- Where We Started: Scottsdale, Ariz.
- Where We Ended: Scottsdale, Ariz.
- Miles Driven: 576 (7,444 total)
- New States: None.
- States So Far: 15 (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona)
THE DAY'S HIGHLIGHTS
Now, your first question is likely how we managed to drive 576 miles while staying in the same city and at the same hotel. We know a lot of people in Phoenix, so Joan kept a busy social calendar while I was away. Not to mention the fact that everything in Phoenix seems to be 15 miles away from each other.
So here's a recap of what we all did the past six days:
First off, Joan took the car in for servicing. The good old Acura RL has been a dependable chariot on this journey, but it has taken a beating. So we needed to get our 50,000-mile service, check our leaky tires and check on a few other odds and ends. That visit to Acura North Scottsdale was not a great experience. While very nice personally, they were also most unhelpful when it came the actual car. They did patch both back tires, which had nails in them, but beyond that, weren’t able to answer basic questions about how long those tires would survive with the patches or help us with most of the questions we had. The car did get a wash, however, which it desperately needed, and the popped-out side panel was repaired.
In addition, intrepid reporter Joan adds, the dealer amenities were horrible. Unlike Pohanka Acura in Chantilly, there was no TV, no free Internet, no complimentary drinks, no complimentary donuts and no dog-friendly environment (at Pohanka, dogs can wait with their owners in the waiting area). So, for the almost three hours Joan was there, this was the dogs' life: hanging out in the shadow of a golf cart on a typical hot Arizona day.
Having had the oil changed and the tires checked and repaired, we felt pretty good about the car until Monday night, when suddenly the trunk wouldn’t close. The latch that secures its close had gotten stuck in the wrong position. We kept locking and unlocking the trunk with the remote, and after 10 minutes of fiddling, finally got it closed. This happened a few weeks ago as well, but hoping it was a random thing, we chose to ignore it. Once it happened a second time, we decided there was an electrical problem we needed to get checked. But we knew we were not going to go to Acura North Scottsdale again. So, on Tuesday, as I tried to get the blog up and running, Joan took the car to Acura of Tempe. Steve easily estimated the life left on the tires, but unfortunately couldn't help identify the problem with the trunk, because he couldn't replicate the problem, which is understandable. But that did make it that much more annoying when this problem cropped up again on Wednesday morning; this time to the driver’s side door, and briefly, the passenger side door. Driving to Tucson with two car doors that wouldn’t close seemed like a slightly bad idea, but luck shone upon us: a big, tattooed guy walking through the parking lot – who used to be a car detailer – came over and showed us how to jiggle with the door handle to make it close again. I wanted to kiss him, but he didn’t look like the kind of guy who would appreciate a kiss. But he saved the day. Joan is taking the car is this morning in Tucson to see if they have any bright ideas.
This car appointment left Joan, Fred and Hank so annoyed, they hit the spa on their return to the FireSky.
OK, this was a setup. Joan asked whether this photo could be set up for humor purposes. Joan may dress the dogs, but we're really not this crazy.
Saturday was a gorgeous day, so Joan decided to take the boys to the Cosmo Dog Park in Gilbert, Ariz., which was noted the nation's best dog park in 2007. And Joan believes it was a well-deserved honor.
The park has three different areas for dogs: one area for timid and old dogs, one for active dogs without a pond and one for active dogs with a pond. As you can imagine, the one for timid, old dogs wasn't exactly hopping, and our beagles aren't much interested in water, so Fred and Hank spent time in the active park with no pond. There, they met three other beagles.
Bella the beagle, who has clearly not missed a meal in many years. Despite the unfortunately placed paw, Bella is a girl. Bella's brother -- who's name Joan did not catch because her mouth was agape at Bella's size -- looms large behind Hank.
While the dogs had a fine time at Cosmo, they didn't love it. In fact, they're not big dog-park dogs in general. Hank's only fun seemed to come from mooning Joan.
The dog park exhausted Fred, so he didn't waste any time taking advantage of the dog bed when they returned.
Joan gave the dog park another try on Sunday, with more success. Hank managed to find a new friend to battle with, and unlike his tussle with Colette in Charleston, he held his own this time.
Fred, unfortunately, couldn't figure out how to get into the game.
On Monday, it was back to the the vet for more indignities. Fred had more acupuncture and, once again, did not want to get up when it ended. This time, he got a little cranky when we tried to get him up, sort of like when Joan calls me while doing errands when I'm napping on the couch on a lazy Sunday.
Then, the final indignity: Both guys had their anal glands expelled, fortunately, this was done out of Joan's sight. I won't even get into why this needs to happen every so often; just trust me when I say it's disgusting. And as much as the dogs don't like it, imagine the poor human that has to do it. Since Hank is still sometimes peeing in his sleep, we also decided to check to see whether he had an infection. Because he refused to pee in a cup, he had to be catheterized. When I returned on Monday, Joan needed to get a little more pee from Hank, and was following him around with a little plastic bowl until he provided what he needed. Yes, it's not all cute poses and fun and games on the FHMA journey.
In addition to playing chaperone to the pups, Joan was quite the social being. On Friday night, she had dinner with cousins of mine, Mike and Loretta, to celebrate the 10th birthday of their daughter, Sami, They went to Fogo de Chao -- where you get all-you-can-eat salad, beef and sides -- and Joan found it delicious (rating in food report below).
On Saturday, Joan went out to see Chris and Cathy Gainey. Chris and I were best men at each others' wedding. Or, in my case, weddings. Joan spent the day with them, and took some shots of their children, Tyler and Katelyn, while she was there.
My story is the least interesting. Back in Virginia, I picked up our mail, got a small issue with my Mac sorted at out the Apple Store and did fantasy baseball drafts. I took no pictures, went to no dog parks and did not have my anal glands expressed.
- We obviously are not going to rate every place we ate at for the past week, but here were some highlights:
- Fogo de Chao, Scottsdale, Ariz.: Joan did this solo, and reports generally excellent food at this Brazilian steakhouse, but dinged the restaurant for subpar mashed potatoes, which doesn't seem right at a steak place. But, otherwise, Joan loved it. And there's one in DC as well. Restaurant Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5).
- Richardson's, Phoenix, Ariz.: This is a place well-known by locals -- and reader Mark Potts, who's been recommending it for years -- but not as well known by travel books. We loved it. The main courses were amazing; Joan had the shrimp pasta with garlic cream sauce, and I had the New Mexico Surf & Turf, which had a delicious steak, two enchiladas and bacon-wrapped shrimp. Unfortunately, the house signature -- the green chile potato -- was just OK. Otherwise, this was fabulous. Restaurant Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5). Jim Nutrition Rating: 1 (out of 5).
- Bobby Q's, Phoenix, Ariz.: We went to this excellent BBQ place on Monday night with the Gaineys, and it was another winner. The BBQ ribs and chicken were very strong, the sausage a little less so. But the appetizer -- Q-rolls stuffed with brisket -- were terrific. Restaurant also had a big, open friendly atmosphere. Restaurant Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5). Jim Nutrition Rating: 1.5 (out of 5).
- FireSky Resort & Spa, Scottsdale, Ariz.: Joan ended up spending a full week at this Kimpton hotel, and I was there for four days, so we can do a pretty comprehensive review here.
- First, the good:
- The dog beds. I mean, c'mon, how can you argue with that?
- The fact that you have a choice of free Internet -- which is fine for a few pics and email -- or you can pay $4.95/day if you plan on using a lot of bandwidth.
- The food at the resort restaurant was excellent and offered good healthy eating choices to help offset the rest of this eating orgy we call a road trip.
- Our room was good sized and opened onto a courtyard for easy walk-the-dogs access.
- Now, the not-so-good:
- The walls/ceiling weren't as thick as we would have liked. At times, it sounded like we had a marching band practicing above us.
- You're not allowed to leave dogs alone in the room, but this rule was completely ignored by most of the dog owners, all of whom were on our floor. So, in the middle of the afternoon, dogs would engage in baying contests. This clearly isn't the fault of the hotel, except in the lack of enforcement. For the record, we not only never left Fred and Hank in the room alone, we paid for dog-sitters twice. We are suckers.
- Joan struggled to open the poop bags provided by the hotel and finally gave up and used her own. After listening to me tease her about her lack of skills, she finally gave me one and challenged me to open it. No chance.
- The day we checked in we got an email that Kimpton was running a special $81 weekend rate, to honor the year the company was founded. (Note: The year, of course, was 1981, but Kimpton probably determined quickly that few would be interested in paying $1,981 for a room). Unfortunately, because we had already checked in, we were not able to take advantage of the amazing rate.
- Hotel rating: 4 stars (out of 5). The good outweighed the not-so-good.