The drive from Albuquerque to Phoenix, if you take I-40 West to 17 South, is one of abrupt scenery changes. One minute you’re surrounded by rolling hills; the next, by vast plains; the next, snow-dappled mountains; and finally but just as suddenly, landscapes of towering saguaro cacti as you descend into the Valley of the Sun.
My memory is one big happy jumble.
Soon after our arrival, Meghann and I felt compelled to pay a visit to the Arizona Biltmore Resort. It’s every bit as classy as it sounds, but not so much that a pair of dusty travelers couldn’t enjoy a martini on the patio. Talk about a perfect way to unwind after a day of driving!
Friday was Escape From Civilization Day. On a friend’s recommendation, we made tracks for Tom’s Thumb trail in the McDowell Mountain Preserve for some good hiking, good scenery, and some up-close-and-personal time with saguaros. We found all three, and got a surprise that I still can’t get over – just how much greenery Phoenix boasts.
We still had the main reason for our trip ahead of us: BASEBALL. Our first game was on Friday night: the Colorado Rockies (my favorite team) versus the Cincinnati Reds, at the Reds’ Spring Training home field of Goodyear Park. The night did not disappoint, especially when the Rockies won. Even better, there were fireworks after the game. Fabulous!
On Saturday morning I had to take off my vacation shoes and put on my marathon-training shoes. With luck and a little reconnaissance, I’d found a running route – the Arizona Canal path. I started from the Biltmore Resort and just did an out-and-back, which was refreshingly simpler than I had anticipated. Who says you can’t do a 20-mile waterside run in the middle of the desert? There was even a porta-potty along the way, which God knows I always appreciate.
With the run completed, it was time for…MORE BASEBALL! Our game for that afternoon was the L.A. Dodgers versus the Texas Rangers, at Surprise Stadium (yes, there’s a town called Surprise). I don’t know if it was from my run or Spring Training fever, but I have never tasted better hot dogs. Plus, to the delight of us folks used to desert xeriscaping, we were instructed to park in a grassy field. Sandals came off immediately, and after the game, the field turned into one huge picnic. Food, games of catch everywhere…I swear I could hear John Mellencamp singing.
With visions of baseball diamonds still dancing in our heads, we decided to see if we could get tickets for that night’s meeting of the San Francisco Giants and Cleveland Indians. We could. And that place was packed. At one point, Meghann and I stood on the concourse near homeplate, munched our snacks, just people-watching…and saw the most exciting 9th inning either of us has ever witnessed in person. AND…more fireworks!
The next morning, we dawdled. We were sad to leave, but we still had a little something to look forward to: a stop in Winslow, Arizona on the way home. If you’ve never heard of it, listen to the Eagles’ “Take It Easy.” Yup, we stood on that corner. For lunch and some non-musical history, we walked up the street to La Posada Hotel, a beautiful place built in 1930. We enjoyed a delicious lunch of corned beef sandwiches in their restaurant (it was St. Patrick’s Day, after all!) and meandered around the grounds, but eventually had to return to the highway.
For a few days, we had shaken off the all-too familiar dust of stress, fatigue, and (at least in my case) chronic grumpiness, and replaced it with that lovely dust which only exists off the beaten path.
Couldn’t ask for much more than that.