Traveling Like the Steinbecks

Tuesday, 02 November 2010 08:58 AM Written by 

ALBUQUERQUE -- Hyatt Regency

Thanks, but I don't think I'll be "awakening my senses" this morning with a $12 zucchini and cheese frittata.

That breakfast delight and $9.50 worth of seasonal fruits and berries, says the card by my king size bed, could be delivered right to my 12th floor room.

But no thanks. I think I'll just descend to earth in a little while and find a bagel and some coffee in the streets of downtown Albuquerque.

SteinbecksI got greedy last night. Or stupid. And I paid for my mistakes. When I did my Hotwire.com search and saw $56 for a four-star hotel in Albuquerque's Old Downtown, I had visions of staying at an Ambassador East or St. Francis Hotel, the old-fashioned downtown hotels John Steinbeck, dog Charley and wife Elaine stayed at during Steinbeck's "Travels With Elaine" road trip in 1960.

Oh, did I write "Travels With Elaine"? My mistake.

But that could just as easily -- and as accurately - have been the title of Steinbeck's iconic 1962 book. By my rough count, Elaine was with him about 45 of the 75 days he spent doing his trip.

bookcoverI digress. I shouldn't be so sarcastic and mean. I shouldn't be whining even a little bit about staying at a nice new hotel like this one. But I'm spending (or not spending) my own money on this fact-checking retracement of Steinbeck's road trip. The cost of my bargain lodging deal didn't stop at $56.

There were the usual surcharges and local taxes of about $13 ( the taxes are the ones local political hacks put on out-of-towners because out-of-towners can complain but they can't vote them out of office).

Then there was the $16 parking fee, plus a $4 tip to the attendant for parking my car and listening to me gripe.

Hyatt also charges something like $10 to hook up to their wi-fi, which is particularly galling since every mini-mom&pop place I've stayed in has offered it for free. So does McDonald's. (I'm using my indispensable and reliable Verizon Mobile Hot Spot, which works in the middle of nowhere in Arizona and in fancy hotels.  I hope they're not blocking my signal.)

Less than $90 for a night at the Hyatt Regency and a chance to luxuriate at a full-service hotel like the Traveling Steinbecks did 50 years ago is still a great deal. But when you've become conditioned to sleeping in the back of your car by the side of an interstate or in a Walmart parking lot, it just doesn't seem like much of a treat.

At least I didn't have to pay to ride the elevator.

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