Phoenix, 2022

Angela and I recently returned from Phoenix where we attended the VRBO Fiesta Bowl Game between the Michigan Wolverines and TCU Horned Frogs. My brother, James, and our friend Kenya, who we met through the dachshund Instagram community, joined us for the game. While I was rooting for the Wolverines, Angela pulled for the winning Horned Frogs from the very moment the match-up was announced.

A visit to the Fiesta Bowl has become a somewhat regular tradition at this point, but I can safely say that this was the best game we’ve ever seen. It was also nice to have Angela with me after she graciously skipped the game last year to take care of Fitz as he recovered from spinal surgery.


This year, we decided to board Fitz in Las Vegas and fly down to Phoenix so we wouldn’t have to be worried about him while we were at the game. This was definitely the right decision, as the game stretched for almost five hours. We also opted to rent a car, which is unusual for this particular trip.


Where a cash price is listed, I used lingering American Airlines trip credit that was scheduled to expire. Compared to previous years, flight prices were quite high and there was absolutely no drop in cost as the date of travel approached.

  • Angela and Nicholas
    • 349.21USD per person
      • LAS-PHX on AA Y
      • PHX-LAS on AA Y
  • James
    • 6,500 Delta SkyMiles + 5.60USD per person
      • SEA-PHX on DL Y
    • 356.60USD per person
      • PHX-SEA on AA Y


As usual, cash prices for rooms on the night before and the night of the Fiesta Bowl were absolutely crazy, with a low-tier hotel starting at 539.00USD per night. High-profile sporting events always drive up the price of hotels to absurd levels and using loyalty points allows us to turn an otherwise extravagant splurge into a completely reasonable one.


We effectively have season tickets to the Fiesta Bowl. Every year, we are given the opportunity to buy the same seats and we continue to do so because the view is excellent and, as an added plus, there’s no one behind us so we can stand during the game without upsetting anyone and don’t have to worry about someone spilling beer or dropping nachos on us.

  • 271.25USD per ticket for four tickets to the Fiesta Bowl (purchased at face value when tickets were initially released)


We decided to rent a car on this trip to give us a little more freedom in terms of where we would eat and what we would be able to do while in Phoenix and it served us well. I specifically rented a Model 3 because I wanted to get a feel for what Tesla is producing seven years after we first purchased our Model S. I was not very impressed, but I was still happy to have a vehicle for the two-day trip.

  • 158.23USD for a Tesla Model 3 rental car for two days via Hertz at Phoenix Airport

December 30, 2022

After a couple of coffees, we threw our backpacks in the trunk and drove Fitz to his boarding location. After dropping him off and ensuring he was settled, we continued to the airport. We were able to check-in online, arrive close to our flight time, and walk straight to our gate as boarding started. Our flight left as scheduled and the flight to Phoenix was short and pleasant, if a little bumpy in some places.

When we arrived in Phoenix, we took the airport tram to the rental car center. On the way, we spotted the Arizona Cardinals team plane sitting on the tarmac.

Once at the rental car center, we squared away our reservation details, added me as a driver, and then headed downstairs to pick up our car. We chose a white Model 3, Angela spent some time adjusting everything, and we drove to the lot exit. At this point, we were detained for a fair bit of time as the check-out agent repeatedly asked us for the mileage from the odometer. After about ten minutes, he wrote on the car with a grease pen and instructed us to return it to the lot because it required planned maintenance.

We ended up speaking to three different people in order to return the car to the correct place. From there, unsure what to do, we selected another Model 3, I spent some time adjusting it for myself, and then we went back to the lot exit. This time, we were able to successfully check-out, drive to Terminal 3 to pick up James, and proceed to our hotel.

I was able to check-in immediately once we arrived at the TownePlace Suites. We were given identical rooms on the fourth floor. The hotel seems very new and the rooms are cozy and comfortable, ideal for a short stay. The only drawback of the property is the level of noise, but interior and exterior, that the rooms are subject to.

After we dropped our bags, we drove to True Food Kitchen for an early dinner because the menu had options for all of us. We enjoyed an expansive meal featuring several of the seasonal dishes available. We would strongly recommend the restaurant if all the locations have the same quality as the one that we visited.

We returned to the hotel after dinner to watch the Capital One Orange Bowl between Clemson and Tennessee, a somewhat lopsided but still entertaining match-up between two good teams. After the game, we spent some time chatting before heading to bed.

December 31

When we woke up, Angela prepared everyone coffee using the Aeropress that we recently purchased and brought to Phoenix with us. After a couple of delicious cups, we headed down for a surprisingly good breakfast. We filled up on granola, Chobani yogurt, egg and sausage sandwiches, waffles, and a variety of fruits before heading out on a walk to the local Target and Kohl’s to stretch our legs and look for some Michigan gear.

Unable to find any Wolverines merchandise, we returned to the hotel and enjoyed a brief workout in the surprisingly well-equipped fitness room. In addition to a variety of cardio machines, it contained a relatively new cable machine with a variety of attachments, two convertible benches, kettlebells of varying weights, and a set of dumbbells up to fifty pounds.

We showered up and headed outside to wait for Kenya to arrive. Walking around the parking lot, we saw quite a few excellent displays of fandom, including this car.

We walked to State Farm Stadium once Kenya arrived. After undergoing the security and ticketing formalities, we found our seats, grabbed some food and drinks, and settled in to watch one of the most exciting games ever. The game started with a beautiful rendition of the national anthem by Boyz II Men.

After that, we were treated to a back-and-forth affair that TCU dominated in the first half but Michigan had a chance to win in the last minute. I don’t think there’s much more you could ask for as a college football fan.

After the game ended, we said our goodbyes to Kenya before heading to Little Saigon for a fantastic dinner. Every dish we tried was fresh and flavorful and the service was great. We picked up some ice cream on the way back to the hotel and ate it while we watched the University of Georgia come from behind to win the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl against Ohio State.

I fell asleep reading, in spite of the noisy fireworks, while Angela managed to stay awake until midnight. She woke me up briefly for a New Year’s photo and kiss before I retreated back to unconsciousness.

January 1, 2023

After another tasty breakfast, we worked out before heading to the airport. Clearing security was easy, although we had to wait for James to pass through the peasants’ checkpoint (he doesn’t have TSA preCheck). Once we were all in the secure concourse, we headed to the Centurion Lounge. We waited in line for about twenty minutes before I was able to add my name to the wait-list. After that, we waited another twenty minutes to receive a text allowing us entry to the lounge.

We ate a delicious lunch before heading to our slightly delayed flight. Unfortunately, we then experienced two and a half hours of rolling mechanical delays that pushed our departure back to almost four hours after originally scheduled. We finally boarded and made it back to Las Vegas in the early evening. Luckily for us, and for Fitz, we were not able to schedule pickup on January 1st, so he didn’t have an unexpected overnight due to our delays.

Unfortunately, James’s flight suffered from similar mechanical delays, causing him to arrive home three hours later than anticipated. This caused him to miss the last light rail departure back to his neighborhood, causing all kinds of fun for him.

Our time in Phoenix was excellent. We enjoyed the game and loved spending a couple of days with James. It’s always a joy to reconnect with him and share life’s small joys, primarily food and football on this trip.

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