Phoenix – Day 4

14 03 2012

I know, I know… you were just chomping on the bit wanting to know what we did on the fourth and final day of our Phoenix trip, weren’t you?

Well – we didn’t fly out until around 6pm, so we pretty much had the whole day to enjoy the suddenly much warmer weather. I reckoned it was about 28°C in new money. A marked hike in temperature from the rest of our trip. Just in the one day I got a touch of brown, so it was pretty warm. Of course – being in the desert with no hat and precious little hair didn’t help. In the end, we decided to head NW from Mesa and visited the Desert Botanical Garden, as already mentioned elsewhere.

Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix

I really was not prepared for just how green and varied the cacti were. The gardens are very well laid out with butterfly gardens and displays of First Nation shelters and things for the kids to do like making paintbrushes out of yucca leaves. The time flew by and we easily spent four hours there. There was some pretty tame wildlife around too, and I saw a ground squirrel as well as a wannabe gila monster. OK… it was really just a little gecko thing, but it had dreams, man, dreams! As in the logo, the flower spikes on the agave could be huge. Some were easily 10′ or 15′ tall. Some of the cacti had really interesting names like “octopus cactus” or “hedgehog cactus”, but some looked really creepy, like they were really animals that were just playing “statues” until the people went away and they could slither off again.


More chairs

9 03 2012

A few people seemed to like the graphic imagery in the repeated patterns of the brushed aluminium chairs I’d captured in Phoenix. The photo’s here if you missed it the first time round. I didn’t think these images were quite as good, but I thought I’d share anyway. The bright sunlight near noon made for very strong patterned shadows.

The sparrow wanted to get in on the action too.

Chihuly… again!

9 03 2012

Bless you!

Frequent readers might recall a recent piece on Dale Chihuly. No? Try “Gesundheit“.

So imagine my surprise, on our fourth and final day in Phoenix, when I came across the unmistakeable style of Chihuly right there in the desert. The organic style merged very well with the real plants it represented and echoed there in the Desert Botanical Garden.

Phoenix – Day 2

6 03 2012

So day two in Phoenix was a trip planned before we’d left BC. A trip to the Tonto National monument in the Tonto National Forest. Forest?! In a desert? Yup… though admittedly we didn’t see too many trees. A forest of cacti for sure. More than you could shake a stick at. The whole place was way more green and varied than I expected, though I guess there had been recent rains and this was the soak it up and flower season before everything hunkered down for the big sweat as summer approached.

We had three different highlights of the day. We specifically wanted to see the cave dwelling site. The “lower cave dwelling” is about a 10-15 minute walk from the car park. it’s only $3 to get into the park, and that’s good for a whole week. There are some more extensive “higher cave dwellings”, but you have to book ahead and space is very limited. Ironically the day before, there’d been a guided photography tour! The second highlight was the Roosevelt dam on the Roosevelt Lake reservoir. It was an awful lot smaller than I expected, given the size of the lake it was holding back.

Satellite image of Tonto National Monument and...

Finally, the road back was highlight number three. The Apache Trail. This is basically a packed earth road for 20-odd of its 40-odd miles. But we were in a hire car. Meh.

As promised previously, here’s a few snapshots of some of the sights along the way…

Phoenix – Day 1

5 03 2012

We recently had our 5th wedding anniversary, after 20 years. Yup – we got married on 29th February, back in 1992. Totally in line with my preference for doing things not quite the same way as everyone else. In due deference to her long suffering of said oddity, I felt it only fair that my wife pick where we went to celebrate the passing of another 4 years. That and the fact that she organised everything, and I didn’t get much say anyway!

She found a rather neat little package by Allegiant Air, flying out of Bellingham, WA, just over the line from our home in White Rock, BC. For about a grand for the pair of us, we got flights to Phoenix (yes… and back too), car hire, 3 nights in a hotel, with a fourth thrown in for free. Bargain!

We flew out on a rainy Wednesday (yes – the 29th of February), and landed around 9pm at Phoenix Mesa Gateway airport, about 20 minutes from the hotel in Mesa itself – just to the East of Phoenix proper. It was an MD-80 series plane, and the cheap tickets came at a hidden price… no seat allocation! If you’re familiar with this plane, it will come as no surprise that by the time we got to board, we ended up right at the back of the plane at the perfect audio focal point of the two screaming jet engines that keep the tin can in the air. My hearing has just about recovered now.

On arrival in Mesa, a mediocre meal at Red Lobster was ameliorated by a reasonable bottle of Merlot, and we were tucked up in bed well before the witching hour. The morning brought us an explanation for the industrial strength blackout roller blinds and mesh covers on the windows. By around 7:30am, the heat through the PVC blind was quite noticable in our East-facing room. One free breakfast later, and we were under way for our first adventure… sniffing out the locale. Despite the sunshine it was still a bit breezy, and we were quite obviously marked out as “damned tourists” in our shorts and T-shirts, in sharp contrast to the be-coated and be-hoodied locals shivering in the mid 20s (That’s °C!). The mall offered up some sweet beverage and gooey snacks at Cinnabon (hey – we were on holiday!), and Macey’s delivered a rather fetching tie to add to my collection. And some socks. And a brace of shirts. And some hankies.

So I don’t get out much. What’s your point?

Then we set off for a proper explore… to Taliesin West. This was about 15 minutes away to the North-East of Mesa, East of the popular Scottsdale. In fact it still is, probably! This was built by Frank Lloyd Wright as his winter camp, and basically a tax dodge. The tour wasn’t cheap, but I thoroughly recommend it, if you’re in the area. The tour guides are very knowledgeable, and though they seem to hold FLW as a near deity, they were honest enough to admit that he was an arrogant egocentric bigot. Such is genius…

The buildings were originally open to the elements (which were typically mild in the months of occupation) and had canvas screens to protect from the sun, and open areas for ventilation. FLW’s third and final wife insisted on glass and a more conventional approach, so the current incarnation is a little more enclosed. His arrogance is still visible in one area at least, where he insisted that a bowl on a shelf was “in the perfect position” and must not be moved, so that when the window was glazed, a hole was cut in the glass to accommodate the 30% of the bowl which lay on the outside of the new physical barrier in the window frame.

He built everything from local materials to allow for a more sympathetic blend with the surroundings. A genius to be sure, but I’m glad I never needed to do business with the guy.

He’s quoted as saying the following:

“Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose the former and have seen no reason to change.”

Can’t say fairer than that, I suppose!