I am back in Denver again. More specifically, I am back in Golden, Colorado, which hugs the Denver metropolitan area’s western edge. As usual, the group of us out here on business together is staying at the same hotel. Actually, we rotate between two hotels. One is a Courtyard Inn. Just across a street is a Residence Inn. Since they are both owned by Marriott, they are effectively one hotel.
Usually when we come to town to do testing or training, we cannot all fit in one hotel, so we spill over into the other hotel. The testing that we will do this week is smaller scale. Only about a dozen of us will be participating in this test, so we are all in the Courtyard Inn. That is a bummer, for many of us have been here many times before. And although the Courtyard Inn arguably offers a better breakfast, the breakfast at the Residence Inn is complementary, as is the Happy Hour at 5 PM. Therefore, we generally prefer the Residence Inn where the rooms are also larger and the amenities nicer.
This is my fourth year coming to these hotels. I figure this is my eighth stay. This is my third stay this year alone. The hotels and the surrounding neighborhood have become so familiar by now that it is starting to feel like a second home. How do I know? I remember the last time I stayed at the Courtyard Inn in January, and the plate of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies placed in the lobby in the evenings. It is now Pavlovian. I expect the cookies to be there and they had darn well better be there because I am salivating for them before I walk in the lobby in the evening.
The clerks behind the counters do not know me by name yet. I do not know their names either, but gosh darn are they looking familiar to me. There is the blonde haired woman who services us in the morning at the Courtyard. When I stay in the Residence Inn, there is the Fox News Channel blaring away in the dining room of each morning. (I did complain about their preference in “news” networks, but it has not seemed to have worked.)
I remember things I should not remember. I know that, toward summer at least, Wednesday is hamburger and hot dog night at the Residence Inn. The Happy Hour there can be bountiful or frugal, but many of us figure it is enough calories to suffice for dinner, so why go out to eat? I know how they will dress down the beds in the Courtyard versus the Residence Inn. In the Residence Inn, they are into pillows. If there are not at least six of them on your bed, they figure you may not have enough pillows. At the Courtyard, they do not believe in blankets. If you get cold, you fish one out of your drawer.
I have had a couple days where I have woken up and for a minute, I did not know whether I was at home or in the hotel. Maybe this is a sign of age. On the other hand, maybe this is a sign that Denver is becoming something of a second place of residency for me.
I do not need directions to the pool, or the hot tub, or the exercise room. I have been to all of them repeatedly. I find I like the exercise room in the Courtyard better than in the Residence Inn: they have a useful weight machine. I know exactly where the icemakers are. I have learned that when staying in the Courtyard, to ask for a room facing the mountains, so you do not have to hear the traffic from Route 6 all night.
I am sure all this familiarity is good for Marriott’s bottom line. I would not say that I am loyal to this hotel, since someone else is making the reservations. I do sometimes wonder what all the other hotel experiences around here are like. I suspect I will never know.
It is not just these hotels that are becoming routine but the same traveling experience is repetitious too. I often end up on the same flight from Washington Dulles to Denver. I know I will fly United because that is our contract carrier. I know which flights offer the wide body aircraft. I know that when I arrive at Denver International I will be deposited on the B Concourse, because that is where United rents space. I know that the Wolfgang Puck restaurant is on that concourse. I know where the money machines and the restrooms are. I think I even have memorized the recorded speech on its people mover.
The flights are becoming the same too. I have eaten the same identical United Airlines $5 snack pack on the last four successive flights. I know that I can listen to flight chatter on channel nine. I know the flight west typically takes three hours and fifteen minutes, and the flight back two hours and forty-five minutes. I have learned how to pack my liquids. Denver after all is a mile high. If I leave the cap on the shampoo bottle on too tight, its contents will burst (which is one reason I put liquids in a plastic bag). There is an art to tightening a travel bottle enough so that it bleeds a little with the air pressure, but not enough so that it leaks any of its contents.
I have learned how to accommodate jet lag gracefully. I try to nap on the trip east. I try to arise a bit early on the day I fly east. When I follow this strategy, I usually do not notice the time change.
I am not bicoastal, but this flying to and from Denver is so routine now that it is almost second nature. It is almost a reflex.
Why am I flying here so much? Our training center is in Denver, and that helps a lot. In addition, Denver is a good deal. The agency I work for (The U.S. Geological Survey) is very spread out since we do our work in the field. This means that we must also come together regularly. Denver has some strategic advantages. It is big enough where even if you live in a small city you can usually get to it in no more than two hops. In addition, there are plenty of airlines that fly in and out of Denver. This means you are likely to get a decent airfare. The cost of living is modest, at least compared to Washington standards. It is also reasonably in the middle of the country, if you include Alaska and Hawaii. No one has to endure much in the way of jet lag in order to do business.
So Denver it is and Denver it will likely mostly be until I retire. There are times when I feel that maybe our agency should invest in some time-share condominiums out here. With all the traveling we do in and out of Denver, it must be cheaper to use leased condominiums than pay even modest hotel rates. Until that time, I have a feeling the Courtyard Inn and its next-door neighbor, the Residence Inn here in sunny Golden, Colorado will continue to feel more and more like my second home.