Day 108-109: Phoenix, Arizona – The Sonoran Desert and the City

With more energy after a few low key days in the Econo Lodge, we went out to have a proper look at the Sonoran Desert. A mile or so outside of Mesa, the giant saguaro cactuses started appearing. It was like a very spread out forest off them with other bushy little types of cactuses and scrubby grasses in between:

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Saguaro with a Small Red Mountain (or a Large Red Hill) in the Background

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This gives an idea of just how tall they are. We were probably a foot or two in front of it.

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Some other lovely spiky thing

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Desert Panorama

Check out the video of this day:

Even though this may look like a silly pose, these are extremely long lived plants and according to Wikipedia, this cactus may have taken 75-100 years to grow the first of its many arms: 

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They can live up to 150 years and are unique to the Sonoran desert, even though they have often been used in media to represent other parts of the South West or Texas. Apparently, they are only found in Arizona and a bit of Mexico and California that border Arizona. They puff out when it rains, which it actually did quite torrentially the night before this photo was taken, so this may be in a more bloated state than usual, as we were told we happened to be in Arizona on one of its few rainy days. We were told days like this one were more typical, in which it was incredibly hot, but humidity drops as the heat goes up during the day, so that by evening, it may be 100F, but it will also only be something like 10-25% humidity.

2015-09-23 09.57.31-1We had a look at some houses in Mesa on the way back, and they have some nice ones, still all in what we were told is the Spanish style. We met someone walking his dog who said it was a great area with almost no crime and he’d lived there 20 years and loved it. 
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We ventured into Tempe on the way back, which looked very good and is home to Arizona State University. We finally headed into Phoenix proper the next day. It is an incredibly sunny high rise city. This area is sometimes called the valley of the sun, and I can see why:

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Even on the second day of Autumn proper, the sun blazed down on us heating the city up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit with a cloudless sky. It was really quite astonishing, but I must say, I strongly prefer it to being cold and the low humidity really takes the edge off the heat. It is also just difficult to be especially unhappy for long with this level of sun. I think I’m one of those people who is very affected by the weather, and the sun just motivates me more than anything else.

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Tiny Urban Cactus

Not only does Phoenix have a winning climate, the city is clean, modern and seemed busy with working people and attractively set up public areas:
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We had lunch at quite an excellent Italian place. It’s one of the best pizzas I’ve had in the US so far, and we just got the margherita:2015-09-24 11.53.02
We spoke to a couple of people in the city. One said he lived in the west side of the valley, and that he was ready to move. He sad the city had been much smaller when he came in the 70s and it wasn’t for him anymore. He also said he was sick of the heat. He wanted to move to Tennessee.

We spoke to someone else who said he had always lived here and he loved it. He recommended Scottsdale, where he lived, and said Peoria and Glendale had lots of nice new build homes in them.

We also tried out their public transit, which seemed very good. They had light rail train, which was also integrated with the buses according to a woman who worked in their central station. We were able to comfortably and easily get from Mesa to Phoenix in about 45 minutes. It looked like a very new, clean system:
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By the way, a light rail is apparently different from a train or a subway, in that, according to wikipedia, it is an “urban public transport using rolling stock similar to a tramway, but operating at a higher capacity, and often on an exclusive right-of-way.”

In the evening, we went out in downtown Mesa. They have some lovely urban art:2015-09-24 18.13.12
They also let you follow in the foot steps of dinosaurs with a colorful replica where actual dinosaur tracks were found (and then obviously removed and paved over to make downtown Mesa):

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Our friend’s son’s dinosaur follows in the tracks of his brethren

The sun was still blindingly bright at this time of night with how flat the city is:
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At that sunny spot, we met a Bostonian who had moved to Mesa. She had been living here 2 years because she and her husband decided they were sick of winter. She told us it was very very hot in the summer (about 115F) and that she wasn’t sure about the water quality due to the proximity to Mexico. She said she might move further north in Arizona.

After that, we went out for a really lovely Mexican meal at Margarita’s (and naturally also had some margaritas):

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Mesa At Night

We used our light rail day passes again, and it seemed to work very well.

We are going to spend a few more days in Arizona since it is one of our highest contenders, but we are going to change area from our Econo Lodge in Mesa to one in Scottsdale as the hotel we have been staying at, though very cheap, has some of the worst staff on earth.

6 thoughts on “Day 108-109: Phoenix, Arizona – The Sonoran Desert and the City

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