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Weekend Escape: Arizona : A Pool! Cool! : High Heat, Low Rates: Swimmers and Nappers Take to a Summertime Desert Resort

July 24, 1994|DIANNE KLEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER. Klein is a former Times' Metro writer

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Our house is on the market, which means we have to keep it unnaturally clean. Our children are on the loose for the summer, which means the search for constant merriment is beginning to wear. And my husband and I are leaving our jobs to start something new, which means our moods swing from exhilaration to somewhere near mental collapse.

We needed a tonic fast, preferably something that did not involve driving or any other forced group dynamics, and we also wanted cheap--cheap being a relative term. I was particularly interested in sloth; naps also would be nice. Richard, my husband, stressed that whatever it was, it should not involve pitching a tent.

But then there were the kids to think about. Nap, for example, is now a word I must spell out in conversations with my husband so as to avoid sending 3-year-old, Hannah, over the edge. ("I am NOT tired!")

It came together for us during the opening weekend of the summer cheap season at the lavish, wonderfully artificial Hyatt Regency resort in Scottsdale's Gainey Ranch--that patch of desert with not only a real beach (sort of), but pretend Venetian canals too.

As far as I can tell, the main difference between Hyatt's virtual reality and the authentic one is that the resort version is clean. And hot, really hot. Walking in the Arizona sunshine in June is not unlike walking into a kiln. If you offer no resistance, you will be turned into earthenware fast.

But, hey, Richard and I figured such was a small price to pay for a vacation where happiness seemed in reach of us all, especially since our room for four, with two double beds, went for $125 a night instead of the usual $305 minimum during the high season (Jan. 1 to mid-June). And after flying in from Burbank on Southwest Airlines' two-fer deal--four unrestricted round-trip tickets to Phoenix for $248--my husband and I felt downright proud.

A look at the Hyatt lobby alone is enough to put you in a good mood. The minute you step up a few stairs from the circular driveway through the always-open glass doors, the eye takes in the expanse, resting finally on the huge saguaro cactus at the head of the majestic walkway leading to the spectacular complex of pools, just in front of the lake, with mountains in the back. Arizona's take on Versailles?

We were staying in a standard, no-smoking room. Standard here means very comfortable, though not overly luxurious. There are nice touches: a blow dryer and scale in the bathroom, a table and chairs on the balcony, and for people who can never quite relax, an ironing board and iron in the closet. (There also are seven two-bedroom, lakeside casitas with kitchenettes and outdoor barbecue grills.) As you'd expect, the hotel's decorating scheme is Southwestern, with a very open feel.

Our first order of business after arriving Friday afternoon was to have lunch at the Squash Blossom, which is more or less the equivalent of the hotel's coffee shop. It's fancier than that, of course, but certainly not as upscale as the hotel's more gourmet, and expensive, Golden Swan. There is also a third restaurant, Sandolo, an Italian cafe with wonderful water misters on its patio. It could be 115 degrees out, but with the misters sprinkling the air with tiny water drops, you'd never know it. We had a good meal of spicy Buffalo wings, a chef's salad for my husband, a smoked salmon quesadilla for me and two huge frankfurters with curly fries for the kids.

After lunch, the kids, Hannah and our 7-year-old, Lauren, raced to our room to get into their bathing suits. This, after all, is why they had so wanted to come. The POOL! Only pool is not quite enough to describe the water thing here. It's actually a half-acre of pools, 10 of them in all.

Perfect for little non-swimmers is "the beach" with sand on the shore suited to castle building and sand on the bottom. This segues into a more conventional pool for older kids and is next to the three-story, five-spiral water slide that also serves as a clock tower. The small pool that catches the sliders is the only one with a lifeguard, and one is definitely needed here. You lie on that slide, your arms tight by your side, head back--just like the first-graders in line instruct you to--and you think you're an aquatic luge champion. Only I doubt true Olympians scream as they go down the tube.

While the kids were swimming--and after my in-laws, who live in Scottsdale, arrived for a visit poolside--I followed their suggestion to go back to the room for a nap instead of lying on a chaise lounge nodding off in front of everybody. With the sun-impermeable drapes drawn, the air conditioner cranked up to icy, I got under the covers and fell immediately to sleep. This was vacation bliss. Ah, but a couple hours later I was awakened with the command: Let's eat! For the sake of convenience, we hit the Squash Blossom again.

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