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Hotel Report: Red Roof Inn Westchase, Houston, TX

This hotel report brought to you by Microsoft.

I was told a Microsoft convention tied up much of the available hotel rooms in Houston, leaving the Red Roof Inn and a couple of unknown brands for my choosing on 4 days notice. I don’t even have a frequent-stay number at Red Roof.

I normally need a panoramic photo to show a hotel room, but the room was so small the picture could be taken normally.

Close quarters.

Close quarters.

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Global Entry Signup

When the TSA opened its Pre-check lines at most major airports, I thought I would be a shoe-in as a low-risk traveler to be chosen for it. Some people, it seemed, got the benefit of Pre-check by virtue of their frequent flyer programs, but my USAir Premium Gold membership wasn’t good enough, I guess.

I enrolled in the Global Entry program, which not only expedites any re-entry into the US but qualifies a person for the TSA Pre-check.

The online form had about seven pages detailing travel history, residence history, employment history, and official documents such as passports.  I was thankful to have only had one residence and one employer. I was curious what they would think of my time in Amsterdam and Cairo.

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Hotel Report: Grand Williston Hotel, Williston, ND

Normally I prefer to stay at hotel chains, but our corporate travel web site reported two weeks in advance that the Grand Williston Hotel was the only hotel with available rooms that I was allowed to stay at. I had visited the hotel before in its previous incarnation, the Airport International Inn.

Well-travel hotel guests will recognize the decor of the hotel’s original builder:

The Ramada Decor

The Ramada Decor.

The desk was nice and large, but only one outlet was available, provided by the lamp. Another outlet in the wall didn’t work at all. The wireless Internet worked quickly and without any logins, except for cutting off every 24 hours and forcing me to reboot the laptop.

The cable TV was odd. There were 17 analog channels and quite a few digital channels, but large blocks of scrambled channels were interspersed among the provided digital channels. The provided channel guide was also inaccurate, so I couldn’t avoid using the up and down arrows, either.

The queen beds were clean and firm, and the heater worked sufficiently. There was no refrigerator or microwave. My door wouldn’t shut on its own.

The bathroom was quite large with an inner and outer section. The walls of the bathtub were about half the height of a normal tub. The shower this time was sufficiently high. I had really hot water on most days, but on the last day I barely had any hot water at all.

The pool with its water slide is still here, but there was still no fitness room.

Parking is still tricky, the entrances from the frontage road were not well marked.

The staff was professional and courteous, calling maintenance promptly when I thought the TV wasn’t working. Surprisingly, I sat in the hotel lounge for 30 minutes and never got served.

The oddities about this hotel will make me try a little harder to get into the major chains around here: the Holiday Inn, the Candlewood, the Hampton Inn, and others.  At $175/night, the hotel rests on its laurels a little bit, taking advantage of a beneficial market without investing a lot of money in the product.

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Hotel Report: Hampton Inn, Brighton, CO

Years ago I stayed at a Hampton Inn, and I was so unimpressed by it that I wouldn’t stay in one again until this week. Proximity to my business destination and availability forced my hand, and so I tried the Hampton Denver Northeast-Brighton. This stay was much better.

View of the Room

The bed was quite comfortable, firm but with just a little bit of surface give. The room had good space between the bed and the TV. It was an area large enough for calisthenics, but noise from the floor above led me to think that wouldn’t be a good idea.

The desk had five available outlets within easy reach. There was an Ethernet jack, and the provided cable was a nice touch. Both wire and wireless networking were only moderate in speed, but I only had log in once during the whole stay, and I appreciated that. The TV had about 30 channels, but several of them were from the HBO family.

The bathroom was spacious. The shower (no bathtub) was large enough for two people. Controls were easy to use, and the heat and pressure were not a problem. The mirror only fogged up a little from the top.

The free breakfast was quite good, rivaling better Holiday Inn Express fair. A different meat and egg were available each day. One could have fresh pineapple, apricot, and other fruit; several kinda of yogurt; three different juices; and the usual bagels and muffins.

The small exercise room had a rack of dumbbells, a weight bench, an elliptical, a treadmill, and a recombinant bike. The elliptical ran well, but it detected a heart rate even when my hands weren’t on the sensors.

There seemed to be just enough parking. Entering and leaving the hotel was fairly easy through the two drives. Front desk service was quite nice, recognizing my HHonors status and offering me a bottled water and a small Toblerone. One frequent HAL guest had been told by the manager that she would always get a room if she called.

HAL gets a room rate of $84/night, much better than the $124 on the web site. I would probably come back again if my travels take me to northeast Denver again.

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Sympathy for the Anger

Many of you know that I frequent App.net more than I do any other social network. The lack of ads, the creative applications, and the ability to put out Twitter-style blurbs in greater than 140 characters are real advantages. The people I converse with on ADN for the most part are less fire-and-forget Twitter posters and more likely to engage in a conversation. If I respond to someone’s post, they’re likely to respond back.

Fortunately and not fortunately, most of the people I converse with on ADN do not share my worldview about much. We like tech stuff and food, and that’s the extent of commonality. :) That’s why, for the most part, when Mozilla decided to force Brandon Eich to resign, I knew what the crowd would say, and I kept out of it for the most part.

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Thoughts on Disney World

The family was able to take a vacation to Disney World, staying seven days. We took 2-1/2 days for Magic Kingdom, two for Epcot, one for Hollywood Studios and one for Animal Kingdom.

Even staying as long as we did, it was clear that we had to abandon any hope of seeing and doing everything at WDW. I’m not sure if even Vacation Club members could.

The weather was perfect, and I hadn’t seen such direct sunlight since my time in Cairo. Sunscreen was a must even with all the indoor time.

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