After leaving Parts West, Vermont we headed to New York State and our final two colleges. In planning the trip I really only looked at hotel chains that were relatively close to the first school of the day. I’m partial to Hampton Inns. Their beds are comfy and the rooms almost always immaculate and they serve a decent hot breakfast as part of the hotel stay. They also offer decent discounts for AARP members and I get points for staying at Hamption Inns through their hhonors program, although I’m not sure what to do with the points or how many I need for anything.
While there were Hampton Inns near the final two colleges we’d planned on visiting in central New York State (Colgate and Hamilton) their prices were more than I wanted to pay. I checked the college web pages and found a hotel that had good reviews which was cheaper than the Hampton Inns in the area. I figured if a prestigious college suggested this hotel it couldn’t be that bad. The only drawback — it was part of a casino. I asked Dean if he minded staying in a casino hotel and he thought it would be fun so I booked it.
Vernon Downs is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. We’d hoped for a decent restaurant, but the few eating establishments we passed were either closed, too far from the hotel or didn’t look appetizing. We checked into our hotel and were told that the buffet was closing in a little over an hour. Dean was sort of excited about the buffet. He had expectations of huge slabs of roast beef carved by men in white coats and tall white chef’s hats. I expected a cafeteria with gray food laden with too much salt.
To get to the buffet we had to walk through the casino and since Andrew was younger than 18 needed an escort. We got a friendly escort who told Andrew to save his money and buy a car instead of gambling. He added, “Look at these people. Do they look happy to you?”
When we arrived at the buffet we were told that in order to get the over age 50 discount we needed to have a “players card”. I was ok paying the extra $4 each, but Dean wanted the discount, so we left Andrew in the buffet (with his orange wristband) and walked to the desk where they issued us each a plastic “players card”.
The buffet was more like I’d expected, except with a little more variety. Dean was disappointed since he thought it would be more fancy. I hate casinos. I hate everything about them. At least this one was smoke-free. There’s nothing sadder than watching old, wrinkled women sitting at a slot machine with a cigarette in one hand and pushing the slot machine buttons or pulling the lever with the other.
In the morning we awoke to sunshine — and since we were on the side of the hotel facing east, we got to see a beautiful sunrise. We ate the free breakfast and headed south to Colgate University. (Andrew nixed Hamilton based on its tagline)
Dean and Clare had visited Colgate and only stayed for the information session — both feeling that Colgate was just not for Clare. Andrew liked the information session enough to want to go on the tour.
We were lucky to get the tour guide we did. There were three tour guides: two perky sophomore girls with long lists of accomplishments and one slightly geeky Latino science major named Julio. He was the best tour guide we’d had on the trip, except possibly for the rugby-playing girl at Wesleyan. Julio told it like it was — told us what he liked about the school, what he didn’t like about the school, told us his story and really genuinely seemed happy to be there. He had a quirky sense of humor and was just an everyday person — someone with whom many high school juniors could identify as opposed to the many overachieving tour guides we’d encountered.
After the tour and an ice cream sandwich treat from the admissions office, we headed back home to Bethesda. Andrew had become a slightly different person since we left home 5 days earlier. He now had a good idea of the type of college he wanted to end up at and a plan for how to get there. He’s a cool kid and any college would be lucky to have him.