- Travel and Places
The South Arizona Winter
The Sonoran Desert Blooms in Concrete
The Thermometer Factor
True enough, when the thermometer hits ninety, in late February, there is not much wiggle room. Obviously, I'm talking about Phoenix. It's a large, trafficky city -- plenty of downside there. But you put on a shirt and walk out the door. That's enough on the nicer side of the ledger. Still, I cannot disagree with those sensitive to intense heat. Last night, after a flight from Milwaukee, I felt as though I might collapse from dehydration on the way to the hotel. I could not remember ever having been so thirsty without being on a trail with a merciless sun beating down. This was the dead of night. I was pushing it. I could not find my equilibrium. I might have stopped at a gas station for a simple bottle of water, the best remedy. But I was revved up, trying not to get lost, and afraid to lose momentum.
After a while, I also felt that nobody appreciated the fact that you could go without ten layers of clothing as well as covering one's face. The winters up north are harsh. They can be tiring and repetitive, one gray day after another. But I can also say how perfect blue skies without interruption have almost the same effect. You get used to them. You know what they say about familiarity. Most of these remarks, I'll admit, are purely personal. There are those who like overcast skies. I am a bit of a cloud fan myself. Thus far, for me, climate change has not been so very effective. At least not from where I came from and went to. It is still cold in Chicagoland and hot in Phoenix in the winter time.
From New Mexico to Arizona or East to West
The Unreliable: Tourism and Word of Mouth
I'm no longer as thrilled as I once was to have the wherewithal to spring for a Holiday Inn. I recall having done so in order to traipse around the trails of the Blue Ridge Mountains without altogether roughing it. I recollect being as high up the ladder of the general scale of success I had ever yet gone. Then, skipping a few decades, I moved to the West. That is how I discovered, as if nobody knew, a giant, whole, though not entirely wholesome, up-to-date, city (or Colossus, what-have-you), in what was once, if not now, the truer West. Among the best photos I have ever seen on Facebook are from Arizona. On average, it feels better to be in Arizona, and it looks better as well. Hotels are for those who do not or cannot make other arrangements. I wish I could say more about them, but they are a business I encounter only every now and then. The element of chance can never be fully eliminated.
I sometimes wish people were not so down on the place. One hears rave reviews of Colorado or California, as if the latter, at least, were, like NYC, the only place on earth. But bad times in Arizona, apparently, are not scarce. I had one myself, but came back anyways, at a later date. The idea of moving there hangs like a threat over one's head. People do not as a rule badmouth Indiana, Iowa, or Ohio. But some will not give in to any debate on the merits of Arizona against other western states to either visit or live in. By the way, read the news coming from mid-America. It can chill your bones. As God is my witness, I had no idea a Michigan man, another lone wolf, would go on a deadly rampage while I composed a simple travel essay.
Golf Courses attract Professional Golfers
Alternatives to Arizona
The West is large and winter warmth is not the only lure. Not to be forgotten, most people who live in the cold are strapped to jobs and budgets that do not allow for much, if any, experimentation. For those who live in the warmer realms, I wish they could experience, if only for a season, how the folks up north get by. They manage every single year, no matter what. But it does not happen without an excessive amount of auto body work, broken fingers and wrists, and frost bite. Sometimes home insulation is less than par. Sometimes the thermometer rises only to capture frozen rain. It can be an ordeal to so much as gather one's mail. How slippery is it? No joke. Motorists suddenly total their cars without a clue.
There are quite a few additional states that are interesting and relatively warm. For me, getting up to fifty in the daytime, as is the case in New Mexico, is good enough. But some like it hotter. This reviewer cannot suggest Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, or Florida. The latter is well-known and has many advocates. It is the winterland of choice for the masses. The passing of Harper Lee causes me to think a bit more than usual about Alabama. I only see it in the movies. Harper Lee and Truman Capote come from an Alabama small town. Faulkner comes from Mississippi. Walker Percy and John Kennedy Toole hail from Louisiana. You have to feel the calling. If you do, why not? The south has always been known for belle lettres. The southerner has always had more ways with words than his or her northern counterpart. It all depends upon how much importance one places on such oddities. In Arizona, you will not likely encounter far-out, deep-fried accents.
I only just learned that the metropolitan Phoenix area is going to be packed during Spring Training, starting in a week or so. But that was not what I had in mind. The earth has provided great natural riches, such as rivers, mountains, and canyons that human society has spiritualized. No, one does not have to be a Native American to partake. Of all natural phenomena, however, the desert is very appreciated in terms of spirituality. America has desert. It gives the Southwest a special status. There are any number of biographies that link notable figures in the early church with prolonged desert retreats. Antioch in Syria spawned quite a few. Deserts have been known to change lives, turning non-believers into the faithful. Only think, under the sun, how much more valuable a few ounces of water becomes. Then think of those waters mentioned in scripture, from which, afterward, no thirsting will ever again return. The analogy works, if you leave scorched earth hungering for the Word of God. Well, nothing can be taken for granted. It is always possible the desert will have no religious impact whatsoever. Open-minded or close-hearted, the curious can travel by car into the more desolate regions and commune however best he or she can on or off well-marked, well-trod trails.
High Rises & Condos
In this regard, Arizona and California weigh in at just about the same time. In retrospect, it was inevitable that moviemaking would leave the East Coast and take up residence on the sunny West. Before this shake-up took place, Westerns were already being filmed. The Great Train Robbery comes from 1903 New Jersey. The movies were not even ten years old at the time. In only twelve years time, D. W. Griffith would direct Birth of a Nation (1915), controversial to this very day. But it changed the future of movies. They would no longer be frivolous, fanciful, more technically complex nickelodeon fare. The point for the traveler is that Arizona was a highly prized location for literally thousands of movies, mostly Westerns, now well out of style. It is a small, humble point for tourism, but getting out of the snow and ice is not the only attraction. One can improve one's mind. Movie history is history, too, and much more to the lighter side than records of Indian Wars and frontier hardships.