodations and flight times weren't all that great. I'll get to that later, but in the end, we were able to slip out of town mid-day the Wednesday before MLK, Jr. Day and return the Tuesday night after, missing only 3 full days of school/work.

we were in upper left corner window
Over the course of less than a week, we flew 3 different airlines, visiting the 6 major cities in the Rockies and US Pacific Northwest: Portland, Seattle, Denver, Reno, Salt Lake City and San Francisco.

We took Delta from Portland to Reno by way of Salt Lake City. Of the 3 airlines, these flights were the least pleasant. The planes were over-full and the seats were closer together than on the other flights. They had in-seat televisions, which for a fee allowed you to watch programs. The SLC airport was nicer than I expected, though. We enjoyed a local-feeling brew-pub between flights.

We flew United from Reno to Denver by way of San Francisco. Our travel agent had set up this leg to depart Reno at 6:AM, meaning we had to return a rental car and checkout of a hotel in time to hit security by 5. On a Sunday morning. Sucky. United was okay, just the routing was dumb and the seats wouldn't tilt back, making sleep difficult.

Our last leg (home) routed us through Seattle on Alaska. Ordinarily, I love Alaska. Unfortunately, our plane from Seattle to Portland was a 20-person puddle jumper propeller plane. Still, this leg was the best of the three, even with the bumpy final flight.

Denver, CO
We stayed at two different hotels, obviously; one in Reno and one in Denver. They were quite opposite in terms of amenities, too. Our hotel in Reno (Ramada Reno Hotel and Casino) had seen better days. It was off-strip, but not near the airport nor the University. The elevator made noise, there were sketchy folks lingering outside the casino (did I mention it had a casino?) and the pool was closed. The desk folks were great and the servers in the hotel restaurant and bar were very nice. With a room rate under $100 a night, though, it was really all that we needed. In fact, it probably helped that it lacked many amenities; it may have contributed to how much time we spent seeing Nevada and California. We did have a top floor room with a fantastic view of the Sierra Nevada mountains, the University and the strip.

The hotel in Denver (Hilton Garden Inn Denver Downtown) was very nice. Again, we had an upper floor room but with a view on the downtown side. Loaded with amenities we didn't use like a pool, weight room, etc,but we did hit the hot tub and get room service once.

That's it for today. I'll dedicate individual posts about Nevada and Colorado later. On the cars front, there have been lots of things going on. I'll get to posting on all that too. Like I've said before, if I'm not posting, its because we're having adventures... that will be posted on later. :)
Thanks for following along.

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