Friday, June 24, 2016

Arizona: Likes and Dislikes

Earlier this year, my wife and I vacationed in Arizona. We spent a week going to Spring Training baseball games, enjoying the weather and took a nice side trip to New Mexico simply because we had never been there. I have been to Arizona before and it is a beautiful place. It is one of those places, like Las Vegas, that I experience a little bit of guilt when visiting because they are environmental scourges. Because the weather is so hot, it seems that everyone has a pool. Because there are so many pools, the desert now has humidity. That old argument that it is "a dry heat" is getting less and less accurate. Like every other environmental problem, there are just too many people living there now. Regardless, I enjoyed my vacation.

We spent a weekend in Tucson and the rest of the week in Phoenix. I saw bike lanes all over the place in both cities. They are both very flat so commuting via bike seems like a really good option for locals. Also, the traffic in both towns were not bad at all and this is the busy time, with half of the major league teams packing the fans in for Spring Training. Having lived in Boston, my idea of what bad traffic is might be twisted, but for the size of the cities, I was impressed. Phoenix is a grid so it is easy to get around, like New York, the streets are numbered.  We were staying off of 18th Street in a Homeaway home which was a short drive to Sloan Park. The only difficulty we had was that there was an 18th Place, a dead end street, on the side of 18th Street. We kept driving into the dead end street when we saw it.  Why do city do this?  If a street falls into between 18th and 19th, couldn't they just name it 18.5 Street or anything other than 18th Place. They definitely don't do these things with tourists in mind.  But the highway was very pretty. Even the on ramps had South Western style paintings on them.  Just a short drive out of the city, you can get to some really gorgeous dessert landscapes.

Arizona knows how to do baseball right. I've been to Florida for Spring Training to see the Red Sox and I have to say that the Arizona experience is much better. In Florida all the parks are spread apart, some of them several hours from each other. You could spend your Spring Training vacation in the car if you go to Florida. But in Arizona (the Cactus League), they are all in or around Phoenix, a short drive from each other. Some of the facilities are shared. For example, the Peoria Sports Complex is shared by the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners.  These facilities are huge. We spent all of our baseball time at Sloan Park watching the Cubs. We saw about five games in both good and bad seats.  Each day was a joy.  
My wife is on a 50 states before she is 50 kick. She turns 50 years old next year so I don't think she is going to make it. She has about six to go. The deal is: she has to sleep in each state. We were so close to New Mexico so we went for a road trip so that she could get NM off of her list. We took a road trip to Silver City NM, spent the night and went to visit Gila National Park in the morning. The drive in the park alone was worth it. Beautiful! We did a hike up the ancient cliff dwellings in the park.

Whenever I visit someplace, I always wonder if I could live here. There are definitely somethings about Arizona that I would like. The hot dry weather is very appealing.  But there are some things I don't think I would like at all.  One thing is the uniformity. If not for the numbered streets and the GPS, I would have gotten very lost. Most streets look like every other street. We repeatedly saw the same box stores and the same chains. The city doesn't have a lot of character. I have lived in New England my whole life. The character is definitely something that I would miss if I left. Every street looks different, the roads twist and turn and the buildings are by no means uniform. 

The worse thing about the place was the crime. We visited some of my wife's relatives when we were there, a lot of them. Every single one of them talked about how their houses were robbed and had many deadbolts on their doors. One of her cousins said he was car jacked twice. We left our car unlocked once, for about five minutes while we were checking in, and our GPS was stolen from our car. It was old and we use the Waze app on our phone most of the time anway so we didn't care much. I have never had any such problems any place I have lived in New England. I can deal with the New England weather, but feeling unsafe .... not something I can deal with.