This is Our Vagabond Life

The Boys at the Saint George, UT Starbucks
The Boys at the Saint George, UT Starbucks

I am planning our next trip. It kind of goes without saying: I am always planning our next trip. What I am learning as I sit in this roadside Starbucks is that Spring is a hard time for deals. My laptop is plugged in. I am sitting at a very small table, which is next to Eli’s table, which is next to Kyle’s.

We (may) have two weeks to kill before moving into a place. Maybe we will fid a place sooner. We are thinking we will live in Utah for the summer. Wait! Hold up! I know I told you we had moved to San Francisco. We have. Then things happened. We are waiting for news, and in the meantime we are all sick of living in a hotel. Do you realize we have been living in a hotel since January 31?  Ok. In truth, we spent the night at my friend Rachael’s, in Dallas on one night in January. Her home was a most lovely stopover on our way to Rome. Needless to say, our suitcases have been packed since January.  We are all feeling rough around the edges, and I know it is time to take hold when I suggest simply buying new underwear or Neosporin instead of searching our storage unit for either.

We arrived in rainy, yes, rainy, Salt Lake City late last night. We decided to switch it up and try Salt Lake City’s new downtown Hyatt House. Ok, let me sidebar this post for a second. See, I would hope after staying nearly one hundred consecutive nights in a hotel that we would have learned a thing or two. And here is the most important thing I have learned. After checking in to any place, check the room out first before bringing in your luggage. So at 12:23 AM (give or take five minutes), Dave and I went up to the sixth floor of their “largest” room and immediately saw an issue. The SLC Hyatt House’s one bedroom  suite (they call a suite) was no suite at all and had no bedroom. It was a room with a partial divider. Unlike the Emeryville Hyatt House (go Emeryville!) that actually has a true one bedroom (with a separate room and a door that closes), SLC’s Hyatt House completely phoned the one-bedroom. Boo! The very loud music coming from the neighbor’s room was only a secondary reason to exit the building. So with our luggage still in the car, we moved on.

Back in the St. George, Utah Starbucks and back seated at my tiny table, I realize that I have to pee.  As I sit there with my full bladder, and look over at my boys, I think about homework on the road. We are all tired and I remember why. Up all night doing laundry. Our Las Vegas Vdara Executive Corner Suite  was so large and fancy it had a washer and dryer in the room. Woot! Sure, the Euro-style dryer was a little confusing and took forever. Staying up all night long was totally worth it. I did not have to find a Laundromat.

I am starving. Sitting at my tiny Starbuck table I feel it. As my stomach growls, Eli announces, “I do not want to be here.” I ignore my hunger. I cannot see their laptops. I am not sure if I want to look.  I distract myself with Award Travel. I am not having any luck. That happens. So I decide to check out the Points Guy. Dave was telling me just the other day that the Points Guy is sopopular that he 1. has a paid staff now, and 2. apparently makes enough money now that he doesn’t have to use points for hotel stays and just pays cash for really nice places.  I log on to his site. Wow.  I want to know how to leverage the points I already have. And because we have already signed up for the gazillion credit card deals out there, I am not finding any promising information.

My travel-search-focus is broken. I do not mind. Kyle asks me if I have read “Flatland.” Then he tells me he is reading the book for Biology. “Is it about flat worms in the flatland?” I ask.  Later on Kyle asks Dave the same thing. Of course Dave knows that “Flatland” is about a two-dimensional world. When I answer Kyle, he rolls his eyes and stares blankly at me. I love this look, smile, and ask, “Are you giving me teen face?” Of course he is giving me teen face.

Eli wants to go to the car. This Starbucks is loud. I do not blame him. Instead I say, “Dude, this is your time to do homework.”

Maybe I can look into a Youtube channel. My marketing team (Kyle and Eli – hey, do not underestimate the perspective of the teen mind)  keeps telling me I need one. I look over at Eli. He puts his headphones back on. I feel for my boys.  Our life is disturbed for a reason. We are waiting for news on Dave’s company. Wait or no wait, I know that nothing about Kyle and Eli’s current school life is easy or convenient.  I often ignore (cut them some slack) their iFunny and Youtube viewing. When the end of each week comes, they always manage to get their homework done.

As I sit here writing this post, watching my boys, and canceling out the loud coffee shop noises, I believe I have figured out how to set up a Youtube Channel. My Google account links to Youtube. I start setting up my account. I can’t! I am SO distracted by  my HUNGER! I had to stop. I literally hear my stomach growl through my noise-canceling headphones.  Dave bought the boys non-caffeine Frappuccinos for Frappuccino Happy Hour. They cannot be as hungry as I am.
Moments ago and after Wet-wiping our sticky, coffee-spill covered tables, Dave told me, “It is too loud!”  His comment was enough. I stood up, walked around the tiny Starbucks, and found him another spot. As I called him over, of course I had to  Wet-Wipe his new table too.  Now he is in the back on a conference call. We persevere.

Wait. I see that the Youtube Channel is attached to my non-crazyus email account. I think that means I need to create a new account. Hungry people have done way more than what I am doing now. I will find a way. I must. I am embarrassed to tell you how easy it was. Eli has removed his headphones, and is staring at Kyle’s computer. I look at Kyle’s computer. OMG, he is actually doing homework. Eli yawns and whispers, “I want to go.” So do I. Instead I point him back toward his laptop. Dave taps me on the back.  He is done with his call and ready to go. I ask him to wait. While Dave grabs his laptop bag, I ask the boys if they are doing homework.  Kyle leans forward and says, “Mom, they are making me read a story I read in Seventh Grade.” He tells Dave then same thing. Dave taps my back again and puts his arm around me. “I am just trying to find one more thing and then we can go.”  I say. At that Eli jumps and starts packing up his stuff. As he winds his cords, Dave wanders urgently through the store.  I point my right arm in the direction to the bathroom.  My hunger slows my brain. “Don’t get h’angry.  Don’t get h’angry.” I think. I need to eat. Dave is now sitting down. Kyle announces, “I am not ready. I am in the middle of something.” Eli leans against the window. Dave looks at his laptop. I can only think of my desperately hungry stomach. I take a deep breath.  I ask Dave to book us a hotel for tonight and to look for some end-of-May travel deals.

Just this morning I called my mom to check in. “We are in Salt Lake City.” I tell her. I am happy she is glad. “Hey, maybe I should write a memoir about these past three months.” I continue, “I mean, who is crazy enough to take their boys out of school, attempt to move to San Francisco, have the plan change and remain in a holding pattern this long?” Travel rocks. I am glad we yanked our boys out of school. Not knowing where we will land, however, is a little less delightful.


This is our vagabond life.


Sidebar:  The three most valuable smartphone apps for a roadtrip:  Google Maps, Yelp, and GasBuddy. Gasbuddy is a crowdsourced record of how much gas costs at different stations.  It’s easy to find a station selling gas for 10-12 cents lower than gas from stations a block away.

Sidebar: Don’t neglect your AAA discounts. In Utah, the ubiquitous Maverick gas station offers a 4 cent per gallon discount for swiping your AAA card at the pump. AAA is generally worth it for the hotel discounts alone, but this is icing on the cake. Check out your local AAA chapter’s website. There are other gas stations that offer discounts.

Sidebar: Starbucks has promotions, like the current 2 for 1 Frappuchino deal, and  many of them are exclusive to Gold card members. You earn gold by buying 30 drinks within 12 months.  The most lucrative gold perk is free refills on tea and brewed coffee. I often buy a green iced tea (Venti size for about $2.75) then refill it throughout the day. Once I’ve bought 12 teas, I get a free drink or food item. We usually spring for a sandwich ($5.95). So you spend $33 to get 36+ teas, and get a $6 sandwich for free. Not bad if you’re a green tea addict like I am.

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Palm Springs and Now Vegas

Indian Wells Golf Course
Indian Wells Golf Course

We checked out of our hotel a day early.  Here is the (hilarious) exchange the front desk guy and I had as I shared our early departure news.

Front Desk Guy: “I want to get this right. So you are saying that you are checking out early because you do not like the snacks in the Club Room?”

Me: “That is correct.”

Front Desk Guy: “Ok then.”

I told him I thought he was cool for not pursuing his line of question, thanked him, I think he tried not laugh, and I did (only a little). Then I walked over to Kyle, who was waiting for me on the hotel lobby couch. I laughed out loud — again.  Kyle and I left and walked down the hall.  “Should I be embarrassed?” I said, and continued, “I mean, I told the guy we were leaving because of the snacks were not good.”

“Isn’t that the truth?” Kyle responded.

“Yes, it is true. We are overwhelmed with the Indian Wells Hyatt Club so we decided to hit the road.” I said.

“I think you should own it.” Kyle suggested.

I cheekily offered Kyle a Valley-Girl-lacking-enunciation-skills example, “Ew, Hy’t umh, liek yourh snas are g’hross.”  [translation: ew, Hyatt, um, like, your snacks are gross!]

“No really. Mom, Just say it in a normal voice.” He said in sort of a serious way. Although he was amused, he wanted me to know that any reason is ok. What a great kid!  He continued, “Have confidence in your words.”

Hyatt Regency Indian Wells
Hyatt Regency Indian Wells

Before the whole front-desk-guy-snack-exchange Kyle and I spent time roaming the resort. In thirty minutes time we found  the villas, Kyle pointed out a lovely grapefruit tree, we roamed onto a dirt path and somehow landed on a path that paralleled the “active” golf course. We were on the path for maybe three minutes, when golf security raced over to us (I did not know the high speed golf cart racing to us was actually being driven by golf security at the time, by the way). He hopped out of his cart, and concerned he said, “You guys stay behind me.” He paused. Looked around, and continued, “Wait until that women hits her ball. Then it will be safe. Those things are dangerous.” We avoided the balls and waited until it was safe. Then we walked back up through trees while admiring the lovely desert landscape, and rounded our way back to the front of the hotel.

In minutes, we made our way back up to the Club Room. We double checked. We wanted to make sure the snacks were lame before we made our decision. It only took one look to know. Yes, the snacks were lame. Sure, if all we wanted was bottled water, juice, tea, coffee, and cans of soda (or is it pop), we would be set. There was also a small nut assortment. They called it the make-your-own-trail-mix area.  Regarding the make-your-own-trail-mix area? Where were the chocolate chips and M&M’s hiding? And at the very least, where was the dried fruit? Craisin? Come on. Along with the trail mix,  if memory serves me correctly, there were also tiny apples, some nice cookies, and that is about it.

Truth is, it wasn’t just about the mid-day snacks. We had specifically selected this resort because we get free access to the club room, where food is served ’round the clock. Keeping hungry teenagers fed is expensive when on the road, so a good club room can be a great money-saver. That’s why we paid a little extra to stay at a nicer hotel like this particular Hyatt. We’ve stayed at some hotels where the club serves a seemingly never-ending cavalcade of culinary delights. This hotel was not one of those places. After checking in, we stopped by the club for their evening snacks. It was a dish of cobbler and cookies. The breakfast that morning was nice looking, but limited, with a tray of soggy breakfast sandwiches and a strange array of cheeses and lunchmeats. a big disappointment after the great breakfast buffet at the Hyatt in Anaheim.  So not being impressed with the mid-day snack started a conversation about how we really had exhausted everything that particular hotel had to offer, and we were ready to move on.


As I grabbed a bottle of water, I fantasized about that one time we tagged along on Dave’s business trip to a conference  at the Hyatt Regency in Maui, and consequently one of the work perks was the Hyatt Club Room. Let me tell just say, if you want a good club room, a club room that gives you proper snacks, I suggest Hyatt Regency Maui. No. I have not been asked to review these hotels.  If you notice I am putting one Hyatt against the other.

(In theory), as much as we love the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells, CA, and even in spite of the whole snack issue, the lovely, sprawling golf resort is not our speed. My very favorite phrase of this Hyatt-Indian-Wells experience:  “Mom, I do not understand why people would build a hotel around a golf course.”

“Kyle, I have no idea, but they sure make a lot of money.” I responded. And of course our conversation led to a protracted discussion about hotel stays, and giving opinions on hotel stays. Ultimately and obviously we both agreed that we should leave the golf resort reviews to someone who actually golfs.

We packed up, and were on our way. After the quickest trip through Joshua Tree National Park, we made our way to Vegas.  I think I may have even seen a Joshua Tree. I am still not sure. Between the stress of losing two pairs of shoes, our hours of shared hunger, singing out loud for a very long time, and the setting sun, Joshua Tree could have been anywhere really. Thankfully, we have been there before. And even though it was like eight billion degrees the last time we were there, at least we saw many Joshua Trees and Cholla cacti. I also took many pictures, pictures I will use now so I can simply pretend I saw the same flora and fauna today.

Joshua Tree National Park Today [wink wink]
Joshua Tree National Park Today [wink wink]
Now here in Vegas I sit. We are nestled in our hotel, and planning on being here for the next two nights. It is an MGM Brand Hotel (The Vdara), and again our lengthy-hotel-stay-high-status is serving us well. We received a lovely room upgrade accompanied by an awesome Vegas views. The boys think they are in heaven and I am glad to go to bed. Goal today write complete. Good Night! It is 2:36 AM.


Sidebar: Hyatt is a partner with MGM Brand hotels. MGM brand hotels will status match with Hyatt and also give you Hyatt points for your stay. Make sure to sign up for both Hyatt’s and MGM’s (M Life) reward’s programs.

Sidebar:  You might have to live at the Hyatt like we did to earn Diamond status, but the Hyatt Credit Card gets you Platinum status and 2 free nights at any Hyatt. The United Mileage Plus Club Card also gives you Hyatt Platinum. Unfortunately, Hyatt Platinum is pretty weak. No free breakfast, and the “preferred” room upgrades on offer will not get you the kinds of upgrades they’ve been giving us since we earned Diamond.

Sidebar: Late in the evening and off-season can be some of the best times to see the beauty of the national parks without the crowds. If you like national parks, you should seriously consider an annual pass for $80, which will get you into most federal fee areas. Then do yourself a favor and try to visit as many of them as you can in a year.

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