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Published: October 26th 2013
Our Reflections on Phoenix, Mesa and Tempe in Arizona
Phoenix is the 5th
largest city in USA and the state capital of Arizona. Guidebooks state that there is ’minimal appeal for visitors’ and we found it difficult to find things to do here beside cycle in the hot sunshine and still humidity-less air and look at some fabulous buildings. There are 1.5 million people in the city and over 5 million in its incorporated suburbs (including Mesa and Tempe and Scottsdale). There are two massive sports stadiums side-by-side in the downtown area along with corporate skyscrapers, court buildings and other state government buildings. We walked around the compact downtown centre asking each other: ‘where are the people?’ There is no shopping downtown, only a few sports pubs , a Starbucks, Gold’s Gym and Urban Outfitters. The area of Heritage Square consists of one preserved Victorian building, circa 1890s (the same era as our house in Dublin) now a coffee shop and doll and toy museum.
Phoenix is architecturally very diverse and interesting. It was the winter retreat of Frank Lloyd Wright. His Taliesin West first made the “Valley of the Sun” an architectural destination by itself, but now Phoenix
overflows with world-class architecture.
Phoenix is also one of the campuses of Arizona State University. The bulk of its students are in nearby Tempe (nearly 60,000 of a total of over 72,000). It is the largest public university in the United States by enrolment. The compact town centre of Tempe consists of about two dozen sports pubs. The ASU sports teams are very successful and in some parts of the USA, college sports have more enthusiastic and devoted fans than professional sports. Again, we spent part of Saturday afternoon on the Tempe ASU campus and there were very few students around.
We stayed in Tempe a couple nights parked up in the library parking lot and spent Saturday walking in and cycling around the town itself and on the previous Friday going in to Phoenix for a second day.
Tempe is very flat and easy to cycle around with wide roads and cycle paths on most roads. Both Tempe and Mesa consist mainly of square grids of wide, straight, flat streets of shopping centers and residential blocks. Mesa specialises in gated, 55+ retirement community mobile homes parks. There are over 100 of them and some of them
have over 1000 sites for ‘snowbirds’. Snowbirds are people from the northern states and Canada who go south for the winter months. Eastern snowbirds (Greg’s mom is one) generally go to Florida; while Western snowbirds go to Arizona. There are 325+ sunny days per year here.
We spent one night at the Mesa Regal, one of Arizona’s largest RV Resorts with over 2,000 sites. Amenities include full hook-ups for motor homes, travel trailers and 5th wheels, four outdoor pools, two spas, and state of the art computer and fitness centers. They also have their own performance halls where Donny Osmond and Gordon Lightfoot will perform in the spring. They are very well organized but a little sleepy. I went down to the pool bar about 5:30 to watch the second game of the baseball World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the St Louis Cardinals. (As a kid growing up in small town Maine, the Boston Red Sox was ‘my’ team and the 1967 World series loss to those same St Louis Cardinals was a major disappointment.) I sat down at the bar between three Red Sox fans, two old guys more interested in football (USA type) than
baseball, and a woman from St Louis at the far end of the bar silently praying (lots of religion in the south!) By the end of the third inning, shortly after 6pm, the three Red Sox fans had departed to their mobile home to watch from the comfort of their lounge chairs, the two football guys had switched their attention fully to a nearby tv screen featuring highlights from the previous week’s college games (but departed shortly thereafter), and the woman from St Louis had simply vanished into the dusk. I ordered another long tall glass of ice water and before 7 o’clock the bar and wait staff had closed up the cash registers and informed the security man to lock up after me. I watched the rest of the game on my own, slowly nursing my long tall water. And Boston lost, 4-2. I was so shocked and tired and worn out that I returned to Rudy V and fell asleep before 9 pm. The next morning we woke with the dawn and went to the gym and it was full of people on the treadmills and exercise machines: early to bed, early to rise!
There are 40+ golf courses in Mesa alone and over 200 in greater Phoenix area (walking around Tempe today we saw a couple of posters for Ireland, one of Dublin city and the other for the golf courses of Ireland). The Mesa downtown area contains 38 pieces public sculpture on street corners including the Big Pink Chair (Joan is an optional extra). And its Mesa Arts Center is a very large and impressive complex featuring all types of performances on a regular basis.
It was at the Mesa Arts Center where we heard the trio of Geri Allen (piano), Esperanza Splading (bass) and Terri Lynne Carrington (drums) – the subject of our next posting.
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