The day started damp, but the shower was outside, not inside like last night. Fortunately for us, the parking space right in front of our hotel room opened up and Lisa moved the Astro to make packing easier.
Kuma Bear complained about the cold, so we bundled him up to keep him warm as we prepared to leave Cottonwood. We set off north along AZ-89A and then a county road to take us back to I-17 North. If it were summer and there was no rain, we might have tried driving AZ-89A all the way through, but it's a slower (although shorter) drive.
We encountered no falling snow, nor any on the road today, but it did rain quite a bit on I-17 up to Flagstaff, where we stopped for lunch before making the right turn for Albuquerque. At times visibility on I-17 and I-40 was very limited, but traffic was not heavy, and Lisa and I were happy to let faster vehicles go by.
When we reached the Meteor Crater Rest Area, the rain had cleared, and our progress improved considerably.
Because we were making better time than expected, Lisa suggested that instead of Gallup, we try to go to Grants, New Mexico today. As she drove, I called IHG. Technically we shouldn't have been able to make that change, as the reservation at Gallup had a 48-hour cancellation window; however, apparently my Spire status meant something (or possibly both hotels are under common ownership), as they were able to shift us sixty miles east to Grants.
In need of an additional rest stop, we stopped in Winslow, Arizona, passing the "Standing on the Corner" display where we've been before (with a Bear, my lord, in a flatbed Ford) and stopped at La Posada Hotel, among the last of the Harvey Houses, where we'll be staying next Monday night on our first night returning from SMOFCon. It's a very interesting hotel, and I'll have more to say about it next week.
The BNSF ex-Santa Fe "transcon" parallels I-40 here. Lisa and I have ridden over this route when we took the Southwest Chief from Chicago to Los Angeles years ago. BNSF trains at times appeared to be running at streetcar frequencies.
The light was fading as we neared New Mexico, making it harder to take photos, but here's an attempt at capturing the scenery just before we ran out of Arizona.
Around 6 PM, we arrived in Grants at the Holiday Inn Express. We've stayed here once before heading the other way. We were unable to get a suite upgrade because they are nearly full. I have a feeling we would have had that upgrade at Gallup, but it's not too big a deal, as we have plenty of room, including places to put our stuff and to hang up clothes, a desk where I can work without Lisa having to climb over me every time she wants to do anything in the room, and the usual amenities we expect to find at a Holiday Inn Express in the USA.
We're now only about 75 miles from Albuquerque, meaning that if I didn't have to work at Day Jobbe tomorrow, I could sleep in for a couple of hours. I may ask for an extended checkout just to make sure we don't arrive too early and have to wait around for our room to be ready.
One might ask why we didn't just push all the way through to Albuquerque. Well, aside from the fact that we made our initial plans trying to allow for bad weather for delays, and we probably couldn't have made such an adjustment between an HIX and a Hyatt Regency (as opposed to changing from one HIX to another), there are a number of tradeoffs we needed to consider. On the downside, this makes for one more "cycle" of move-in/move-out, but that's not too difficult at an HIX as they have self-service luggage carts. On the positive side, HIX has an included breakfast, plenty of room for me to work, doesn't charge for parking, and has a coin laundry.
We're at the point in the trip where it was a good idea to do laundry if we could. We forgot to pack the container full of quarters we keep for these situations, so I had to buy nearly all of the front desk's supply of quarters ($12 in the end) in order to do two loads of wash and dry and to buy laundry detergent, splitting one box between two loads. Both Lisa and I wish they could bit the bullet and re-equip the machines to use dollar coins. Those piles of quarters are a pain.
One more rather important tradeoff: Besides me being a Spire IHG member, they're running a promotion this month where each successive stay (meaning separate night in a separate property, for which this current trip is ideal) has progressively more and more bonuses. Starting with the fourth stay, I start earning quadruple points on stays on top of my 100% Spire bonus. I currently expect to be able to use all of these bonus points for staying at the HIX down the street from Norwescon next year, when you toss in a separate bonus where I can stay for four nights for the price of three's worth of points. So yes, I'm chasing my frequent-travel bonuses; however, for the next couple of years, we're going to be spending a lot of time traveling related to Westercon 74, all at our own expense, and we need to see if we can make it work for the best.
So tomorrow we are scheduled to arrive at SMOFCon in Albuquerque, where I'm both looking forward to and dreading my schedule. Honestly, I am not sure if I'll have any time to write about it if I want to get any sleep at all.