Friday, May 26
Allowing plenty of time for traffic delays, I left home shortly after 9 a.m. Traffic on Hy 880 was very smooth from San Jose until near the Oakland airport, so I had a little extra time before my flight. I stopped at Bob Dron's Oakland Harley-Davidson on Hegenberger Road and then at the Western Aerospace Museum, on Boeing Street off Earhart Road, just outside the airport proper.
Prior experience has taught me that the Economy Parking lot is a good value, so I parked there at 11:15 a.m. and walked to Terminal 2. After waiting through the normal Southwest rigmarole (mmm-ooo-ooo), the plane left at 1:25 p.m. and we arrived in Phoenix at 3:06 p.m. I could feel the Arizona warmth as I walked up the jetway into the terminal.
After a short wait at the Hertz rental counter, I went outside and boarded the shuttle to the car lot. They rented me a dark blue Ford Contour with a few scratches here and there. After calling my uncle to say "I'm here" and then setting the car radio to KNIX 102.5 FM, I drove the short distance to the Holiday Inn Downtown on North Central and checked in.
I put my stuff in the room and hung up my clothes (well-trained, wot?), then drove to my uncle's apartment, just a short drive away. Even though it's been a while since I've been there, I didn't have any trouble finding the building because it looked familiar.
We had plenty of time for a little catching up, a wonderful home-cooked meal and a tour of their large apartment. They go to bed early so I left about 8:30 p.m. with plans to return between 6:25 and 6:30 a.m. the next day.
Back at the hotel, I watched a little news on CNN, plugged in my Sprint PCS phone, checked my voice mail, returned a phone call, took a shower, watched a little more CNN and went to bed.
Saturday, May 27
I woke early, about a minute before my alarm would normally wake me. I was up and washed, brushed and combed and on the road in time to make it to their apartment right on time.
We enjoyed an early-morning drive around the area, checking out several garage sales, including a very large one at the Camelback Bible Church. I saw all kinds of good stuff but since I was flying, I couldn't buy any of it.
Just a short drive from there, we had a wonderful buffet breakfast at the renowned Camelback Inn in Scottsdale. They lay quite a spread on Sunday mornings, and we were there early enough to find a poolside patio table. Sure, there was a problem with the overhead misters, so we moved indoors after a while, but it was excellent food nonetheless.
My uncle wanted to know more about my interest in Harley-Davidson motorcycles and had never been to Fry's Electronics, so after brunch he charted a course that would include a little of each and more.
Our first stop was at Buddy Stubbs' Arizona Harley-Davidson on Cave Creek Road north of Sweetwater Avenue, in northeast Phoenix. It was hotter than heck by then, and several customers' bikes were baking in the sunshine in the parking lot. Some members of the local Harley Owners Group were setting up for a barbecue, so I chatted with them briefly. My uncle marveled at the bikes on display in the store, as well as all the branded accessories and clothing available. I believe this was the store where I first saw an oil-change-in-a-box, which I haven't seen at my local dealership. I did not see a tee-shirt that jumped up and grabbed me, so we moved along.
Our next stop was at Fry's Electronics at 3035 W. Thunderbird Road. This particular store, number 20 in the Fry's chain, had just been open a few months, but there were plenty of customers. It has a southwest theme, of course. Kind of reminded me of the store in Fremont, CA from its size and layout.
My uncle had totally avoided visiting Fry's, but found that he was just mesmerized by the size and the spectacle, so we spent some time looking around. It was difficult to find a sales person and difficult to get answers to questions, so we didn't make any purchases.
Our next stop, partially for comparison and partially because he was looking at dishwashers, was at Best Buy. It was also a huge store with a wide variety of merchandise. I was quite surprised to see ten-hour VHS video tapes (T200). Although I didn't buy any, I wish I had, because I have been unable to find them in my area.
Next was Harley-Davidson of Arizona on Grand Avenue between 55th and 56th Streets in Glendale. It's a small shop but had friendly employees. Again, my uncle marveled at the bikes that were on display.
After a short visit to Fred Meyer for milk and juice, we returned to their apartment about 3:30 p.m. for a sandwich. My uncle proudly showed me his computer, which he put together from parts that he's found at various garage sales. He's done an excellent job in doing so, because it does just about everything imaginable. It's much better than what I have at home.
Later we had a little birthday cake (remember? it was his 80th) and reflected on times past. I agreed to meet back at their apartment the next morning after I checked out of the hotel. The plan was to go to church and then see about breakfast.
Unfortunately, I was slightly delayed in their parking garage when, while showing my uncle under the hood of the rental car, I accidentally locked the key inside the car. I was quite surprised to find that Hertz was unwilling and unable to bring me a spare key or help in any way, except to connect me with their road service people. They sent a locksmith, and while it wasn't that long of a wait, it was $45 cash.
He used an interesting tool, a big U-shaped piece of metal, which, when properly placed and manipulated in the door, pushed the "unlock" button. The whole process took about three minutes.
Soon I was on my way back to the hotel, stopping along the way for some orange juice. I took a shower and watched part of a James Bond movie before going to bed.
Sunday, May 28
Although I had set the alarm for 7:00 a.m., I was awake and up at 6:15 a.m. Motels can be noisy places - water running through pipes - people opening and closing doors and clomping across the floor with no consideration for others who may be sleeping.
I took some time to check my voice mail and to update my maps before packing my things and heading down to the office to check out. That process was quick and easy and I was in the car before 8 o'clock.
This left just a little time for exploration, but not much. I took a run down AZ 51 and then back again, just looking around.
The Arizona highway people had erected a programmable sign, presumably to warn of accidents ahead and the like, but evidently it reverts to a standard message when there is nothing special happening:
No subtlety here, just straight to the point.
I arrived at their apartment at 8:10 a.m. My uncle gave me a portable radio he's had for many years to see if I could find someone to fix it when I got back home. We had a light breakfast of juice, milk and a banana, then headed for church shortly after 9 o'clock.
It's a huge place with many members, and they make quite a good use of technology, from cordless microphones to projecting the words to the hymns onto panels on the wall. A big, friendly place with lots of music and a short sermon.
After church we drove into the downtown area to the Hyatt Regency Phoenix where we rode the elevator to the Compass Restaurant on the 24th floor. Besides offering a wonderful Sunday brunch buffet, the restaurant turns 360 degrees every 55 minutes, giving diners a fabulous view of the entire area.
We were just a few blocks from "BOB," the common name for Bank One Ballpark, which had the dome closed because it was so warm.
After a magnificent brunch, we went back to street level and walked a short distance to the car under blast furnace conditions. It was approximately 110 degrees in the downtown area.
We drove back to their apartment, which was nice and cool, for some more conversation and juice. I said my goodbyes and my thanks, and was back on the road about 3:30 p.m.
It was hard to judge exactly how much time I had before my flight, so I tried to be careful about where I was and where I was going. I had enough time to visit the (first Arizona) Fry's Electronics on Baseline Road in Tempe, south and east of Phoenix. It seemed to be dark inside, unlike most of the other Fry's stores I've visited. It was unremarkable other than that, and I didn't stay long, because the rental car was baking in the hot sun.
After quite a scenic tour of the area, I found Chosa's Harley-Davidson in Mesa, but they were closed. The building was quite interesting, built (or remodeled) in an old west style, with a sign on the door reminding people "no weapons" inside.
By now it was time to get back to the airport, so I found a gas station and refueled the rental car, then got back to the Hertz return center at 5:30 p.m. with 77 miles on the odometer. Hertz had recorded the mileage incorrectly when I rented the car and again recorded it incorrectly when I returned it, but since the price was the same to me, I didn't worry about it.
Back to the airport terminal and after a quick stop at Burger King, I passed through the metal detector and made my way to gate C3 at 6:00 p.m.
This was a Southwest flight, so we had to go through the process of forming a line (6:35 p.m.) and waiting for the agent to arrive (7:03 p.m.), getting a boarding pass and then waiting for another hour. The plane was late getting in, so we boarded late, a little before 8 p.m. There were many pre-boarders (wheelchairs and parents with kids).
I managed to get seated in 6D. We pushed back from the gate at 8:26 p.m., wheels up at 8:31 and wheels down in Oakland at 10:03 p.m. I was out of the terminal and back to the parking lot quickly; in the car and going at 10:25 p.m.
I made it home at 11:20 p.m., followed by a shower and immediately to bed!
The trip was far too short, but when I go back, I'll plan to visit when it's not so warm.