September 26, 2013

Publisher's Notebook: Desert trip is an experience

By Willie Sawyers

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Desert heat is drier than Kentucky heat due to lower humidity levels. If it wasn’t, people in Arizona, where it’s 105 degrees routinely in the summer, would melt into a wet blob like the wicked witch of the North.

I was under the impression desert heat would be more bearable. But folks, 105 degrees is still pretty darn hot, low humidity or not, especially when an endless sun beats down on your head. I saw one cloud the whole week in the desert.

That’s the overall impression I came away with after spending five days in Phoenix recently during the National Newspaper Association annual convention, as part of my duties as president of the Kentucky Press Association.

Boy, is the desert beautiful. Crystal-clear days with turquoise blue skies and no hint of haze. No mold or mildewy smells, just the aroma of sweet desert flowers. No bugs or mosquitoes at night. I’d love to have a winter home in Phoenix. I’ll go buy one right now.

My wife had a little trepidation about flying on September 11, but I figured the TSA would be even more vigilant on the anniversary. There were no problems to speak of in flights out of Louisville, Denver and Phoenix.

But there’s a chance a TSA employee or a homeless person in Louisville is enjoying an expensive bottle of hairspray. Mary tried hard to convince the luggage checkers the bottle of Paul Mitchell in her bag wasn’t a bomb, but they confiscated it anyway.

 I told Mary her mug shot would be on terrorist list because of her Paul Mitchell bomb. She didn’t appreciate my joke though, and exacted her revenge by making me sit in the middle seat on the cramped airplane.

I love flying Southwest because they don’t charge any extra fees for checked bags like other airlines do. Others must have liked that too, because all the flights were full. We felt like sardines in a can. There’s plenty of leg room on the Southwest 737’s, but not much arm room. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do with my arms and elbows.

We stayed at the beautiful Arizona Grand Resort just outside town. It was a true resort because the nearest restaurant and grocery were a few miles away, which meant we had to purchase all our food and supplies from the resort, at exorbitant prices.

I guess they think people that come to such a grand resort don’t worry about prices. But folks from Kentucky don’t like paying $10 for a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee. Not when we’re used to eating all the eggs and bacon we want from the breakfast buffet at Frisch’s for $7.

The first evening there, I searched all over for a pop machine and couldn’t find one. They wanted you to buy drinks from the resort gift shop for $4.50 a can. A glass of iced tea at the water park inside the resort was $9.50. Our jaws dropped when we saw the prices, but we were stuck if we wanted to eat and drink.

All my meals were reimbursed by KPA, but I’m just not used to spending that kind of money. So, for the first two mornings, I crossed eight lanes of traffic and walked about three miles down to Fry’s Food and Drug to pick up some drinks and breakfast items.

The concierge staff at the resort looked at me kind of funny when I walked in carrying plastic bags full of groceries, but hey, Kentuckians are resourceful.

I had a great time at the NNA convention and met some interesting newspaper people from Kansas, Colorado and South Dakota. We learned that hard times for the newspaper industry, due to the recession and the Internet, may be behind us.

It was so enjoyable seeing a different part of the country with different topography, weather and plant life. Arizona is beautiful, but so is Kentucky.

Sometime this winter, when the cold wind is blowing, the sun is nowhere to be found and I’ve got a chill down to my toes, I will yearn to feel the warmth of the Sonoran desert again.