How to Choose a Lodging

So many places to stay. How to choose? Steven and I have a very scientific method: a complicated algorithm that combines price, location, intuition, and search fatigue. We like to stay in off-beat or unique places (Mt. Peale Animal Sanctuary or Monument Valley Tipi Village). Sometimes we get a little practical. Here’s how we think about it:

We understand there’s a quality difference between the Baymont Inn and the Four Seasons, or even the Holiday Inn Express, but if we are arriving in North Platte, Neb., at 8:30 p.m. and leaving at 6 a.m., all we need is a clean place to sleep. So what if the shower fixture is pulling away from the wall as long as the water is hot? Do we care if we get a $3.50 breakfast credit to the diner across the parking lot? No! North Platte is a place that makes Starbucks look fabulous. We’d rather save the $60 or so. No frills, no worries.

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The pond at Red Moon Lodge

If we’re planning a trip of longer than a week, we try to find a place with laundry and some privacy in the middle of the tour. That usually means AirB&B. If you’re staying at least a week, you can find many owners who give a discount. Plus, the cleaning fees are spread out over a longer time and you can do a bit of your own cooking. We like to have the whole place to ourselves and getting to do laundry mid-trip without spending time in a laundromat makes packing so much easier. Another benefit is that many are in neighborhoods, so you’re away from the most touristy areas and get a more realistic vision of the places you’re visiting. We’re not looking for new friends, but if you are, you may find some this way. Unless you find one that’s considerably cheaper than a motel, I wouldn’t stay in one for one night. The fees end up making it less than economical.

I am not a big fan of staying in motels on the main drag. I try to look for one or two unique features or experiences I can’t have at home. That’s how we ended up at Mt. Peale and Red Moon Lodge. Neither is within walking distance to the strip in Moab, but both were beautiful, contemplative, and full of friendly people. Monument Valley Tipi Village just seemed like someplace silly to stop for a night. I don’t know that I’d recommend it, mostly because the owners are very disorganized, but we got a strenuous and informative hike on Navajo land and got to talk to the young man (our guide) whose family owns the land plus several of the other folks staying there. I like to have at least a few lodging experiences that offer the opportunity to meet people I wouldn’t encounter in my daily life.

There’s nothing wrong with a regular motel or hotel room; I just find them confining. I would much rather relax on the beautiful grounds of a bed and breakfast, or have a two-bedroom home on a hill for just the two of us.

Most of the places we stayed, I found either through AirB&B or Googling it. George at Red Moon Lodge said that they are listed on AirB&B but also have their own website, where you can book without paying any extra fees. That’s a helpful hint: If you find a place that seems more lodging than true AirB&B (which I think of as more of a single space as opposed to a space with multiple rooms), find its website and look for a price differential.

We do our homework and haven’t had a bad experience, but some of that is our attitude about it all. It’s an adventure!

A Whole Raft of Experiences

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Our campsite

We just finished our two-day whitewater rafting trip down the Colorado River through Cataract Canyon into Lake Powell. We planned this months ago, but the timing was perfect. We needed a break from all the hiking in the heat and two days on the water was perfect. Cataract Canyon is part of Canyonlands National Park and as you can imagine, it has steep red rock walls that rise from the river.

We arrived at 7:30am on Monday at Western River Expeditions in Moab and met the four other people on our tour.   There was one young couple, Zach and Megan, and one father and son pair, Gary (dad) & Cory (24 years old).  Our tour was supposed to be on a 26-foot motorized raft.  Due to the very low water levels, it was changed to be a fast run down the top (quiet) part of the river on a motor boat and then on to an 8-person self-paddled raft for the rapids and remainder of the trip.  We loaded ourselves onto the motor boat for a 2-hour run to the point where we met our guides, Daniel (on our boat), Nick & Anna who rowed the supplies down on inflatable rafts.

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Helmets and PFDs (personal floatation devices), formerly known as life jackets.

Words can’t really describe the landscape, the quiet, or the sheer blast of running 32 rapids, a couple of which were classified as Category 5. We ran them all our first day. I have to give props to Western River and our guides–they were cheerful and clearly knewimg_20180626_090705089 what they were doing. We never once felt unsafe. Bonus was the food, which was surprisingly good for camp food. They even cooked steak for dinner on Monday night. We camped under a bright moon on a sand bar that won’t exist when the water rises. Sleeping was a challenge for everyone but Sue, who can sleep standing up on a cliff face when she’s tired.

Tuesday was a lazy day. Since we were finished with the rapids, we tied onto one of the supply rafts and motored at a leisurely pace to the put out point. I was happy to sit and enjoy the scenery and the company. We were a little sad to say goodbye to our guides, but ready for the 2.75-hour van ride back to Moab. Being on the water for two days in the sun is tiring for us old folks. We promised to exchange GoPro footage (which we will post once we edit) with everyone and went our separate ways back at Moab.

Our separate way was to a beautiful inn called Red Moon Lodge. They have their own water source, so there is a pond to hang out around once it cools off. Plus, there are real flowers. It is odd to see something in nature that is not red, brown, or tan after all this desert.

Finally, we headed to Moab Brewery for dinner, where we met up with none other than Daniel and Nick, two of our guides. We were happy to have another chance to tell them what a spectacular trip it was!