The drive from Tucson to the Phoenix area was an easy one…nice to not have to negotiate an unknown petrol station with a trailer. I made one stop along the way at a nice rest area with generous space for trucks and RV’s and had lunch in the trailer sandwiched between two idling 18-wheelers…all part of the fun!
I’ll be staying almost two weeks in the area at two different Maricopa County regional parks. The first one was Usery Mountain Regional Park. This park, like the state park at Picacho Peak is set in a very scenic area with large well manicured sites and great vistas. There is water and electricity (no sewer hook-up or cable TV…but there is a dump station) for $25 per night. I’ve stayed in two RV parks now and two state or county parks and the public parks win hands down. Both RV parks were like parking lots…yes, they were well maintained but there were just too many sites and too close together. Most of the amenities of RV parks don’t appeal to me…sometimes there may be a gym with some half-assed broken down equipment, a pool and a laundry room…I’d rather get out in the local community and do all that. Most towns have recreation facilities that you can use for very little cost or you can get weekly gym memberships for $25. I’m going to try to stick to state or national parks.
Because I’m close to a large metropolitan area, my sightseeing options are a little different than what they would be if I were further afield so I’m taking advantage of that and have been getting into Phoenix, Mesa and Scottsdale. One of the first things I did was go to the Desert Botanical Gardens near Tempe. I’d seen ads for it on TV when I was in Tucson promoting an exhibition by glass blower Dale Chihuly. I went on a Tuesday and unbeknownst to me, it was the monthly free admission day. I arrived to a long queue of cars waiting to enter the parking area. Oh shit, bad enough to have to wait but worse than that is that Pete is a handful to park in a crowded parking lot! I’ve yet to pull in to a spot between two parked cars…Pete’s huge…just like that asteroid catapulting to earth right now. Well, enough dramatic license…I parked and thought the juxtaposition of the glass art in the garden was masterful. Not only that, but the money I saved on admission was well spent in Gertrude’s, the nice restaurant in the garden.
The following day I met up with one of my cousins and his wife who’ve lived in the area for the last five years or so. Matt is the son of my first cousin Brian…so does that make us second cousins? I think so. Anyway, Matt and his wife Jess (they were married just last June) chose a German restaurant in Mesa as they’d really enjoyed the food in Germany on their honeymoon in Europe. Good choice! I was really pleased to see the menu included Jaeger Schnitzel which was a staple back in Sydney for me and my friends at “Una’s” after a few (too many) beers at the Green Park hotel…ah, good times! It was great catching up with Matt and meeting Jess…we all tried to guestimate the last time we’d seen each other but with me having lived overseas and their going to college in Philadelphia, the best we could figure was 2002-ish.
One of the best things about travelling and meeting people is that you get some great suggestions on things to see and do. Before I left Palm Springs, my friends Brian and Nancy recommended seeing the studio of Italian American architect Paolo Soleri (whom I’d never heard of before so thanks Brian and Nancy!). Soleri was known for his experimentation with urban planning and set up an experimental community north of Phoenix called Arcosanti, which still exists and can be toured. His studio in Scottsdale, Cosanti, includes some residences but also a studio for making “Soleri” bells and wind chimes, some of which were priced at over twenty thousand dollars. As I was doing a little research on his past designs I saw that he’d designed an amphitheater in Santa Fe, New Mexico…to my surprise, I had attended a concert there when in 1990 my friend Tom took me to see Basia perform outdoors with Ottmar Leibert opening. Wow! Sadly, the amphitheater is under demolition as the upkeep out cost revenues generated and the Native Pueblos of New Mexico who owned it are not governed by any local or state preservation laws.
Because I’ve been doing things around town, I haven’t done much hiking…but I did do one within the park. I did the Wind Cave hike, which took about 1.5 hours round trip there was only about an eight hundred foot elevation gain, but the view was nice. I envied the trail runners…OK…that’ll be a goal…trail run John…just do it!