Grand Hyatt, DFW

17 03 2012

I knew I’d be getting into Dallas well before my flight. What to do? Go shopping? Go to the zoo or the aquarium or one of the Dallas sights? (I’d been to Dallas before, so I’d seen the JFK grassy knoll etc.) The biggest problem was my luggage — there was no option for storing it anywhere. So the previous night I’d hit on the idea of seeing if the Grand Hyatt at DFW Airport had an hourly, half day or daily rate. That way, I could drop my car back at Enterprise (BTW, I had a full-size Chevy Impala and it was great!), catch the shuttle to the international terminal, and spend some hours in a room having a shower, repacking, relaxing etc. before Qantas check-in opened at 6 pm.

I checked the Grand Hyatt’s website, but I couldn’t find anything related to a day rate, so I called them. After being put through to a couple of people, someone told me that yes, they did a day rate only, from 9 am to 5 pm. not ideal for when I’d be there, but close. So I checked out of the Hampton Inn in Bryant, AR and was on the road by 9 am.

I stopped in Sulphur Springs, TX for fuel and a light lunch at Chilis, and arrived at the rental car return area by 2 pm. I was in my room at the Grand Hyatt by 3 pm — they let me have the room from 3 pm to 6 pm (check-in time), and also suggested an alternative, which was to pay $30 to use their fitness centre for my shower and to repack my luggage (I wanted to split the one heavy bag into two bags). But I liked the idea of a room so I could write some of my blog posts if I had time.

Well, what a room! I wish I’d elected to stay there instead of the Hyatt Regency when I’d arrived in Dallas two weeks ago — it was RIGHT in the international terminal, with no shuttles to catch. Very very convenient.

And it was a FABULOUS room too. The all-black bathroom was fantastic, with a separate shower recess and perfect water temperature and pressure. Although the room overlooked some of the runways, it was very quiet. It was also all automatic — lights, a/c came on when I entered the room and the blinds went up or down (can’t remember which). There were two sets of these auto blinds — sheer blinds and fully shaded blinds for those needing to sleep during the day. There weren’t any switches — all the controls were pressure sensitive, and everything was adjustable.

Here are some pictures (click on a small picture to view it at a larger size):

Hampton Inn and Suites, Bryant, AR

17 03 2012

I’d never stayed at a Hampton Inn chain before, so even though it was the most expensive of a list I had found on, I decided to give it a try. And I’m glad I did.

Firstly, Hampton Inns and Suites are part of the Hilton chain, so I was able to get my stay added to my Hilton Honors card — and I didn’t even need my card! The desk clerk looked me up and found me almost immediately and credited the points.

The room was spacious, with a big bathroom, 2 big beds (I only needed one, but they didn’t have any Kings available), free WiFi, and free breakfast. But it was more than that, as it needed to be to justify the extra dollars it was charging.

Here are some of the little things they did that would make me stay there again:

  • On checking in, the clerk handed me a free packet of pretzels and an icy cold bottle of water (hotels often charge $3 each for these in the room)
  • The clerk also told me that between 5 and 7 pm free soup and crackers would be available in the breakfast area. I went down and it was a bit more than just soup and crackers! There was a hearty minestrone soup, crackers, juice, and a plate of raw veges and a ranch-style dip (crudites). And you could have as much as you wanted. More than enough for dinner for me, especially after all I’d eaten the past two weeks and all the not-so-healthy food I’d eaten in Memphis! That saved about $20, which I would’ve had to spend had I stayed at a cheaper hotel.
  • Breakfast was a bit more than the usual ‘continental’ crap you often get — sugar, sugar and more sugar. They had a variety of yoghurts, oatmeal, packet cereals, various breads, bagels and muffins, make-your-own waffles, hard-boiled eggs, AND cheese or Denver omelettes and a spicy sausage. Again, you could have as much or as little as you liked and you helped yourself. There was also a variety of juices, and various coffees and teas.
  • The bed and pillows and comforter were SUPER comfortable, and the shower was an excellent temperature and pressure.
  • There was a fitness room and an indoor pool, neither of which I used, but I did wander down and look at them 😉

So, while this hotel was around $110 compared to others at around $80, I reckon I got an extra $30 worth of dinner and snacks/water, as well as a quality room. Well worth it.

Click on a small picture to view it at a larger size.

Driving across Arkansas and Texas — the return journey

17 03 2012

Much of my two-day drive back to Dallas from Memphis was on Interstates (principally I-40 and I-30). However, I knew there was a construction zone on I-40 about 40 to 60 miles from Little Rock, on the Memphis side, as I’d gone through it on the way to Memphis. One of the conference attendees drove to Little Rock to catch his flight home the day before and got caught in it (he went about 1/2 a mile in an hour!; he made his flight, but I think it was only just). His suggestion was to take 49S then 70W, so I did that. Not because I didn’t have time — I did; I just thought it would be a good excuse to see some of Arkansas that I’d not normally have seen.

I’m glad I took that detour. Sure, a LOT of trucks were also on that route trying to bypass the construction zone, but they eventually went back to the interstate, while I continued along 70W to Little Rock, when I rejoined the interstate.

I stayed overnight at Bryant, AR (about 3 hours from Memphis), driving on to Dallas for about 5 hours the next day (via I-30).

Some observations from this drive:

  • 70W is also known as the Civil War Trail, so I suspect there were a lot of historical things and places that I wasn’t aware of (they sure weren’t well signed)
  • Along 70W there were quite a lot of big dams, and I saw a couple of fisheries. Only one named the fish — minnows! Who’d have thought that they were fish-farming minnows? I wonder what for?
  • Also along 70W were some extensive waterfowl areas. I drove over them via raised causeways/roads. And closer to Little Rock there were some swamps with trees with ‘knees’ — cypress trees? (see pics below)
  • There were some interesting towns on 70W — Hazen was quite a pretty little place, whereas DeValls Bluff was almost a ghost town with pretty much every store in the centre of town boarded up. Sad.
  • I crossed a couple of large rivers — Cache, White and the very large Arkansas River much closer to Little Rock. And not forgetting the very wide, very brown and muddy Mississippi River that divides Tennessee from Arkansas.
  • The Interstates are FULL of trucks. Big trucks. And LOTS of them, all travelling at speed. Officially, they’re only meant to go 65 mph, and no doubt some are speed-limited to that, but some go a bit faster (the car speed limit is officially 70 mph).
  • Arkansas and eastern Texas are predominantly flat, with a lot of farming land. At this time of the year, everything was very green, except for recently ploughed fields that were a deep brown. Some places, like Barlow, had quite a lot of tulips and daffodils in bloom. And lots of ‘lawn’ and fields looked like they were covered in snow, but it was just tiny little white (maybe pink?) flowers. I was tempted to stop and collect some Arkansas grass and put it in a zip lock bag, except I could never take it back into Australia 😉 (gratuitous 70s music reference here…)
  • I like country music, so I was in heaven driving this long drive (and the drive to get to Memphis), but there wasn’t a lot of choice if you didn’t like country music or Christian radio stations 😉
  • Before I left Memphis, I took a slight detour north to Barlow where I stopped at a quilt store someone had recommended to me. There I heard something I wasn’t quite certain I’d heard at the quilting workshop, but hearing it there made me think that that’s what I HAD heard at the workshop. What was this word? ‘Muslim’ instead of ‘muslin’!!! Sheesh.

Click a small photo to see it larger.