Wednesday, 27 March 2013

ARIZONA: Cacti and drive thru liquor stores!

(The majority of the following photos contain cacti at my sister's request. Having said that, it's impossible to avoid them anyway)

Phoenix. A different kettle of fish. Very dry fish. Fish jerky?

The first time I visited the States was back in 2008 after a trip to China and five months living and cycling around New Zealand. I spent a couple of weeks in and around San Francisco and Yosemite. As a European, going to San Francisco is probably the best place to be introduced to the States. It's not too sprawling, it's manageable by foot or on public transport and of course it's the most liberal place in America.

Staying in Phoenix, on the other hand, has without doubt been the biggest culture shock of my life, more so than China and South Korea. This is partly due to my expectations and also because of my own limitations. I don't have a driver's licence. I've never had one and never particularly cared to have one. Phoenix has single handedly convinced me that I must get one ASAP. I don't care to drive, but it's the only way to get the most out of a sprawling American city like this. Public transport doesn't help, it takes pretty much 1 hour 40 mins to get anywhere by bus. Being 31 years old I should have got my driver's licence about 14 years ago! It looks like I might have a goal for the summer.

Having just given Phoenix a load of grief I should mention that downtown Phoenix is much better for pedstrians. Tempe, a college town just south of Phoenix, is a million miles better. It's full of cyclists and has shopping streets like a real city should.

The neighbourhood. I've been staying in Paradise Valley in Northern Phoenix. It's a pretty safe part of town. The majority of the roads are huge and the houses are mostly standard cookie cutters. The block we live on is different though; the houses are small with huge plots of land.

Our landlord lives in an RV at the bottom of the garden. Landscapers use the yard to park their trucks. We've got a clear shot of the mountains to the south. If we were living on another block we wouldn't be able to see this view as there would be about 3 houses between the camera and those palm trees. I suppose you might call the property "ranch style". That's what Jenny keeps saying, but it makes me think of ranch sauce. Mmm, time to raid the fridge!

Jenny: the reason I came to a land with perennial sunshine from a land with perennial rain and cloud.

This drive through liquor store sign blew my mind! In fact my mind keeps short circuiting on a daily basis. Drive thru restaurants, pharmacies, banks, you name it - the options are limitless. You could make anything "drive thru" if you wanted. All of the little shrines on the side of roads indicate that other people's cars are also drive through.

Bumper stickers. Some of these are classic:

  • Saw it...Wanted it...Had a fit...Got it!
  • Vicious, Power Hungry Bitch
I'm guessing the driver's not a guy. 

I might deface Jenny's bumper with some of my own. Any suggestions?

Aaaah. "Fine" Malt Liquor. I am quite a fan of this stuff. Olde English is my preferred option. Filthy cheap fun. The only problem with forties are they get warm quite quickly in the desert. Top tips: Keep a fridge at hand. Only drink at night. I guess the last one is just sound advice in general. But day drinking is so much fun!!!

The Desert:
Hands down the best thing about Phoenix is it's location...THE DESERT! Actually, the skies are the best thing. In terms of urban planning I am not a fan of Phoenix, but it does have some amazing parks slap bang in the centre of the "city". Phoenix isn't a metropolis, it's a suburbolis!

The following photos are taken in Piestewa Peak Park (formerly known as Squaw Peak). It's a 5 mile ride from where I'm staying. I rode down there on Jenny's super cheap walmart single speed. I usually frown upon single speeds, but there are no hills in Phoenix, except the mountains. There are dozens of trails winding around and up the peak and the views across the valley are never ending. Truly epic.

Brace yourselves for photos of cacti dedicated to Nicola, a lady fascinated with the stuff.

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Obnoxious cactus giving me the finger and shouting, "Welcome to America, DICK!"

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Downtown Phoenix. That's as high rise as it gets. It's a lot more pedestrian friendly down in that part of town.

Looking across to Piestewa Peak.

Sky Harbour Airport in the distance.

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Dead cactus.
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The photos below were taken just after dawn at the top of Piestewa Peak at the south west end of the park. I got in contact with Jeff on and we made plans to get to the peak for sunrise, but we ended up running late and missing it. The lighting was amazing nonetheless.
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Jeff and Bobby on the descent.

I plan on going hiking in the Superstition mountains and of course up north in Sedona, the orange paradise. If you haven't heard of Sedona then you should look it up now. It's Jenny's favourite place on the planet and I don't doubt for one second that it will live up to the hype.

Jenny has finally bought a car and it's slowly getting in shape for our road trip. The plan is to drive north to... ALASKA, where a seasonal job awaits Jenny. It's going to be immense and best of all, I won't be doing any driving! I will be taking on the role of back seat driver and clown.

Next time on couchonwheels...SUBURBIA!!!!