Before he was MacGyver, I thought of my husband as Michelangelo.
Like the artist and architect Michelangelo, MacGyver divines clever ways to achieve ones’ goals, whether it’s lifting Bellina, our Vespa scooter into her custom-designed cabana behind the tractor, or having a champagne experience for a craft beer price tag. My Christmas present was a champagne experience, although, unfortunately, no champagne was consumed.
I had never heard of the Arizona Biltmore, but every president since Hoover has visited. They are still waiting on President Obama, which hotelchatter.com considers a “snub”. Ronald and Nancy Reagan honeymooned here. John McCain got married here. Marilyn Monroe loved the desert property. Irving Berlin wrote White Christmas poolside.
Branded as “Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired”, the art deco compound is a Waldorf Astoria property, under the Hilton umbrella. MacGyver relayed the dirt he had collected on the drive along the private roadway.
“Wright didn’t have as much to do with this property as the marketing leads us to believe,” he said. “The articles I found said Wright consulted on the project with the architect for about four months and said himself that this is an entirely Albert Chase McArthur design. Surprisingly, for the number of Frank Lloyd Wright references in this town, Wright was never a licensed architect in Arizona.”
The stone, art deco sprites gracing the property, now called the Biltmore Sprites are reproductions of a 1915 Wright design for a Chicago complex called Midway Gardens, which was demolished and bulldozed into Lake Michigan in 1929.
A feature, stained glass wall panel, a Wright design for a magazine cover, was installed during a 1973 renovation.
Built in 1929, the Arizona Biltmore is a stunning property. Immaculate grounds, so large, 39 acres, that room service is handled on bicycles. There are several pools and gardens under glittering red mountains.
We checked in at the Hilton Honors desk. Thanks to MacGyver’s value-oriented approach to luxury, our vagabond lifestyle, and his insistence, because I have been freaking out about spending money this year, we have earned our fourth consecutive Diamond Hilton status.
The first year it was a fortunate accident and now we view it as only slightly more valuable than our UltraOne platinum status at the Travel America and Petro truck stops, which allows us to keep 10 showers available at all times on our fuel card.
While truck stop platinum requires 20,000 gallons of diesel to achieve, which we only made this year because of our Santa runs, Hilton is the easiest top tier status to obtain. Twenty-eight stays are required in a calendar year and the Hilton chain’s properties range from the Hampton Inn, which is easily found across the country with a surprising number next to truck stops, to the Waldorf Astoria. Because we have an erratic schedule, looking for rooms when business travelers and/or vacationers are at home, which takes us to unusual places, we are able to get great deals. If the price isn’t right, we stay in the tractor.
We had an executive room at the Hilton in Grapevine, Texas for $100 on a Saturday night and the DoubleTree in Scottsdale, Arizona was $77 the Sunday before Christmas. Both included full breakfast. So for a surprisingly small investment, because we need to stay in hotels during the course of a year when the truck is in the shop, we end up with a great perk for a Life With No Fixed Address.
Once a Diamond, the status includes complimentary upgrades and late checkout when available, breakfast, wifi, bottled water and parking.
MacGyver worked his charm and the Hilton Diamond status bumped us up TWO categories to the Ocatilla wing, a hotel within a hotel, with its own lounge serving continental breakfast, evening appetizers, honor bar, coffee/tea all day and dessert.
If you have to be sick on Christmas Eve, this is the place. I lounged neck deep in steaming hot water, in the marble surrounded bathtub a little too long, and when I climbed out, lobster red, I was so lightheaded I slumped to the floor to avoid fainting, like a college student who had sucked up too much Lemon Gin her first time away from the parental unit.
“This is your Christmas present,” I moaned, my cheek pressing into the caramel colored carpet. “To remind you what it’s like to be with a 20-year-old, except she wouldn’t be suffering from a hot bath.”
“Great. Thanks,” he said, pushing towels underneath me, to get me off the carpet, until I could move onto the 600-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, turn on the big screen TV and order Chicken Noodle Soup from room service.
The room was $225 including taxes and the $28 resort fee.
A great Christmas treat. Now it’s time to get the wheels turning.