Business trip

OK, fun’s over.  No more playing around on mountains.  We are on the trail of business now. Brett and I have taken the little Honda Fit out to cruise the highways in search of new ventures.  It’s a roadtrip!

coconino-cabins.jpgOur route on this trip starts with a run up I-17 to northern Arizona, in the Coconino National Forest, not far from Flagstaff.   This is an ideal place to go in the summer, because the 7,000 foot elevation means cool nights and comfortable days among towering Ponderosa pine trees.  We snagged a pair of rustic-looking cabins for our night here, thanks to our business hosts.

I set up mine as the temporary World Headquarters of Airstream Life, as usual. Normally I am setting up in the Airstream, but I appreciated the interesting change to a motel-style table beside open windows to the pine forest. It made for a great working environment. Unlike the northeastern rustic locations I have known, there were few bugs and nothing biting, which was nice since the cabin needed a little airing out when I arrived.  I just opened the front door and the back windows, and tapped away on my keyboard while the sweet smell of evergreen trees flowed through.

For whatever reason, I woke up at midnight feeling like I would never need to sleep again.  The fan was running and the windows were open to the night breeze, the forest was quiet, and the air was comfortably dry.  There was enough moonlight to let a shaft of silver light in the window. I lay there and considered what a nice night it was, and how if I had any sense I’d be sleeping through it.  That didn’t seem likely, so I conceded that it was also a nice night to catch up on a few emails and read one of the books I’d brought.

A few hours later I did finally manage to get back to sleep, until it was time to regroup at 7:30 a.m. for the morning’s business meetings.  In a setting like this, almost any business is fun.  We sat in the lodge’s restaurant and chatted with the General Manager, then toured the entire facility before packing up for our next stop.  A long roadtrip lay ahead: 375 miles to Palm Springs, CA, all the way from our 7,000 foot perch in the piney mountains down to sea level in Palm Springs.

Talk about a change of environment — our route took us to Flagstaff, then west along I-40 (which is Route 66 territory), and down Rt 95 and 62 into the desert to I-10 and finally Palm Springs.  Counting our start in Tucson, we traveled through a wide range of ecosystems, from the Saguaro cactus of the low Sonoran, to the Ponderosa pine of the Coconino National Forest above the famous Mogollon Rim, through high desert along I-40 in northern AZ, and then down below sea level in California’s Mojave.  This is why roadtrips can be much more fun than flying.  If we’d flown we would have seen a lot of airport departure gates and look-alike food courts, but we saw the country instead.

Of course there’s still the curse of road food.  Our first dinner of the trip was at an excellent steakhouse run by our hosts, where I had an amazingly good brisket (and Brett had a melt-in-your-mouth filet mignon). But then there was the rushed breakfast, the so-so burger in Kingman AZ, and the car snacks. By the time we got to Palm Springs we were looking for something light.

Palm Springs in June is a fairly quiet place.   Temperatures of 109 to 113 (this week) will do that.  We’ve been told the hotels will fill up on the weekends with Los Angelenos looking for an escape from the “June gloom,” but on Monday night we had the downtown to ourselves.  We wandered past a fairly swanky restaurant on Palm Canyon Drive, the type of place where the waiter puts the cloth napkin on your lap for you (as if I had somehow lost the ability to do it myself), and we were the only customers at 7 p.m.

Being not particularly hungry, we ordered from the salad menu only.  I ordered a “salmon salad” and Brett ordered a Caesar salad with chicken, about $9 each.  With four staff members in the front of the house, we felt a bit conspicuous ordering only salads (the profit would not even cover the cost of running the outdoor air misters while we were there), so Brett tacked on a glass of wine for himself.  That glass cost almost as much as the meal, so maybe he overcompensated a little.

My salad turned out to be a fine green salad with homemade dressing plus a large slab of perfectly cooked salmon covering the entire thing.  It was a rather substantial meal despite my intention to have a small one. I can only imagine what I might have gotten if I had seriously regarded this as the prelude to a entree.

Dessert, a single scoop waffle cone with “coconut Macadamia caramel” ice cream, purchased a few blocks down the street, was $5.  The ice cream was excellent but I was reminded of the line from Pulp Fiction about the five dollar milkshake.  I’ll remember that for a while.  It’s not the big miles but rather the little details that make a roadtrip memorable.