The other week I wrote about the weekend warrior idea and my goal to travel more. This trip is the direct result of that ambition and quite an extreme example of what can be accomplished in a weekend getaway. I dragged my brother across the country to escape the cold, have some fun, and prove a point.
No sugar coating it, this was a marathon of a trip. There is a lot of ground to cover between Maine and Arizona. Flying out of the Portland Jetport would be the convenient option, but as is often the case around here, price and service meant putting up with Boston.
The flight out was nonstop service on American Airlines at 6am with a 10:30a arrival to maximize time we had away.
The flight back had the same idea, taking jetBlue at 10:30pm. This is the one thing we agreed should be done differently. After a long day of activities, we found ourselves happy to leave after dinner that night and needing to find a way to kill a few hours before the flight. That red-eye flight also meant arriving in Boston at 5am and heading straight into work from the airport. This was defiantly the craziest part of the plan, more details on that in my flight review here.
We checked into the Kimpton Hotel Palomar early after the manager was able to find our reservation in the system which apparently had not been synced. We had been ‘upgraded’ to a room with the receptionists’ favorite view facing the mountains and airport. I’m sure it would have been a nice view, assuming we could see all of it through the black mesh of an ad they had plastered on the side of the building.
The room was modern and spaces as expected from a Kimpton. However, for a modern room it was really showing its age. The painted bathroom door was fading, all the furniture had dings and scratches, and the dresser/TV stand had a good size chunk missing from the side.
I am glad the restaurant and public areas are better looked after because the room was not up to par for the Kimpton brand.
Having checked in and dropped off bags, it is time to get going. First things first, a quick lunch at the hotel restaurant to gather our heads and finalize the game plan for the day. After a long morning of travel we settled on relaxing by the pool.
This was on our list of possibilities from the start but moved to first at the recommendation of our Lyft driver from the airport. Admittedly I wasn’t too confident that the gardens were going to be worthwhile. We had already driven by so many cacti, what’s so good about a bunch all in one place?
I was so wrong. The park was much larger and filled with so many types of plants my imagination would not be able to conjure on its own. I was also caught off guard by how inviting and relaxing it was just being there.
Along the way a bunny hopping around captured my attention and held it. We spent quite a bit of time watching him navigate the area nibbling on leaves. I had a blast with the new camera trying to get as many angles as possible without scaring him off. He has been named Reginald and somehow became the highlight of the day.
On the way out I picked up a cactus. Now, armed with just a cardboard box and some bubble wrap, I had to get this new prickly friend (who I named Reginald of course) back to the hotel and (somehow) on the flight home. Challenge accepted.
Tip: Go an hour before sunset and plan to stay a few hours. Take in all the natural beauty by daylight, enjoy the sunset silhouetting a field of cacti. At night the park lights up with color and transforms into an entirely different experience.
Dinner in Scottsdale
My brother, being down for whatever on this trip, had only one request: Mexican food for dinner. For that, we found ourselves in Scottsdale surrounded by a variety of incredible restaurants and shops. There is so much going on here you can easily spend a day bouncing around the downtown area, be we had time for only one; Cien Agaves Tacos & Tequila. Need I say more?
I will anyway. This was a great pick. Right in Old Town so there was plenty to check out while waiting for a table and the food was seriously good. As someone who generally doesn’t go for Mexican food I still give Cien Agaves a strong recommendation. Easily the best food we had all weekend. And the banana colada is dangerously good.
The one thing we planned on doing was hiking Camelback Mountain in the morning. Then we slept in. Not that we were bothered; with a list of ideas and no set schedule we went to brunch instead to regroup with steak and eggs. A new plan for the day was made that ultimately also went out the window a few hours later.
Who doesn’t like going to the zoo? This was planned for later in the day after Hole in the Rock down the road, but our Lyft driver dropped us at the zoo gates instead so here we go. We made our way around the park starting with giraffes at the entrance and looping around to find the big cats.
Hint: You are allowed to bring a backpack with water and food to avoid paying park prices.
Hole in the Rock
Just at the other side of the zoo parking lot you will find a path to Hole in the Rock. This short hike takes you up and around to a giant, well, hole in the rock. An easy walk, there are steps for the steepest incline so barrier of entry is low but the views are amazing.
Its a nice place to sit and relax. Take in the landscape, the city skyline, or just watch planes land in the distance like me.
We were looking for something a little more advanced and were able to find that here too. Not officially part of the trail, you can climb to the top of the rock for some more adventure. Just don’t lose your step.
Was it worth it?
As mentioned at the beginning, I had a point to prove here. Taking a vacation doesn’t have to be an elaborately planned weeks long once in a lifetime trip. With two days, a tiny budget (plus some reward points) and no real plan, we were easily able to have an incredible adventure. This is an extreme example taking the weekend warrior philosophy to heart and not at all a recommendation for everyone. But if we can do all this, you can take a day trip to the next closest city or do a short road trip.
Travel is always worth it.
Would you do a weekend this intense?