Purchasing Paradise

Published in The Ferndale Record, July 13, 2011

Some of us know what it’s like to vacation in luxury. Some of us know what it’s like to travel that way. Others of us fall into a third category—the “maybe someday” group. And it’s really not a bad place to be, especially when you get to hear about what might be down the road.

One of my sons always preferred life’s finer things. He leans toward upscale clothes, cars, toys, and accommodations. When he was 19 years old, our family flew to Boston and on a fluke he was upgraded to first class. There, they referred to him as Mr. Crockett, gave him real food on an actual plate that he gobbled with a silver spoon. From this moment on, we called him a “first class kind of guy.”

He’s worked hard to pay for his education and get the kind of job he ultimately wants in the hospitality field. He graduated with a degree in business and spent years paying his dues working as a night auditor at hotels and ski resorts. Not without perks, of course—all the free snowboarding he could squeeze in was a pretty sweet deal.

Recently he started work at a swank resort in Arizona on the shores of Lake Powell. He says this place caters to a clientele that propels the term “rich” into another universe. As a concierge, his job is to make sure everyone is very, very happy—because guests pay a lot to ensure it.

My son mentioned a real estate developer from Manhattan who’d brought his wife to the resort for a week’s vacation. Each night’s stay is around $1000. Apparently there’s also a lot to do there: Helicopter rides over the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell boat tours, spa treatments. At check out, the gentleman’s tab came to $21,000. He wrote a check, said they had a great time, and that they’d be back.

Taking that check was memorable, he said, kind of like the time a raging, desert rainstorm leaked into a guest’s room, ruining her $250 Italian leather flip-flops. My boy was instructed to find the very same pair somewhere, use his boss’s credit card, and make it all right—which was exactly what he did.

People who pony up that kind of money for a vacation would consider the $150 per night at the beach I dream about, chump change, a diversion, almost free. And the $114.09 I spent on groceries at Haggen last night would be, well, one quarter of the dinner check.

I don’t envy the obscenely wealthy, except maybe for their ability to hire someone else to handle their own finances—a job I despise. But I find their expenditures fascinating.

Also interesting to me—people who travel around in giant motor homes. These vehicles are the size of Greyhound buses, and with tinted windows and custom paint, look like they’re carrying a rock band on tour. The exterior colors are deep and lush, and the names emblazoned on the side denote luxury, freedom, and adventure.

How about taking your leave in the Cougar, Crusader, Empress, Jamboree, or Embassy? Don’t forget the Discovery, or the Lexington. There’s something for everyone!

The trophy for Most Pretentiously Named Conveyance goes to “Dynasty Country Club Collection Monaco.” I promise I’m not making this up.

My teenager offered a perfect title for one of these vehicles: the Compensator.

If you’ve got the money, time, and desire, luxury travel and destinations, even in a poor economy, are everywhere.

And until I can talk my son’s employer into a complimentary stay at his resort, I’ll be plugging along the back roads in my 1995 Subaru, spending the night at a Super 8, anticipating my very own “someday.”